Friday, September 17, 2010

Yom Kippur

The most important day of the year for the Old Testament Jew was the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, when God accepted the symbolic shedding of animals’ blood as atonement for the sins of all the people, and gave everyone a new beginning.

The deaths of Nadab and Abihu [Leviticus 10] had been a shocking reminder of how important it was to approach God on His terms.

Sin is an outrage against God and the source of terrible harm to ourselves and others. At this point Aaron and his other sons must have felt some fear about entering the tabernacle, knowing that was where Nadab and Abihu had been consumed by the wrath of God.

Now God gave careful instructions to Aaron so that he wouldn't die when he approached God. God made it clear that Aaron and future high priests did not need to be afraid to serve, but there was only one way to approach God. Only the high priest could enter the most holy place, the Holy of Holies, and then only once a year, on the Day of Atonement, and never without the shedding of blood.

God gave instructions in Leviticus 16 on how Aaron was to prepare himself before offering atonement for Israel:
Verse 3 he was to present a bull as a sin offering for himself and his family, and have a ram ready for a burnt offering, also for himself and his family, and in verse 5 he was also to bring two goats as a sin offering for the people, and another ram as a burnt offing for the people.

Verse 4 He had to take off his beautiful outer garments, wash at the basin and put on the simple, white linen garments of an ordinary priest. He had to leave his high priestly robes in the holy place. Laying aside his glorious robes was an act of humiliation, and washing in the basin was an act of sanctification. He was setting himself apart to serve the Lord, and the Lord’s people on this special day.

Remember the night that Jesus took off His outer robe, took a basin of water and became a servant to each of His disciples, as He washed their feet? In a much greater way the Lord Jesus Christ set aside His glory and took on the ordinary body of a little baby, and humbled Himself to die on the cross.

After making atonement for himself and his family, Aaron then made atonement for the people. Verse 7, Aaron presented two goats as a single sin offering. One goat was killed,

Leviticus 16:15-16 "Then he shall kill the goat of the sin offering that is for the people and bring its blood inside the veil and do with its blood as he did with the blood of the bull, sprinkling it over the mercy seat and in front of the mercy seat. Thus he shall make atonement for the Holy Place, because of the uncleannesses of the people of Israel and because of their transgressions, all their sins. And so he shall do for the tent of meeting, which dwells with them in the midst of their uncleannesses."

Remember that the atonement cover was also called the mercy seat, the place where God’s presence dwelt.

Underneath the mercy seat were the ten commandments, each one broken many times by the people. Paul the apostle wrote (quoting from the Psalms, Ecclesiastes and the prophet Isaiah) in Romans 3 that everyone is a sinner, and that sin has so pervaded human nature that "there is no one righteous, not even one. There is no one who understands, no one who seeks God," [Romans 3:11-12] all have sinned and fallen short of God's glory.

The shed blood sprinkled on the atonement cover, covered over the sins of the people. By grace God was willing to show mercy for the people’s sin, and not demand the just penalty of their deaths for breaking His commandments.

The second goat was symbolic of the total removal of sin and guilt from the people,

Leviticus 16:20-22 "And when he has made an end of atoning for the Holy Place and the tent of meeting and the altar, he shall present the live goat. And Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions, all their sins. And he shall put them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who is in readiness. The goat shall bear all their iniquities on itself to a remote area, and he shall let the goat go free in the wilderness."

The man did not come back to the camp until he was sure the goat was gone into the desert; the people’s sins were lost forever in the desert.

Jesus Christ is called the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world. He not only covers you and me with His righteousness, He forgives us and cleanses us from all unrighteousness [1 John 1:9]. There is no need to carry onto our guilt. In Christ you and I are completely forgiven every time we repent. Thankfully, because of the Lord Jesus Christ, you and I don’t have to wait a whole year, we don’t even have to wait for the next minute.

Verses 23-24, Only after the sin offerings had been made could Aaron and the other priests come back into the camp, symbolically wash away the old year and put on their clothes to start afresh. This symbolized their total disassociation with that sin anymore. We are too, completely separated from our sin, we too can put on Christ’s righteousness and start fresh.

Verses 24-25 Finally, the burnt offerings were sacrificed, symbolizing the surrender of the people’s lives to be used by God in anyway that He pleased.

Once our sins have been atoned for, you and I are also to give our lives over to God. Forgiveness and reverence for God go hand in hand. The privilege of forgiveness carries with it the responsibility of commitment and obedience. The Lord Jesus offered Himself up to the Father in total obedience, and you and I are called to do no less.

What Jesus did was not symbolic. What He did was for real. The Bible says He became sin for us [2 Corinthians 5:21], and thereby satisfied all the wrath of God for all the sin. All of sin was transferred onto Jesus, who was taken outside the city gate to be crucified. He took the penalty of sin, but also the guilt of sin. Jesus then literally became the way for you and me to enter into the real Holy of Holies in heaven to stand before God cleansed completely from sin, clothed in pure linen of Christ’s righteousness.

Because of the shed blood of Jesus Christ, there is forgiveness of sins.

