- Precious Price of Love Untold -
The Day of Atonement as it depicts Christ's sacrifice. (A study of Leviticus 16)
This sermon, originally delivered at a local church, by David Wurm, is divided into two parts:

Part 1

The message title is borrowed from the hymn: "Nor Silver Nor Gold hath obtained my salvation" ['I am Redeemed but not with Silver,' by James M. Gray]
     The words of this hymn draw from several Scripture passages, speaking of the "precious price" by which the Lord Jesus Christ has purchased us for Himself:

What is "the precious price of love untold" (of love beyond our comprehension)?
Concisely stated, it is: The blood of Jesus. (...a price beyond calculation.)

[Before continuing, ask the Lord to enable your understanding, by His Spirit.]

So, just how high was that price? Why is His blood so precious?
     I suppose we could attempt to take its measure by the number of those who have been, and will yet be, saved through His blood (a multitude without number)... or by the richness of the blessings which He has secured for every believer... blessings beyond what any eye has seen or ear has heard (1Cor 2:9), and "exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think" (Eph 3:20).

But the question on my mind is:
What was the price that Jesus, Son of God and Son of man, paid for you and me?
Yes, He purchased us with His blood. But how costly was that currency to Him?

We tend to think of that price in terms of what it means to us.
So, let's begin there...
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." (Joh 3:16)

Those who trust in Him are "justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood..." (Rom 3:24,25a)

A propitiation is that which satisfies the demands of the Law of the righteous God. The Law demands death for sin. Christ died in our stead. The Greek word, from which "propitiation" is translated ("hilasterion"), is used in the Septuagint, an ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament, in reference to the Day of Atonement, when blood was sprinkled on the Mercy Seat, the place of atonement, the hilasterion. (The same word is used in Heb 9:5,11-14 of the Mercy Seat.)
     In the course of the centuries during which the Temple stood, hundreds of thousands of animals were sacrificed on the altar in Jerusalem. But it was "not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins." (Heb 10:4) Only the blood of Jesus can do that. It was the infinite value of His death that those continual and innumerable sacrifices were meant to illustrate and fore-shadow, for 1,000 years before His crucifixion. Following His future second coming, for another thousand years, the sacrifices offered in the Millennial Temple will recount the costliness of His one sacrifice for sins forever.

If we were to take time to study the various types of Old Testament sacrifices which are described in Leviticus, we would find that they picture the Savior... wholly given to His Father's will, as the Burnt Offering was totally consumed upon the altar... entirely pleasing to His Father, as the fragrance of the Sweet-Smelling Sacrifice rose up from the altar... completely without sin, totally pure to serve as our High Priest, and to offer Himself as the substitutionary sin offering for His people.

The picture is particularly clear in Leviticus 16, which prescribed the work of Aaron, the high priest, on the annual Day of Atonement... a day that looked forward to Christ being made a propitiation for our sin. As Aaron approached this work of atoning for the sins of the people, he carefully purified and set himself apart to fulfill his role.
     Likewise, Jesus, just before His sacrifice, prayed "for their sakes, I sanctify myself..." (John 17:19). That is, 'I set myself apart to serve You Father... in your way... for their sakes.'

Notice carefully what took place (read Lev 16:1-4). Aaron came to the place where he would perform his holy task with a bullock for a sin offering, and a ram for a burnt offering. These were "for himself" (v.6). Then (v.5) he received from the congregation two kids of the goats for a sin offering, and a ram for a burnt offering. These were for the people.

Next (v.6), he offered his bullock as a sin offering for himself. This was in order to purify himself for his High Priestly duties. But his action foreshadowed our High Priest, who being without sin needed no sacrifice for himself (cp. Heb 7:26-28), but rather, presented Himself "holy and undefiled" to do His Father's bidding: "Not my will, but Thine be done." (Luk 22:42) He came as a faithful servant, yielded, as a bullock to his master, even unto death (cp. Php 2:7,8). The details of Aaron's sin offering are given in v.11-14.

