Sprinkling the Blood Upon the Mercy-Seat

 •  19 min. read  •  grade level: 8
"And Aaron shall bring the bullock of the sin offering which is for himself, and shall make an atonement for himself, and for his house, and shall kill the bullock of the sin offering which is for himself.
"And he shall take a censer full of burning coals of fire from off the altar before the LORD, and his hands full of sweet incense, beaten small, and bring it within the vail.
"And he shall put the incense upon the fire before the LORD, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that is upon the testimony, that he die not.
"And he shall take of the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it with his finger upon the mercy seat eastward; and before the mercy-seat shall he sprinkle of the blood with his finger seven times.
"Then shall he kill the goat of the sin offering, that is for the people, and bring his blood within the vail, and do with that blood as he did with the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it upon the mercy seat, and before the mercy seat.
"And he shall make an atonement for the holy place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions in all their sins: and so shall he do for the tabernacle of the congregation, that remaineth among them in 'the midst of their uncleanness.
"And there shall be no man in the tabernacle of the congregation when he goeth in to make an atonement in the holy place, until he come out, and have made an atonement for himself, and for his household, and for all the congregation of Israel. Lev. 16:11-1711And Aaron shall bring the bullock of the sin offering, which is for himself, and shall make an atonement for himself, and for his house, and shall kill the bullock of the sin offering which is for himself: 12And he shall take a censer full of burning coals of fire from off the altar before the Lord, and his hands full of sweet incense beaten small, and bring it within the vail: 13And he shall put the incense upon the fire before the Lord, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that is upon the testimony, that he die not: 14And he shall take of the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it with his finger upon the mercy seat eastward; and before the mercy seat shall he sprinkle of the blood with his finger seven times. 15Then shall he kill the goat of the sin offering, that is for the people, and bring his blood within the vail, and do with that blood as he did with the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it upon the mercy seat, and before the mercy seat: 16And he shall make an atonement for the holy place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions in all their sins: and so shall he do for the tabernacle of the congregation, that remaineth among them in the midst of their uncleanness. 17And there shall be no man in the tabernacle of the congregation when he goeth in to make an atonement in the holy place, until he come out, and have made an atonement for himself, and for his household, and for all the congregation of Israel. (Leviticus 16:11‑17).
IN the order of the sacrifices Aaron first killed the bullock, the sin offering which was for himself to make atonement for himself and for his house. This bullock is three times recorded as the sin-offering for himself, ver. 6, 11; and wherever the atonement made by it is mentioned it is said to be for himself and his house, ver. 6, 11, 17. So closely are the high priest and his house linked on together; doubtless to draw our attention to the oneness between Christ and His house-only with a striking contrast also-Aaron's bullock for sin suffered for himself and his house-he being himself a sinner, and his house composed of sinners like himself. Our High Priest knew no sin, and offered up Himself solely therefore on behalf of others.
Aaron next took the censer full of coals of fire from off the altar before the Lord, and his hands full of sweet incense beaten small, and brought all within the vail, and put the incense upon the fire before the Lord, that the cloud of the incense might cover the mercy-seat upon the testimony, that he might not die.
The censer was apparently a golden censer. If we refer to the Epistle to the Hebrews, chap. ix. a description of the tabernacle is given us on this day of atonement. No incense altar is mentioned standing in the holy place; but the golden censer in the holiest. The cherubim also, shadowing the mercy-seat are called " cherubim of glory." On this day of atonement the coals of fire were moved from off the incense altar, and the golden censer being filled with them was carried within the vail. For the time therefore, the incense altar was inactive, and is not alluded to probably on that account in the 9th chapter of Hebrews. Jehovah appeared in the cloud upon the mercy-seat-the cloud of glory-and this may be the reason why the cherubim are called " cherubim of glory." Aaron notwithstanding the washing of his flesh, and the linen garments with which he was clothed, could not enter the holiest with the blood of atonement unless he could personally shelter himself under a cloud of incense. A perfume, not his own, but provided according to minute directions given by God.
Two epithets are especially attached to the incense, 'pure," and " holy"-and it was to be holy for the Lord. Ex. 30:35,3735And thou shalt make it a perfume, a confection after the art of the apothecary, tempered together, pure and holy: (Exodus 30:35)
37And as for the perfume which thou shalt make, ye shall not make to yourselves according to the composition thereof: it shall be unto thee holy for the Lord. (Exodus 30:37)
. The frankincense, which was one ingredient of the incense, betokened purity. The word " pure" is connected with it. Ex. 30:3434And the Lord said unto Moses, Take unto thee sweet spices, stacte, and onycha, and galbanum; these sweet spices with pure frankincense: of each shall there be a like weight: (Exodus 30:34); Lev. 24:77And thou shalt put pure frankincense upon each row, that it may be on the bread for a memorial, even an offering made by fire unto the Lord. (Leviticus 24:7); and the Hebrew word " Levohnah' has the appropriate signification of whiteness. One of the Hebrew words for the moon is almost the same as that for frankincense-"fair as the moon." Sol. 6:1010Who is she that looketh forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners? (Song of Solomon 6:10). There is one of whom it is truly said, " Thou art fairer than the children of men;" whose unsullied purity formed a wondrous contrast with every other human being. A purity, a righteousness so made manifest upon the cross that even a Roman Centurion exclaimed, " Certainly this was a righteous man." Luke 23:4747Now when the centurion saw what was done, he glorified God, saying, Certainly this was a righteous man. (Luke 23:47). The cloud of incense beaten small, as it wafted itself up to God, attracted with its singular perfume that Gentile soldier. Purity and holiness are not to be found here except in one whose graces were fully displayed before God.
