Acharei Mot – “After The Death”

This week our parasha is Acharei Mot, which means “After The Death” and covers Leviticus 16:1 – 18:30. In this parasha we see the importance of atonement, accomplished only through the Lord’s will and not our own.

Leviticus 16 begins after the death of Aaron’s two sons, who were killed for making an offering to the Lord in a disrespectful manner, most likely drunk. The Lord commands that the priests of Israel are not to go into the Most Holy Place as they desire. Instead, the High priest was only allowed on the day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, and only in a very specific manner. The Yom Kippur sacrifice was to be made for all Israel to make atonement for our sins.

Leviticus 17 continues with the theme of atonement. We are commanded not to offer sacrifices outside of the ways the Lord has ordered. It is only through the priests of the Lord and His Temple that sacrifices were to be offered and atonement made possible. In this chapter is also the command that whether someone is Jewish or not they are not to eat the blood of an animal. We read in Leviticus 17:11, “For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.” Anyone who violated the laws concerning blood and atonement were to be cut off from Israel, sent into the wilderness to die. These were literally matters of life and death.

Our parasha concludes with Leviticus 18 where we are reminded again to not live like the pagan nations. Specifically, pagan practices concerning incest are outlined and forbidden in detail. I’ll spare you a complete listing of every incestual practice forbidden, but it reminds us yet again that the Lord expects us to be different than the society that surrounds us.

If I were to summarize Acharei Mot in one word, it would be Atonement. Sadly, this is a word that I believe is not popular to use in our society today. Our sinfulness, which requires our need for atonement, is something we tend to rationalize and justify in our lives. But if we spent even a moment before Adonai our inflated sense of holiness would be exposed as a serious overestimation. The reality is that to approach God we need His help to do so, we cannot save ourselves.

This truth is incredibly controversial and divisive in our so-called enlightened society. People do not want to be told that they have sin and that they cannot save themselves. We want to believe we can fix all the problems in our lives, physical, emotional, and spiritual. With the right attitude, and popular scheme for self-improvement there is nothing we can’t do! But the truth is we are as sinful as the generations that came before us. Perhaps even more sinful, and we are in desperate need of real atonement. Real atonement that only the Lord Himself can provide.

There are certain verses in God’s Word every Believer should know and be familiar with. Leviticus 17:11 that I read earlier is one of these key verses. The need for the shedding of blood for the forgiveness of sins may seem barbaric or controversial today, but it is a command given by Adonai. Justice for our sins must be satisfied and we do not get to dictate the terms to the creator of all things.

So, without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. We see this principle of atonement clearly in the Yom Kippur ceremony, which required several different animal sacrifices. Through these sacrifices we see repeatedly the true consequences of our sins, death. But because these sacrifices were done every year, it showed that this system did not make us perfectly holy to stand before Adonai. We continued to sin and so more sacrifices were required.

The Yom Kippur sacrifice and the entire Mosaic Covenant was a gift given by the Lord. It was given to our people so that we could begin to approach the standard necessary for dwelling with Adonai. However, the Lord knew that we would break this covenant, and so He sent His Son, Messiah Yeshua, to be the final and perfect atonement for us. He became the ultimate Yom Kippur sacrifice, not just providing temporary forgiveness to Israel, but permanent and lasting forgiveness to all people throughout all time. This is a forgiveness that is everlasting, it can never be taken away.

When we accept the atonement, the forgiveness, that has been provided for us through Messiah Yeshua, the Spirit of God enters our hearts. We are sanctified, set apart, made holy, not because of who we are or what we have done, but what Adonai has done for us. This is an atonement that happened once for all people through all time. It is not a sacrifice that needs to ever be repeated. In Messiah Yeshua we can have complete confidence every one of our sins has been completely forgiven.

After experiencing the true atonement found in Messiah Yeshua, we are not just washed clean of our sins. We are also equipped with everything we need to be a light into the darkness of our desperate society around us. We begin to tell others of this perfect atonement so they to can experience the life changing salvation found in the blood of Messiah Yeshua. The important question for those in Messiah is if we are living our lives differently since experiencing His real atonement? Or are we still living like those without forgiveness?

It is my prayer this morning that we would turn from the false thinking of the world that tells us we have no need for atonement. Instead, may each of us embrace our wonderful Messiah and the atonement He alone can provide. May we all be washed clean and have the boldness and confidence that comes from a pure heart atoned for through the Lord alone.