Yom Kippur

September 28, 2009 at 5:04 pm | Posted in Christianity | Leave a comment
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Today is one of the holiest days of the year for the children of Israel. If you don’t know, today is Yom Kippur. Yom Kippur means “Day of Atonement” in Hebrew. It is a very special day, with a lot of meaning for both Jews and Christians. Some of you may not understand why this is important to Christians, but I hope to explain that.
To understand what the Day of Atonement means, we have to look at what happened on that day and what its purpose was. When Yom Kippur was started, it was as Israel was traveling through the wilderness after leaving Egypt. It was the beginning of the second year and Moses had just set up the tabernacle (Exodus 40:17). When the tabernacle was finished, the glory of the Lord descended and no one could enter the tabernacle. The Lord called to Moses from the tent of meeting, and over the next month, laid out exactly what was expected from His people and His priests. He explained the offerings and how they were to be done. He gave them laws about cleanliness, diet, and morality. He also made sure that they knew how serious this was. When two of Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, came to God with strange fire, He incinerated them on the spot and told Aaron (through Moses) that He was to be treated as holy (Leviticus 10:1-3).

The priesthood was a big part of life for Israel. They were the doctors, judges, and intercessors for the entire nation. Unfortunately, it seems that the church has forgotten that it is also a royal priesthood . The high priest was the one who spoke for God and on behalf of the people. Even though he held this honor, not even the high priest could enter the Holy of Holies. It was here that the Ark of the Covenant was kept. Here, God’s presence abided in the midst of His people. There was only one day when the high priest could enter the Holy of Holies and stand before the presence of God. This day was Yom Kippur.
On Yom Kippur, the high priest would prepare the offerings for his sins as well as the sins of the entire nation. No one else could do this. First, he would put on the holy garments of his office and bathe in the bronze laver, bring an offering for his own sins (a bull that was without blemish) and offerings for the sins of Israel (two goats for the sin offering and a ram for the burnt offering – Lev. 16:5). The two goats would be brought before the tent of meeting and the high priest would cast lots for them. The one that lost would be the goat offered to the Lord for Israel’s sins and the other would be the scapegoat. This goat would bear the sins of Israel on it and be released into the wilderness. He would then offer the bull for his own sins and take the blood as well as some of the incense into the tent of meeting. The incense would be placed on the Altar of Incense so that the cloud of smoke would cover the mercy seat of the ark and the high priest wouldn’t die. He would then sprinkle some of the blood from the bull seven times on the mercy seat (and in front of it). The goat for the sin offering would then be slaughtered and its blood would also be sprinkled on the mercy seat. The high priest would then atone for all of the fixtures and utensils in the tabernacle. Then, he would place his hands on the live goat, intone all of the sins of Israel, and then send the goat away into the wilderness. He then removed the holy garments, bathed himself, put on his clothes and offered the burnt offering of the people to make atonement for him and the people. All of the remains of the animals used for the atonement in the holy place were burned outside the camp. All of this happened on the tenth day of the seventh month and was to be a permanent statute. No one in Israel was to do any work at all.
Yom Kippur was a very vivid reminder to Israel of the consequences of their sins. As Christians, we don’t sacrifice bulls and goats for sin because the blood of bulls and goats cannot wash away sin (Hebrews 10:4). Even so, there is a wonderful picture of God’s saving grace in the Day of Atonement. The book of Hebrews says that Jesus Christ is our High Priest. He is the One that did the things necessary for the atonement of our sins. What is amazing is that while Jesus is our High Priest, He is also our sin offering. God made His pure, perfect Son the sacrifice for the sins of the world. He poured out His life’s blood for us so that we may be spared from the wrath of God and the eternity in hell that awaits all of those who die in their sins because they’ve transgressed God’s law. Even more, Jesus is our scapegoat who bore our sins upon Himself that we may be cleansed. In the Old Testament, only the high priest could enter the Holy of Holies and that was only once a year. Now, because of what Jesus Christ did, all of those who believe in Him may enter the Holy of Holies at any time and make requests before God. This is so wonderful! Also, while the blood of bulls and goats cannot take away sins, the blood of the spotless Lamb of God can and will cleanse our conscience as well! We can be free of the guilt and shame of our sins. To have our sin and guilt removed, it will cost us something. When the atonement was made for the children of Israel, they were required to offer two goats and a bull. They were called on by God to humble themselves (Lev. 16:31).
While the method may have changed, the expectations of God have not. We must still humble ourselves if we are to have the atoning sacrifice of the Lamb applied to us. We must also repent of our sins and confess them before God. Then, we must put our faith in Jesus alone to save us. If we will do this, the Bible says that we will be born again (John 3). We will be made new creations and all of the old things will pass away. If you are filled with pride, you will not be saved. You must come humbly before God and see yourself the way that He sees you. You must agree with Him. When you can do that, then you are ready to receive the free gift of salvation that comes through Jesus. I would love to see everyone do this. I would love to see the entire world saved and reconciled to God. But, I would be remiss if I didn’t warn you. If you are to follow Christ, then the world will hate you. They will mock you, attack you, and maybe even kill you. True, biblical Christianity isn’t about being part of a club or clique. It’s about being forever changed by the grace and mercy of God. It’s about being filled with the desire to see others know the same thing regardless of the cost. It is not about a building or a denomination.
It is my prayer on this Day of Atonement that you would truly consider your life in respect to the law of God. If you have broken the law, then you are guilty before God. If you haven’t repented of your sins, then you will not see heaven. If you have been pretending or playing because it was the “right” thing to do or because it is what you’ve always done, then please consider the fact that you are not promised tomorrow. Understand that I’m not asking you for money, I’m not asking you to join a church, and I’m not asking you to run out and act like a lunatic to look different. I’m asking you to be completely honest with yourself and look past all of the facades to see where you truly stand with God. And then, if that place that you stand is not in repentance and you’ve not truly been saved, then I’m asking you to let go of your pride, admit that you are a wretched sinner (like everyone else!), and cry out to God to save you. It will happen and it’s the only hope that any of us have!

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