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By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

Scripture References:

Leviticus 16:11-15
Matthew 27:45-53
Ephesians 2:11-22

Preparation Verse (Ephesians 2:19)

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household.

Before we begin this morning's sermon, there is something important that I have to ask you.

There is a need for housing for an inmate who has recently been pardoned from a life sentence.

In former days, I suppose that he would have been sentenced to death for his crimes, but now he has been pardoned.

He is a Christian, and it is important that we find a place for him in the home of believers.

Is there anyone here who would be willing to welcome him into your home as a member of your family?

Is there anyone?

The situation that I just presented was made up. It does, however, reflect a very real situation that is going on every day, and it also reflects on the sermon for today.

I cannot see into your hearts and souls as the Lord can, but the kind of question I posed to you probably sparked a whole variety of emotional feelings.

You may have felt anger toward me for even asking you to do such a thing.

You may have felt great fear.

Or, you may have felt compassion.

If you felt compassion, you were reaching out with a very strong godly love.

But by far, I believe the feelings that dominated were those involving fear:

Fear of being placed in a situation where you would be called upon to make a decision in public without time for due consideration.

Fear of the unknown.

Fear of being placed in a situation that you may not be able to handle.

Note also that I said that this man had been given a pardon. He was not paroled. His crime has been blotted out, for that is what a true pardon does.

And that is exactly what God does for every truly repentant believer.

The sins in our lives condemn each and every one of us to death; but on the day that we accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of our lives, and truly repented of our sins, we were forgiven, pardoned, and welcomed into the home of God as a member of His family.

This is love in its highest form.

Now, don't feel guilty because you don't possess the same degree of insight and love as God does.

The opposite of fear is love, and the closer we move to God, the more we will be like Him; our fears will begin to go and our love will grow.

This past Wednesday was Yom Kippur, the Hebrew Day of Atonement.

In our Old Testament lesson for this morning, Leviticus 23:26-32, we read about this day.

26 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,

27 "On exactly the tenth day of this seventh month is the day of atonement; it shall be a holy convocation for you, and you shall humble your souls and present an offering by fire to the LORD.

28 Neither shall you do any work on this same day, for it is a day of atonement, to make atonement on your behalf before the LORD your God.

29 If there is any person who will not humble himself on this same day, he shall be cut off from his people.

30 As for any person who does any work on this same day, that person I will destroy from among his people.

31 You shall do no work at all. It is to be a perpetual statute throughout your generations in all your dwelling places.

32 It is to be a sabbath of complete rest to you, and you shall humble your souls; on the ninth of the month at evening, from evening until evening you shall keep your sabbath."

It occurs only once a year, on the tenth day of the seventh month of the Hebrew calendar.

It is to be a holy convocation, or gathering of the people.

Those who come should humble their souls and bring a sacrificial offering to the Lord, but remember that we have been told elsewhere that God really wants obedience and not sacrifice, and that such a sacrifice cannot save anyone.

It is to be a day totally devoted to the Lord. No work is to be done. It is to be a day of complete rest.

In Leviticus 16:11-15 we see the procedure of the high priest in performing his service on this holiday:

11. "Then Aaron shall offer the bull of the sin offering which is for himself, and make atonement for himself and for his household, and he shall slaughter the bull of the sin offering which is for himself.

Just because a person is a high priest does not make him sinless. Every one of us must make atonement for our own sins, and the sacrificial offering is all part of this fallen world, and not part of God’s creation or heavenly intent.

12. "And he shall take a firepan full of coals of fire from upon the altar before the Lord, and two handfuls of finely ground sweet incense, and bring it inside the veil.

The high priest is entering the room behind the veil. He is entering the earthly throne room of God.

And He can only enter into the Holy of Holies this one day of the year and in this manner, or he will die.

13. "And he shall put the incense on the fire before the Lord, that the cloud of incense may cover the mercy seat that is on the ark of the testimony, lest he die.

14. "Moreover, he shall take some of the blood of the bull and sprinkle it with his finger on the mercy seat on the east side; also in front of the mercy seat he shall sprinkle some of the blood with his finger seven times.

Thus he completes the atonement ritual for his and his family’s sins before the Lord, but more importantly God sees the intent of the heart.

