God’s Sevenfold Provision for Cleansing
December 29th, 1957 @ 8:15 AM
GOD’S SEVENFOLD PROVISION FOR CLEANSING
Dr. W. A. Criswell
57-12-29 8:15 a.m.
You are sharing with us the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the early morning’s hour message entitled God’s Sevenfold Provision for Cleansing. The seven will be named this morning, but because of the length of the sermon, I had to break it in two. The first part will be delivered at this morning’s hour and the last part, the second part, at next Sunday morning’s hour.
God’s Sevenfold Provision for Cleansing, and the first one is found in the sixteenth chapter of the Book of Leviticus, which is a description of the great Day of Atonement. The second one is found in the fourth chapter of the Book of Leviticus, which is the sin offering. The third one is found in the fifth chapter and the first part of the sixth chapter of Leviticus, which is the trespass offering. The fourth one is found in the nineteenth chapter of the Book of Numbers, which is the offering of the ashes of the red heifer. The fifth one is found in the fourteenth chapter of the Book of Leviticus, which is the ritual, the rite, for the cleansing of the leper. The sixth one is found in the fortieth chapter of the Book of Exodus, which is a description of the making and the setting and the rite of the laver.
And thou shalt set the altar of the burnt offering before the door of the tabernacle of the tent of the congregation.
And thou shalt set the laver between the tent of the congregation and the altar, and shalt put water therein.
And thou shalt bring Aaron and his sons unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and wash them with water.
So Moses set the laver between the tent of the congregation and the altar, and put water there, to wash withal.
And Moses and Aaron and his sons washed their hands and their feet thereat:
When they went into the tent of the congregation, and when they came near unto the altar, they washed . . .
[Exodus 40:6-7, 12, 30-32]
Then, the seventh, and the last one, is found in the twenty-eighth chapter of the Book of Exodus and is the golden plate which was on the front of the mitre of the headdress of the high priest.
And thou shalt make a plate of pure gold, and grave upon it, like the engraving of a signet, Holiness to the Lord.
And thou shalt put it on a blue lace, that it may be upon the mitre; upon the headdress, upon the forefront of the mitre it shall be.
And it shall be upon Aaron’s forehead, that Aaron may bear the iniquity of the holy things, which the children of Israel shall hallow in all their holy gifts; and it shall be always upon his forehead, that they may be accepted before the Lord.
Now, those are the seven provisions that God provided for the cleansing of His people. The first four of them are types. They’re pictures. They are figures of Calvary: the Day of Atonement, the Sin Offering, the Trespass Offering, and the offering of the ashes of a red heifer. Those four portray, typify, the offering of our Savior on Calvary. The fifth one, that of the cleansing of the leper, has an added picture of the resurrection of our Lord. The sixth one, the laver, has in it the picture, the type – the simile, the figure – of the washing of water by the Word. And the last one, the plate upon the mitre, placed upon the forehead of Aaron the High Priest, is a picture of the mediation – the intercessory ministry of our Lord in heaven. All seven of those, though in themselves sometimes very different, all seven of them have the same basic presentation: our sin before God and the cleansing of God’s people that they might stand in the presence of the Lord.
There was a constant reminder, always, everlastingly, unwearyingly, there was always, in all the services of the temple, of the tabernacle, of the ritual, of the rites of the Old Testament, there was always the reminder that we are sinful people, that we can approach the most holy God only through cleansing, only through blood [Hebrews 10:1-4]. There was no such thing as man coming into the presence of God in his own goodness, in his own righteousness, in his own strength, but there was always the presentation before the minds of the people, in every rite, in every ritual, that without the blood there was no remission of sins [Hebrews 9:22] and that there was constantly with us the element of shortcoming and sin.
The theme, the text, for the whole Levitical system is found in Leviticus 17:11: "For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul." God taught His people that we are sinful people, that we need an atonement, an expiation, and without it there is no approach to God.
