Yom Kippur 2001:
The Day of Atonement
Sabbath Day Sermon: Saturday 22 September 2001
Whether you are aware of it or not, last Monday evening and the following Tuesday, when we celebrated Yom Teruah or the Feast of Trumpets, marked the first of a ten-day cycle in Yahweh's calendar leading to Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement, which we shall commence celebrating on Wednesday evening and the following Thursday. Between Yom Teruah and Yom Kippur is a 9-day period which we discussed last week. With Yom Teruah these constitute what are known as the "Ten Days of Awe", called thus because it is supposed to be a 10 day period of repentance, prayer and fasting in preparation for the most solemn day in the year, the Day of Atonement.
This is no mere symbolic period of time. Every single Festival of Yahweh is consecrated, that is, it is made holy by Him. Just like the 24 hour Sabbath, this period of time is special. Whether we are conscious of it or not, the Almighty Creator has placed His Spirit upon it in such a special way that those who are truly tuned in to Him will deeply and clearly sense what He wants of them.
Let me try and illustrate just what I mean. Let us say that you have received a wedding invitation to join in a week-long celebration. If the couple who are to be married are people you know well and love very much, you will naturally be very happy indeed and look forward to sharing their joy with them. That one week period will be different from other periods of time precisely because of the joy you feel.
When God blesses certain feast days and periods of time He injects something of His Spirit into it. He is present in a very special way. Not only that, but during each period He is present in a different way. Just as one goes to a funeral of a loved one with a heavy heart and much sorrow, so at certain times in the Sacred Calendar we enter with sorrow and at other times with joy. We are in the middle of a nine day period of sorrow right now ... or ought to be.
Of course, I am not saying that you should "pretend" to be sorry. There is nothing quite so pretentiousness or fake emotions. In some countries they hire people to wail and moan during periods of mourning even when they don't feel particularly sad at all. What Yahweh absolutely does not want is that we "put on an act". Rather, He wants us to draw close to Him, to understand what these holy days are for, to meditate on their themes, and to use them to receive a special blessing as we focus our thoughts and hearts on what they are about.
Whether we care of admit it or not, we are constantly sinning. The Scriptures tell us unapologetically that if we say we are without sin then we are self-deluded liars. Accordingly, we are to be constantly on the alert, watchful of ourselves, making sure that we are walking in the path of holiness that befits true believers, calling upon the power of Christ to aid us where human strength fails. This does not mean that we should be walking in terror - life is not to be heavy and depressing - but in the joy of Christ's victory over sin, knowing that not only can we be empowered to rise above human nature but that when we sin inadvertently, that we can, if we genuinely repent, receive a free and full pardon.
Obviously if you are invited to a wedding and don't know the couple who are getting married very well you aren't going to get nearly as much out of it as someone who is close to them. Those who live their religion outwardly only without any real spiritual life will get little out of Yahweh's Feasts and likely find them a time of boredom and restriction. But the problem is not with the Feasts or with Yahweh but with themselves. Similarly, someone coming to a wedding who positive hates one or both of the couple getting married will likely find the experience a torture. But yet again, the problem of "torture" is within themselves.
Yahweh promises that everyone who loves Him and who seeks to obey His commandments, including celebrating His Feast Days with pure hearts, will get much out of them and be inwardly renewed. But you can't experience this for yourselves until you make the effort to be obedient and trusting. Were these feasts of human invention, like some of our pagan festivals like St. Lucia, for example, then such an empty or negative reaction might be understandable. Today I want to share a little of what I have been experiencing these last few days since Monday evening. But before I do, let me remind you of a few things I shared with you last year about Yom Kippur.
Firstly, as we know, the number 10 symbolises perfect holiness. A person who, trusting in Yahweh through the Messiah, obeys and lives the 10 Commandments will at length become holy. Because there are 10 commandments it follows that there are 10 ways in which we can, and do sin. When we are disobeying the 10 commandments we are idolatrous, dishonest, adulterous, covetous, blasphemous, and so forth. This means that at any time there are always 10 potential areas of repentance needed in our lives. Each of the 10 days between, and including, Tom Teruah and Yom Kippur, represents one of the ten commandments. On each day we ought to be meditating, in order, on one of the commandments, to examine our consciences carefully to discover whether we have been true or not. And whenever we discover we have not, we should be repenting and asking for forgiveness. Next year we shall be introducing evening meetings over these ten days and on each day we shall be looking at one of the ten commandments and examining ourselves before the Lord. (For those of you would like to make a study of the Ten Commandments, there is a Temple Course which you will find helpful).
