Introduction: If you had to pick the most important day of the year,
for God’s people in the Old Testament that would be the Day of
Atonement. Today, the Day of Atonement might bring a big yawn for
God’s people. Since the sanctuary teaches us important lessons for
today, I believe that is also true for the Day of Atonement. Let’s
plunge into our study of the Bible to take away that yawn and see
what we can learn!

  1. Approaching God: the Preparation

    1. Read Leviticus 16:1-2. Would you take this instruction
      seriously? (Yes! Two people have already died. Death is
      the penalty for getting this wrong.)

      1. What is the danger zone? (The sanctuary had two
        compartments, a Holy and Most Holy place. A curtain
        separated the two. The ark of the covenant was in the
        Most Holy place and above it is where God would
        appear in a cloud. These verses tell us that the Most
        Holy place is the danger zone.)

      2. Why is the Most Holy place dangerous? (God is there.)

      3. Why is God dangerous to humans – even those doing His

    2. Read Leviticus 16:3-4. Does this modify the text that we
      previously read? (It expands the instructions. This deals
      with the sanctuary area generally, not just the Most Holy

      1. How must Aaron prepare? (He has to bathe and put on
        special garments. He also has to bring offerings.)

    3. Read Leviticus 16:5-6. What groups are covered by these
      offerings? (Aaron’s family and Aaron himself. Later, we
      will see that the entire Israelite community is also

      1. Why did Aaron’s sons die if Aaron could make
        atonement for them? (God is in the sin forgiveness
        business, but we must not take Him lightly simply
        because He forgives sin. A healthy fear of God is

    4. Read Leviticus 16:7-10. One goat dies and the other goal
      lives. Why? (We discussed this last week. The one goat
      symbolically died to transfer the sins of the people to
      the sanctuary. The second goat symbolically took the sins
      from the priest and the sanctuary and disappeared into the
      desert with them.)

  2. Approaching God

    1. Read Leviticus 16:11-12. What is the most interesting part
      of this instruction? (This is where Aaron goes into the
      Most Holy place. Behind the curtain means the Most Holy
      place, and this is the place where Aaron would die if he
      went uninvited.)

    2. When did this happen? What date? When you have something
      as dangerous as this, you want to carefully read the
      invitation! (Read Leviticus 16:29-30. We are given a
      specific date, and it is called the Day of Atonement.)

      1. What is the purpose of the Day of Atonement? We
        already have some clues about this? (“The Lord …
        will … clean [them] from all of [their] sins.”)

      2. I thought we learned that the sacrifice of an animal
        in the sanctuary took away all a person’s sins? What
        role does the Day of Atonement play in this?(This
        deals with the transfer that we have been studying in
        the past. The animal died instead of the person. But,
        the person’s sins transferred (through the blood of
        the animal) to the sanctuary. The Day of Atonement
        was the day that the sanctuary was cleaned up from
        all of the sins. What we are studying is the process
        for that clean up.)

      3. Why would you need such a clean up? As long as the
        sin transferred away from the sinner, what does it
        matter about the building? (The symbolic point is
        that sin will end. In addition, why would God want
        sin where He lives?)

    3. Read Leviticus 16:13-14. What is the purpose of the smoke?
      (To conceal God from the High Priest – so that the High
      Priest would not die.)

      1. If the atonement cover of the ark represents the
        presence of God, where is the blood going? (The point
        seems to be that the sin (this time the sin of the
        High Priest) is transferred to God.)

    4. Read Leviticus 16:15-17. Whose sins are atoned for on the
      Day of Atonement? (The High Priest, his household, all the
      people, the Tent of Meeting and the sanctuary.)

    5. Let’s skip forward to Leviticus 16:20-22. Where are all of
      the sins transferred on the Day of Atonement? (To the goat
      which is released into the desert.)

    6. As you think about this method of getting rid of sin, what
      does this suggest about the relationship between God and
      the people? (The people approached God through the
      priests. On the Day of Atonement, it was through the High
      Priest that sins were permanently transferred to the
      desert. The High Priest had to take this very seriously,
      because otherwise he would die. The people did not
      directly deal with God.)

      1. Does the relationship between humans and God seem to
        be fear based ?

      2. If you say, “yes,” then how do you explain that all
        of this fearsome activity is illustrating God’s death
        for the sins of His people?

    7. Read Romans 5:9-11. What has Jesus done for us? (Justified
      us by His blood so that we are not only saved from “God’s
      wrath,” but we are no longer God’s enemies.)

      1. If we believe in the Trinity, then how do you explain
        that God was our enemy? He was angry with us? Yet, He
        was willing to die for us so He would not be angry
        any more? (This is a difficult thing for me to
        understand, but I believe it has a lot to do with the
        nature of sin. God is the enemy of sin. God hates
        sin. When we were sinners we were God’s enemy.)

      2. Read Matthew 11:19. Before the cross, Jesus is a
        friend of sinners. How do you explain that? (Romans
        5:9-11 explains that Jesus reconciled us to God. This
        helps to isolate the problem. People are the same
        sinful beings they have always been, it is the sin
        problem that Jesus fixed. Therefore, God is not angry
        with the people. He was angry over sin.)

        1. Since Jesus has done everything for us, what
          does this suggest to us about the way we should
          live? (Sin is no small matter. Our gratitude
          for what Jesus has done should cause us to
          avoid sin.)

  3. Approaching God Today

    1. Read Mark 15:37-39. The curtain separating the Holy from
      the Most Holy place in the sanctuary was torn upon Jesus’
      death. What do you think that means? (It means at least
      that the sanctuary service culminating in the Day of
      Atonement is finished in the temple on earth.)

      1. What do you think it means about approaching God?
        Recall that if the High Priest passed through the
        curtain “whenever he chooses” ( Leviticus 16:2) he
        would die because God was there. (It means a new day
        for approaching God.)

    2. Read John 16:7-11. Who convicts the world of sin? (The
      Holy Spirit.)

    3. Read Romans 8:9. What is our new relationship to God?
      (This text says that the “Spirit” is the Spirit of Jesus
      and of God.” God’s Spirit lives in us.)

    4. Notice the huge change in our relationship to God, the
      huge change in approaching God. We came from having a
      human priest represent us, a priest who could die if he
      failed to follow instructions when approaching God. Now,
      because of what Jesus has done for us, God’s spirit lives
      in us! As a result, we have become temples for God. 1
      Corinthians 6:19-20. What should be our reaction to all of

    5. Is all of this temple stuff just a somewhat frightening
      memory from the past? We are now all temples, we can all
      approach God, so is the priest-temple thing is gone?

      1. Read Hebrews 8:1-2 and Hebrews 7:23-25. What does
        this suggest about the present-day temple and High
        Priest? (Jesus “always lives to intercede” for us!
        The temple, the sanctuary service, the Day of
        Atonement teach us lessons about what Jesus is doing
        right now on our behalf in heaven!)

    6. Read Hebrews 7:26. “Our need.” What need do we have that
      makes what is going on in heaven relevant to us today?
      (Our need is to have our sins removed. Since sin is an
      ongoing problem in my life, I have an ongoing need for a
      High Priest in heaven.)

    7. Friend, do you want to face the wrath of God? I surely do
      not! Why not today accept Jesus as your Savior so that you
      are reconciled to God. Why not ask God to send His Spirit
      into your temple to guide your ways? Why not have Jesus
      intercede on your behalf in heaven?

  4. Next week: Christ, Our Sacrifice.