STORY FROM EXODUS 25-40, LEVITICUS 1-5, 12-23, NUMBERS 3, 9-14, AND 27-33
God had just given the people of Israel specific instructions about how to live in His ways and remain close to Him in a covenant relationship. During one of Moses’ trips up the mountain, God also gave Moses specific instructions about
how to live in His ways and remain close to Him in a covenant relationship. During one of Moses’ trips up the mountain, God also gave Moses specific instructions about how to build a holy tent called the Tabernacle. God said, “Build a special place for me to live among the people I love.”
Moses gathered the very best craftsmen and workers, and they began building the Tabernacle in the center of their camp.
The tent was divided into two rooms. The large outer room was called the Holy Place. Inside of this room was a stand that held seven oil lamps called a Menorah. These lamps burned day and night and symbolized God’s constant protection and watch over His people. Next to this was a table with twelve loaves of bread on it, reminding them God would always provide for their needs. Also in the Holy Place was a gold altar where incense burned. Incense reminded them of God’s nearness and was also a symbol of their prayers rising to God.
The second inner room was called the Holy of Holies. A thick curtain hung from the ceiling of the tent all the way down to the floor, separating it from the Holy Place. This room contained a special wooden chest called the Ark of the Covenant. Inside the Ark were the stone tablets God wrote on and gave to Moses. On top of the Ark was a gold cover called the Mercy Seat where the presence of God would come.
When the Israelites finished building the Tabernacle, God showed His presence was there by covering the top of it with a cloud during the day and a pillar of fire at night. Whenever the cloud or fire would move, they would pack up camp and follow it.
God told the people of Israel, “When you realize you have sinned, you must confess it and bring an offering to me. Then I will remove your sins and forgive you.” Because of His love for the Israelites, God was providing a way for them to substitute the life of an animal that was pure and without defects in place of their own—a life for a life.
Everyday people would bring sacrifices to God in the courtyard of the Tabernacle. This system of sacrifice continued for hundreds of years, but these sacrifices were only a symbol of what was to come. God was preparing a final sacrifice that would pay for the world’s sins once and for all.
Retell the story so far, and then continue…
At this time the Israelites organized themselves into twelve groups— called tribes—according to which of the twelve sons of Israel (Jacob) they were a descendant.
Moses’ brother Aaron was the oldest of the descendants of Levi, Israel’s firstborn son. God chose Aaron and his sons to represent the people as priests. They had the special job of bringing the people’s offerings to God. The priests were the only ones allowed inside the Tabernacle. If anyone else tried to come near God’s presence they would die. No one was allowed to go inside the Holy of Holies except the high priest, Aaron, on a special day called the Day of Atonement.
God said to Moses, “In addition to the weekly Sabbath, you should set aside time for festivals where everyone comes together to worship, celebrate, and rest.” So the Israelites held several festivals each year—some lasted for weeks!
During one of their fall festivals was this special Day of Atonement. God said, “This will be a special day where you will all be made right with me. Today you will find forgiveness and cleansing from all your sins.”
Then God told the Aaron what he must do on the Day of Atonement. He said, “You must follow all of my instructions completely or you will die. Make sure you are completely clean, without sin on the inside and out. Wear the special clothes made for this occasion.” (God went on to describe the special underclothing and elaborate robe Aaron should wear.)
Then He continued, “Sacrifice a young bull as payment for your sins and the sins of your family. Then dip your finger in the blood from this bull and sprinkle it on the cover of the Ark and then seven times on the front of the Ark.”
“Then find two spotless goats and sacrifice one of them as a substitute for the sins of all of the Israelites. Take its blood and sprinkle it on the cover and front of the ark as you did with the bull’s blood. I will accept this and forgive all the sins and rebellion of the people. Remember, blood represents life; in this blood you will find life and atonement for your sins.”
After this Aaron was to bring in the other goat that was still alive, called the scapegoat (also called the Ahzazel, which means to “take away”). God told him, “Lay both of your hands on its head and confess all of the people’s sins, putting them on the head of the goat. Then lead this goat far away into the wilderness. The people’s sins will be taken away with it, never to be seen again.”
Aaron and the people of Israel followed God’s instructions carefully. Because of this, the people were made right with God once again and given atonement for their sins. This was a holy day the people of Israel continued to celebrate year after year.