When we think about how a Holy God wanted and still wants to be dwelling with His people, we should be in complete awe. God dwelled in the Tabernacle even though it was surrounded by impure people. And every year there had to be a time of purification, which is why God made the Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur.
Yom Kippur is the day when God provided a very specific way to find temporary cleansing for sin for the Israelites.
Isaiah 53, predicting the suffering that Jesus would face on the cross, is connecting the suffering servant to the scapegoat in Leviticus 16. Isaiah writes, “The suffering servant would be despised and rejected.” It was through the suffering of that goat in Leviticus chapter 16 that the Israelites were essentially healed. And Isaiah 53 says, “He was wounded because of our rebellious deeds, crushed because of our sins. Because of His wounds we have been healed.”
The whole issue surrounding Yom Kippur … is this. It’s the issue of impurity, the pollution of God’s sanctuary, the pollution of God’s people, the pollution of the Tabernacle, the Temple, all of the utensils that were used, the altar, all of it. It needed cleansing. And one of the ways God’s Tabernacle, His sanctuary, was polluted was actually through the story of Nadab and Abihu, the high priest Aaron’s sons (Lev. 10), who were both ordained priests.
Lev. 10:1 “Then Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, each took his fire pan and put fire in it, set incense on it, and presented strange fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them to do. So fire went out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them so that they died before the Lord.” emphasis added
Nadab and Abihu polluted God’s sanctuary by offering an unauthorized or unholy fire to the Lord. And God’s wrath was poured out on them. They were consumed by God’s holiness.
Because God is gracious and merciful and loving and kind, that doesn’t mean that He compromises His holiness. Grace is seen in Leviticus in the way that God wants to be with His people. But at the same time, His people must come to Him according to His standards because God is holy. And the story of Nadab and Abihu shows that even priests, the sons of the high priest, must come to God according to His standards. Yom Kippur is all about God’s way of approaching Him to find forgiveness, to find cleansing, to find God’s righteousness from our impurities while never compromising His holiness.
That’s the grace we find in God when we approach the cross of Christ. God never compromised His holiness for our salvation. God didn’t say, “Oh, my wrath doesn’t need to be satisfied at all.” Instead, God’s wrath, that same wrath that met Nadab and Abihu and consumed them, the same wrath that we deserve, was placed on Christ. God’s wrath was satisfied. God’s holiness was satisfied so that we might have eternal life.
Christ, who would be the One who all the sins of the world would be placed upon. He would bear our iniquity. He would bear our shame. He would bear our sin so that, in the end, He could say this on the cross. “It is finished.” No more sacrifices. No more annual Day of Atonement. Jesus, the Lamb of God, carried our sins away as far as the east is from the west. He paid for it once and for all.
God never compromised His holiness. The grace of God doesn’t mean that God compromises His holiness. When we talk about God’s grace, we’re talking about the fact that God would actually provide a very specific way to have a relationship with Him. God provides a way. A specific way. Not the way we may want to come, like Nadab and Abihu, doing whatever we want to. He never compromises who He is, His nature, or His holiness. He provided a specific way through Jesus Christ, our sacrificial lamb, our scapegoat, to have a personal relationship with Him.