“Out of Egypt”: Rules for Sacrifice
“A picture is worth a thousand words.”
There’s quite a bit of truth to that idiom, isn’t there? If you have ever assembled a piece of furniture with a name you cannot pronounce from a Swedish furniture manufacturer, you know it to be true. Paragraphs of well-written prose could not capture the clarity of a well-drawn image of how to attach “Legs A” to “Body F” with “Screws AA,” “Washers AB,” and “Nuts AC.” There is just something about seeing something, although that is not to say there isn’t an important place for the written word (I am an editor and writer after all!).
God, of course, knows this better than anyone. That is, after all, why He gave us Jesus—so that we might see and behold Him (John 14:9; Heb. 1:1-3). Jesus was the perfect picture of our perfect Father being perfect God Himself. But God was in the picture business long before Jesus was born. You are teaching The Gospel Project, so you know this! This week, we encounter a beautiful and power picture of salvation through Jesus in the sacrificial system and the Day of Atonement.
The Pure Priest (Lev. 16:3-7,11-14)
The Day of Atonement, or Yom Kippur in Hebrew, was the one day a year when God called on His people to make corporate sacrifices to atone for their sins. Of course, the people were to make individual sacrifices throughout the year as outlined in the first few chapters of Leviticus, but this was a day when all of God’s people gathered to witness God’s plan to provide forgiveness.
It’s not difficult to imagine the seriousness of this day. God detailed how the day was to be carried out, but even more than that, it was not a secret that the High Priest, Aaron in this case, could only enter the most holy place in the tabernacle on this one day of the year lest he die. The seriousness was further heightened by what Aaron had to do first, make sacrifice for himself so that he might be purified and be an acceptable priest and intermediary for God’s people.
After bathing, Aaron was to put on a linen tunic and then sacrifice a bull for his sin. Only then was he to proceed to follow God’s instructions regarding the two goats. We know that the imagery of this day was layered. On one layer, this all pictures the forgiveness of sin, but it is more than that. It pictures the way God would forgive His people of sin through Jesus. Jesus is the great High Priest who would come to make a one-time sacrifice for humanity. Aaron had to be purified before he could serve as an intermediary, an act he would have to repeat every year because of his sinfulness. Jesus, however, is the perfect intermediary, the pure priest, who did not need to make sacrifice for His own sin because no sin could be found in Him.
The First Scapegoat (Lev. 16:8-10,15-19)
The Day of Atonement then continued with the sacrifice of the first goat. This goat was to be seen and understood as a substitute sacrifice taking on the death that God’s people owed because of their sin. The wages of sin are death (Rom. 6:23). Death is owed and death must be paid. But we also know that the death of a goat was not sufficient to atone for sin; human death was owed (Heb. 10:4). This act during the Day of Atonement looked forward to the greater sacrifice, the substitutionary atonement that Christ Jesus would provide. Millions of goats could not satisfy the punishment a single person owed God, but Jesus’ death would be more than sufficient.
I find it compelling how Aaron was to wear a pristine white tunic on this day. I imagine it did not stay white for very long. Think about performing the sacrifices themselves and then sprinkling the blood according to God’s commands. I imagine that by the end of the day, that white robe was heavily stained with blood, yet another stark image of what Christ would do.
The Second Scapegoat (Lev. 16:9-10,20-22)
Aaron was then to take the second scapegoat and lay his hands on it, symbolically placing the sins of the people on the creature. That goat was then to be run off into the wilderness, never to be seen again. Psalm 103:12 tells us “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” This second scapegoat provides a powerful image of that truth. Both scapegoats seen together remind us that Jesus has paid the penalty for our sin (the first scapegoat) and in Him, all of our sin is removed forevermore (the second scapegoat).
Many of us struggle with this. Oh, we know it to be true; that is not where we struggle. We struggle with living it out. We struggle to embrace 2 Corinthians 5:21, “He made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” In Christ, we have been declared fully forgiven and fully righteous. Christ has taken all our sin away and paid for it and in its place He has given us His righteousness. That is the power of the gospel we must fight to embrace and to live out, and that we have been called to share with the kids we teach.
He took my sins and my sorrows, He made them His very own. He bore the burden to Calv’ry, And suffered and died alone. How marvelous! How wonderful! And my song shall ever be; How marvelous! How wonderful! Is my Savior’s love for me!”—Charles H. Gabriel (1856-1932) 
Preschool Tip: For our youngest, more concrete thinkers, the imagery of this session may be a challenge. Remember that we are proactively planting gospel seeds in our preschoolers, seeds that may lay dormant for a season, but we pray they bloom in time. Be prepared to remind preschoolers of the general truth of the images of the Day of Atonement and the sacrificial system—that God was telling us that He would provide a way to provide us forgiveness of our sin. That fundamental truth is what our preschoolers need to grasp, and it is a truth they can.
Kids Tip: If the kids you teach are not familiar with the Day of Atonement, enjoy this wonderful opportunity to lead them to those priceless epiphany moments. This session provides you with so many of those “Ohh! I get it!” moments. Pray for them and prepare for them. And if you lead older kids especially, don’t give them all away, lead your kids to experience them for themselves. Put the dots out there and let them experience the joy of connecting them.
 Charles H. Gabriel, “I Stand Amazed in the Presence,” in Baptist Hymnal (Nashville: LifeWay Worship, 2008), 237.