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Day of Atonement
Thank goodness for the section on the Day of Atonement in today's reading, as the discharge laws make for awkward commentary! What is worth pointing out is that these laws were put in place to safeguard the Israelites against the spread of communicable diseases and infections. "Bodily" discharge can mean anything (diarrhea, runny nose, etc.) but likely refers to the reproductive organ, which would indicate gonorrhea or syphilis. In much the same way that we mandate a 24-hour fever-free period before returning a sick child to school or a runny nose with clear instead of yellowed drainage, the Law required a period of quarantine, as well as a sin offering. There were also laws governing natural bodily functions that were not contagious, such as male emissions of semen and female menstruation. For such occurrences, there was no offering for purification required though there was a brief period of uncleanness imposed. Perhaps it was a means of "erring on the side of caution" to have the Israelites avoid contact with all forms of bodily discharge even though not all were contagious or sinful. Additionally, the observance of such laws had other benefits, particularly those governing sexual intercourse. Laws requiring men and women who have had intercourse to be considered unclean for a full day, ensured that all sexual activity was separated from worship. God was not saying that sex was sinful but that it was a "common" and not 'holy" activity that had no place in worship. This ran contrary to the common pagan practices of the time that included orgiastic fertility rites in worship. By saying that sex rendered a person ceremonially unclean for a full day, God safeguarded against the integration of sexual activity into Tabernacle/Temple worship.
The Day of Atonement, known to the Jews as Yom Kippur, is full of symbolism that points toward Jesus' ultimate atonement on the cross. This was a day on which the entire nation of Israel was reconciled to God on the basis of a sin offering and a scapegoat. The sin offering, involving shed blood, paid the price for sin. Thus, the atonement. The scapegoat symbolized a different aspect of the reconciliation. When the sins of the people were symbolically transferred to the goat, the animal was then led deep into the wilderness and set free. The picture here is of the sins being forever cast away and remembered no more. "As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us", (Ps. 103:12). The Day of Atonement was unlike any if the other festivals, in that it was not festive! It was somber day wherein the Israelites mourned their sin before the Lord. The High Priest shed his usual grandeur (robes made of opulent fabrics and elaborate jewels and adornment) for simple linen tunics. In the presence of the Lord, he was to humble himself as opposed to commanding the attention and respect befitting his office. Before even making the offering, the high priest was to cover the ark in a thick cloud if incense such that the glory of the Lord would be obscured. The Israelites took this day very seriously and recognized the necessity of reconciliation with God.
Much rather dwell on this than the first part of our reading...
Tomorrow's reading: Leviticus 17-19
About Melissa Gibbs:
Melissa is the mother of four boys and the wife of her junior high sweetheart, JD. He is the President of Joe Gibbs Racing and the son of NFL Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs. JD and Melissa have been married 16 years and are actively involved with Young Life, Motor Racing Outreach, their church, and other ministries. Their youngest son Taylor is nearing completion of a 3 year treatment protocol for leukemia, which has been a powerful faith walk for their family. Since his diagnosis, Melissa has been called upon to share their family's testimony with many local churches.
Visit Melissa at http://chronologicalbiblein2010.blogspot.com/.
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