The incense was compounded of three sweet spices besides the frankincense, " stacte, onycha, and galbanum." The two last are not known; but the stacte is manifestly derived from a word signifying " to drop," both in the Hebrew, and in the Greek translation. A sweet spice that spontaneously dropped from the tree which produced it. Another emblem of the grace of the Lord Jesus, the Son of Man. Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. His paths dropped fatness; wherever He went, true love, sympathy, and pity flowed from His heart towards the weak, the weary, and the afflicted. He was the true Man in the midst of falsehood and deceit in human beings all around Him. True in His affection; true in His words; true in His sympathies; true in His rebukes of evil as well as in His forgiveness of sin. It is blessed to turn from the hypocrisies of our own hearts, and of men around us, and contemplate Him!‘ who did no violence," " neither was guile found in his mouth." Isa. 53:9; 19And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. (Isaiah 53:9) Pet. 11:22. There was no fort in Him; He simply lived, manifesting life in all He did and said. There was no affectation of spirituality; He was what He appeared to be. Thus His words and ways were not forced. His sanctity was not assumed. He had nothing to lay aside when He came into the presence of others. He put on nothing to gain their admiration. He was always Himself, living in the presence of God, ever pleasing God Blessed contrast with men who have to assume religiousness to hide their own evil, who think that roughness is sincerity, and who are unnatural oft-times even in the very presence of God.
The incense " tempered together pure and holy" may have reference to the sweet fragrance which the Man Christ Jesus ever presented to God. The Israelites were forbidden to make a perfume like it, " to smell thereto." Christ is not to be imitated by a false humility to gratify one's own self-conceit. There may be a show of wisdom and humility by which men satisfy their own flesh, but this is like an imitation of the holy perfume to smell thereto. If we are imitators indeed of Him we must first have been washed in His precious blood, and be born of God. To follow Him would involve self-crucifixion instead of self-admiration.
The golden censer was filled with burning coals, and Aaron's hands were filled with incense. The vessel that held the fire-type of the holiness of God-was full. The altar from which that fire had originally been taken was a place where the holiness of God was exhibited in no scanty measure; and the censer was also filled, that in the very holiest itself that consuming fire might again be presented according to the divine estimate.
The high priest's hands were also full of sweet incense. He had to grasp that holy compound to the full extent of his ability, that his filled hands might answer to the filled censer. He then put the incense on the fire before the Lord, and the cloud of the incense covered the mercy-seat, and mingled with the cloud of glory upon the mercy-seat, in which Jehovah appeared.
We must here draw a contrast betwixt Aaron and Christ. The Lord Jesus presented Himself to God on the morning of His resurrection-called of God an High Priest, after the order of Melchizedek. His entrance into heaven itself was like the bringing in of flesh incense before God; for He entered on the ground of His perfect obedience unto death, even the death of the cross. God had been glorified in Him, on that very earth where God had been so dishonored by man; and when for the first time a Man stood in the presence of the glory of God before " the throne of the Majesty in the heavens," a cloud of human fragrance (may we not say?) mingled itself with the cloud of Divine glory. What a wondrous addition to the heaven of heavens! What an added glory was the entrance of the risen Man there for the first time as the risen man-a man able to stand before God on the ground of His own righteousness, His own obedience, His own purity, His own holiness; and also able to say to God, " I have glorified thee on the earth, I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do."
May we not with reverence contemplate this resurrection of Jesus, and His thus presenting Himself before God in heaven itself, as a marvelous change in the economy of the heavens. One who bore the likeness of the creature, standing in the midst of the throne of the Most High in such nearness to God? What indeed has God wrought! What marvels has He accomplished through His blessed Son!
Aaron next took of the blood of the bullock and sprinkled it with his finger upon the mercy-seat, and before the mercy-seat, seven times. So also he did with the blood of the goat, the sin-offering for the people. Having sheltered himself under the cloud of incense, he was able to bring this record of death, the blood, and sprinkle it under the glory of God upon the mercy-seat, and upon the ground before the mercy-seat; first by way of atonement for himself and his house; and next on behalf of the people.
