spring and fall cleaning February 21 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): Leviticus 16

It's Time for a Cleanup

Many people do spring and fall cleaning. They clean their yards, their garages, and they begin or finish up outside projects. They have their windows cleaned, their carpets shampooed, and sometimes their entire house cleaned. Everything is done before the hot summer days or before the holidays. Spiritually speaking, this was the reason for the Day of Atonement instituted in Israel– spiritual cleaning before the holiday of their Thanksgiving festival. Do you need a spiritual cleaning?

The book of Leviticus records the many offerings made throughout the year for dedication, unintentional sin, guilt, and thanksgiving, but early on there is a problem - things are not done right. Nadab and Abihu, sons of Aaron the high priest, are killed for taking censers with incense and offering unauthorized fire (Leviticus 10:1). Perhaps this means that they did not take coals from the altar as they were instructed (Leviticus 16:12), or perhaps they were drunk and disorderly (Leviticus 10:8). Perhaps they entered behind the curtain of the Most Holy Place where only the high priest was to enter on the Day of Atonement. Immediately after this incident, God tells Aaron that he must distinguish between the clean and unclean, i.e., what is ceremonially holy from what is unholy because the LORD is holy (Leviticus 10:10). He further instructs him, “‘You must keep the Israelites separate from things that make them unclean, so they will not die in their uncleanness for defiling my dwelling place, which is among them,’” (Leviticus 15:31, NIV). However, what if mistakes are made, whether purposeful or not, and the priests, leaders, and people become unclean (unholy)? To remedy this, once a year there is a spiritual fall cleanup (in the month of Tishri, late October or early November). This was called the Day of Atonement (The Bible Knowledge Commentary of the O.T. by Walvoord and Zuck, ©1985, p.198).

The Day of Atonement is a day of specific offerings for all kinds of sins that are not dealt with during the year. The high priest offers a sacrifice for all sins, both for his own and for all the Israelites. One bull is offered for a sin offering and one ram is offered for a burnt offering (a dedication offering) for the priest to atone for his sins. Two goats are sacrificed for the Israelites to atone for their sins. Lots are cast (sort of like drawing straws), and one goat is offered to the LORD, while the other one is a scapegoat. The priest does not wear his ornate vestments for this ceremony. After he bathes in the bronze basin, he wears only his linen tunic, linen undergarments, a linen sash, and a linen turban; it is a time of humility, and the ceremony is preceded by fasting. The sin offerings of the priests are offered, not like other sin offerings with the blood of the animals sprinkled on the altar and before the curtain of the holy of holies, but it is sprinkled on and before the mercy seat of the Ark of the Covenant in the presence of God, behind the curtain. This is only done by the high priest once a year. He enters behind the curtain with coals in a censer and incense smoking from it. The smoke goes before him and hides the mercy seat so he cannot behold the glory of God, which is present. Then he sprinkles the blood on and before the mercy seat. After that he comes out, takes blood and smears some on the horns of the bronze altar, and pours the rest of the blood at the base of the altar. Then the priest repeats the procedure for the goat - the sacrifice to the LORD for the sins of the Israelites. Then God says,

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. 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 desert in the care of a man appointed for the task. The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a solitary place; and the man shall release it in the desert. (Leviticus 16:20-22, NIV).

The LORD tells Aaron this Day of Atonement

will be made for you, to cleanse you. Then, before the LORD, you will be clean from all your sins…. and [to] make atonement for the Most Holy Place, for the Tent of Meeting [the Holy Place] and the altar, and for the priests and all the people of the community, (Leviticus 16:30,33, NIV).

Full forgiveness leads to joy and thanksgiving. This fall ceremony pictures Jesus Christ purifying us from all sin (Hebrews 9:7-14, 24-26; 1John 1:7). Jesus is the high priest who went behind the veil of the Holy of Holies, not to offer sacrifice for His own sins because He is perfect, and not with the blood of bulls and goats because they only ceremonially cover sin, but Jesus went into the holy of holies in heaven, having offered His own blood on the altar, the cross of Calvary, to make atonement for and do away with all our sins, both intentional and unintentional. God's forgiveness is available to all who trust in Christ's atoning sacrifice as being sufficient for their sins. “God presented him [Christ] as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood,” (Romans 3:25, NIV, more...). Praise God!

Christians, have you been lax in coming to God for regular cleaning of your spiritual life? It is time for a spring or fall cleanup, a time to get rid of the dirt and clutter of sin that you may have let accumulate. Come to God in contrition, humility, and confession for a thorough cleansing from all your sins. Complete cleaning and forgiveness is offered through Christ (1John 1:9). You can be truly clean and then you will celebrate with thanksgiving!

Lessons to live by:

  • The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, brings us forgiveness, spiritual life, and peace (more...)
  • Full forgiveness leads to joy and thanksgiving. Come to Jesus in contrition, humility, and confession of your sins for a complete cleaning.

Today’s Bible memory verse:

1Corinthians 6:11 “And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (NIV)

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