Sin subjects us to the wrath of God. So God prepared a ceremonial Day of Atonement when the people could symbolically confess their sins and be completely cleansed of them.

Leviticus 16:29-30 "And it shall be a statute to you forever that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict yourselves and shall do no work, either the native or the stranger who sojourns among you. For on this day shall atonement be made for you to cleanse you. You shall be clean before the LORD from all your sins."

God wanted His people to be clean so they could be with Him, and He with them, together.

Never believe there are many ways to God. There aren’t. God has said, over and over again in His word, that there is only one way to come to Him, and that is through Christ. The whole Levitical system of priests and sacrifices was intended to be a One Way sign for everyone to recognize the Lord Jesus, Messiah.

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Erev Yom Kippur

In order to put the Day of Atonement in perspective, we need to look at the annual festivals God ordained for His people. The sacrifices spoke of the blood that saves and the feast spoke of the food that sustains. Both are of God.

(1) Leviticus 23:4-6 "These are the appointed feasts of the LORD, the holy convocations, which you shall proclaim at the time appointed for them. In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight, is the LORD’s Passover. And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the LORD; for seven days you shall eat unleavened bread."

Passover is about redemption, commemorating God’s redemption of His people from bondage and slavery to Egypt. It took place every spring and celebrated the night when the Lord passed over the homes of the Israelites who put the blood of a lamb on their doorposts. The angel of death did not kill the firstborn in that house. Each household was to eat the lamb for strength for the journey from Egypt, through the desert, to the Promised Land.

The Feast of Passover is fulfilled in the sacrifice of the Son of God, the Lamb Who takes away the sins of the world. Those who put their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ are redeemed from the bondage and slavery to sin and death. Believers take in the life of Jesus first through salvation, then through Bible study and prayer, which gives us strength for our journey through life to the promise of heaven.

The Feast of Unleavened Bread is about sanctification and justification. It commemorated the Israelites departure into the desert, not bringing the yeast of Egypt with them into their new lives. Sanctification is seen in the purging of yeast, symbolizing sin, from their lives.

The Feast Unleavened Bread is fulfilled in every believer who is made free, through repentance and cleansing, from the yeast, or sin, of the old life. This process of purging sin is called sanctification. This Feast was also fulfilled when the Lord Jesus Christ, Who was sinless, became sin for you and me, so that you and I could experience His righteousness in ourselves [2 Corinthians 5:21] This is justification, “Just as if” it were me who paid for my sin.

(2) Leviticus 23:9 -10 "And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 'Speak to the people of Israel and say to them,(A) When you come into the land that I give you and reap its harvest, you shall bring the sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest.'"

First Fruits is about resurrection. It was also held in the spring, and was the dedication of the entire crop that would come, to God – saying that all harvest, all bounty, comes from and belongs to the Lord.

The Feast of First Fruits is fulfilled in the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, Who is called the first fruits in the New Testament [1 Cor 15:20-22], because He was the first one to be raised from the dead. The risen Jesus is the guarantee of bodily resurrection and eternal life for all those who would come after Him.

(3) Leviticus 23:15-16 "You shall count seven full weeks from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering. You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath. Then you shall present a grain offering of new grain to the LORD."

The Feast of Weeks is about the coming of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the church. It took place in late spring, seven weeks after Passover, which is why it was also called Pentecost, which means “fifty days.” It commemorated the wheat harvest, the first harvest of the year, with thanksgiving to God. Oral tradition holds that this was also the time that God delivered His law to Moses.

Pentecost was fulfilled when the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples, which is when the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in every person who is saved began. The Holy Spirit now writes God’s word into the hearts of every believer [Hebrews 10:16]

(4) Leviticus 23:23-24 "And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 'Speak to the people of Israel, saying, In(A) the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall observe a day of solemn rest, a memorial proclaimed with blast of trumpets, a holy convocation.'"

The Feast of Trumpets, called Rosh Hashanah, happened in early autumn and was a day of rest, occurring half way through the Jewish year. Trumpets indicated the Lord’s judgement and will precede the second coming of Christ.

This feast has not yet been fulfilled

(5) Leviticus 23:26-27 "And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 'Now on the tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement. It shall be for you a time of holy convocation, and you shall afflict yourselves and present a food offering to the LORD.'"

Ten days after the Feast of Trumpets came The Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, which was a time of self-examination and repentance and forgiveness. It was the only day of the year they were to fast, they were to deny themselves, and spend the day in worship.

It was a yearly reminder that God's presence among them was based on His grace, His mercy, His love for them, and not on their ability to earn favor with God. God loved His people and wanted them to be reconciled to Him. God wanted them to know forgiveness for their sins.