What a singular ritual this. The emblem of death placed where God in His glory manifested Himself. What a wondrous coming together of things in themselves opposed to one another. A record of life poured out on account of sin, brought into the holy of holies. And yet how this shadowy ritual portrays to us the truth in which our souls rejoice. The great enigma of truth solved to faith in the death of God's Son.
It was said of the Aaronic high priest that "he entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others," (Heb. 9:2525Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; (Hebrews 9:25);) or, as it might be rendered, strange or foreign blood, (alotrio,) seeing there was no affinity between the blood of a bullock, and a goat, and himself, a human being. It is written of Christ that " he by his own (idiou) blood entered in once into the holy places," Heb. 9:1212Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. (Hebrews 9:12); and, the word " his own" is again repeated, Heb. 13:1212Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. (Hebrews 13:12).
Aaron had to make atonement for himself as well as for his house. His own blood would have been of no avail for others, or for himself, for he was a sinner. Our High Priest is " holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens;" and what He is now in the glory that He was when on earth, as far as regards holiness and harmlessness. Free from all human infirmity-the Son-who offered up Himself.
Aaron had to sprinkle the mercy-seat eastward, because his approach into the holiest was from the east, and he had to sprinkle before the mercy-seat, to establish a footing for himself before God; for his own fees would have defiled the ground before the mercy-seat. The Lord Jesus, has His own rightful place-the Lamb as it had been slain in the midst of the throne-and He enables us sinners by nature, to enter into the holiest by His blood, "by a new and living way, which he hath new made for us, through the vail, that is to say, His flesh."
We have no threat of " lest he die" held out to us in our approaches to God; but our very way is a living way, made new in contrast to all other ways of old, and ever new with the fresh sprinkled blood, in contrast with the blood only sprinkled once a year. The sacrifice of Christ is as fresh in all its life-giving value, and in all its cleansing power to-day, as it was on the very day it was first offered. The blood of Christ has ever its full, and fresh, and living value, in contrast with the blood of victims which had to be renewed daily and yearly.
Aaron had to make atonement for the holy place, and for himself, his household, and the congregation of Israel. " The holy place," throughout this chapter where the word " place' is in italics, signifies the "most holy," ver. 2, 16, 17, 20, 23, 27. Called " the holy sanctuary" in verse 33. No one was to be with him, or enter the tabernacle until he had completed that important work of atonement. Atonement properly speaking is all Godward; and is accomplished by one alone. The sinner who is atoned for has no part in the work. It is accomplished entirely by another. He is passive, and ignorant of the fact, until God reveals it to him by His Spirit through the Word. It is most important for the peace of the soul that this should be fully understood. And this type makes it very plain. Not one of the congregation, nor one of Aaron's house was with him whilst he thus acted for them before God. They could not be aware whether even he was alive in the sanctuary, or what he had accomplished there. They were not in any attitude of prayer or supplication outside; but they silently waited in suspense till he came out; then they knew he had fulfilled all God's requirements; this being proved by the fact that he was alive.
The whole work of atonement, from beginning to end, has been accomplished by Christ alone; whether we look at the commencement of the work in the shedding of His blood on the cross, or at its completion in His resurrection as the great High Priest, and entering in, " once for all, by His own blood into the holy places, having obtained eternal redemption." Heb. 9:1212Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. (Hebrews 9:12). This is emphatically stated in the Epistle to the Hebrews: " when he had by himself purged our sins," 1:3; " this he did once when he offered up himself," 7:27. " he bath appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself," 9:26. Alone upon the cross, the Lamb of God slain on account of sin. Alone in resurrection, the first-fruits of them that slept. Alone in the holiest with God, the great High Priest. He has offered one sacrifice for sins forever, and has by Himself perfected the whole work of reconciliation which God committed to Him.
The sinner troubled in conscience on account of his sins, is not called upon by efforts of his own to reconcile God to himself. Every attempt of his own of this kind is the expression of an unbelieving heart, calling in question the full eternal redemption which Christ has obtained for us. He has to believe in a reconciliation accomplished. An atonement completed. A salvation finished. And that by the Lord Jesus Himself alone.
The " atonement for the holy place was because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of all their transgressions in all their sins;" or it might perhaps be rendered, " he shall make atonement upon the holy place, from the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and from their transgressions in respect to, or on account of all their sins." Throughout this chapter uncleanness is in the plural. (Heb. tumoth.) Uncleannesses twice in ver. 16, and once in ver. 19. It seems especially to refer to personal defilements originating from man's very nature, the constitution of his body, or from disease. Transgressions are also mentioned. Sin is that evil thing in which we are conceived, which renders us utterly unclean from our very birth; children of wrath by nature. The corrupt body is an outward evidence of the evil taint which pervades us. Our mortal flesh, mortal as to every part; without a spot of it free from death and corruption, is a proof of what we are by nature as regards our whole being, unclean perishing sinners.
