Please read Leviticus 16 in your Bible. I used the NLT to prepare these remarks.
Go to jamesbest.net/artwork/sermon-illustrations-2023.
"The Great Reset"
I think people must generally prefer to be optimistic. This preference is apparent whenever a new year comes around. Because we’re hopeful that the turn of the calendar will somehow be a prelude to an improvement of ourselves or our circumstances, we make a big deal of celebrating the arrival of each new year. We’re hoping it will be a “reset;” an opportunity to do better and achieve more.
To be fair, optimism is never required to be logical or plausible. Hope is something that we have because our present circumstances seem too dire for us to do anything about them.
I am borrowing the term “Great Reset” as a title for this message to represent this typical approach to a new year. The term was coined by persons who aspire to replace capitalism with socialism. That is certainly not my point of view and to a small degree, I’m stealing their term to mock them.
In His Law, God provided for an annual reset. The Day of Atonement was the yearly (in the fall, not at the new year) day to purify God’s house and His people from the taint of the people’s sins. This was accomplished by blood, the life of creatures poured out to counter the death caused by sin. This was not the only provision for sin in God’s Law, but it was an annual renewal, a reminder to the people of the deadly consequences of their defiance of God. For us as followers of Jesus, we need a daily reset, a lifestyle of repentance.
We need to reset our relationship with God by repenting of our sins.
1. The sanctuary had to be purified annually. (1-19)
What preceded these instructions was the death of Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu, caused by their disrespectful entry into the Most Holy Place. (Leviticus 10:1-2) In response, God, limited entrance to one person – the High Priest – and to one occasion, the Day of Atonement.
A purpose of this command is to emphasize the separation from God that sin causes. There is a great gulf between the pure holiness of God and the sinfulness of people. One way to show respect for God - a way He commanded – was to keep one’s distance. It was not any human’s prerogative to decide to enter the Most Holy Place, that was for God to allow or deny.
The High Priest and those who served with him had to be purified. The sacrifice of a YOUNG BULL and a RAM. The principle behind atonement in the Old Testament was that the penalty for sin was death. The penalty was satisfied by offering an animal to die in the place of the sinner. Leviticus 17:11+14 explains that the life of the animal was in its blood. Thus, the shedding of blood is the act of sacrificing the life of the creature.
The tabernacle/temple had to be purified because one consequence of the sin of the people. Unclean people entered the sanctuary and passed their uncleanliness on to the facility. Whether we’re talking about the tabernacle or the temple, the sanctuary was the one place on earth where God dwelt among His people. What’s interesting is that the Day of Atonement was as much for the tabernacle’s purification as it was for the people’s purification from sin.
2. The people had to be purified annually. (20-34)
The people had to be purified from the guilt of their sin. The transference of sin to the scapegoat and its being run out into the wilderness fulfilled this purpose. Jewish mythology believed there was a demon named Azazel that ate the scapegoat. Keil and Delitzch argue that the original language supports this and reason it must be another name for Satan.
The New Living Translation seems to allow for it to be the name given to a desolate region. In either case, the point is that the people are purified by transferring their sins and then chasing them away. This is an example of how we are to treat all temptation and sin – separate ourselves from it.
This additional means of dealing with the sin of the people – sending out the scapegoat – further reinforces the seriousness of sin. Both goats served the same purpose – to purify the people – but they accomplished that purpose in two different ways. Jewish legend says the goats selected were to be as alike in appearance as possible, so there would be no preference for one over the other, God’s choice by lot would entirely decide the selection.
The scapegoat was driven far enough out so that it couldn’t possibly find its way back again. It would die too, but not at the hand of man. The scapegoat symbolized sending the sins of the people back to their author, the devil.
The man who drove the scapegoat out and the one who burned the remains of the sacrifice were specially chosen for their jobs. Their roles in the Day of Atonement demanded special garments and ritual bathing instructions similar to that of the High Priest. These regulations reminded the people of the line between pure and impure.
You would think that having gone to all this trouble (one person counted 18 steps to this process), the people would appreciate God’s cleansing and more vigilant in resisting temptation. Do we take our spiritual life more seriously?
The people were not to treat this day as a merely formal ritual. They were commanded to fast (the only commanded fast) and refrain from work. They were to prepare for the day by repenting and seeking God.
We need to reset our relationship with God by repenting of our sins.
Let me tell you, in astronomical terms, the scale of a year. On the basis of the earth’s rotations alone, each of us has travelled over 7,000,000 miles! in terms of its orbit around the sun, we have travelled 568,000,000 on our planet! Barring any mishaps we create for ourselves, God has seen us safely through a very lengthy journey each year. When you think of it on that scale, we have a lot to celebrate each New Year’s Day!
More importantly, Jesus Christ, the only perfect and innocent human being, took the place of these animals. He shed His blood on the cross, an eternal sacrifice for our sins that purifies all who will receive Him. Jesus’ sacrifice needs never to be repeated. But we must make it a daily discipline of repenting of our sins, relying on Jesus’ sacrifice to cleanse us from all ungodliness. We repent by confessing our sins, asking God to forgive our sins, receiving His forgiveness, and applying ourselves to never being guilty of them again. If our sin has caused offense to another person, then we also have to attempt to make it right with them.
This is the “Great Reset” to which I refer today. We “reset” ourselves by depending entirely on Jesus’ death on the cross. It is a “great” reset because it feels good, because it is God’s gift to us, and it is eternally effective in relieving us of the burden of sin and guilt.
https://www.preceptaustin.org/leviticus_16_commentary, retrieved on 4 January 2023.
www.biblehub.com, retrieved on 4 January 23
Imprimis, Dec. 2022, Vol. 51, No. 12, Christopher Flannery