By Henry Mahan
Before Adam sinned he lived in communion with God; but after he had broken the commandment, he could have no more familiar fellowship with God. Even under the Mosaic dispensation when God was pleased to dwell among a chosen people, it was painfully revealed that the sin and separation were still there (Isa. 59:2). The presence of God was hidden away from mortal eye, hand, and foot. God's presence was revealed in the Holy of Holies of the wilderness tabernacle; and no man might come near except in one way, and then only the High Priest once a year--not without the blood (Heb. 9:1-8).
How can a son of Adam approach God? How can a sinner come before God, be accepted, and forgiven? Only in the way God has decreed--no other way! God has, in grace and mercy, purposed to show mercy and grace to sinners in a way consistent with his righteousness, justice, and truth. That way is by the obedience and death of his only begotten Son, by whom we have received the atonement (John 14:6; Rom. 5:8-11; Heb. 9:11-12; Heb. 10:19-22). Long before Christ came to earth and fulfilled all that was promised and prophesied of him, God pictured the person and work of Christ, our great High Priest and Redeemer, in the Day of Atonement, taught in this chapter.
This Day of Atonement was only a type, a shadow of good things to come by Christ. These sacrifices could not put away sin (Heb. 10:1-4). These blood atonements only continued until Christ died, and they are no more (Heb. 10: 11-14, 18).
v. 2. The Holy of Holies might be called God's presencechamber, where he appeared in his glory upon the mercy-seat.
Neither Aaron, the High Priest, nor any man might approach God except at the time God designates and in the way God appoints.
v. 3. Only Aaron shall come into the Holiest. There were other priests who ministered about the tabernacle; but Aaron represents our Lord Jesus Christ, the one great High Priest of the eternal covenant. All believers are kings and priests unto God (1 Peter 2:9; Rev. 1:6; Rev. 5:9-10). But only Christ is the great High Priest, the one Mediator, and his atonement and intercession make our presence acceptable.
v. 4. Aaron, the humble and spotless High Priest, came into the holiest. Over and over Aaron must wash his flesh in pure water (Exo. 30:18-21) and be clothed in simple, white linen. Christ, our High Priest, was holy and harmless and undefiled (Heb. 7:26); and having laid aside his glorious adornment, he was clothed in the humility of flesh.
vv. 5-8. Aaron was to select two goats for a sin-offering and one ram for a burnt-offering. The ram was to be offered as an atonement or sacrifice for himself and for his house. He was then to cast lots upon the two goats. One would be for the sinoffering on the mercy-seat and the other would serve as the scape-goat (Lev. 16:20-22). Christ Jesus is both our scapegoat, on whom God laid our sins, and our sin-offering, who died for us.
vv. 12-13. In the first part of the tabernacle there was a candlestick, which is Christ the light of the world, a table of shew bread, which is Christ the bread of life, and, before the veil, an altar of incense which burned continually. This incense symbolizes the prayers and intercessions of Christ our Lord.
When Aaron came into the Holiest, he was to bring a censer of live coals and a handful of that incense which he put upon the fire. The cloud of the incense covered the mercy-seat, as the intercession of Christ fills the throne of grace for us (Rom. 8:34).
vv. 14-16. Aaron sprinkled the mercy-seat with the blood of the sin offering and made atonement for the sins of the people. Our Lord Jesus has died, entered the presence of God with his own blood, and made an eternal reconciliation and atonement for our sins (Heb. 9:11-15; 9:22-28; 10:12-14).
v. 17. No man was to be anywhere near to Aaron as he accomplished this work of atonement. Even so, Christ, our Lord, by himself purged our sins (Heb. 1:3; John 16:32).
The sacrifice of our Lord Jesus enables us to enter into the presence of the eternal Holy God (Heb. 10:19-22). The veil was rent in twain when he died (Matt. 27:50-51).