Next, the High Priest turned to the two goats, which together were the sin offering for the people (Lev 16:5,8-9). A kid or a lamb speaks of One who is innocent, in contrast to the congregation. "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him [the sinless One] the iniquity of us all." (Isa 53:6).
     The high priest, having prepared and presented himself holy unto the Lord, proceeded with the sin offering for the people. (Read Lev 16:15-19.)
     On the Day of Atonement, Aaron would take the blood of these two sin-offerings (first his own, and then the people's) behind the veil and sprinkle it upon and before the Mercy Seat in the Most Holy Place to make an Atonement for sin (v.14-16). The blood bore witness that the penalty for sin [death] had been meted out [symbolically paid by the death of the sacrificial animal]. This was an "atonement" {HB=kippur, a covering} for sin's guilt, a temporary measure. A 'propitiation' of sin {the true satisfaction of God's holiness by the purging of guilt} would await Christ's death for us, on the cross.
     Jesus died in your place for your sins.

Notice in Lev. 16:8, this goat, the one that died and whose blood was presented before God, was "for the LORD." Notice also, in Lev. 16:16, that the atonement through blood was "for the holy place, because of" the sins of the people which had defiled the place where God had chosen to place His Name. The sentence of death must be executed to satisfy God's righteousness. We are "justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood, to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time His righteousness: that He might be just and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus." (Rom 3:24-26)
     Christ's death "vindicates the holiness and righteousness of God as expressed by the Law." [Scofield Ref Bible at Rom 3:24-26] ie., God is righteous to forgive our sins, because the blood of Christ declares that sin's penalty has been paid.
     Furthermore, Christ's death for our guilt is totally sufficient to satisfy God's righteousness. There is nothing anyone can do or can add to what Christ has done. As our High Priest, He did this work alone, as illustrated by Lev 16:17, and He did it "once for all" (Heb 10:10-14).
     How is this possible? Because He is fully God and fully man. Being infinite, His death can be applied to the account of innumerable sinners. Being completely without sin, with no cause of death in Him, He willingly took the penalty for your guilt upon Himself.

We marvel at His love, and at the cost: His pain and humiliation on the cross... "He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living..."
     He was cut off. His early death, at 33 years of age, cost Him any human aspiration that He might have entertained for career, position, possession or family. Yet, how we covet those things for ourselves... how little we concern ourselves with the price He paid to purchase us for Himself. "...he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death..." (Isa 53:8,9a, where "death" is literally "deaths", in the Hebrew text.) Why should His death be written in the plural? Because of its intensity? No doubt.
     Or, perhaps, because this one man took upon Himself the deaths of many men. He was "with the wicked and with the rich in his death." Christ paid the sentence of death for me, and for you, and for as many as received Him, and in fact, for the sins of the whole world (1Joh 2:2). He died once, yet in His death, He tasted death for every man (Heb 2:9).

Consider also that plural aspects of His death are depicted by the two kids of the goats.
     There is another aspect to His death, beyond the vindication of God's righteous judgment... it is the removal of sin from the sinner, to make him or her truly righteous. This is what Peter was speaking of in 1Pet 2:24: "Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed." Note that it says "healed." 'Healed' sinners are not only released from the penalty deserved by guilty sinners, but also cured of our sinful condition, enabling us "to live unto righteousness." (See 1Cor 6:9-11)

Sadly, many, who claim to be "born again" through faith in Christ, fail to see this aspect of the price Christ paid, in our behalf. He took our sins upon Himself in order to carry them away, that we might live to glorify God. "Behold, the Lamb of God which taketh away {ie., takes up and bears away} the sins of the world." (John 1:29) He not only took the penalty for our guilt, but He also took our sinfulness upon Himself in order to bear it away... to remove out of our beings, our sinful nature which cannot please God. To that end, He, who knew no sin, was made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him (2Cor 5:21). This is the price illustrated by the scapegoat (Lev 16:10) which was presented alive before the Lord, to make an atonement for the people.

Perhaps it is a mercy from the Lord, that He has chosen to obscure the details of what Jesus, our Savior endured for us. The scapegoat was an essential part of the Day of Atonement. It illustrates an essential part of Christ's work for us. Yet, in all of Scripture it is discussed only in this chapter (Lev. 16). When the hour came for Christ to fulfill this role on the cross, darkness obscured Him from those who would have watched. But they heard Him cry out: "My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Mat 27:45-46)
     What He bore there, we can never fully understand. Yet, His agony is illustrated, here, in the scapegoat.

After Aaron offered the first goat, making an atonement for "the holy place, and the tabernacle... and the altar..." (cp. Heb 9:22-24), he turned to the live goat. (Read Lev 16:21-22)

The sins of the people were placed upon the head of the scapegoat, which was "let go" or "sent away" (v.10,21,22) into the wilderness. The sense is that the sin bearer would be forsaken... abandoned to his fate.

