Yom Kippur - Day of Atonement
The Day of Atonement is the holiest day in the Hebrew calendar. The whole nation of Israel was to appear humbly before God to seek forgiveness for their sins. Yom Kippur literally means the 'day of covering' and comes from Lev 17:11. "For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement (cover) for the soul". The New Testament says "without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness" (Heb 9:22). In God's eyes, only blood can cover over the effect of sin and cleanse us from unrighteousness. It is the sixth of the seven official holidays and is described in Leviticus 23:26-32, Numbers 29:7-11 and Leviticus chapter 16, and occurs on the tenth day of the seventh month, called Tishri (September/October).
On this day alone, could the High Priest, come into the Holy of Holies and appear before God, but in order to do this, he had to go through an elaborate cleansing process both for his own sins and those of the priesthood. On this day also, two goats were brought before the altar and lots were cast to see which one would be slain as an offering to the Lord and which would be sent into the desert representing the sin of the people. This goat (for azazel) had a crimson cord of wool tied to its horn and was called the 'scapegoat' (Lev 16:7-10). The blood from the offerings was sprinkled before the ark of the covenant in the Holy of Holies. The sins of the people were confessed by the high priest with his hands on the head of the scapegoat and it was led into the wilderness and pushed off a cliff. Another second crimson cord was tied to the doors of the Temple, and if the sins were forgiven, it is said that the cords (miraculously) turned white.
Before sundown on the eve of Yom Kippur there is a frantic rush to get everything done, but as evening falls an eerie hush descends over Jerusalem and all Israel. For a whole day, the voices of children are heard as they play in the deserted streets where only emergency vehicles pass - and those mostly without sirens. It provides an awesome backdrop to a holy day. It is also a day of fasting both of food and water for observant Jews.
As there is now no temple, there is nowhere to offer the sacrifices for sin. The rabbis have replaced sacrifice with repentance, giving and 'good works of charity' as a substitute. The concept of sacrifice still continues amongst some orthodox Jews with the tradition called 'Kaparot' where a chicken is waved three times overhead and then sacrificed as a sin offering substituting for the sins of the person.
On this day, the synagogues are filled to capacity and beyond. On the first evening of Yom Kippur there is a sung service called 'Kol Nidre' which asks God to annul the people from any vows they have unwittingly undertaken in the previous year.
"The wages of sin is death but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom 6:23). "There is no one who does good, not even one" (Ps 14:3). Sin can only be dealt with by a blood covering. In the Kingdom of God, rewards are given for good works, but ENTRY into the Kingdom is not by works, but ONLY through accepting the blood sacrifice of Jesus for our sins (Jn 14:6).
Jesus is our great High Priest who has dealt with the problem of sin ONCE FOR ALL AND He now sits at the right hand of the Father interceding for us (Heb 7:23-28, 10:11-14). There is now no need for any more blood sacrifices. Our sins are not just covered but completely removed "Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (Jn 1:29). The writer of Hebrews reminds us that the Aaronic priesthood had to offer a sacrifice for themselves and that the blood of animals could only temporarily cover the sin. Because Jesus is a blotted out of the records forever and we are FREE. We can now have assurance of eternal life and not wonder if we may make it to heaven.
In the rabbinic commentary, the Talmud, it records in Yoma 39A:
"Throughout the days of Simeon the Righteous (High Priest in 3BCE) the scarlet cloth would turn white…from then on it sometimes turned white and sometimes not…throughout the last 40 years before the temple was destroyed, it never turned white".
That means that from the death of Jesus in 30 CE, there was no forgiveness for the sin of the people through animal sacrifice. It was no longer necessary.
Prophetically, Yom Kippur foreshadows the time when God the Father will:
"pour out on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him, like the bitter weeping over a first-born" (Zech 12:10).
This is the day when the Lord God will:
"sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean, I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new Spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit within you; and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances" (Ezek 36:25-27).
What a glorious day that will be - a day of national repentance and rebirth, as Israel recognises her Messiah. This may be a future event, but the seeds of it are already occurring in Israel as many are receiving revelation as to the identity of the Messiah, often in supernatural ways. We do not have to wait for that day, we can pray now for an increase in the harvest for those working in the field of Jewish evangelism.