Yom Kippur 2004
Part 1: In His Presence
Sabbath Day Sermon, Saturday 25 September 2004
"For on that day the priest shall make atonement for you, to cleanse you, that you may be clean from all your sins before Yahweh. It is a Sabbath of solemn rest for you, and you shall afflict your souls. It is a statute forever" (Lev.16:30-31, NKJV).
I welcome you in the Name of Yah'shua our Messiah (Jesus Christ) to this Sabbath day as we come to the end of Teshuvah, or the season of repentance. This evening at sunset Yom Kippur commences, one of the most solemn and sacred days of the divine calendar. Tomorrow we will gather again in the morning and then once again in the evening for the service of Neilah to conclude the festival.
Today I want to share some insights Yahweh gave me a few days ago which I pray will be a blessing to you in understanding Yom Kippur in relation to the New Covenant. But before I do that let me first remind you of the six elements of this holy festival.
Yom Kippur is, first of all, the 'Day of Atonement' or the 'Day of Judgement'. As Yom Teruah points to the Second Coming of Yah'shua (Jesus), so Yom Kippur points to His judgement of the world. This is not small matter. It is not to be a local judgement. It is the judgement of the whole of history, the whole of mankind, and the whole of this planet. 6,000 years of history will be reviewed and all who have ever lived, and as a result of that judgement Yahweh will decide what kind of resurrection and reward everybody will have, and what our eternal status will be. And whilst that actual day may be some years ahead of us still, Yah'shua (Jesus) has commanded us to live as if that day were today. Why? Because when we die, we have no further opportunity to change our destiny. Our death seals that. And whilst the records of our life are all prepared, they are not opened until Yom Kippur. Our judgement is, as it were, suspended until then, unless we happen to be alive when He returns.
The second element of Yom Kippur is what is referred to coming "Face to Face". Whereas we are judged daily by our deeds by Yahweh from a distance, at the final Yom Kippur we shall face Him - the Creator of the Universe - Face to Face. On this day there is no further possibility to hide, pretend, or live in denial. On this day everything about us and what we have ever done is revealed. We will be brought face to face with the reality of our lives. It will be like watching a very speeded-up film of our life from birth to death such that this whole period of time is presented before us in an instant. People who have had near-death experiences have experienced this to some degree. They describe their experience as their entire life flashing before them in a second. And this is right. Condensed in a second we will know everything about ourselves relative to divine love and law. And we will know what Yahweh's Judgement is in a flash, and agree with it without protest, because we will have no defence.
The third element of Yom Kippur what is called 'The Great Day'. Starting this evening at sunset, and lasting 24 hours, we are commanded to review the whole of the preceding year. It is to be our annual "flash back", as it were. That is why those who are able to, are commanded to fast and pray on this day, seriously reviewing their covenants and conduct of the last 12 months. What have we done? What have we achieved? Have we been obedient and faithful? Or have we been in rebellion? Have we moved forwards in our spiritual growth or have we just stood still and stagnated? Or worse, have we slipped backwards? Why have we done these things? What ought we to have done? What can we now do? These are some of the many questions we should be asking ourselves with utmost sincerity - questions we should have been asking ourselves through the whole of Teshuvah. For we are given the opportunity to present all the sins of the previous year together and ask for a collective forgiveness of them. But first we must earnestly review them, make confession and restitution, and ask to be covered by the blood of forgiveness.
The fourth element is, as I have said, 'Fasting'. Those who are serious about their repentance are invited to take no food for 24 hours, depending on their age and health. Light snacks will be available for those who are unable to fast. There will be no main meals. No one is forced to - it must be a matter of personal choice and conscience, knowing that Yahweh has given this as a commandment. I recommend that you get to bed early and abstain from all physical relationships, as the children of Israel were told when they were commanded to approach Yahweh at the foot of Mt. Sinai. Why do we fast? To still the physical processes in our bodies so that we can more clearly focus on the Ruach (Spirit). Fasting gives clarity of mind and heart so that the spirit can arise into our consciousness.
The fifth element of Yom Kippur is 'The Great Shofar' or the Shofar haGadol. This I mentioned to you during Yom Teruah or Feast of Trumpets. You will remember that there are three main Shofar blowings during the year. The first is at Pentecost (Shavu'ot) and is called the 'First Trump', the second is at Yom Teruah and is called the 'Last Trump', and the third is tomorrow evening at the end of Yom Kippur and is called the 'Great Trump'. There is a prophecy in Isaiah about this which reads:
"So it shall be in that day: The great trumpet will be blown; They will come, who are about to perish in the land of Assyria, and they who are outcasts in the land of Egypt, and shall worship Yahweh in the holy mount at Jerusalem" (Isa.27:13, NKJV).
