YOM KIPPUR 2000
Preparing for the Day of Atonement
Sabbath Day Sermon: Saturday 7 October 2000
The autumn (fall) is a busy time for Yahweh's people when it comes to memorials and celebrations just as it is for the farmer who must quickly gather in his crop before the onslaught of winter. None of these festivals is accidental and has something of great importance to teach believers.
I wonder how many times someone has nagged you to get something done and how often you have been irritated by that person? Very often others see impending danger before we do and what appears to be nagging is in reality a more than justified concern.
In the 1930's in Great Britain there was a lot of antiwar sentiment after the bloodbath of the First World War. People were saying, "Enough is enough! We'll never send our boys to the slaughtering fields again!" As a result there was a lot of pressure to disarm. People thought that if you disarm everybody else would follow suit and everyone would settle down peacefully. Noble though such a sentiment was, it was far removed from reality. As Britain was busily disarming, its historical enemy Germany was rapidly rearming. And even though the Germans tried to assure the world that their rearmament was not aggressive, the wiser in our nation knew that another war was looming on the horizon. Human beings are notoriously gullible and will swallow a lie as readily as eating a favourite meal. Whilst Britain stood militarily weak, those with greater foresight saw what was coming and knew what had to be done. Stupidly, many of the British believed Hitler's lies, and when Neville Chaimberlin returned from Munich in 1938 with a scrap of paper signed by Hitler promising peace, the nation largely swallowed it. Then came the annexation of Austria, the Sudetenland, the Memelland, and the rest of Czechoslovakia and people suddenly realised that they had been hoodwinked. Hitler had just been buying time to enable him to acquire a superior military strength.
When in 1939 the crunch came and war was declared, Britain was not prepared. France was crushed and the small and hopelessly weak British Expeditionary Force (BEF) was withdrawn from France, losing most of its equipment in the evacuation of Dunkirk. By 1940 Britain was in a hopeless situation and it seemed that the end was near. Had it not been for the resolution, will, foresight and genius of Winston Churchill the nation would probably have gone under. He rallied the British people and, against hopeless odds, defended our islands until the stronger American ally entered the war a little over a year later.
There is a stubborn tendency in mankind called the Carnal Nature which resists the truth until the last, terrible moment when everything is about to be lost. It is a sad truth that the vast majority of people will only wake up when someone with greater foresight comes and slaps them in the face, and even then they indignantly cry out in fury. The demise of Great Britain in 1940 is but one example. Time and time again you will read stories of God's chosen people going into rebellion, being besieged by numerically superior enemies, crying for mercy, and then being supernaturally delivered. The number of times God rescued His people in times of national crisis is almost unbelievable. The stubborn, proud heart of man is a most unteachable beast, and he all too soon forgets the lessons of history.
Israel thought she was something special. She knew that God had selected her for a purpose, to be a model nation, to be a spiritual beacon in a dark world, and she grew very conceited and proud because of that. Pride always leads to a fall, without exception, unless dealt with swiftly before it ripens into serious sin. If it is allowed to go too far, then rescue is no longer possible. By the time Yah'shua (Jesus) came into the world the remains of Israel, the southern Kingdom of Judah, had sunk to a low state and was under foreign occupation. And instead of repenting of her sins, she sought solutions in revolutionary movements or compromises with the enemy. Christ's appearance was her last chance to survive as a nation, to repent and return to spirituality, and though they didn't realise it, the festival of Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement, was Yahweh's reminder of the last chance she would receive. They refused their Messiah and within a century, the state of Judah was exterminated. All the Jews who survived the Roman massacres were thrown out of the land and dispersed across the Roman Empire. Her glorious capital, Jerusalem, was laid waste, and on top of the rubble of the Holy City a pagan monstrosity called Aelia Capitolina was built glorifying the pagan gods of Rome. It was to be another 1,900 years or so before Jerusalem was returned to a small remnant of Israel and today it is under threat again from both the Palestinians and the New Order people who want to make it a New Age World Capital. Jerusalem as not known peace for very long.
Yom Kippur, which we celebrate in a week's time, is probably the most important holy day of all. It was given to Israel anciently to remind them of where they stood relative to God and what they had to do to get right with Him. It is, the Scriptures say, an "eternal statute", and is to be celebrated forever, and bears three names: (1) The Day of Atonement, (2) The Day of Judgement, and (3) The Sabbath of Sabbaths.
