Full Atonement Can It Be
Because we do not fully understand the significance of the word atonement, we fail to see several great truths of the Bible. There are many words we use in describing the salvation process—sanctification, justification, redemption and atonement. Each of them refer to the same process, but each emphasizes a different aspect of how God’s mercy is shown. Take a look at the word atonement.
Two Bible stories vividly show that atonement is always tied to stopping the anger of God because of sin. Numbers 25 gives the details when the Jewish men were having sex with the women of Moab. As they joined themselves in this pagan worship of Baal, “…the anger of the Lord was aroused against Israel.” The wrath of God was almost appeased when those men were hanged before the Lord. But, one Jewish man brought a woman before Israel to publically defile her. God’s wrath returned and Phinehas, the grandson of Aaron, “…took a javelin in his hand and went after the man…and thrust both of them through.” The plague was stopped but not before 24,000 Jewish men died. God said of Phinehas, “He was zealous for his God, and made atonement for the children of Israel.” Atonement has to do with assuaging the wrath of God.
The second story is found in Numbers 16 in connection with the rebellion of Korah, Dathan and Abiram. When Israel turned against God for slaying these men, God told Moses to step away from the Jews, and He would consume all of the nation instantly. The plague started and over 14,000 were slain. Moses told Aaron to take a censor quickly and “…make atonement for them; for wrath has gone out from the Lord.” He did as he was instructed. “He stood between the dead and the living; so the plague was stopped.” Atonement is the appeasing sacrifice that stops wrath from being shown.
Now apply this to the Day of Atonement described in Leviticus 16. One day each year God remembered all of the sins of Israel, and His very nature demanded atonement be made or His wrath would come. It was the most solemn day of the Jewish year. On that day, the high priest entered the Most Holy Place and offered the blood of a bull and a ram; first for His own sins and then for the sins of all the people. Atonement was made, and God’s wrath was appeased. However, exactly one year later, atonement had to be made again—year after year for 1,500 years!
The new covenant was promised in which God promised, “Their sin will I remember no more” (Jer.31:34). We need not fear because of our sins, because Christ has made full atonement! We sing, “Full atonement, can it be? Hallelujah, what a Savior!” (More next week.)