Erev Yom Kippur, the eve before Yom Kippur, begins at sundown tonight

The Day of Atonement was fulfilled when the Lord Jesus Christ brought His sacrifice of Himself to the real Holy of Holies in heaven. The Day of Atonement will be fulfilled in another way when Israel as a people will turn to their Messiah, repent and be reconciled to God through Christ [Zechariah 12-13]

A post on Yom Kippur will appear here on Friday, September 17

(6) Leviticus 23:33-34, 42-43 "And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 'Speak to the people of Israel, saying, On the fifteenth day of this seventh month and for seven days is the Feast of Booths to the LORD...You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All native Israelites shall dwell in booths, 43that(B) your generations may know that I made the people of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.'"

Five days after The Day of Atonement came The Feast of Booths, late in the fall after the final harvest. The Israelites would make homemade tents out of tree branches and live in them for a week to commemorate how God faithfully provided for them in the desert.

This was typically a very joyful time when all Jews came to Jerusalem to celebrate. The fulfillment of this feast will come in the future, when God establishes His kingdom on earth and the Lord Jesus Christ reigns as king.

Holy days help us remember what God has done for us, and what He will do

Holy days, and special days like anniversaries and birthdays, help you and me commemorate the important things in life that God has done for us. How do you see holidays? Is it a great time to shop the sales, or do you focus on what the Lord has done and is doing, and look forward to what the Lord is going to do? What can you do to bring the focus on God, and to celebrate with thanksgiving?

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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah begins today at sundown, and in ten days public schools across Maryland will be closed in honor of Yom Kippur. You can study these important festivals in the Jewish calendar in Leviticus.

Leviticus 23:24-25, "Speak to the people of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall observe a day of solemn rest, a memorial proclaimed with blast of trumpets, a holy convocation. You shall not do any ordinary work, and you shall present a food offering to the LORD."

Rosh Hashanah means “head of the year,” and is the first of the High Holidays, sometimes called the "Days of Awe,” or “The Ten Days of Repentance.” These ten days are specifically set aside every year to focus on repentance that conclude with the holiday of Yom Kippur. Rosh Hashanah is the start of the Hebrew new calendar year and commemorates the creation of human beings. According to the Jewish calendar, this year is number 5,770.

Rosh Hashanah is characterized by the blowing of the shofar, a trumpet commonly made from a ram's horn, intended to awaken the listener from his or her "slumber" and alert them to the coming judgment. Now it makes sense to read what Paul wrote about the second coming of Christ in

1 Corinthians 15:52: “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.”

Yom Kippur means “Day of Atonement”, and is the most solemn and important of the Jewish holidays.

Leviticus 23:27-31 "Now on the tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement. It shall be for you a time of holy convocation, and you shall afflict yourselves and present a food offering to the LORD. And you shall not do any work on that very day, for it is a Day of Atonement, to make atonement for you before the LORD your God. For whoever is not afflicted on that very day shall be cut off from his people. And whoever does any work on that very day, that person I will destroy from among his people. You shall not do any work. It is a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwelling places."

Leviticus 25:9 "Then you shall sound the loud trumpet on the tenth day of the seventh month. On the Day of Atonement you shall sound the trumpet throughout all your land."

Numbers 29:7-11 "On the tenth day of this seventh month you shall have a holy convocation and afflict yourselves. You shall do no work, but you shall offer a burnt offering to the LORD, a pleasing aroma: one bull from the herd, one ram, seven male lambs a year old: see that they are without blemish. And their grain offering shall be of fine flour mixed with oil, three tenths of an ephah for the bull, two tenths for the one ram, a tenth for each of the seven lambs: also one male goat for a sin offering, besides the sin offering of atonement, and the regular burnt offering and its grain offering, and their drink offerings. Yom Kippur’s central themes are atonement and repentance."

Jews have traditionally observed this holiday with a 25-hour period of fasting and intensive prayer.

Yom Kippur is considered one of the holiest of Jewish holidays, and its observance is held even among the majority of secular Jews who may not strictly observe other holidays. Many secular Jews will fast and attend synagogue on Yom Kippur, where the number of worshippers attending is often double or triple the normal attendance. Yom Kippur is the climax of the"Days of Awe,” and with Rosh Hashanah forms the Jewish High Holy Days.

Just like Christians have Christmas Eve, there is a Yom Kippur Eve called Erev Yom Kippur The day is commemorated with a festive meal, giving of charity, and visiting others to seek or give forgiveness. Virtually all Jewish holidays involve a ritual feast, but since Yom Kippur involves fasting, Jewish law requires a person to eat a big feast on the afternoon before Yom Kippur. Many Orthodox men immerse themselves in a mikvah, which is a special pool of water for purification, on the day before Yom Kippur.

Before sunset on the eve of Yom Kippur ("Day of Atonement"), the congregation gathers in the synagogue. The Ark is opened and two people take from it two Torah scrolls, and the congregation begins a service held only once each year.

Total abstaining from any food or drink usually begins a half hour before sundown and ends after nightfall the following day, and on the day of Yom Kippur it’s traditional to wear white clothes to symbolize one's purity.

Having an understanding of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur gives deeper and richer meaning to what the Lord Jesus Christ has fulfilled in Himself

If this post got you to thinking, please leave a comment and join the conversation

If this post got you to thinking, please leave a comment and join the conversation