Prior to the coming of Christ, the Hebrews would conclude the "Ten Days of Awe" with the Viddui, which means Confession of Sins which began with a full water immersion or baptism of repentance such as was administered by John the Baptist. The Viddui was repeated ten times on Yom Kippur to underline the seriousness of sin. At this time the High Priest pronounced the Name of God, Yahweh, ten times when He invoked divine pardon on Yom haKippurim.
Yom Kippur is a High Sabbath, a day not only when no regular work is done, but when many prefer to fast and to devote the whole day to prayer and meditation. Fasting is a time when people abstain from eating, drinking, and physical pleasures in order to still the flesh and so enable them to hear and communion with Yahweh better. It helps enhance spiritual experiences.
On the evening before Yom Kippur we shall eat our evening meal one hour earlier than usual to allow those who want to fast to begin fasting from sunset or the fixed time when Sabbath begins. Traditionally there is an evening service called Kol Nidre which means "All Vows" and amongst Rabbinical Jews there are services all day. A special prayer is sung to a sorrowful, traditional melody asking for forgiveness from Yahweh for breaking the vows or covenants which they were unable to fulfil. It is a day when people wear white symbolising purity and calls to mind the promise that our sins will be made as white as snow (Is.1:18). The customary greeting for the day is Gemar Hatimah Torah, which means: "May you finally be sealed for good in the Book of Life". There are many other customs observed by Rabbinical Jews today.
Under the New Covenant of Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) our atonement has been provided for by the Son of God (Rom.2:23-24). So long as we are in Him - trusting Him and obeying His commandments - then we have His blood covering and our Names are written in that Book of Life. Yah'shua (Jesus) is our High Priest in Heaven and has now presented His blood as an offering for our sins (Heb.9:11-12).
The whole purpose of the ceremonial Torah, as well as the Tabernacle Construction, was to teach us that our sins hinder access to the presence of God. Anciently, only the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies, once a year at Yom Kippur, to make atonement for sins, and always with animal blood. Paul tells us in the Epistle to the Hebrews that these offerings only had the power to cleanse the flesh, but could not bring about inward cleansing, which is the prerequisite for fellowship with Yahweh. Just as the High Priest had to be sinless to enter the Holy of Holies, so Yah'shua (Jesus) had to be sinless to live after He entered the grave.
The Old Testament offerings served as a pattern and a prophecy of Christ, who, through His better sacrifice, cleanses the conscience from dead works (Heb.9:13-14). Yahweh determined what was an acceptable sin offering and what was not and finally provided His Son, the Lamb of God, as the sacrifice for the sins of the world (Jn.1:19; 3:16).
The moment Yah'shua (Jesus) died, the veil of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom (Mt.27:50-51). There was an earthquake at precisely that moment. This event is vitally important because it established Yah'shua (Jesus) as being the new High Priest and Lamb of God. No longer must there be an annual sacrifice for sin on our behalf by a human high priest; instead, Christ has made payment for us once and for all. He has entered the Holy of Holies in heaven, not the earthly one, where He today lives to make intercession for His people. Because of what He has done, we no longer need to stand afar off as the Israelites once had to, but can approach the very Throne of Grace. It is now possible for each of us to have direct access to God through the blood of Yah'shua haMashiach (Jesus Christ).
What a different story it is for those who have not received Him as their Messiah! The atonement represented by Yom Kippur is simply not available to them. They, like the Israelites of old, are still standing afar off, with defiled consciences, unforgiven by God, and with no hope in the eternities. Is it any wonder, then, that Yahweh ordained ten whole days of repentance to emphasis how vitally important it is for us to take sin seriously and to do something about it? Even those who are saved in Christ may yet fall away if they do not deal with the sin issue on a daily basis, for if we arrogantly and foolishly believe that we only have to make one confession of faith and that thereafter we have nothing to worry about, then we stand to lose all that we have. Just because a student passes through the Police Academy with flying colours doesn't mean that once he becomes a policeman he can break the law himself! As a law-enforcement officer he most of all is under Law! What sort of a police force would you have if the police were lawbreakers? By the same token, a Christian who has received a free pardon from Christ is expected to set an example and to have a righteousness that exceeds that of the metaphorical Pharisees! What sort of a witness would a Christian present who commits adultery or who is a liar? And when a policeman breaks the law, what happens to him? He is dismissed from the police force!