Transgressions are sins made manifest in direct acts contrary to the revealed mind of God. Atonement had to be made with reference to the uncleannesses of Israel, and their transgressions. These two manifestations of evil indicating their sins.
The law had no full type of the entire corruption of man. One of the objects for which it was given, was to developed that corruption in overt acts: "wherefore then the law? It was added because of transgressions." Gal. 3:1919Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator. (Galatians 3:19).
" Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound." Rom. 5:2020Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: (Romans 5:20). It was "the strength of sin." 1 Cor. 15:5656The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. (1 Corinthians 15:56). In the types therefore which form part of the law, we do not discover that great truth, that a man is so irremediably a sinner by nature as to need new birth, a new existence.
Perhaps leprosy affords the nearest type of the entire uncleanness of the human being. But even here the priest could only deal with the manifestations of the disease. In interpreting these shadows therefore we have to go deeper than the types themselves. The atonement made by Christ does not only answer to God for us as regards our uncleannesses, but also in respect to the unclean nature itself, in which we entered this world as children of the first Adam. Our unclean selves; and here we must be careful to distinguish between ourselves and our corrupt nature. The atonement made by Christ has not in any way cleansed, improved, or reconciled our flesh, our evil nature; for that is so irremediably bad, that all that God could do with it was utterly to condemn it. In the death of Christ for sin, God has " condemned (damned) sin in the flesh." Rom. 8:33For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: (Romans 8:3). " Our old man is crucified with him that the body of sin might be destroyed," 6: 6. The body of the sins of the flesh have been put off from us as regards all judgment and wrath of God. We (not our evil nature) have been reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:1818And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; (2 Corinthians 5:18); Col. 1:22To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colosse: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Colossians 1:2)).
This is the great aspect of atonement. For what troubles us most is the constant presence of an evil heart, an evil nature; an inclination for sin, which will make itself to be felt notwithstanding all our efforts towards practical holiness, and notwithstanding we are new creatures in Christ, and notwithstanding the presence of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us. As believers we have a right to look at this, the old man, and say, it has been crucified; it has been condemned once for all; it has been judged under the full wrath of God, poured out upon His own Son for us. And there is " now no condemnation " of any kind to us-no condemnation on account of this evil nature which we still know to exist-no condemnation on account of weakness, failures, ignorances, sins. The uncleannesses and transgressions of the people entered the sanctuary of God, and had to be met by the blood of atonement; or otherwise wrath must have burst forth from before the Lord upon the people, or God must remove His dwelling-place from the midst of them.
" The patterns of things in the heavens were purified with these (sacrifices), but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. Notwithstanding our manifest sins and uncleannesses, of which to a great extent we are unconscious, Christ has opened the way for us into the very glory of God-He has preceded us there with His own most precious blood-and now we can draw near with confidence, without defiling with our presence the holiest of all. We can confess our sins before the mercy-seat itself. We can bring our deep necessities, and find mercy and grace to help us. We can offer thanksgiving, praise and worship which God can accept because of the sweet savor of that precious blood. We can say, without fear, " thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret (sins) in the light of thy countenance," (Psa. 90:88Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance. (Psalm 90:8).) because we know Christ is in the presence of God for us; His precious blood is in the very light of the glory of God on our behalf. The sins which have reached to heaven have been covered; blotted out by that sprinkled blood. " We have come to God, the judge of all." We have heard His sentence pronounced upon us as guilty and defiled sinners. We have seen that sentence executed in the death of His own Son. We have been justified from sin through that death, " justified by his blood." Rom. 5:9;6. 7.
We have come " to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant;" the High Priest in the presence of God for us, ministering to us all the blessings of that new covenant. We have come " to the blood of sprinkling that speaketh better things than that of Abel;" the blood of sprinkling upon the mercy-seat, and before the mercy-seat. God said to Cain respecting the blood of Abel, " the voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground, which bath opened her mouth to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand." Gen. 4:1010And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground. (Genesis 4:10), I I. The blood cried for vengeance. The blood of sprinkling to which we have come, speaketh incessantly mercy and grace; answers every accusation; calls down ceaseless blessings; cleanseth from all sin; utters a voice which delights the ear of God; and which enables Him to open His hand and fill us with good. The word " speaketh" is a blessed word, in contrast not only with the blood of Abel which cried for vengeance, but with the blood of bulls and of goats, which spoke but for a moment, and effected nothing in reality. Whereas this blood speaketh on and on with a ceaseless still small voice of power, until the day of full redemption, when the resurrection of the Church in glory will manifest forever its mighty efficacy: and the voice of the precious blood will continue to sound until Israel, God's chosen nation, and others redeemed out of the world during the moo years reign of Christ, are clothed with immortality.