As you pass by this unfamiliar tent, a thick stench intrudes your nostrils, he smell is so strong that none who are near can escape their awareness of it. Pungent, odorous smoke billows up from the alter, the smell of burning flesh and smoldering hair is so thick it’s as if you can actually see this smell. Boiling blood and animal excrements are set ablaze all around….
It is the 10th day of the 7th month; this is the Day of Atonement for the sins of Israel!
Silence engulfs the camp; the soberness of this day touches the hearts of those gathered. A remorseful coming together for the corporate acknowledgement of guilt for the crimes of the nation. A serious time yet laced with hope. In the silence of the people it’s so easy to hear the –CRACK- of dove’s necks being broken and the wings of birds being torn off. This sickening sound carries the hope of freedom for the wages of sin for those too poor and unable to bring a lamb for an offering. The wretched feeling arises in the pit of your stomach at the thought of such a kind and merciful Creator to provide a way of justification even for the poorest of poor who cannot afford a “cent” more than the price of birds. While others are required to pay a higher cost, that of blemish-less lambs….
A young boy’s face cringes as he plugs his nose from the smell and he asks his father, “How is this a pleasing aroma to God?” The dad smiles and begins to explain this beautiful atonement:
Dad: Well son, the Lord has made this nation great. He has chosen that we, a weak people, would be who God enters into a covenant with forever! The Lord has been good to us and He has made many promises to us, and has kept them all… But we have not. My boy, we have failed to uphold the Lord’s holy law, we do not trust in Him wholly and we forsake His commands. Yet still, the Lord has made a way for us to be reconciled to Him. When we acknowledge our guilt and admit our betrayal and simply return to God in obedience, He permits that the slaughtering of beasts and the blood of animals will satisfy His wrath and He will pardon our sins and grant to us forgiveness! It is the fragrance of our obedience that is a soothing aroma to the Lord, the return of His people to humility and submission to our kind King.
Boy: Well why is everyone sacrificing their best animals? Why don’t they just use the crippled and skinny ones?
Dad: That’s a good question son, it’s because the Lord has ordained that the blood of spotless lambs is what makes us acceptable to come to Him. Beasts without defect are what compensate for the guilt we have incurred by our sinning. It symbolized the innocence of the animal who is suffering in our stead. If we just brought the reject animals that we don’t even want and offered them to the Lord, how would He be honored? A sacrifice must be more precious than that, it must cost us something and at times costs us everything!
Boy: What is it about blood that’s so special? That’s messy and gross.
Dad: Because blood is identified with life. It IS the life of the flesh. God desires that life is the cost in exchange for another, to pay the debts which we could never afford and to wash away our shame from sin. Beneath the alter there is a pool of blood, the very life of that animal is drained out for our sake. Slowly it’s veins empty themselves, washing away our crimes and satisfying God’s requirements for our evil against Him. Life must be traded in order for us to go free, and life is in the blood and the blood pays the price we cannot ever afford. God’s wrath is appeased and our shame is absorbed in His kindness and mercy.
Boy: WOAH! Dad, why is the priest grabbing that goats face??
Dad: (haha) He is publically confessing the iniquities of Israel on the head of that goat. The goat will aquire all of our shame and disgrace and it will suffer alone in the wilderness. Our embarrassing depravity will be transferred to another creature who will experience the agony of isolation which is rightfully due to us. The goat and our guilt will be removed from among us as the goat is sent away suffering our punishment for injustice and rebellion against a good God.
Boy: But the goat is innocent, why should he have to suffer for all the stuff we do wrong??
Dad: You know son, I’ve been asking myself that very same question and I just cant help but think there is more to this than we presently know…