Read Leviticus 16:32-34. What was the main task of the High Priest on the Day of Atonement?
The primary function of the high priest was to mediate between God and mankind. Regarding the sanctuary, he administered the system and performed various rituals of sacrifices and offerings (Heb. 8:3). His task on the Day of Atonement was enormous. He performed almost every ritual, except for leading the goat for Azazel into the wilderness, though he gave the command to send the goat away.
On the Day of Atonement, the “great” priest, as he was also called, became a living example of Christ. Just as the attention of God’s people was focused on the high priest, Jesus is the exclusive center of our attention. As the activities of the high priest on earth brought cleansing to the people, so does Jesus’ work in the heavenly sanctuary does the same for us (Rom. 8:34, 1 John 1:9). Just as the only hope of the people on the Day of Atonement was in the high priest, our only hope is in Christ.
“The blood of Christ, while it was to release the repentant sinner from the condemnation of the law, was not to cancel the sin; it would stand on record in the sanctuary until the final atonement; so in the type the blood of the sin offering removed the sin from the penitent, but it rested in the sanctuary until the Day of Atonement.”—Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 357.
According to Leviticus 16:16-20, the high priest had to enter the most holy place and purge it from the ritual impurities, transgressions, and sins. He then transferred all the iniquities, all the transgressions, and all the sins of Israel onto the live goat and sent them away, through the goat, into the desert. Thus, all the moral faults of Israel were gone. This achieved the unique goal of the Day of Atonement: a moral purification that went beyond forgiveness. There was no new forgiveness necessary on this day. God had already forgiven their sins.
As we struggle with all our God-given strength to put away all sin, how can we learn to lean totally on Christ’s merits as our only hope of salvation?