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 cleanup before the holiday of their Thanksgiving festival. Is it time for a spiritual cleanup of our souls?

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). This may mean they filled their censers with coals from the altar and entered behind the curtain of the Most Holy Place where only the high priest (Aaron, their father) was to enter on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:11-12). Another possibility is that they were drunk and disorderly (Leviticus 10:8-9).

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 is 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 which are not dealt with during the year. The high priest offers representative sacrifices 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 released into the wilderness (a scapegoat).

The high priest does not wear his special 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 and a Sabbath day's rest.

The sin offerings are offered, not like other sin offerings with the blood of the animals sprinkled on the bronze altar and before the curtain of the holy of holies. On this day the priest enters behind the curtain of the holy of holies with coals in a censer and incense smoking from it. The smoke goes before him and hides the mercy seat on the Ark of the Covenant so he cannot behold the glory of God, which is present. Then he sprinkles the blood on and before the mercy seat. Afterwards, 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. Afterwards, 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 scapegoat ceremony symbolically portrays what Jesus does for us, carrying our sins away, as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12)

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 goes behind the veil of the Holy of Holies, not to offer sacrifice for his own sins because he is perfect. He does not sprinkle the blood of bulls and goats on and before the mercy seat, because they only ceremonially cover sin. Jesus goes 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 [reparation for removing our sins], through faith in his blood” (Romans 3:25, NIV, more...). Praise God!

Christians, have we been lax in coming to God for regular cleaning of our spiritual lives? It is time for a spring or fall cleanup, a time to get rid of the dirt and clutter of sin which we have let accumulate. Let's come to God in contrition, humility, and confession for a thorough cleansing from all our sins. Complete cleaning and forgiveness is offered through Christ (1John 1:9). We can be truly clean and then we 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. Let's come to Jesus in contrition, humility, and confession of our sins for complete cleanup. We do not have to wait for fall or spring—let's do it now!

Today’s Bible Memory Verse

1Corinthians 6:11 (NIV) “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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A Look Ahead: Now that we have had a Spiritual Cleanup, how do we stay clean? Our Next Lesson will help us: Staying Clean; a Practical Guide to Holiness. Join us!

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