We used to sing a song in the choir at my former church–“Jesus, I’ll never forget what you’ve done for me. Jesus, I’ll never forget how you set me free. Jesus, I’ll never forget how you brought me out, No, no, NO, NEVER!” That’s a song that comes back to me today on Yom Kippur–The Day of Atonement–the holiest day on the Jewish calendar.
Was I born a Jew? No. But I was grafted into the family when Jesus died to redeem the entire world. Do I have to celebrate the 7 Biblically-commanded Feasts of the Lord? No. I have already celebrated the 4 spring feasts symbolically, and I will one day fully celebrate the 3 fall feasts symbolically.
But I believe that each year as the feasts roll around in their cyclical way on the Jewish calendar, it is important for me and mine to study them as they relate to our salvation. Jesus the Messiah is revealed in each one. In studying these holy days on God’s calendar, I learn about the past (how Jesus fulfilled them by His death, burial, resurrection, return as the Holy Spirit), the present (how to live holy per the traditions of the feasts) and the future (how He is coming back and what will follow).
Today is Yom (day) Kippur (covering). No longer do I need an earthly high priest to enter into the Holy of Holies once a year to apply the blood of goats and bulls to the mercy seat to cover my sins.
“But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come,with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation.Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.” Heb. 8:11-12
Yes, instead, Jesus became my High Priest once and for all. When He died on the cross, the veil into the Holy of Holies was rent in two. He had marched into the Holy of Holies, applied His own blood to the mercy seat for me and given free access to the most holy place to all who receive Him.
“For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens;who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself.” Heb. 7:26-27
He was without sin, yet He became sin for me. I cannot emphasize enough the term that is used several times in the Book of Hebrews–ONCE FOR ALL. Redemption for all who will receive it. And that redemption isn’t jerked away from us when we mess up. He knows our frame, that we are but dust. And because of that, He tells us that if we sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous.
We in the church are so quick to condemn those who commit the “BIG” sins. (I know, because I have been on both sides–condemning those who commit the “biggies” and also committing “biggies.”) REALLY? I have seen church members who refuse to listen to a preacher who is divorced or who admits to backsliding into drug or alcohol abuse at some time in his/her Christian walk. REALLY? Who are you to judge another man’s servant?
What about the preachers who practice gluttony regularly with no recognition of that sin? What about those who are mean and hateful to their families behind closed doors while smiling graciously to their parishioners? You listen to them often enough.
What about those church members who crucify each other with their tongues? What about those respected church mothers who are quick to condemn you and murder you in their hearts for the least offense? They’re still teaching Sunday School and leading the choir, aren’t they?
Isn’t this hypocritical? Did He die for our sins (plural) before we get saved ONLY or also for those sins we might (will) commit after salvation? Why do we continue to look at Christians who sin (which is all of us–yes, you, too) and say, “That’s it. You blew it. You cannot minister/teach/preach/lead anything anymore.” REALLY? Show me where you find that in the Bible. Poor ole King David always gets mentioned in discourses on sin because of his murdering, adulterous, lying ways. (Yes, I said that about David).
On this Yom Kippur, I am alarmed that much of the Christian world is making the grace of God of non-effect. We judge which sins are forgivable. You think not? Then why do we say this sin (your gossip or your “white” lies which were probably not repented of) can be overlooked and you can teach Sunday School again? However, this other person who fornicated or got drunk or whatever but was truly repentant is barred from further service in the church. We might allow them to pass out tracts on the street, but no more service inside our “holy walls.”
I don’t mean to sound harsh, but perhaps it’s time we really took stock of what His atonement truly means. Redemption is serious business. Redemption is ongoing, continual. That blood is still flowing symbolically to cleanse us from day to day as we strive to live a holy life despite our flesh.
“Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Heb. 4:14-16
And as we rejoice in the fact that we may approach His throne boldly to receive mercy, let us remember that Yom Kippur also represents an event yet to come–Judgment Day. After Rosh HaShanah (Feast of Trumpets–held 10 days ago) which represents His return, there will be the Day of Judgment (Yom Kippur prophetically) followed shortly afterward by the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot). (This starts in 5 days on the Jewish calendar–can’t wait! It represents how we dwell with Him eternally. Stay tuned!)
Until then, here is a Scripture that is great to keep in mind as we await His return:
“Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God,let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” Heb. 10:19-25
Click on the video below to see the teaching I did on Yom Kippur a couple of weeks ago at our church, Times of Refreshing. Please forgive me for not pronouncing everything correctly! Beneath the video is the handout we used in our teaching. It will help you follow along. Enjoy!
“Yom” = “day” and “Kippur” = “covering, ransom, redeeming”
Sixth Scripturally-commanded holy day on Jewish calendar
–Held on 10th day of 7th month Tishri for 1 day
Second event in the fall High Holy Days and Days of Awe
–The only mandated holy day that is not a feast
–The only day all of Israel fasted (called “the fast” Acts 27:9)
No mention of it taking place until 444 B.C.
Four main components
–Holy convocation (undivided attention to God and gathering on a sabbath)
–Humbling of souls (affliction by fasting and repentance)
–Offerings (Lev. 16, Num. 29:7-11)–including regular sabbath offerings if on a sabbath
–Complete rest (or death as punishment)
–To show the necessity of blood and God’s hatred of sin (Rom. 6:23, Heb. 9:22)
–To show contagious nature of sin–even holy Priest had to be cleansed! (Lev. 16:6)
–To point forward to the death of the Lamb of God
–To be repeated annually to show the way into the presence of God (Heb. 10:3)
1. High priest bathed his entire body, not just hands and feet as normally
–Washed his flesh in water in the Holy Place
–Had already washed once before entering Holy Place
2. He dressed in white linen with no ornaments
–Holy linen coat, breeches, girdle, fine mitre (headpiece)
–Also wore bells on skirt with rope attached
–Bells: to alert those outside if he was impure and died
–Rope: to drag him out
3. He sacrificed young bull for himself and his house
4. He selected 2 goats
–Goats selected by lot–1 for God, 1 for Azazel (name for Satan?)