Yah'shua (Jesus) explains more fully what this means:
"And [Yahweh] will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other" (Matt.24:30-31, NKJV).
This happens immediately after the Great Tribulation (v.29) and the Son of Man appears in the sky (v.30). It heralds the great gathering of the elect.
So when you hear the trumpet blown tomorrow evening at the Neilah service, remember that it is a sign of the great gathering together of Yahweh's people.
The sixth element of Yom Kippur is Neilah itself, which means the 'Closing of the Gates'. If our repentance has been sincere, then a special dispensation of grace will be ours, promising healing and reconciliation. Once the trumpet sounds, that special dispensation is at an end for yet one more year. Thereafter we must deal with our sins one at a time. So, please, take the fullest opportunity to use this time for the great gift that it is.
Most Christians find it hard to understand or accept that Yahweh offers special dispensations of grace. They assume it is the same all the year around and that the observance of these festivals is no longer necessary. But this is not true. Yes, grace is available 24 hours a day and every day of the week. But our Heavenly Father loves to bestow gifts upon the obedient and elect. He cannot wait to bless us and embrace us. So He created ordinances in the form of divine appointments, of moedim, the festivals and sabbaths we are commanded to observe at the appointed times. He does this every week in the form of the Sabbath too, and He has likewise given us the Year of Jubilee wherein all slaves are released, all debts cancelled, and all land property is returned to the rightful owners. The Year of Jubilee, which I have promised to speak more of this year, also contains another wonderful promise that looks beyond Yom Kippur and into the eternities - it is the cancellation of the debt of sin, at some distant point of time, for those who did not repent of their sins and who were cast into hell because of their rebelliousness and disobedience. Yes, grace extends into eternity too.
A lot of Christians do not understand what true grace is. Most think it is lawlessness. They think that grace means that Yahweh has dispensed with rules. He hasn't. What He has dispensed with is the curse of the Law, namely, the punishment of Torah which the disobedient rightly receive, whether in temporal punishments or eternal punishments. The Good News is not that the Law has been destroyed by Christ but that its curse - its punishment - has, for whose who believe. For the rest the curses still remain! Thus Paul said to the Galatians: "Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law (Torah), having become a curse for us" (Gal.3:13, NKJV). The Good News is that we can receive forgiveness from sin by accepting the punishment which Christ took upon Himself for us, and can continue to do so each time we sin. The punishment that Christ received did not last for eternity - it lasted for one terrestrial day - a fixed period of time. In one awful day, He took upon Himself the sins of the world - our sins, and paid the price we rightly deserved to pay.
And now I want to share with you that insight I mentioned at the beginning of this sermon. I hope it will encourage you during the coming Yom Kippur not to be afraid or ashamed to do what Yahweh asks of you. For I believe the mystery of Yom Kippur is to be found in the story of the woman caught in adultery. Let's read it together:
"Now early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them. Then the scribes (Torah-teachers) and Pharisees (Prushim) brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, they said to Him, "Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?" This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Yah'shua (Jesus) stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear. So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, "He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first." And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Yah'shua (Jesus) was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Yah'shua (Jesus) had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, "Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?" She said, "No one, Lord." And Yah'shua (Jesus) said to her, "Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more." Then Yah'shua (Jesus) spoke to them again, saying, "I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life"" (John 8:2-12, NKJV).
In this encounter we see and understand the bridge between the Old and the New Covenant. The Old Covenant required stoning for adultery. It was, and still is, a hideous crime against Yahweh and against those who are married. Adultery is a great evil. The woman was worthy of death. Torah pronounced the sentence of execution upon her. We, in our turn, when we turn away from the Living God and follow after our own idols, are committing spiritual adultery and are worthy of death too. Indeed, those who reject Yahweh are dead. They are dead in their sins, and a fearful judgement awaits them.
Now in this story, this woman is completely exposed. She has been caught in her sin and has been accused. She has no escape. She faces death and knows it. She is not pretending she is innocent either. She is not in denial. The stark reality of truth faces her square in the eyes along with the condemnation she rightly deserves. She has broken the Law. She knows what she has done. We don't know why she did. We don't know the background of her crime, and we don't need to. What is important is two things:
2. She is in the presence of Yah'shua (Jesus).
Now what would have happened if Yah'shua (Jesus) had not been there? She would have been executed! But now, there she is, standing in front of the "Light of the World". She makes no appeal to Yah'shua (Jesus) - indeed Yah'shua (Jesus) has been thrust into her situation by those who want to accuse Yah'shua (Jesus) too! They are trying to fault Him - actually, what they want is for Him to forgive her sins directly and so oppose the punishment and cause of Torah. But He does not do that - at least not in the way they want. Instead, what He does, is reveal - by virtue of the fact that he is the "Light of the World" - that her accusers are full of sin themselves. By simply being in His presence they too are exposed as being guilty of breaking Torah and are worthy of punishment. They know if they stone her that they are hypocrites.
