Anyone committing sin is guilty before God – whether they know they are committing sin or not. God still holds them accountable. There is a responsibility for knowing the will of the Lord, and for following it, and for being reflective and contemplative of your personal life, and for being honest when you choose the wrong road. Recognizing sin, the responsible person might bring a sacrifice to the Lord and find forgiveness (atonement).
But God was unwilling to leave it up to individual responsibility. He certainly knew not everyone was going to be responsible. Perhaps also, he wanted to be sure to remind Israel of sin’s seriousness.
Sin’s infection, in the mind of God, was pervasive. It affected not only people, but things. So, once a year, the High Priest would make special sacrifices. With one sacrifice, he and his family would find forgiveness. With another sacrifice, he would cleanse the Most Holy Place, the Tabernacle, and the Altar of the sins associated with being among sinful people. With a final sacrifice, he would secure atonement for the sins of Israel.
This “Day of Atonement” was a special day. No one could work on that day but the priests, and with the day off, Israel could contemplate the enormity of her sin, and the high cost of grace.
Sin is, today, no less pervasive, and no less serious. But today, that seriousness is underscored by a regular reminder in the Lord’s Supper of the price God paid for our atonement: no less than the life of His son, Jesus.