“Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.” - Jonathan Edwards -

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Yom Kippur

Leviticus 23:26-32 - And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying; Now on the tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement. It shall be for you a time of holy convocation, and you shall afflict yourselves and present a food offering to the Lord. And you shall not do any work on that very day, for it is a Day of Atonement, to make atonement for you before the Lord your God. For whoever is not afflicted on that very day shall be cut off from his people. And whoever does any work on that very day, that person I will destroy from among his people. You shall not do any work. It is a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwelling places. It shall be to you a Sabbath of solemn rest, and you shall afflict yourselves. On the ninth day of the month beginning at evening, from evening to evening shall you keep your Sabbath.

Let's take a look at the commands in this passage a bit closer:

1. We are to hold a "holy convocation". We don't hold holy convocations anymore. Oh yes, we gather together in one place, but the sense of the miqra kodesh was to gather in a focused and common cause. Today we are more concerned that everyone gets their needs met, as opposed to the concept of a Holy Convocation gathering together to ensure that God gets worshipped! A Holy Convocation brings with it the sense that God has our complete and total attention.

2.We are also told to "afflict ourselves" as well. Rabbis interpret this verse to mean that we must restrain from our earthly appetites. This is part of bringing God into focus, and denying ourselves. We don't do much of this anymore either. For the Christian today, it is about comfort, not sacrifice, or denial. Now, I understand that Christ is our sacrifice, and we do not need to 'afflict ourselves' however our obsession with our own creaturely comforts has made the practices of fasting, prayer and meditation on God's Word, relics of a past age. Fasting is such an important part of Yom Kippur that the alternative title of the day is "Day of Fasting".

3.We are also told that, on Yom Kippur, we are to refrain from work. We are not to mix our daily routine with this holy day. For our status-enamored society, this is a burdensome weight! We have made our jobs idols (Christians (me) included). The punishment for not obeying this commandment was death! How often do we actually set aside a day for the Lord? Even on the 'Sabbath' we turn the TV on, and we putter about doing all sorts of things, but how often are we focused on the Lord fully, and completely.

4.The next commandment that God gives is one concerning offerings. There are to be many offerings during the day. The whole chapter of Leviticus 16 is dedicated to describing these offerings. These sacrifices are required because, during the time this feast was implemented, it was the only way to access God. He could not look upon sin, so an offering had to be made to atone for the people's sins before they could enter into His Presence. The High Priest was used as the mediator between the people and God. The High Priest was given instructions regarding the Tabernacle and the Holy of Holies. He was not to enter in to the Holy of Holies except on the day of Yom Kippur or he would face the punishment of death. Inside this most holy place was the Ark of the covenant and the Mercy Seat. Above the Mercy Seat dwelt the Shekinah Glory, the visible presence of God. I believe that many in our churches today are so cavalier regarding our salvation and entering into God's Presence because they have never understood the Holiness of God. In the day of Israel's sacrificial system the entire nation waited with bated breath to determine whether or not the sacrifice and actions of the mediator were accepted. Today, Christians treat our mediator, and sacrifice, Jesus Christ, as their personal buddy. I am angered by this; it shows a complete lack of understanding for the plan of salvation!

The Tabernacle was the center of attention during Yom Kippur; The Presence of God, the Shekinah, dwelt between the cherubim inside the Holy of Holies. The High Priest would enter into the Holy of Holies after proper preparation, bearing the blood of the sacrifice in his hands. He would then sprinkle the Mercy Seat with the blood, and make prayers atoning for the sins of Israel. The actions of this mediator determined the future for the entire nation! The Ark, and Mercy seat were covered with the blood of the sacrifice and God's wrath was appeased.

Inside the Ark we would have found three things; The tablets containing the Law, the rod of Aaron, and a pot of manna. The inclusion of these three items in the ark symbolizes man's utter rejection of God. First, we rejected the giving of His moral Law on the tablets. Then we rejected His attempt to give us daily provisions of food or manna. Finally, Aaron's rod reminds us that we rejected His authorized leadership. The word pesha (transgression) in Leviticus 16:16, 21 reflects this idea of rejection. This word implies revolt or rebellion, and is the gravest word for sin that can be used.

Sacrifices had to be made to cover the sins of Israel from God's eyes. For this reason, the lid of the ark was named the Mercy Seat, in Hebrew "kipporah", or "propitiation". The Mercy Seat was the seat of atonement. The blood of sacrificed animals was to be sprinkled on this Mercy Seat, to make atonement for the sins of Israel. But it was not simply a sacrifice, but a sacrifice delivered by a mediator.