["The Scapegoat" painting, 1856, by William Holman Hunt. - Hunt had the picture framed with the quotations: "Surely he hath borne our Griefs and carried our Sorrows; Yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of GOD and afflicted." (Isa 53:4) and "And the Goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a Land not inhabited." (Lev 16:22) In the painting, the sins of the people are depicted as a scarlet band on the goat's head.]

Although God is patient, not willing that any should perish, there comes a time when He no longer offers mercy to those who reject His way, but rather, abandons them to go their own way. This is what is described in Romans 1: "God gave them up unto vile affections..." (Rom 1:26). He may allow them to continue and even to prosper in their chosen perversions for a time, but there comes a time when He abandons willful sinners to their sin, and to its consequences (Rom 1:32).
     This, also, will be the fate of self-righteous religious sinners in the day of judgment, 'Lord remember all the wonderful things I have done for you.' "But He shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out." (Luk 13:26-28) "Then shall he say also... Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels..." (Mat 25:41)
     The fate of the wicked is described in Psa 73:18-20.
     There are terrors awaiting those who "die in their sins." (Joh 8:24)

     What did it mean for Jesus to die in your sins and mine?
     This was the fate pictured by the scapegoat, sent away... abandoned to a death unknown and unseen. The fate of Jesus who "became sin for us" (2Cor 5:21), to "put away sin by the sacrifice of himself" (Heb 9:26).
     Do we think that He was unaffected by the terrors that would have befallen us to die in our sins? "The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow." (Psa 116:3) The barren wasteland of sin, in which I once wandered, would have extended into eternity without hope, and without God... if Christ had not interceded to bear my sin away into that "land not inhabited."

In the slain goat, we saw Him led as a lamb to the slaughter, to die my death to satisfy God's righteous Law.
     In the scapegoat, we see Him sent away into the wilderness, bearing my sinful depraved nature to its rightful destiny: the place of eternal separation from the Holy God. But our vision is obscured. We hear his awful cry, but cannot begin to understand the agony of His soul. "None of the ransomed ever knew how deep were the waters crossed, or how dark was the night that the Lord passed through e'er He found His sheep that was lost..." [a line from "The Ninety and Nine," a hymn by E.C.Clephane]

'Ah,' you say, 'but it is past. He rose from the grave. His death, regardless of its depth, is behind Him.'
     Yes, praise God, we take comfort in that. For God has raised Him up, "having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it." (Acts 2:24)

Yet, "the breadth, and length, and depth, and height" of His love (Eph 3:17-19) is measured by the unfathomable price He paid... for it is eternal. The immeasurable dimensions of the price He bore continue to echo through eternity. He is "the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world" (Rev 13:8). It is not merely that His death was anticipated from eternity past. He was "slain before the foundation of the world." Somehow, His death reaches to eternity past... and also to eternity future. In Rev 5:5,6, John saw our resurrected Lord in His glory. But turning to gaze upon the victorious "Lion of the tribe of Judah," the apostle was startled to see "a Lamb as it had been slain."
     All through the book of John, we hear Jesus speaking of His approaching "hour", the hour of His death (or, perhaps we should say, "deaths"). At the beginning of His last week He prayed "Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify thy name..." (Joh 12:27,28)
     On the night before His crucifixion, He prayed "Father, the hour is come..." (It is that hour that we remember at the Lord's Supper.)
     There was eternity in that hour. It is the central event of all time and eternity... The crossroads where they meet.
     At that intersection, Jesus changed my course, sending me on the path that rightfully belonged to Him, the path of righteousness, peace and glory, while taking for Himself the path that should have been my eternal destiny.
     The Scriptures say, that when Jesus bore our sin away, it was as far as east is from west (Psa 103:12). But the language fails, for in effect, He bore it to some alternate universe, "a land not inhabited," from which there could be no return, except that One who transcends time and eternity reached out to draw back the Son who is innately apart from sin, and therefore unable to be held by the weight which He carried away from us.
     The price is paid. The unimaginable cost to the Eternal One is reflected in His unfading scars.

Yet, amazingly, we have not yet seen the complete picture of Christ's work for us in the Day of Atonement. Aaron's work was not yet done. Two rams remained to be offered. Lord willing, we will consider their meaning, in Part 2 of this message.