As long as a man feels that he is righteous, there is no opportunity for the presence of God in his life. As long as he is strong in his own strength, righteous in his own righteousness, acceptable in his own character, there is no place for the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. It is only to self-confessed sinners that the Bible has any pertinency, has any message, has any address [Luke 18:9-14]. It is only as we come to feel ourselves lost and undone; it is only, I would say, as we come to be honest with ourselves that the message of Christ has any appeal.
There is no such thing as people needing a savior unless they need to be saved [Mark 2:17]. And there is no saving Gospel message of pertinency unless there is somebody to be saved. I am saying that the Bible address and the message of the Gospel is directed only to sinners. If you are righteous, there’s nothing in the Bible for you. If you’re already fine and good and perfect, then there is nothing in Christ for you. But if there is a lack, if there is sin, if there is a consciousness of shortcoming, if there is an acknowledgement of iniquity and of failure, then there is a message for you from the Word of God and from the Gospel message of Jesus Christ [Luke 5:31-32].
So, I say, all of these types and rituals in the Old Testament had a profound meaning. God was seeking to lay before His people, always, that they were a sinful people and their only right to approach the throne of God was through a cleansing, an atonement, a washing, a putting away of iniquity.
Now, we’re going to look at these seven provisions that God made for the cleansing, the washing of His people; and the first three of them, we shall take this morning. The first one is the great, solemn, holy Day of Atonement in the sixteenth chapter of the book of Leviticus [Leviticus 16:1-34]. And now, if you will, turn to it in your Bible: the sixteenth chapter of the Book of Leviticus.
To anyone who has any knowledge whatsoever of Jewish people, there is one day, one feast. They call it Yom Kippur. There is one high, solemn, holy day that a Jew will observe if he’s any Jew at all. He may pass by and pass up and overlook and be indifferent to all the other services, all the other solemn convocations of the synagogue, for the whole year. But if there is in any part of a Jew a love for his Lord and for his faith and for his religion, he will observe Yom Kippur; he will observe the Day of Atonement.
Now, the temple is gone. The sacrifices have ceased. They do not observe it as they did here in the Bible. They cannot. They do not even have access to Mount Moriah in Jerusalem where the brazen altar was built, but he observes the day just the same. It is the great, high, holy day in the life of God’s chosen people.
Well, the meaning of that Day of Atonement is deep and profound. May I read it to you now out of the Word of the Lord? It is divided into two parts. First, there is an atonement for Aaron and his house. That is, the priests who officiate must themselves be washed and cleansed, and then, second, there is a provision for the cleansing of the whole congregation of the house of Israel. Now, we read in the sixteenth chapter of the Book of Leviticus and the third verse:
Thus shall Aaron come into the holy place: with a young bullock for a sin offering, and a ram for a burnt offering.
Now the fifth verse:
And he shall take of the congregation of the children of Israel two kids of the goats for a sin offering, and one ram for a burnt offering.
And Aaron shall offer his bullock of the sin offering, which is for himself, and make an atonement for himself, and for his house.
Even Aaron could not officiate before the Lord until he, himself, had been cleansed, for Aaron also was a sinful man. Now, the seventh:
And Aaron shall take the two goats, and present them before the Lord at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.
And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for the Lord, and the other lot for the scapegoat.
And Aaron shall bring the goat upon which the Lord’s lot fell, and offer him for a sin offering.
But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before the Lord, to make an atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness.
Now the fifteenth verse:
Then shall he kill the goat of the sin offering, that is for the people, and bring his blood within the vail –
the only time in the whole year that the high priest entered into the Holies of Holies –
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:
Now the twenty-first verse:
And Aaron –
and he shall bring the live goat –
And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness:
And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities into a land not inhabited: and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness.
And the bullock for the sin offering, and the goat for the sin offering, whose blood was brought in –
within the vail –
to make atonement in the holy place, shall one carry forth without the camp; and there shall burn them in the fire . . .
And this shall be a statute for ever unto you . . .
And the last verse:
And this shall be an everlasting statute unto you, to make an atonement for the children of Israel for all their sins once a year . . .