This mediator, the High Priest, did not just stroll in and sprinkle the blood; he was prepared for his task. Before atoning for the sins of the people, the High Priest had to make atonement for his own sins. Even the High Priest Aaron was not above cleansing himself and his family first before any redemption of the people could take place. He brought a young bull for a sin offering and a ram for the burnt offering. Before the blood could be applied to the altar, Aaron donned himself in special linen garments. These did not include the breastplate with the urim and thummim he and the other Priests to follow would wear on other days. Those were instruments of communication between God and the people. Only on Yom Kippur did the High Priest communicate with God in His very presence on the Mercy Seat.

The High Priest was to sacrifice two young goats for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. The two goats were brought before the door of the Tabernacle, and lots were cast to determine which goat would be the one designated for the sacrifice, and which goat would be the scapegoat, the one led away to die in the wilderness.

Upon entering the Holy of Holies, the High Priest would burn incense. The smoke created from this incense shielded him from actually seeing God's presence, and symbolized the sweet aroma of the people's prayers ascending to God. He then sprinkled the blood from the sacrificed goat, chosen by the casting of lots, onto the Mercy Seat. The blood of both the ram and the goat were sprinkled onto the Mercy Seat. This act made atonement for the Holy of Holies, the Tabernacle, and the altar itself. Even these objects had to be atoned for because they had become contaminated with the sins of the people. Only after these preparations had been completed could the main event of the Yom Kippur service occur; the leading of the scapegoat into the wilderness, carrying the sins of Israel with it. The role of the scapegoat is found in Leviticus 16:21, 22.

Today, the Jewish people call the days from 1 Tishri to 10 Tishri (Rosh HaShanah to Yom Kippur), the 'Days of Awe'. These days emphasize our relationship with God, His holy nature and our sinful nature. Approaching Yom Kippur we concentrate on how to reconcile the gulf of sin that separates us from Him. Yom Kippur is when the books of life and death are sealed, and Jewish people receive their coming judgment. The greeting for this holiday, "G'mar chatima tovah!", or "May you be sealed in the Book of Life for a good year!" reflects how serious this time is for us. The rabbis command the people to begin the process of repentance in the ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur by turning, or returning, to the Lord (teshuvah). The Talmud reminds us to: "Remake yourselves by repentance during the ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and on the Day of Atonement, I [God] will hold you guiltless, regarding you as a newly made creature."

We are incapable of making ourselves new creations. As believers in Messiah, we know that only the He can make us new creatures, we cannot remake ourselves. The goats of the Yom Kippur ceremony foreshadowed the sacrifice of Christ. He paid the penalty of death for us as with the first slaughtered goat, covering our sins. He also removed our sins as seen by the second goat, the scapegoat. He was the final payment and sacrifice for sins, covering and removing them so that we do not have to make atonement year after year. Literally making us new creations!

So, we should then just throw Yom Kippur out the door, and not get all tangled up in celebrating this, right? That is what many in the Christian community would have you believe, but I disagree with them. I do not believe that we are 'saved' by our observance of Yom Kippur, but I believe it has a valid place in the life of the Church.

We have lost something very important in the church. That is, an AWE for God! We see it in our services which contain worship songs mostly referencing me and my feelings, and sermons that primarily focus on what God is going to do for me. Yom Kippur is a great time for us to refocus on the holiness of God, and His great plan of salvation. Let's put down our tambourines, and 'specialty' bibles, and return our gaze to the sacrifice made for us by a sinless mediator, so that we can say "My name IS written in the book of life".

Have you contemplated God's amazing grace lately? Do you understand that the original Yom Kippur showed that same amazing grace? God KNEW that His people would be unable to observe the law -- it was a tutor, to paraphrase Paul -- so He gave Israel the sacrificial system in order for them to be temporarily 'made right', and dwell in His presence. God saw the priest presenting the sacrifice as the mediator of His people, and saw the sacrifice as the means by which they could approach Him. This is the essence of the idea of the substitute sacrifice, the death of what is innocent for that which has sinned.

Jesus gave His life to be the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. As believers in Messiah, we should be joyous at Yom Kippur because we do not have to wonder if our repentance has been adequate! The average Hebrew could never approach the Holy of Holies, even the High Priest could only approach it once a year. When Messiah died on the cross, the heavy veil in front of the Holy of Holies was torn. God was stating that those who trust in Him can have a true Yom Kippur experience and may be shown God's mercy. We can rejoice in God's plan of forgiveness!

Romans 3:21-26 - But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it -- the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.


BugBlaster said...

Thanks Ray. Just want you to know I really appreciate this.

Ray said...

Thank you Bugs...