Jamestown Seventh-Day Adventist Church

Chapter 7: In The Courtyard
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Chapter 7: In The Courtyard

Chapter 7

In The Courtyard


Dan L. Kelly, Elder Emeritus


The courtyard was an enclosed field around the complex of the Sanctuary much larger than the 15’ x 30’ enclosure of the “Tent of Meeting.” And, while the Sanctuary itself had walls about 18’ high, the walls of the courtyard were only about half that high so the throng of people attending the meetings at the Sanctuary, at the appropriate distance, whether daily or annually, as on the Day of Atonement, would be able to look above the wall to observe what was taking place inside the court, while still maintaining a modicum of privacy,  and know exactly when the priests would enter and leave the Sanctuary.


Many people have the idea that every man, woman and child in Israel, every day of the year, would have to bring a lamb to sacrifice for their sin, for “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8) Some have interpreted this and other texts to mean that, “we cannot even get out of bed in the morning without sinning!” This becomes problematic if we take this position for, extrapolating this idea back to Israel in the Sinai Desert, think of the logistics issues this would cause.


There were about 600,000 men that came out of Egypt, plus women and children. Assuming that each man had one wife on average, and each couple had only two children, (which, in those days isn’t very many) that would make nearly two and a half million people! (2,400,000,) Carrying through with the ideological extrapolation, each one sins each day and must necessarily sacrifice a lamb. That’s 2,400,000, lambs or goats! Every Day! Pardon the crudeness, but that’s a lot of blood! Where would they get them all? Where would they get food for them all there in the desert? How would they have time to kill, slaughter and dress them – and ritually sacrifice? You see the problem!


I would like to suggest that Israel was not to offer blanket repentance and confession there in the wilderness.


Let’s jump forward 3500 years to your bedroom for the purpose of illustrating a point.


When we were children, our parents, most of them, took us to our bedrooms and tucked us into bed. Sometimes we would kneel down beside our beds and “say our prayers.” We would address God or Jesus and go through a list of thank-you's and then add a list of “gimme’s or “hepusta’s” (help us to’s) and then we’d get around to “forgive us ALL OF OUR SINS.” A blanket confession and request for forgiveness. Admit it now; some of us have never grown out of that scope of “repentance.”


Nevertheless, there are times, when we, on our knees or otherwise, are communing with God and can’t recall a single thing wherein we have sinned and displeased Him. But, “just to be on the safe side,” we throw in the “Blanket Coverage” request to cover ourselves.


But, what does the Bible say?


In Leviticus chapter five, there are several ‘situations’ that seem rather mundane on the surface but that serve as an example of a broad scope of errors or sins that require confession, repentance and ultimate forgiveness. God does not suggest that all Israel come before Him every day carting a lamb or other sacrifice, (there were other provisions for this which we will discuss) but He makes it clear in verse 5. He states through Moses repeatedly in the four verses above, that if someone does something that is wrong, and “if it be hidden from him; when he knoweth of it, then he shall be guilty of it.” (Italics mine)


It is clear that he is NOT guilty until he knows of it. But, when he knows of it, then he is guilty and must confess. He is not supposed to collect all these until a convenient time and then approach God. Rather, notice verse 5:


“And it shall be, when he shall be guilty in one of these things, that he shall confess that he hath sinned in that thing:” (Leviticus 5:5 KJV) (italics mine)


Now, there’s quite a lot packed into this verse but I think you’ve probably gotten the idea. When one became convicted of a wrong committed, it is then that he was required to approach God with his sacrifice and 1) Confess, 2) Repent 3) Sacrifice the lamb. Note that the confession was not a “Blanket confession” (forgive me all of my sins) but it was rather, “…he shall confess in that thing.” His confession was of the specific sin whereof he was guilty.


How was that accomplished in the courtyard?


As touched on in a previous chapter, the guilty party brought a lamb, a goat (kid) or two doves or, in some cases, a handful of flour. This offering was brought into the courtyard where the petitioner was met by the priest. There, in the presence of the priest, he placed both his hands on the head of the sacrifice where he confessed “in that thing.” In this way, he was figuratively placing his guilt on the head of the substitute, the lamb. With the transfer of the sin completed in this “typical” ritual, the sinner was then obligated to take a sharp knife and cut the throat of the animal allowing it to “Bleed out” into a basin held by the priest. The priest then took some of the blood and ministered it at the altar just before the entrance to the Holy Place of the Sanctuary called the Brazen Altar or the Altar of Burnt Offerings. The animal was then cut in appropriate pieces and place in order on the altar and burned.


In the Daily (service), both morning and evening, the presiding priest would prepare himself and perform a similar ritual but this time for the entire congregation of Israel, not just for individuals. In this case, when the lamb was killed, it was killed by the priest, and all sins that Israel had confessed, both individually and through prayer while facing the Sanctuary, (an act of worship) were confessed by the priest on the head of the Lamb.


Once again, the priest, the mediator, ministered the blood and the meat offering on behalf of all Israel, including, but not limited to, the individual who had made the special sacrifices mentioned above. Just this way did Jesus not only die for us as our Sacrifice and Substitute, but He, on His return to His Father, after His resurrection, now serves as our Mediator and “Great High Priest” in the True Sanctuary, built by God, not by man.


You may say to yourself, “Is that true? Is that scriptural?”


Yes, it is. Notice what the Book of Hebrews in the New Testament says:


“Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.  Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:14 –16)


“Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens; A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man.” (Hebrews 8:1,2)

Aren’t you glad we have this Sandbox Illustration showing us in real illustrative terms just how the Sacrifice of Jesus was to come about and how it was to be as a substitute for us - for the death that belonged to us - the ones who really deserved death? We have this ‘Great Exchange’ offered to us. If you have not accepted it yet, do it now. The offer is free! And so is the gift of Salvation. All you have to do is accept his salvation and ministration in your behalf and it’s yours!

Now, let’s see if we can learn more about what went on in the Holy Place 3500 years ago and how it relates to you and me today.