Just to read that brings to your heart the solemnity of the day and the deep, profound meaning of the ritual. These words that are written here in the pages of this Old Testament are not words of oriental mysticism that an archeologist or a student of comparative religions might study just because of his interest in antiquity. But every syllable of what is written, every rite and every ceremony and every ritual that was done, had a deep and everlasting significance, and it pointed toward the washing away of our sins – the expiation of our guilt that our souls might be saved and that one day we might stand without fault and without blemish before God.
In the Book of the Hebrews, in the ninth chapter, the author of the Hebrews takes this Day of Atonement, and he applies it to the Lord Jesus Christ. Now, I want you to turn to the ninth chapter of the Book of Hebrews, and we’re going to see how this eloquent preacher of the Gospel message of Jesus took that story – that ritual, that ceremony of the solemn Day of Atonement – and applied it to Jesus Christ: the ninth chapter of the Book of Hebrews.
Now, he starts off here naming the articles of furniture in the tabernacle [Hebrews 9:2-5]. There was the lamp stand and the shewbread in the first sanctuary [Hebrews 9:2]. Then he says, there was the veil. Then, beyond that veil, in the Holy of Holies, there was the ark of the covenant and the mercy seat [Hebrews 9:3-4]. And on the inside of that ark, he says, there was a golden pot of manna; there was Aaron’s rod that budded; there were the tables of the commandments of the Lord [Hebrews 9:4], then the mercy seat and the cherubim with their wings overshadow it [Hebrews 9:5].
Now, in the seventh verse, he begins a description of the Day of Atonement. Into that Holy of Holies, into that second place, beyond the veil: "went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself first, and then for the errors, the mistakes, the sins, of the people: the Holy Ghost this signifying" [from Hebrews 9:7-8]. Then, he continues all through that about the offering of the blood of atonement in the Holy of Holies [Hebrews 9:8].
Now, he’s going to apply that especially to Jesus beginning at the twenty-fourth verse of the ninth chapter of the Book of Hebrews. Now I read it:
For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures –
the types –
of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us:
Nor yet that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others –
blood of bulls and goats –
For then must He often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.
And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:
So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time without sin unto salvation.
Now, when I read that, it isn’t – you don’t see immediately how he takes the ritual of the Day of Atonement and applies it to the life of our Lord. But when I get through with this, you’ll see it perfectly.
He uses here in the ninth chapter of the Book of Hebrews, he uses the word "appearance" – appearance. He uses it three times. And in taking what happened on the Day of Atonement, he applies it to Jesus Christ. First, the appearance of our Lord in the past when He put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself [Hebrews 9:26]; second, the appearance of our Lord in heaven today, there within the sanctuary as our mediator and great high priest [Hebrews 9:12, 15]; and then, third, the coming appearance of our Lord, when He shall come out of the sanctuary and when He shall appear the second time, with blessing, without sin, unto salvation [Hebrews 9:28].
Now, I’m going to take that. We’re going through the ceremony of the Day of Atonement and see how this eloquent preacher of the New Testament makes it a picture of the whole life’s ministry of our Lord and Savior, Christ Jesus.
All right, the Day of Atonement: the high priest, after he has made expiation for his own sin, the high priest takes the goat that has been chosen for the Lord, slays it, enters into the holy place, and offers it there – the blood as an atonement for the sins of the people [Leviticus 16:8-9]. Then, he comes out, and on the head of the scapegoat, he places his hand and confesses, on the head of that second animal, all of the sins and iniquities of the people. And that goat is sent away and driven out into the wilderness, which is a picture of this great spiritual truth that in the blood of atonement our sins are separated as far as the east is from the west [Leviticus 16:10]. They are blotted out [Isaiah 43:25]. They are sent away.
The high priest, then, I say, before the Lord in the Holy of Holies, pours out the blood before the mercy seat, sprinkling it on the mercy seat, there making expiation and atonement for the sins of the people [Leviticus 16:15]. Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins [Hebrews 9:22]. Without the blood, there is no approach to the throne of God [Hebrews 10:19-20]. Then the priest comes out and there he blesses the people. Their sins have been sent away by the scapegoat into the wilderness. The sins have been separated from the people, and they are washed [Hebrews 9:20-22]. They are cleansed; they are atoned for. Expiation has been made. They are acceptable in the presence of the Lord.
