A Child's Lenten Meditation-Day 12-The Day of Atonement

Leviticus 16
1 The LORD spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron who died when they approached the LORD. 2 The LORD said to Moses: "Tell your brother Aaron that he is not to come whenever he chooses into the Most Holy Place behind the curtain in front of the atonement cover on the ark, or else he will die. For I will appear in the cloud over the atonement cover. 3"This is how Aaron is to enter the Most Holy Place: He must first bring a young bull for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. 4 He is to put on the sacred linen tunic, with linen undergarments next to his body; he is to tie the linen sash around him and put on the linen turban. These are sacred garments; so he must bathe himself with water before he puts them on.5 From the Israelite community he is to take two male goats for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. 6 "Aaron is to offer the bull for his own sin offering to make atonement for himself and his household. 7 Then he is to take the two goats and present them before the LORD at the entrance to the tent of meeting. 8 He is to cast lots for the two goats--one lot for the LORD and the other for the scapegoat. 9 Aaron shall bring the goat whose lot falls to the LORD and sacrifice it for a sin offering. 10 But the goat chosen by lot as the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the LORD to be used for making atonement by sending it into the wilderness as a scapegoat. 11 "Aaron shall bring the bull for his own sin offering to make atonement for himself and his household, and he is to slaughter the bull for his own sin offering. 12 He is to take a censer full of burning coals from the altar before the LORD and two handfuls of finely ground fragrant incense and take them behind the curtain. 13 He is to put the incense on the fire before the LORD, and the smoke of the incense will conceal the atonement cover above the tablets of the covenant law, so that he will not die. 14 He is to take some of the bull's blood and with his finger sprinkle it on the front of the atonement cover; then he shall sprinkle some of it with his finger seven times before the atonement cover. 15 "He shall then slaughter the goat for the sin offering for the people and take its blood behind the curtain and do with it as he did with the bull's blood: He shall sprinkle it on the atonement cover and in front of it. 16 In this way he will make atonement for the Most Holy Place because of the uncleanness and rebellion of the Israelites, whatever their sins have been. He is to do the same for the tent of meeting, which is among them in the midst of their uncleanness. 17 No one is to be in the tent of meeting from the time Aaron goes in to make atonement in the Most Holy Place until he comes out, having made atonement for himself, his household and the whole community of Israel. 18 "Then he shall come out to the altar that is before the LORD and make atonement for it. He shall take some of the bull's blood and some of the goat's blood and put it on all the horns of the altar. 19 He shall sprinkle some of the blood on it with his finger seven times to cleanse it and to consecrate it from the uncleanness of the Israelites. 20 "When Aaron has finished making atonement for the Most Holy Place, the tent of meeting and the altar, he shall bring forward the live goat. 21 He 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. 22 The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a remote place; and the man shall release it in the wilderness. 23 "Then Aaron is to go into the tent of meeting and take off the linen garments he put on before he entered the Most Holy Place, and he is to leave them there. 24 He shall bathe himself with water in the sanctuary area and put on his regular garments. Then he shall come out and sacrifice the burnt offering for himself and the burnt offering for the people, to make atonement for himself and for the people. 25 He shall also burn the fat of the sin offering on the altar. 26 "The one who releases the goat as a scapegoatmust wash his clothes and bathe himself with water; afterward he may come into the camp. 27The bull and the goat for the sin offerings, whose blood was brought into the Most Holy Place to make atonement, must be taken outside the camp; their hides, flesh and intestines are to be burned up. 28 The man who burns them must wash his clothes and bathe himself with water; afterward he may come into the camp. 29 "This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: On the tenth day of the seventh month you must deny yourselves and not do any work--whether native-born or a foreigner residing among you-- 30 because on this day atonement will be made for you, to cleanse you. Then, before the LORD, you will be clean from all your sins. 31 It is a day of sabbath rest, and you must deny yourselves; it is a lasting ordinance. 32 The priest who is anointed and ordained to succeed his father as high priest is to make atonement. He is to put on the sacred linen garments 33 and make atonement for the Most Holy Place, for the tent of meeting and the altar, and for the priests and all the members of the community. 34 "This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: Atonement is to be made once a year for all the sins of the Israelites." And it was done, as the LORD commanded Moses.

The Jewish name for the day of atonement is Yom Kippur. Even today, though there is no longer a temple in Jerusalem they observe this day with fasting and prayer. This day God made provision for all those in Israel who accidentally broke the law during the year.

The Day of Atonement is a second chance. It's a chance to start again at 0 with all of your past mistakes taken away so that you can start over again and try to do a better job next time. Without it I think they may have just given up. I know I would feel like giving up if no one gave me a second chance to try again when I made a mistake.

Some people think that this day was for when a person deliberately did something wrong too, but that's not the case. It's for the mistakes and accidental disobediences. They only thing a person who disobeys on purpose can do is to throw them selves on the mercy of God. That means they say something like, "What I did was wrong, I did it on purpose and I deserve a terrible punishment for it.  Please don't punish me?"

It says a lot about who God is, and how much he loves us, that He does forgive Israel when they do wrong things on purpose. "Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon."Isaiah 55:7

Every year the children of Israel came before the Lord again to fast and make sacrifices to atone for their sins. But they actually started getting ready for it before hand. Tradition tells us that for 40 day before Yom Kippur Israel spent time fasting and making right the wrongs they had done. They would give alms to the poor, that means money or something else they needed. They would do good deeds for others. They would go to someone that they had done wrong to and make it right. If they told a lie they would tell the truth. If they stole a goat they would give that person back 4 goats to make up for it. They would do their very best to fix the things they had done wrong and to do right. They would spend it thinking about how to be righteous, which means to honor the agreement that God made with Abraham. (Of course, they should have been doing this all year long, and many did, but this was a special time of preparation before they went before God.)

This sacrifice wasn't really good enough, it didn't make the people good, and it didn't really make them righteous. But this was just the beginning. One day there would be a sacrifice that was good enough to actually take away sin and make it so that people could do what was right from what was in their hearts.

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