Anyone could perform such a ritual, and not be truly repentant, which was the problem with most of the Hebrew people and why they were eventually led into captivity.

Many Christians may perform worship rituals, and be rejected in the same manner.

Remember also that I stated that each and every one at us must make atonement for our own sins, yet here Aaron is making atonement for his family, as well.

The answer is that we have a better High Priest, Jesus Christ, and we each must come before Him, regardless of our position.

He Himself is both the perfect sacrifice and the Great High Priest; and because of our belief in Him, we become part of that sacrificial offering.

No animal ever needs to die any more.

This came about because of God's love for us.

Let’s return to our Biblical passage:

15. "Then he shall slaughter the goat of the sin offering which is for the people, and bring its blood inside the veil, and do with its blood as he did with the blood of the bull, and sprinkle it on the mercy seat and in front of the mercy seat."

The whole setting in which this ceremony took place was but an imperfect copy of the real place in heaven.

But God’s love and mercy reached down to sinful man and provides a place for Him to meet with him and to comfort him, so that his sins would not bring death upon him.

Jesus Christ provided Himself, so that the imperfect might be made perfect. And what this great love of His did is expressed in our New Testament lesson for today, Matthew 27:45-53, which takes place during the final hours of Jesus' death upon the cross.

45. Now from the sixth hour darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour.

From noon until 3:00 PM darkness fell upon the land.

This sign from God seems to be saying that Jesus Christ, who is the light of the world, is being removed and the powers of darkness are being openly displayed.

46. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?" that is, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?"

All of the sins of believing mankind have been piled upon our dying Lord during these hours of darkness.

Sins turn the light into darkness and bring about the absence of God.

And as the light returns, as a testimony to the world of what their sins have done, Jesus, who is sinless yet bears all our sins Himself, feels the absence of God in His fleshly being as any person would feel who is dying in their sin.

Remember that Jesus took our sins upon Himself, but He never sinned.

Day after day the whole truth is laid out before us, but the world still rejects this great gift, and man still tries to find worldly answers instead of the heavenly solution, as we see in the next verses.

47. And some of those who were standing there, when they heard it, began saying, "This man is calling for Elijah."

He was not calling for Elijah, for He called upon God.

48. And immediately one of them ran, and taking a sponge, he filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed, and gave Him a drink.

49. But the rest of them said, "Let us see whether Elijah will come to save Him."

Only one of them seems to have compassion and is in his own way seeking the truth, but the rest are still in the world.

50. And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.

He yielded up the spirit of His incarnate body, not the Holy Spirit.

51. And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom, and the earth shook; and the rocks were split,

52. and the tombs were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised;

53. And coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many.

The veil of the temple, which was there to keep all but the high priest out one day a year, has now been torn apart by the hand of God to show all of us that we now have free access into God’s throne room, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

And the whole earth shook under the impact of Jesus’ delivery of the sins of believers into hell in order to free us from the death they bring.

Note the confirmation of this in Ephesians 2:11-22 –

11. Therefore remember, that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called "Uncircumcision" by the so-called "Circumcision," which is performed in the flesh by human hands –

12. remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.

13. But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

14. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall,

15. by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace,

16. and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity.

17. And He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near;

18. for through Him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.

19. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God's household,

20. having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone,

21. in whom the whole building, being fitted together is growing into a holy temple in the Lord;

22. in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.

Not only does God's love forgive the foulest sinners, but He also welcomes them into His home as members of His household.

And even more, He, in the person of the Holy Spirit, will come and dwell in us.

Shouldn’t we at least follow the same example by loving each other as God loves us?

Shouldn’t we love each other to the point of forgetting about the sins we committed against each other years ago that we so often bring up?

Shouldn’t we love each other enough to forgive each other’s sins, even before we commit them?

Shouldn’t we love God enough to help free the whole of creation from the corruption it is now being subjected for the benefit of our fellow human beings, the animals, and the world in which we all live?

Shouldn’t we love each other enough to walk together into the throne room of God in our times of need?

For God has opened the door as wide as it can be opened, and His love and forgiveness is there waiting for us, if we are willing to accept it with a believing and repentant heart.