In today's reading, the subject of atonement caught my attention in all three OT passages. Here in Numbers 35:33, no atonement can be made for the land except the death of the murderer. In Psalm 79:9, Asaph cries out "Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of your name; deliver us, and atone for our sins, for your name's sake!” Isaiah 27:8-9 says the LORD exiled Israel so the nation's guilt would be atoned for (the removal of his sin).
Each of these passages uses the same Hebrew word. The ESV translates this word as cover, appease, cleanse, pardon, annul, and forgive. This Hebrew word kapar is best known for Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement).
It is impossible to comprehend the need for atonement without an understanding of God's just anger or wrath against sin. The Bible teaches that each one of us has rebelled against the Sovereign Lord. We have made ourselves god. Satan's promise to Eve in Genesis 3:5, "You will be like God," is the desire of all Adam's descendants. We reject the Creator and worship His creation. The proper view of this disobedience is treason against the rightful King. The punishment for treason is death.
The sacrifices made on the "Day of Atonement" about which we read in Leviticus were a temporary covering of the guilt of Israel. Throughout the OT, however, the promise does not stop with a temporary substitute but rather the promise of One who will be the atonement - a permanent cover, appeasement, pardon, and forgiveness. Isaiah 53 is an excellent description of that One: "He was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed."
Asaph cries for this atonement in Psalm 79. Isaiah 27:9 says the evidence of the atonement in our lives is the destruction of all the idols we worship instead of the One True God. In Numbers 35, we see the death of a high priest atoned for an accidental death.
The same Hebrew word, kapar, is also found in 1 John 2:2 and 4:10. Jesus is described, in both of these passages as the propitiation for our sins. He is the One described in Isaiah 53. He is the permanent atoning sacrifice.
1 John 5 tells us faith in Him, as evidenced by our obedience, is the victory that overcomes the world. Whoever has Jesus has life! John wants us to know our belief and trust in Him leads to eternal life; the covering of sin for which Asaph prayed. He has done it for His glory and Name.
Lord Jesus, cause us to see and understand Your propitiation for our rebellion as You do. May our obedience be the increasing evidence of our love and appreciation for Your shed blood which covers all our sin. You are our Kapar.