“but into the second only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people.” (Hebrews 9:7, ESV)
We tend to be forgetful people. I have a problem with names and, knowing this, I must work on it. However, even then I often forget I have that problem and forget to work on it. How many decisions and things do we do in a day? How many of these decisions will we remember by the end of the day? I would say very few. Our forgetfulness might explain a reason that the high priest took blood into the holiest place “for the unintentional sins of the people” every year on the Day of Atonement.
You see, one might ask the question, “If the law required a sacrifice for the unintentional sins of the people when they became aware of such a sin, why did there need to be an offering for sin once a year made by the high priest for the people?” There are many reasons. One would have to do with the people. It is possible that some, without malice, had not provided the sacrifice for certain sins committed throughout the year. In other words, they may not have realized they transgressed the extensive ordinances of the law or they may have and their failure to offer a sacrifice just slipped their minds. Consider that there were over 600 laws in the Old Covenant, it might have been possible to sin in an area and not know it.
Just looking at the high priest’s duties on that day, we see many things that point to our blessings in Jesus. The high priest would enter the Tabernacle alone and remove his colorful priestly attire bathe and put on plain white holy linen garments. The high priest would offer a bull as a sin offering for himself and his household. He would burn incense in the Holiest Place and then sprinkle the blood of the bull on the Mercy Seat in the Holiest Place. (Lev 16:11-14)
Then he would perform duties to ensure the holy places were purified. We see that the high priest took the blood of the goat that was sacrificed for the people and sprinkled it on the Mercy Seat. This he did to make atonement for the Holiest Place, and the Tabernacle because of the uncleanliness of the people, and their transgressions. (Lev 16:15-19)
The sacrifice of the goat was a sin offering for the people (Lev 16:15). Yet there was another goat, commonly referred to as the scapegoat. The high priest would lay his hands on the head of this goat and confess all the iniquities and sins of the people, symbolically transferring these to the goat, which would be led out to the wilderness by a man and released. (Lev 16:20-22) The sacrifice of the one goat and the other being the scapegoat represented two important things. The sacrifice of the goat, with the sprinkling of the blood on the Mercy Seat represented the appeasement of sin through the shedding of blood. The scapegoat represented the removal of sin from the nation and the people.
All of this pointed to something much greater. The Tabernacle, the Holiest Place, the high priest, the sacrifice, and the scapegoat were all pictures of the work of our great high priest, Jesus. The high priest’s offering for himself pointed to the purity of Jesus. The purification of the holy places pointed to the purity of the true Holiest Place in heaven, where Jesus our great high priest is seated. The sacrifices, and the sprinkling of blood on the Mercy Seat look to the finished work of Jesus who was the appeasement for our sin by His shed blood. The scapegoat pictures the removal of our sin away from us, never to return against us. Praise the Lord for His infinite mercy and grace.