Throughout Israel's history, Yom Kippur served as a reminder that the daily, weekly, and monthly sacrifices at the altar of burnt offerings made by the Levitical priests on behalf of the sins of the people were not sufficient to atone for sin. Even at the altar of burnt offering the people stood "far away", unable to approach the Holy Presence of God, who was manifest between the two cherubim of the Holy of Holies. On this one day in the year, atoning blood was brought into the Holy of Holies, Yahweh's throne room on earth, by the High Priest who acted on behalf of the people.
If you are like me I expect you find the sight of blood revolting. This vital substance, which the Bible calls the source of the life principle, circulates in our body in vast amounts. Most of you have seen the film we have about the human body and know how amazing this substance is. Is has a tendency to either revolt us or to excite the most depraved of carnal lust. Satan and his followers have always delighted in the spilling of blood, whether human or animal.
So why, before Christ came, was a system of blood sacrifices instituted by Almighty God? What was their purpose? Couldn't He have chosen some other medium like coconut milk or water to represent cleansing? People like myself who are sensitive and who love animals have agonised over this question. There is an answer, and even though we may not perhaps like it, it is nevertheless the unavoidable truth.
The Law of Moses was, as far as animal sacrifices were concerned, only a temporary system, and shows its weakness or "missing link". We read in the Book of Hebrews: "For while the Law foreshadowed the promised blessings without expressing them in reality, it can never make perfect those who continually approach with the same sacrifices year after year" (Heb.1:10, RBV).
The Israelites knew something was missing. In spite of one sacrifice after the other of various types there was still something missing, because Hebrews says a little further on: "..for the blood of bulls and goats is powerless to take away sins" (v.4). Thus the system of animal sacrifices was only a temporary remedy for sin. The sacrifices were only a forerunner, like John the Baptist, preparing the way for something infinitely more important and a better hope. In Hebrews we read further: "...for the Law brought nothing to perfection, but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced through which we draw near to God" (Heb.7:19).
I wonder what the word "sin" actually means to you? In its simplest meaning, it means "missing the mark" as one might miss a target in a shooting competition or taking a wrong turning on the motorway and ending up in the wrong town. Sin is doing wrong. But it is much, much more than that. Sin is not only wrongdoing but it actually kills you. When you sin you are destroying yourself and other people also.
Earlier I took the example of the origins of World War Two. The origins of this war are complex and yet it is also true that without the evil genius of Hitler it might never have been fought. Because of one man's ambition for power and thirst for revenge for his nation's defeat in 1918, millions died and suffered. It was he who fuelled the hatred of his closest henchmen and together they flubbed the hatred of a nation. It is hard to say exactly when or what it was the propelled Hitler on his course of destruction but it is almost certain that it began at some point in his childhood with a single thought. Think of it. A single thought which grew and grew, which ignited hatred in his heart, and which led ultimately to the concentrations camps and millions of war dead.
Every single sin has the potential to evolve into a Hitler. A small seed of jealousy, a tiny kernel of pride, or a little grain of ambition, can evolve into mass murder on a vast scale. Every single human being, from the best to the worst, is capable of doing the most despicable thing. As we read the history of crime we are sometimes surprised when we learn about the peaceful, happy origins of those men and women who became the most violent criminals.
As a rule, most people have no idea how serious sin is. They usually think it is something inconsequential, that we can solve the problem of sin ourselves by simply not repeating the mistake we made earlier. But that doesn't actually solve the problem at all. Once a sin has been committed, it remains, and cannot be effaced. Say a cruel word to someone and that person will never be entirely the same again, even if you later bitterly regret it and make up. The human soul is extraordinarily sensitive, and though it is pretty clever at concealing its sensitivity, the effects of sin leave an indelible mark on it.
When my eldest son was a small boy he threw black unwashable ink onto the beautiful pale blue carpet in my study. Though he was sorry, and though we worked feverishly to clean the mess up, the carpet was marked for ever and completely ruined. Restoring it to its former state was impossible. The only solution would have been to have bought a new one. We would have had to start again. My eldest daughter did the same thing when she pulled a freshly watered pot plant over and covered the same carpet in the living room with wet soil. Though the result wasn't nearly as bad as the ink, there was nevertheless an unmovable brown stain there.