Part 2

The first 5 paragraphs (indented below) review Leviticus 16:1-22 (Part 1 of this study).

"...Bought with a price, the blood of Jesus, precious price of love untold." In the first 22 verses of this chapter, we glimpsed the costliness of that price to Him, as illustrated by the sin offerings which Aaron the high priest offered on the Day of Atonement. Now, in the remaining portion of the chapter, we see something of His purpose for those whom He has bought with a price.

Let's briefly review the instructions which Aaron was given, in Lev 16.
v.3 He was to bring a bullock for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering for himself.
v.5 He was to receive from the congregation two kids of the goats for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering.

v.6,11-14 He was to offer his bullock as a sin offering, and sprinkle some of its blood upon and before the Mercy Seat, in the Most Holy Place "within the veil." This was to set him apart for the holy work which he was to perform. We noted, that Jesus, having no sin, and therefore, no need for a sin offering, is seen here as the holy and humble servant of the Lord, coming as a bullock, yielded to His Father's will, even unto death.

v.8-10 Aaron was to take one of the goats from the congregation and offer it as a sin offering, (v.15-19) sprinkling its blood also upon and before the Mercy Seat, within the veil (inside the Most Holy Place). This goat was "for the LORD" (v.8) in that its blood vindicated God's righteousness and provided cleansing for the Holy Place where He had placed His Name, but which had been defiled by the sins of the people. The blood was evidence that death had been meted out, satisfying the righteous demands of the Law. So, Jesus, innocent of all sin, died in the place of sinful men like you and me, taking the punishment for our guilt, thus demonstrating that God was righteous to justify us and to allow us to stand in His holy presence.

v.20-22 Having reconciled God and man through the blood of the first goat, Aaron was to take the living goat, place the sins of the people upon it, and send it away into the wilderness. This was to make an atonement for the people... to remove their sins from them... that they might indeed be holy unto the Lord. The scapegoat illustrates Jesus who took our sin upon Himself and bore it away from us. In so doing, He also took upon Himself the consequences of our sin, the terrors of abandonment to a place where the believer will never go, though once it was his eternal destiny.

"Scapegoat," the word itself conveys this meaning... The Hebrew word (azazel), is compounded from two words: aze, a goat (cp. Gen 15:9 "a she goat"; Lev 16:5 "of the goats") and azel. to go away, to be used up, to be exhausted, to be gone (cp. Deu 32:36 "is gone"; 1Sam 9:7 "is spent"). Our sins were placed upon Him and He bore them "unto a land not inhabited" that we might be free of sin.

Aaron's work was not yet done. Even as the scapegoat was being led away, Aaron was to offer two rams as burnt offerings (Lev 16:23,24). A ram is the picture of maturity, strength and independence. But a ram that becomes a burnt offering surrenders all of its natural vitality to a greater purpose. It is totally consumed upon the altar in an act of worship toward the Lord.

The first of these rams, was for Aaron, and depicts Christ our High Priest.
     What is a priest's role? To represent God before men and to represent men before God. "For there is one God and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus; who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time." (1Tim 2:5,6)
     In the process of His priestly work, Jesus "gave Himself." He surrendered Himself completely to the Father's will. Actually, He was consumed with the Father's will, long before He entered the world: "Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) I delight to do thy will, O God." (Heb 10:7; Psa 40:7,8) Frequently, during His earthly ministry, He restated the purpose of His heart:

     It was because He gave Himself freely and completely to serve the Father, as pictured in the burnt offering, that He willingly fulfilled the dual role of our sin offering, (a) taking in His own body the sentence of death for our sins, that we might live before God, and (b) bearing away in His own soul the sin that separated us from God, that we might be drawn near, even as He was forsaken and sent away. "Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen." (Gal 1:3-5)

As Aaron offered the burnt offering for himself, he also offered the burnt offering for the people (v.24). The two are mentioned so closely, that they might as well be one sacrifice. Believers are identified with Christ in death, so that we might also be identified with Him in His life and purpose, which is total surrender to the Father's will. Once, we were dead in sin and unable to serve God. Now, in Christ, we are dead to sin and risen to live for Him, as Paul explains in Romans 6:1-11, and as he admonishes us in Rom 12:1,2: "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God."
     "I beseech you, therefore, by the mercies of God..." The offering of ourselves to God is dependent upon Christ's offering of Himself to God, and in our behalf.
     "I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless, I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (Gal 2:20)
     "For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared unto all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works." (Titus 2:11-14)

