Yom Kippur

October 5, 2011

This year, Yom Kippur coincides with Shabbat. Yom Kippur is the day of atonement, described in  Leviticus 16:1-34, 18:1-30. The holiest day of the year. This is the one time once a year when the high priest would go in to the holy of holiest, as described in Leviticus 16. On this day of the year our Jewish brethren pray for forgiveness of their sins and ask that they may be inscribed in the book of life.

How wonderful is it then that we can know that we are indeed inscribed in the book of life! We do not need to renew it once a year because we are signed in the blood of the lamb. We thank our Lord that he forgives our sins and saves us through faith, and not works. He doesn’t ignore our works – but he forgives us when we repent in the name of Jesus and come back to him. See Romans 3:21-31, 2 Corinthians 5:10-21, Hebrews 10:1-12.

We can see the specific commands in regard to Yom Kippur in Leviticus 23:26-32:

“And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Also on the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a day of atonement: it shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD. And ye shall do no work in that same day: for it is a day of atonement, to make an atonement for you before the LORD your God. For whatsoever soul it be that shall not be afflicted in that same day, he shall be cut off from among his people. And whatsoever soul it be that doeth any work in that same day, the same soul will I destroy from among his people. Ye shall do no manner of work: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.”

It was a very clear statement – afflict your souls. What does that mean? The Jewish custom has developed this to mean 5 prohibitions on this day: No eating or drinking, no washing (except after bathroom), no ointments, no wearing leather, and no sex.

In Leviticus 16 the role of the high priest on this day is described. In the very chapter after that, we read in 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 an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.” – There’s no atonement without blood. Atonement for sins cannot be achieved, as the rabbis claim, through teshuvah, tefillah and zedaka – repentance, prayer and good deeds.

This day was instituted by God to atone the people’s sins once a year. Do we still need that? Yes, we still need atonement, yes we are still all sinners. What has changed? Jesus! Jesus gave himself as a sacrifice to atone all our sins. Jesus Died. That is were our hope is entirely, in the death of the Son of God under the Wrath of God in our place so that we can stand justified on judgment because of the work and performance of another. Christ died and rose that we may have life. Hebrews 10:19-24

Do we still need to ask for forgiveness when we sin? Do we still need to repent? Of course we do! The life of a born-again believer is marked by constant repentance and admission of sins. So what was the difference that Jesus brought?

1) We can always come to the throne and ask for forgiveness, not only once a year.
2) We can know for sure that we are forgiven as long as we truly and honestly repent with all our heart for the sins we’ve committed, and as long as we forgive others that hurt us.

So why do we still need this day? Why should we still fast and afflict our souls on Yom Kippur? First of all because the Bible says “it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings”. The fast is cutting yourself off from the day-to-day activities, and a concentration on the holy. It’s the perfect time to make a thourough examination of you soul for the year that was. It’s the time to “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith” (2Cor 13:5). It’s also the time to ask people for forgiveness, to straighten out misunderstandings and to restore relations. It’s the time to forgive others, whether they hear you or not.

May we all have a blessed Yom Kippur and be inscribed in the Book of Life through the blood of the lamb. Fast starts at sunset on Friday, and ends at sunset on Saturday, evening. A common custom among Messianic Jews in Israel is to break the fast with a communion.

Some people in Israel greet one another with “may you have an easy fast”. But I claim that a fast is not supposed to be easy. So I say “May you have a beneficial fast”.


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