That is what happens when you sin. You stain yourself and those you hurt. Some stains are worse than others, but no matter how small the stain, it is still a stain. And the more stains you get, the more horrible the sight it. Have you ever seen a once beautiful carpet covered in great and small stains ? The carpet soon looks shabby and unattractive.
Try to imagine every time you got yourself dirty and you couldn't wash the marks off your face. What would you look like today? Think of all the times you've got soil on your face, ink, or other marks? What if all the cuts and bruises you have had in your life never disappeared? Can you begin to imagine what you'd look like?
Yes, we can stop sinning and so stop more marks and stains appearing on us, but that doesn't deal with the original stains. They are still there. My two eldest children felt as sorry as they could for the marks they made on that carpet but that didn't remove the stains. True, I accepted their repentance and forgave them, but that did not remove the stains. Unless the new owners of our flat (apartment) in Oxford have removed the carpets, those stains are still there today.
Because God is pure and holy, nothing unclean can enter into His Kingdom. He is pure and spotless. His Kingdom, the world where we shall live after death if we are counted worthy, is also spotless. Only spotless people can inherit it.
It's like certain special occasions that require special dress. You will remember that Yah'shua (Jesus) tells a parable of a marriage and some of the guests were turned away because they weren't dressed properly. To attend the Wedding Feast of the Lamb we have to be dressed in spotless white. The guests have to be pure.
The system of animal sacrifices instituted by the Law of Moses provided only a temporary cleansing for sin. Year after year the sin-stained soul had to come back for cleansing. Since sin is a matter of life and death, originating in fact in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve rebelled, it takes the shedding of life in order to redeem it. Blood is life. That's why Satan delights in the shedding of blood because murder releases the life energy which he literally eats as a parasite. Satan and his demons have no life of their own because they were thrown out of the presence of God when they rebelled. Thus in order to remain alive they must kill or generally cause human beings to sin. When a person sins he loses a small portion of his life energy. Sexual sin releases large quantities of this energy which is why demons are so attracted to it and why they encourage so much perversion.
The only remedy for sin is the loss of life which comes in blood. Many a life has been saved by blood transfusions. Yahweh therefore ordained a way out for man - a temporary way - by the controlled shedding of animal blood. It was revolting to be sure and indeed we read in the Bible that God hates the shedding of blood, and does not delight in animal sacrifices. But it is the only remedy for sin. It's the only thing that actually keeps a soul out of hell! Thus God, who is far more sensitive than us, had to endure animal sacrifice because he loved human beings enough to want to save them.
The Mosaic system of animal sacrifices came to an end two thousand years ago. All born-again Christians know that Yah'shua (Jesus) has provided for our atonement, "...for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" (Rom.2:23-24). Yahweh presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in His blood. Yah'shua's (Jesus') death surpasses and replaces the atonement ritual of the Hebrew temple.
When Christ shed His blood voluntarily He cleansed all the sins of those who willingly receive Him as Lord and Saviour and remain true to Him. A person who confesses his sins, who acknowledges his error, who feels remorse for wrongdoing, and who trust in the atonement of Christ, has all the stains of sins removed from him. He at once qualifies to live in the presence of God the Father in the life to come and can walk with a pure conscience in this life. Each time he sins he can ask forgiveness and be cleansed provided he is making every effort not to repeat that sin again. That is the qualification. If we repeat it again and again with no intention of stopping the sinning, then the blood of Christ is of no effect.
This is the message of Yom Kippur. Next week I shall go into this more deeply so that you can see the intricate mechanisms of sin and forgiveness.
Yah'shua haMashiach (Jesus Christ) is the literal fulfilment of the Day of Atonement. Yom Kippur is His day. Each and every year it comes around to remind us to closely examine ourselves and to deal with unrepented sin which we may have missed. It is a time of close inner examination. Yom Teruah, the Feast of Trumpets, which we celebrated a week ago, was a warning to us to get to work on these things for at a time that we do not know, a Day of Judgement is coming. If we die without having that sin washed away when the Day of Judgement comes, it is too late for us. Our reward is an eternity outside the presence of God. And the only place which is outside His presence is hell.
May Yahweh, the Eternal God, bless you to find the free gift of cleansing and forgiveness which the blood of Christ brings. I pray that during this week we will all look closely at ourselves and get ourselves right before God. In Yah'shua's (Jesus') Name. Amen.
This page was created on 16 February 2001
Last updated on 16 February 2001
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