–First goat sacrificed for people’s sins
–This blood placed on 2nd goat’s head (scapegoat)
5. Before offering this blood, priest filled censer with live coals from altar and put incense on them
–Cloud of incense covered mercy seat to keep him from seeing God
6. Once in Holy of Holies, blood was sprinkled upon and before mercy seat
–Bull for priesthood’s atonement; 1st goat for people’s atonement
–2 separate trips into Holy of Holies
7. Priest laid hands on head of scapegoat and confessed sins of the people
8. Scapegoat, bearing sins of the people, released into wilderness by trustworthy man
9. Remains of sacrificed bull and male goat taken outside city and burned
Main purpose is “teshuvah”–turning FROM sin and TO God
–Process began in 6th month Elul, sped up through Rosh HaShanah and the ensuing 10 days of repentance, reached end on Yom Kippur
Five services held (1 more than usual for festivals); most highly attended all year
–Before leaving for services, blessings pronounced upon children
–Very complicated services
–Proclamations made to nullify any vows/promises unfulfilled in coming year
–Jews still see spoken word as binding: “Words are important. . .The world itself was created by God through the power of the Word.” (A rabbi)
–Jews believe you can’t be forgiven if you have unfulfilled vows (Matt. 5:24)
–Torah reading describes service in the Temple
–Emphasis also on Isaiah 57:14-58:16
–Book of Jonah read aloud (repentance important)
–They ask God to inscribe them in the Book of Life
Jews seek “kapparah”–cleaning of the slate/new chance at life
–Seen as a “brush with death” (wearing white kittel–burial shroud–and abstaining from life-giving food and water)
Jews observe 5 restrictions (afflictions): “shabbat shabbaton”–sabbath of complete rest
–No eating or drinking (fast day from sundown to sundown, no cooking allowed)
–Children and the sick are exempt
–Fast may be broken immediately after final service
–No bathing (stricter than regular sabbath)
–No anointing of body with oil
–No leather shoes (too comfortable)
–No sexual relations
Day before is a preparation day but also a sabbath
–Based on Lev. 23:32 which calls 9th day of Tishri a sabbath
–Great sabbath meal eaten before sundown!
–Some take mikveh (ritual bath) to purify themselves symbolically
Outdated traditions include twirling rooster or hen around hen while saying prayer for the animal to be killed in one’s stead
–Priests considered this too akin to white magic
–Now some Jews instead wrap money in handkerchief and follow same ritual
–Long ago, some Jews even flogged each other 39 times
–Some Jews still go outside to bless the moon at the end of the day (as at new moon)
Charity containers place in synagogues (typical on holy days)
Candles lit for deceased relatives
Women often wear white; mean wear kittels
Jews believe that the original purpose of this day was to cleanse the Temple of any
pollution that might have infiltrated the priestly system: “Too much pollution will render
the sanctuary defiled and push the divine presence away.” (A rabbi)
–Since the Temple is no more, they now focus on cleaning up their individual lives,
including reconciliation with others
Shofar is blown to end the holy day–shows successful passage from sin to repentance
Some Jews go home and begin building sukkah
–Ties in Yom Kippur to Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) 5 days later
National cleansing of Israel since the Church will be raptured out at Feast of Trumpets?
–Zech. 3:9: “. . .And I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day.”
–Verse 10 refers to the millenium
Jesus, our High Priest: applied blood to mercy seat once and for all! (Heb. 5:1-10,
–We all have access into the Holy of Holies now (Heb. 4:14-16)
Priest washing twice on each trip in: our progression in Christ
–First washing is salvation–a “must” to enter the “sanctuary” (safe place)
–To go into Holy of Holies (His manifest presence), must be saturated in the Word
White garment: us being freed from sin
–No longer can wear the “garments” worn on the outside; must “put on” righteousness
Incense often represents prayer (Psalm 141:2: “Let my prayer be. . .as incense”)
–Prayer brings us into Holy of Holies
Priest sacrificed 1st bull for his household: purity in priesthood (We are all priests now)
Jesus represented by both goats
–Like 1st goat, He was killed and mutilated for our sins
–Like 2nd goat, He took our sins upon His own head (Heb. 13:11-12)
Hebrew word for “atonement” means “covering”
–Same word as “pitch,” the substance Noah applied to the ark walls
–Came between Noah and judgment (the waters)–like Jesus’ blood and us!
Prophetic for us: final Judgment Day–Book of Life opened
–Jews either repented and were forgiven or died in sin
Day the shofar is blown for Year of Jubilee
–Lev. 25:9: “Then you shall cause the trumpet of the Jubilee to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement you shall make the trumpet to sound throughout all your land.”
–Our freedom from debt!
Rabbinical scholars say that at the time of the atonement, a crimson sash was attached to the door of the Temple and another on the horn of the scapegoat
–They knew when the goat was dead in the wilderness because the sash would turn white to signify the forgiveness of sins was complete
–Is. 1:18: “. . .though thy sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow.”
–Jewish literature says 40 years before the destruction of the last Temple in 70 A.D., the sash stopped turning white (No more need for the blood of animals to atone for sin!)
From the Talmud: “Forty years before the destruction of the Temple (ie. 30 C.E.) the lot did not come up in the right hand, nor did the crimson stripe become white, nor did the westernmost light burn; and the doors of the heikhal (the Holy Place of the Temple) opened of their own accord, until Rabbi Yochanon ben Zakkai rebuked them.”