Leviticus 16:7-10 (NIV) 7Then he is to take the two goats and present them before the LORD at the entrance to the tent of meeting.  8He is to cast lots for the two goats—one lot for the LORD and the other for the scapegoat.  9Aaron shall bring the goat whose lot falls to the LORD and sacrifice it for a sin offering.  10But the goat chosen by lot as the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the LORD to be used for making atonement by sending it into the wilderness as a scapegoat.

In modern Christianity, we often overlook the miracle of being able to enter God’s presence at any time, in any place. While God’s character and His desire for a relationship with humanity has not changed since the world was created, the way God’s people approach His presence certainly has. The high priest Aaron could only enter God’s presence once per year, and if he wanted to emerge alive, he had to meet specific requirements. What a striking picture of the distance between a holy God and imperfect humanity! Just as you would tirelessly prepare yourself to meet earthly royalty, an appointment with the Creator of the Universe is not to be taken lightly.

Aaron then entered the Most Holy Place (the inner room of the tabernacle) and offered sacrifices in the presence of God. Only through these strict, annual rituals were the people of Israel cleansed from their sins (v. 30). Why don’t Christians observe such complex rituals today? Because Jesus, our Immanuel (“God with us”) came to earth and became both our perfect high priest and our scapegoat. By dying on the cross and rising to life three days later, he forever opened the way for each of us to enter God’s presence. Rather than entering God’s presence in fear, we can now come before Him with confidence through Jesus. Amazing!  

Followers of Jesus can confidently enter God’s presence, not only to ask for his grace (gifts we do not deserve) but, to receive his mercy (not being punished as we ought to be). Take some time today to confess your shortcomings and failures before God. Ask God to bring to your mind wrong thoughts, attitudes, and actions. Crucially, this exercise is not meant to depress us and cause us to fear God. Instead, as we humbly recognize our brokenness, we allow God to remove our guilt, freeing us to joyfully live as we ought.

Memory Verse: Hebrews 6:19-20a & 4:16 (NIV) 
“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf.” “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”