So now something quite remarkable happens. Yah'shua (Jesus) is dismissing the whole procedure of the administration of Torah, not Torah itself. He acknowledges the judgement of Torah given by His Father Yahweh. He is not against the Law. Even after He has dismissed the accusation of adultery, is only because of three things:
1. The accusers have gone;
2. She is standing in His presence and is completely naked spiritually; and
3. The condition is that she does not do it again.
Now the only reason people commit sin again and again is because:
1. There is still an accuser present - Satan - in the form of a defiled conscience;
2. Yah'shua (Jesus) is not present in the area where sin is committed; and
3. We have not actually been forgiven.
Christians are fond of saying that you are forgiven "because the Bible says so" but that is only true on one level. Yes, it is true, we are forgiven our sins because of what Yah'shua (Jesus) did on the Cross for us, and yet believers continue to live defeated lives. Why? It is because they are not in Yah'shua's (Jesus') spiritual presence. They may know they are forgiven in their brains because the Word says so but they can never know they are forgiven in their hearts until they have experienced it.
If Yah'shua (Jesus) had not been standing right before that woman, who was spiritually naked and exposed in her crime, what do you think would have happened? She would have been stoned to death. She lived only because Christ stood there before her. She was in His very presence. And once in His presence, the accusers melted away. She was safe. When the Ruach haMashiach (Spirit of Christ) is within you, you too are in the presence of Christ - but that only happens when you confess your sin and expose yourself. Then He comes, but not before. And that is why confession is so important. Thus John would say:
"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us" (1 John 1:9-10, NKJV).
Our accuser today is Torah, that is, Yahweh. And Satan comes to quote it to us but without mercy. I, the sinner, have been given a Saviour - a Deliverer - whom I can confess to, and when I do, desiring to forsake the sin, He comes and I am in His presence. Because He lived the Torah without sin, and became our Passover Offering, its punishment and sting has been taken out - we are able to give all our sin to Yah'shua (Jesus) and He will forgive it. But we must be in His presence. How can we know we are in His presence? Because the guilt will disappear and we will know we have been forgiven! The accusation of demons, or our conscience, or other Christians, or of unbelievers, will melt away, because we will know that the accusation is now without any power at all. It is disarmed. We will know we are free. Yah'shua (Jesus) will then say to me: "Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more".
Now, when you have received a genuine redemption, I promise you that you won't want to sin any more. The power of the desire to sin will be gone. I don't think that woman committed adultery again. Indeed, I don't even think there was any necessity for her to be told not to sin any more - it was said for us. I believe she knew. I believe the desire to commit adultery was forever removed, because now she knew the Truth. She was standing in the Light of Truth. She knew, not just in her brain, but in her heart.
What I don't want is that anyone here or in the Assemblies of Yahweh should make Yom Kippur a mere intellectual exercise. If you do, you'll just sin again and again, because your heart will not have understood. The point is, Yah'shua (Jesus) is available now to speak to your heart so that "you will know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32, NKJV).
You have a unique annual opportunity to do that tomorrow. What I want to do then is show you how so that by the time we come to the evening service of Neilah this will have been no mere ritual but a living experience with the Messiah. I am inviting everyone to follow some simple instructions involving no more that inviting Christ into your awareness of every sin - single and collectively - so that He can speak truth to you and set you free, as He did that woman caught in adultery 2,000 years ago. But before then, you have to honestly examine your life in the light of the commandments. You must be truthful with yourself. That is what I want to ask you to continue doing for the remainder of this Sabbath, and especially during the Yom Kippur Sabbath that begins at sunset this evening. I want to invite everyone to privately and conscientiously start reviewing the sins of the last year - both the sins of commission as well as omission - and to write them down for your own meditation, and then to bring them to the meeting tomorrow. What you do - whether you confess openly or privately, or in counsel with me or another minister - is up to you. There will be no entertainment of any kind starting at sunset - no TV, computer games, or other games. All will be silent.
It will be another year before this opportunity comes again. Let us seize it and gratefully accept the gift of grace, forgiveness and renewal that is being offered to us. Amen.
Click here for Part 2
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Last updated on 30 September 2004
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