Aaron shall offer the bull as a sin offering, which is for himself, and make atonement for himself and for his house. (Leviticus 16:6)
It is important to see that, before the earthly High Priest could make atonement for the people, it was necessary that he acknowledge his own transgressions — and in a very public way so to speak. Jewish tradition teach that, as the High Priest approached the altar with his sin offering, the young bull, he would declare that he had sinned. In his confession he would invoke the sacred name YHVH or Yahweh, and as he did so, those in the courtyard would prostrate themselves and declare: Baruch shem kavod malchuto l’olam va’ed — “Blessed be His Name and His glorious kingdom forever.” One rabbinical commentator highlights something very important about this procedure. He says:
“The primary atonement of an offering is afforded only by the blood service, not by confession, but confession, too, is an essential part of repentance and hence of atonement.”
In other words, confession of sin is essential if there is to be forgiveness of sin, however, without the shedding of blood, atonement can not be attained. Thus the writer of Hebrews notes, “almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22). On the other side of things, John said: If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
The point is this: for atonement to be realized, it seems that one doesn’t work without the other. Our heavenly High Priest, who is also our sin offering, shed His blood that there might be remission and eternal atonement for our sins. That being said, we still have the responsibility, and the need, to acknowledge our transgressions and our need of forgiveness. Put simply, we must confess we have sinned — regardless of who we are and what position we hold — if we are to be forgiven of those sins. But when we do, we have the assurance that the blood of the Messiah covers those sins. For this gift we are grateful, and to the responsibility we have in the process of redemption, let us always be mindful.
Blessings and Shalom,