Then, this eloquent author, I say – this eloquent author takes that ritual and here in the twenty-sixth and the twenty-seventh verses, and the first part of the twenty-eighth verse, he says Christ was sacrificed [Hebrews 9:26-28]. He appeared in this world to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. That’s the first appearance of our Lord. He appeared to die. He came into this world to make atonement for our sins. That’s the first appearance of the Lord.
Now, in the twenty-fourth verse, he says that our Lord has entered into the Holy Place not made with hands, which is a figure of the one in heaven, but He has entered into heaven itself, now to appear – and that’s the second appearance – now to appear in the presence of God for us [Hebrews 9:24]. So, in the past, He appeared and was slain on Calvary to make an atonement for the sins of the world. Now, a present appearance: He appears now in the presence of God for us in the Holy of Holies [Hebrews 9:24], and there He is at this stage of the story. He is in heaven, our great High Priest, to mediate between God and man and to put away our sins by the offering of His own blood. That’s the second appearance.
Now, the third one is – some day, this author says, unto them that look for Him, shall He appear. And this is the third appearance. This is the future appearance: "shall He appear the second time without sin unto salvation" [from Hebrews 9:28]. And what His figure is is this. When the high priest entered into the Holy of Holies on that solemn Day of Atonement, all the people stood and waited outside for the priest to appear with the blessing, with the expiation and atonement of their sins. And he says that is what we are doing today. He says our High Priest, with the blood, has entered into the Holy of Holies in heaven there to make atonement and expiation for the sins of the people. And, he says, we are on the outside waiting for our great High Priest to appear with the blessing [Hebrews 9:24-28].
Why, you can hardly think of a more meaningful ceremony, a more beautiful type, than that. When I read it, thought through it. I thought of the people who waited for Zechariah the priest. This is Christmastime, and my mind was filled with the story of the Nativity. And I thought of the people waiting for Zechariah. And they waited and waited [Luke 1:21-22]. On the inside of that sanctuary, Zechariah was detained. You remember the story. The angel Gabriel appeared to him and spoke to him, and the people marveled that he tarried so long [Luke 1:9-21]. But they were waiting for the priest on the outside to appear from the sanctuary. And I thought, "That’s the meaning – what he’s talking about here."
In the past, He appeared, a sacrifice for sin, slain on a mount called Golgotha (John 19:16-18; Romans 3:24-25). Second time, He appeared in heaven offering expiation in His own blood (Hebrews 9:11-15). And now, we, His people, are waiting outside for the third appearance of our Lord when He comes out of the sanctuary with a blessing for His people. "And unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time without sin unto salvation" – when He comes out of the sanctuary of heaven [from Hebrews 9:28].
Oh! I repeat: every syllable of this Book has a deep and profound meaning – spiritual life. Like the Lord said, His words were not just sound and syllable but they were Spirit and they were life [John 6:63].
Now, we must hasten. Our time is almost gone and we haven’t come to the second and the third, and I so want to speak of them this morning.
Now, let us turn back to the fourth chapter of the Book of Leviticus. The second and the third of the provisions of God for the cleansing of His people, the washing of His people, is found in the fourth, the fifth, and the first part of the sixth part of the Book of Leviticus. You have here, in the fourth chapter of Leviticus, the sin offering. Then in the fifth chapter and the first part of the sixth, you have the trespass offering. Most of the times they’re considered together. They’re considered as though they were the same. Well they are, almost. The sin offering had to do with the root of sin as well as sins. The trespass offering has to do with the fruit of sins.
Now, I have time this morning just to mention one thing, then I have to quit. Will you notice that both of these offerings, the sin offering and the trespass offering, both of them were offerings in behalf of the ignorance of the people when they did not realize that they were sinning and coming short? Now look at that. In the fourth chapter of Leviticus, the second verse: "If a soul shall sin through ignorance against any of the commandments of the Lord . . . " [Leviticus 4:2]. Then, you have it for the priest, then for the people, and the rulers, and the common people – different ones [Leviticus 4:3-35].