Following His resurrection, Jesus told His disciples "...as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you." (John 20:21; cp. John 17:18,19) One of our hymns develops that theme: "So send I you: to labor unrewarded, to serve unpaid, unloved, unsought, unknown, To bear rebuke, to suffer scorn and scoffing, So send I you to toil for me alone." ["So Send I You," by Margaret Clarkson]
     To some ears, that sounds like a pretty bleak assignment. It would be, if you are pre-occupied with fears of suffering and fleshly discomfort. Jesus, sent by the Father, did suffer grievously. But did He come grieving those sufferings? No, "for the joy that was set before Him [He] endured the cross, despising the shame..." (Heb 12:2) He came because it was His delight to do the Father's will. Paul also knew sufferings and persecutions, but his focus was elsewhere: "...none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God." (Acts 20:24)
     Paul was saying, in effect, 'Lord Jesus, To toil for thee alone is a privilege for which I would pay any price, because it is the purpose for which you have purchased me at great price.' ... "For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's." (1Cor 6:20)

Apart from Christ's sin offering on our behalf, it would not be possible for us to offer ourselves to God, because our sin separated us from Him. With that thought, we come to Lev 16:25.
     The sin-offering was an offering of blood... the evidence of death, as required by God's Law for the judgment of sin, was sprinkled upon the Mercy Seat (as we saw in v.14,15). But what of the body, the flesh of the animal whose life blood had been poured out? Now, Aaron took a portion of its fat and burned it upon the altar of the burnt offering (as prescribed for all sin-offerings, in Lev 4:8-10; 1:8,9). This was "an offering made by fire, a sweet savour unto the Lord." The Lord is pleased when His servant offers himself completely to Him, and when sinners are turned to righteousness. So, we are admonished to "walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour." (Eph 5:2) (Also see 2Cor 2:15,16)

Now, observe what was done with the remainder of the body of the sin offering, in Lev 16:27,28. Emptied of blood, the life of the flesh had ended. The remnants of that fleshly existence must be disposed of and destroyed completely. The flesh of the sacrifice was not burnt upon the altar, for it represented the sin for which death was required. Being unclean, the flesh was taken away and burned outside the camp, in a special place (v.27-28). The flesh was dealt with in the same manner as the dung (cp. Php 3:8, "what things were gain to me, those I counted... but dung"). Christ's blood, shed for our sins, represents the death of the flesh. "...the flesh cannot please God." (Rom 8:8) Rather, it must be "put off" (Eph 4:22) and "mortified" (Rom 8:13). The believer has no life in himself. He can neither serve God, nor purify and cleanse his own mind. For everything, he is dependent upon "Christ who liveth in me." "Without Me," Jesus said, "ye can do nothing." (John 15:5)

The closing verses of Lev 16 (v.29-34) emphasize the unique importance of the Day of Atonement. It was on this day alone that atonement was made, once per year. This is a picture of Christ's one sacrifice for sins forever. Yet, sin offerings could be brought at any time during the year, by anyone needing to confess sin. The instructions given for such sin-offerings (in Lev 4) are similar to the procedure that Aaron was to follow on the Day of Atonement, with some important differences.
     The sinner would lay his hand upon the head of the sacrifice and confess his sin. The animal would be slain, and its blood would be presented before the Lord. However, on those day-to-day occasions, the priest would not enter behind the veil into the Most Holy Place to sprinkle the blood upon the Mercy Seat. Rather, he sprinkled it before (outside) the veil in the Holy Place, in the place of prayer (beside the altar of incense). The Mercy Seat was just beyond the veil, obscured from view, but very near. Those individuals who came confessing their sins upon the blood of their sin offering, were remembering and looking by faith to the effectiveness of the once a year sacrifice, and the blood within the veil upon the Mercy Seat (the propitiation for sin already accomplished). Likewise, "the blood of Jesus Christ [God's] Son cleanseth us from all sin" (1John 1:7). His blood, presented once, on a day 2000 years ago, is the basis of the believer's eternal salvation, and of his forgiveness and cleansing from incidental sin (1John 1:7,9), and also of his preparation to serve the Father's perfect will (Heb 13:20,21).

This concludes the study about: The Day of Atonement as it depicts Christ's sacrifice.
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