The old ritual of Yom Kippur is now no longer valid. Forgiveness under the New Covenant comes only in trusting Christ and in repenting from dead works. This is something that should be happening every day. But because we are negligent and careless, Yahweh continues to command that we observe Yom Kippur to remind us of the gravity of sin, and how little unrepented sins soon turn into major ones. In real life, Yahweh sends trial and tribulation to remind us that there are often unrepented sins which must be dealt with if we do not want to pass through the cleansing of hell on the way to heaven when we die. That's right, all sin that is unrepented of - all sin that is not brought to Christ for cleansing - has to be burned out of us before we are admitted to Heaven. And hell is the agent of that. And because hell is a terrible place, Yahweh does not desire that anyone should go there, even though who are only passing through! So even if you are a believer, do not get careless - use these days to honestly and humbly look at yourself, to ask Yahweh to reveal unconfessed and uncleansed sin, and then, once you have been shown it, get on your knees and cry out for forgiveness, and call upon the blood of Christ to cleanse you of all guilt.
For those who refuse to accept Christ, who will not repent of wickedness, who will not receive the cleansing of the Lamb of God, there is only a fearful judgement. That is why Yom Kippur - which is a Day of Atonement for the righteous - is also know as a Day of Judgement for the wicked. And woe unto those who must receive that Judgement! It would have been better for them that they had never been born!
This is not, moreover, a justification for believers to judge unbelievers. It is none of our business. And the reason it is none of our business to judge anyone is because even we, as believers, are still sinners in need of daily repentance. Nevertheless, we have an obligation of warn unbelievers for the sake of their eternal souls.
Before Yah'shua (Jesus) ascended up to heaven to Yahweh after the resurrection, He made two promises to His disciples. The first, was that he would send the Comforter, which happened on the Day of Pentecost, and the second, was that He would come back again (Jn.14:3). Yom Kippur is also the Day of the Second Coming. On this day He will physically return to the earth. And we are told in the Bible that He will return immediately after the Great Tribulation (Mk.13:24-26).
Over the last few days I have spontaneously been looking inwards at myself and wondering what changes I yet need to make in my own life, especially as this is a time of great change. Many things are happening all around us.
On 11 September the United States was hit by a terrorist outrage which has shocked the world, and now governments are openly talking about the need for greater collective security to prevent biological, chemical and nuclear attacks by these demonised people. It may not be long before we lose many of the civil liberties we have taken for granted. It wouldn't surprise me if they try to censor the Internet and cut off what for us is a vital evangelism tool. In Britain they are talking about introducing ID cards for the first time in our history. Economies may very well shake and collapse. And we ourselves are passing through an economic crisis which only the grace of God can deliver us from. There is a mini-judgement going on I the world, and as I have said many times now, Yahweh is judging the House of God to see what it is made of.
Do not be alarmed if you are judged harshly, for so long as you are humble and contrite, and repent honestly and with a sincere heart, calling upon the blood of Christ, you will be forgiven. Like trees cut down because we have grown up in the wrong place, it may be necessary for us to start our lives again, and this time working in Yahweh's strength and will and not our own. When men and women repent of wrongdoing, huge changes can suddenly occur in their lives. Yesterday friends of ours in America asked for our prayers because their family of seven is being evicted from their home with only two week's notice, with nowhere else to go and with no money to move. It is a terrible crisis for them. Another friend is seriously ill from mercury poisoning because of dental fillings. Another friend just had his sister murdered. All around God's people are at this very time being tried. And here we have had our illness and accidents too.
The Judgement of Yahweh is no laughing matter. Yom Kippur, and the days before it, are not a time for mirth. Yahweh has ordained these days to get sorted out. And if we use these especially blessed days for the purpose intended, He promises us grace, forgiveness and healing. But when those days are passed, and the Day of Judgement is upon us, the Day of Grace is over. It is too late. And justice must take its course.
"For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad" (2 Cor.5:20).
"Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope in the glory of God" (Rom.5:1-2).
May these therefore be days of soberness, of self-examination, of repentance, and of salvation in Yah'shua our Messiah (Jesus Christ) both for those who Name His Name and for those who have not yet done so. Amen.
This page was created on 18 October 2001
Last updated on 18 October 2001
Copyright © 1987-2007 NCCG - All Rights Reserved