Then, in the fifth chapter of the Book of Leviticus, you have the trespass offering. Now look at the second verse: " . . . if it be hidden from him" [Leviticus 5:2]. Look at the third verse: "when he knoweth not of it" [Leviticus 5:3]. In the fifteenth verse: "If a soul commit a trespass, and sin through ignorance . . . " [Levticus 5:15]. Then in the seventeenth verse: "If a soul sin . . . though he wist it not, yet is he guilty . . ." [Leviticus 5:17]. I haven’t time to mention all of those passages. Those are just some of them. The sin offering and the trespass offering have to do with sins of ignorance: "though he wist it not, yet is he guilty."
Which brings to me now, the little time that remains, what it is when God uses that word "sin." Ah, there is no such thing, according to the Bible, there is no such thing as a man that sinneth not [Romans 3:23]. There is no such thing as a man coming to the place in his life where he lives above sin [Romans 7:14-25]. There is no such thing as a man being acceptable to God when he does the best that he can, when he lives up to the light that he has [Isaiah 64:6]. There is the element of sin in everything that we do.
The word for "sin" translated "sin" here in the Bible – of course, there are many words, but I’m talking about this word that I’m going to talk about. The word for "sin" means a falling short, a missing the mark. Now, a man can miss a mark in two ways. First, he can aim wrong. He’s not going in the right direction. But he also can miss the mark by not having strength to attain it. He can’t reach it. He can’t get there. He hasn’t the ableness to do it.
Now, according to the Word of God, you sin whether you miss the mark by a wrong aim or whether you’re not able to reach it. In either event, it is sin. Paul, one time, said that he was the chief of sinners though he did it ignorantly in unbelief – talking about his persecuting the church – the chief of sinners, though he did it ignorantly in unbelief [1 Timothy 1:12-15].
Now, hastily, may I show you the Bible definition of that word "sin?" Turn to Judges the twentieth chapter and the sixteenth verse – Judges the twentieth chapter and the sixteenth verse. Now look at this. In Judges the twentieth chapter and the sixteenth verse, there is a description of the men of Benjamin. "All this people, among them there were seven hundred chosen men left handed; every one could sling stones at an hair breadth and not miss" [Judges 20:16]. There were seven hundred chosen men who were left-handed, said this author – the Book of Judges – and "every one of those seven hundred men could sling stones at an hair breadth and not miss."
Now, you could translate that Hebrew word "every one could sling stones at an hair breadth and not miss." You could translate it "and not sin" for the word "miss" and the word "sin" are the same words. The Hebrew word there is chata. It means "to miss your aim or mark." It means to miss one’s step and so falter and fail. It means to suffer loss. It means to sin: chata. They’re all the same word. Chata means failure, missing, and sin. And chatta is the word for sinner.
Now, may I show it to you once again and then I have to quit? In the verse that we read this morning in our passage of Scripture: "For whosever matsa – for whosoever findeth Me findeth life and shall obtain favor of the Lord. But he that chata, and you have it translated there, "sinner." "He that chata, he that sinneth against Me, he that misseth Me, wrongeth his own soul. [Proverbs 8:35-36]. All they that hate Me love death."
Now, here in the poetry you have "but whosoever matsa, findeth Me, but whosever chata, misseth Me." Yet you have it translated "sin" there, but here in Judges, you have it translated "miss." So the Hebrew word for "sin" is the same Hebrew word for "miss." We come short of the glory of God. We come short of the grace of God. We come short of the rest of God, and there is always that falling short. There is no one of us that ever fully measures up [Romans 3:23], and that is why we must have an atonement. That’s why every day we must ask God to forgive our sins for that day.
I must stop. We will take it up next Sunday morning. While we sing our song, somebody this morning to give his heart to the Lord, somebody to put his life in the church, a family or one somebody you, while we sing this song, while we make this appeal, will you come and stand by me, while all of us stand and sing together?