Leviticus 1:1 The Lord called to Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting.
The book of Leviticus was written by Moses for the people of God around 1445 BC. The nation was still gathered at the base of Mount Sinai, and was being prepared for their journey to the Promised Land. Through Moses, God gave his people instructions for worship, and regulations for holiness.
Leviticus 9:23 Moses and Aaron then went into the tent of meeting. When they came out, they blessed the people; and the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people.
The nation had received instructions from God regarding appropriate worship; now they were having their first worship service at the newly constructed tabernacle. Aaron was the high priest, and his four sons were also priests.
Leviticus 9:24 Fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the fat portions on the altar.
This is the first of five times God showed his approval by consuming a sacrifice with fire. It also happened for Gideon (Judges 6:21), David (1 Chronicles 21:26), Solomon (2 Chronicles 7:1), and Elijah (1 Kings 18:38).
God and fire are often connected in the Bible. God is called a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29). He led his people with a pillar of fire (Numbers 14:14). Before his throne is a sea of glass glowing with fire (Revelation 15:2); And his eyes are like a blazing fire (Revelation 1:14). Fire is good, but also dangerous. Whoever is not careful might be burned.
Leviticus 10:1 Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu . . . offered unauthorized fire before the Lord.
Instead of worshipping God the way he prescribed, Aaron’s sons worshiped God their own way. Perhaps they thought God’s ways could be improved. As a result, fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord (Leviticus 10:2). From this we learn not to worship God any way we please, but only in ways that he has prescribed.
Much has changed since the coming of Christ, but the principle still applies. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth (John 4:24), said Jesus. [E]verything should be done in a fitting and orderly way (1 Corinthians 14:40), wrote Paul. And we ought to worship God acceptably with reverence and awe (Hebrews 12:28), says Hebrews.
New Testament worship is less regulated than Old Testament worship, but we must never depart from Scripture, and must always worship respectfully. Believers in the city of Corinth were disrespectful while receiving the Lord’s Supper, and some of them died as a result (1 Corinthians 11:30). Whenever we are part of a worship service, we should be aware of God’s presence, and conduct ourselves accordingly.
Leviticus 10:3 Aaron remained silent.
Aaron watched his two oldest sons die at the hand of God, and did not say a word. He knew that God was right, and may have feared for his own life. Aaron’s sons were carried away, and Aaron was forbidden to mourn (Leviticus 10:4-7).
God still requires a higher commitment to himself than to our own flesh and blood. Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me (Matthew 10:37), said Jesus.
This is very important because our loved ones can lead us away from Christ if we let them. Parents have led their children away from Christ, and children have led their parents away from Christ. The best way to help ourselves, and others, is by staying true to Jesus Christ.
A godly man raised his son in the faith, taught him well, and prayed for him daily. His son refused to live for Christ, however, and wanted little to do with his father. But at his father’s funeral it became clear to the son that his father was right after all. He did not want to die without God, so he gave his life to Christ before the service was over. Even after death the father was able to help his son by staying true to Jesus Christ.
Leviticus 16:15 [Aaron] shall then slaughter the goat for the sin offering for the people and take its blood behind the curtain . . . . He shall sprinkle it on the atonement cover . . . .
The Day of Atonement was the most solemn day of the year, and was observed with self-denial (Leviticus 16:29). It was the only day in which the high priest was allowed to enter the Most Holy Place, where he would offer blood for the sins of the nation. A goat was slain, and the high priest would take some of its blood and sprinkle it on the atonement cover.
The atonement cover was the lid on the ark of the covenant, where the Ten Commandments were stored (Exodus 25:16). On either end were cherubim, made of gold, with wings that overshadowed the cover (Exodus 25:18, 22). The space between the cherubim was where God himself dwelt. [H]e sits enthroned between the cherubim (Psalm 99:1), wrote the Psalmist.
To understand the Day of Atonement, we should think of God sitting on the throne of his law, contained in the ark of the covenant. Everyone has broken God’s law (Romans 3:10), so everyone should die (Romans 6:23). But if blood was sprinkled between God and his law, God’s people could live, because the death penalty had been carried out.
Likewise, God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood (Romans 3:25), wrote Paul. Even though we sin every day, we can live before God, because Christ has died in our place. The Day of Atonement foreshadowed Christ’s death on the cross. Christ himself is our atoning sacrifice.
Leviticus 16:21 [Aaron] is to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites—all their sins—and put them on the goat’s head. He shall send the goat away into the wilderness in the care of someone appointed for the task.
In another ritual on the Day of Atonement, the high priest would place his hands on the head of a goat and confess the sins of the people. Then a designated person would lead the goat into the wilderness. The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a remote place; and the man shall release it in the wilderness (Leviticus 16:22), wrote Moses.
God was teaching his people that the way to get rid of their sins was not by ignoring them, or paying for them, but by transferring them to another. The people must have watched intently as their sins were transferred onto the scapegoat, then carried away into the desert wilderness.
But if I was there I would have wondered, What if the goat comes back? They must have wondered the same thing, since it later became the practice to push the goat off of a cliff, to be sure it would not return.
Likewise, the Lord has laid on [Christ] the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:6), wrote Isaiah. And as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us (Psalm 103:12), wrote David. All our sins were laid on Christ, who not only died for them, but carried them all away. What the scapegoat only foreshadowed was fulfilled by Jesus Christ.
Reflection and Review
Why does God require a higher commitment to himself than to our family?
What was the ark of the covenant?
How does the scapegoat remind us of Jesus Christ?