READ: Leviticus 16:1-10
Day of Atonement Pt. 1
Verse 1 sets the scene of this passage, right after the events of chapter 10 when Aaron’s two sons had been struck dead because they did not properly prepare before the Holiness of God. So now, Aaron is given very specific instructions as to how he can approach the holy place – he is given very specific instructions as to how he must prepare to come before a holy God.
Chapter 16 relates instructions to one of the most central events in the religious life of the Hebrews – the Day of Atonement. Some have suggested that this is the central chapter of Leviticus because it accounts the central event of their lives and practice. Because God is such a holy God, as was practically witnessed when Aaron’s two sons were struck dead, even the Highest Priest was to guard how he approached God. To enter the Holy of Holies was the closest that anyone could physically get to the presence of God – certain steps had to be taken, the priest had to properly prepare.
One of these preparation steps was to change his clothes. This simple outfit – linen tunic, linen trousers, linen sash, linen turban – were different from his normal clothes (they are described in Exodus 28 and referred in Leviticus 8:7-9). This particular outfit was very plain; probably even planer that that of the priests of whose outfits Exodus 28:40 says were made for ‘glory and beauty’. This outfit is different; this outfit is very basic and doesn’t at all seem to be made for glory or beauty.
For so long the priest was to minister on behalf of the people; the High Priest was to be seen by the people as their mediator. As Wenham so aptly puts it, ‘his splendid clothes draw attention to the glory of his office’ (NICOT p. 230). On this particular occasion though the High Priest came before God with all humility. Before man he was the HIGH priest; before God he was brought low, he was simple and plain and nothing special. This man still had to bring offerings for himself before he could even begin to make offerings on behalf of the people (16:6).
I guess the thought occurs to me, as I’ve mentioned before and as I see more and more through Scripture, we must remain humble before God. Maybe God, through Jesus, has given us a holiness that makes us worthy of His presence; maybe God has made us righteous and He treats us now as His children; maybe we have all right to boast in the work of God in us. As the prophet Zechariah (3:4) once prophesied, ‘Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you and I will clothe you with pure vestments.’ Even still, we should never forget our place before God. Take away the covering of Jesus that God sees us through and we are nothing more than dirty rotten rags that stand before a clean and pure God. I think it is an important exercise and it does us well to ‘clothe ourselves with humility’ – to remind ourselves of our place before a Holy God.
“God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.” – I Peter 5:5