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 their unauthorized and disrespectful offering. The Lord commanded that the priests of Israel were not to go into the Most Holy Place as they desired. 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. This ceremony was the most important duty of the High Priest. Even millennia removed from the last Temple, Yom Kippur still is acknowledged by Jewish people around the world, often one of the only times they will attend services.

Leviticus 17 continues with the theme of atonement. We are told that only through His priests and Temple sacrifices were to be offered which led to atonement. In this chapter is also the command that both Jews and foreigners are not to consume an animal’s blood. 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 was to be cut off from Israel and sent into the wilderness to die. Blood and sacrifice were 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 and bestiality are outlined and forbidden in detail. I’ll spare you a complete listing of every practice forbidden. However, this list serves as another reminder that the Lord expects His people to be different than the rest of the world.

If I were to summarize Acharei Mot in one word, it would be Atonement. Sadly, this is a word that is not popular in our society today. However, Scripture makes it clear that atonement is necessary for every human being. In the simplest sense, human beings are born, live, and die sinfully. Each of us violates not just the Lord’s standard for life, but even our agreed upon laws in this country. Not only that but we violate even the most basic standard for living life. Our sinfulness affects every area of our lives and every relationship we have. It is like a giant mountain of garbage that each of us is living in. Instead of dealing with the mountain, most people want to philosophically argue if the mountain exists, or pride themselves on having a slightly smaller mountain than someone else. Arrogantly many demand that the Lord approve their behaviors and allow them to stand before the most Holy One. Scripture makes it clear that even a moment in the presence of the glory of the Lord would destroy us. We would be paralyzed with shame. So, the garbage mountain of our sins requires cleaning. Atonement is the method by which the dirty sinful deeds of our lives are removed, and we are made clean.

This truth is incredibly controversial and divisive in our so-called enlightened society. People do not want to be told that they have sinned 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.

As we read, without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. This is why the Yom Kippur ceremony required several different animal sacrifices. Through these sacrifices, we are forced to acknowledge that our sins lead to death. The Lord gave us the Mosaic Covenant, even though we did not deserve it. Because these sacrifices were done every year it also demonstrated that this system did not make us perfectly holy to stand before Adonai. This is because we continued to sin and so more sacrifices were required.

However, the Lord knew that we would break the Mosaic 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. His sacrifice did not just provide temporary forgiveness for Israel, but permanent and lasting forgiveness to all people throughout all time. This everlasting forgiveness can never be taken away.

When we accept the atonement that has been provided for us through Messiah Yeshua, the Spirit of God enters our hearts. The garbage of our sins is removed as God makes us His Temples. We are sanctified, set apart, and 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 throughout 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 in the darkness of our desperate society. We begin to tell others of this perfect atonement so they too can experience the life-changing salvation 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 do not need 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.