Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement)
Leviticus 16:29-30 (NASB)
“This shall be a permanent statue for you: in the seventh month
on the tenth day of the month, you shall humble your souls
and do not do any work…for it is on this day that
atonement shall be made for you to cleanse you…”
The Jewish people had many festivals and feasts wonderfully depicting Jesus Christ, the Messiah. Through the divinely decreed sacrificial system of the tabernacle, the people were able to remember, worship, honor, reverence and give thanks for all the LORD God had done for them, as well as for the promises He made for their future. Without a book to continually turn to, the Jewish people depended on the communication of the tabernacle to show them who their God is. Paramount to these communications was the, “Day of Atonement,” (Yom Kippur). C. H. Spurgeon had this comment, “One of the chief of these (the festivals) was the day of atonement, which I believe was pre-eminently intended to typify that great day of vengeance of our God, which was also the great day of acceptance of our souls, when Jesus Christ “died, the just for the unjust, to bring us to God.” Yom Kippur is quite conceivably one of the most important days for the Jewish people.
Yom Kippur occurs on the 10th day of Tishri, the seventh month of the Jewish year, and somewhere between September and October for the Julian Calendar. Due to the marked importance of this day, God left no confusion as to when this day would be. “It was not left to the choice of Moses or to the convenience of Aaron or to any other circumstance which might affect the date; God’s great day of atonement was appointed and predestined by Himself”( Spurgeon, Sermon # 95). So too, was the final day of atonement, by Jesus Christ, set by God occurring only once. “All who dwell on the earth will worship Him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” (Rev.13:8)God made sure this question was settled from the foundation of the world.Yom Kippur was to be the Sabbath of Sabbaths. No matter what day of the week, it was to be considered a Sabbath day. “It (Yom Kippur) is to be a Sabbath of solemn rest for you, that you may humble your souls; it is a permanent statue” (Lev. 16:31).Yom Kippur, an annual day of humiliation and expiation for the sins of the nation. The people were to come with their souls afflicted (i.e. fasting) due to their sin, ready to confess and repent. The High Priest would receive the appropriate sacrifice to be made for all the people, already deemed pure and acceptable by the assisting Levites, and offer it to the LORD God as propitiation for their sin so they may live in the presence of their God for yet another year.
The High Priest
I. The High Priest
For two weeks, the High Priest prepares himself. For he alone was to do the work of atonement. Everyday the High Priest would do the manual work of a priest, from the early morning preparation of the shewbread and the golden lamp stand, to the removing of the ash. It was the one time in the year he would work together with the Levites. The High Priest performed the task of the regular daily sacrifice of the morning and the evening lambs, as well as any other sacrifices that would be done on that day. It was during this time the High Priest also made careful preparation of himself, together with the nation of Israel, having fasted and consecrated himself for the task. Now the solemn day of atonement had arrived. Today the whole nation would learn if the LORD God would accept their offering for atonement as prescribed for them by Moses.
On the Day of Atonement the High Priest performed many washings of his body throughout the day and wore the simple pure white linen garb of a Levite. No glorious priestly garb would be found. It was to be a day of humility and the High Priest would humble himself even as the people humbled themselves. The High Priest came as a man made clean only by the blood sacrifice offered for his household. Spurgeon again clarifies, “ Aaron on that day should be a spotless priest. He could not be so as to nature, but ceremonially, care was taken that he should be clean” (Spurgeon, Sermon # 95).
No other priest went into the tabernacle with the High Priest. He alone, on this day, entered the holy place, prepared the shewbread and filled the golden lamp stand with the holy oil. He prepared the tabernacle for the atonement which would be made for it’s cleansing. The Tabernacle too had been defiled, by the very reason, that defiled human beings had ministered therein.
Today we also have a High Priest, “Holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself”(Hebrews 7:26b-27). Jesus Christ, crucified, dead, buried, risen to forever sit at the right hand of Holy God, our Father.
Jesus, Himself, separated from sinners, had no defilement in Him and who needed no sacrifice for His own sin, choose to take upon Himself the sins of the people so we might once again be reconciled with the LORD God through the purity of His sacrifice.
Jesus also shed His glory when coming to earth and donned the simple natural garb of people, human flesh. It was in this inferior clay that He through the cross went to the heavenly tabernacle to atone for our sins.
II. The Sacrifice
A. Two goats
Two goats were the sacrifice for the sin offering on the Day of Atonement. The High Priest would first check them both very carefully as each one had to be undefiled, perfect and unblemished, a year old. The High Priest cast lots; one was to be the goat whereby the atonement was made, the other, the scapegoat whereby the sin was carried away. We need to say a little bit about the casting of lots for these goats, and none say it better than Spurgeon in his sermon, “…that though this goat (the goat for the sacrifice), like the scapegoat, was brought by the people, God’s decision was in it still… I conceive this mention of lots is to teach that although the Jews brought Jesus Christ of their own will to die; and even the very man who sold Him was appointed to it - so saith the scripture. Christ’s death was fore-ordained, and there was not a man’s hand in it, but God’s”(Spurgeon, Sermon # 95). The scripture tells us, “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD” (Proverbs 16:33).
B. Sacrificial Goat
The first goat, a type of Jesus, was young, vigorous and in its prime even as Jesus was. This goat was taken from the congregation of the children of Israel, bought by the treasury of the tabernacle. Even so was Jesus, taken from the children of Israel, bought for thirty pieces of silver from the treasury of the temple. As the blood of the goat made atonement for the nation of Israel, even so the blood of Jesus made atonement for the world that we may go free, not just for a year, but eternally.
The High Priest takes the blood of the goat, entering into the Holy of Holies sprinkles the blood on the mercy seat and before it. Jesus took His pure, holy blood, entered into the heavenly tabernacle and once for all sprinkled His blood on and before the mercy seat of God, forever making atonement for us. And like the High Priest of old, Jesus also came from the Holy of Holies, in the heavenly place, alive as a witness to us of God’s infallible Word.
The second goat, the scapegoat was not a type of Jesus, but of our sins being carried away. The High Priest would come, lay both hands on the head of this goat, confessing and pleading for the sins of the people. Alfred Edersheim describes the scene after the confession of sins, “And while the prostrate multitude worshipped at the name of Jehovah, the High Priest turned his face towards them as he uttered the last words, ‘Ye shall be cleansed!’ as if to declare to them the absolution and remission of their sins.” The selected man, who was at the ready, would then lead the sin-burdened goat out into the wilderness, never to be seen again. “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgression from us”(Psalm 103:126).
III. The Result
The first result of this sacrifice was the sanctification of the holy things. Rest assured that we are the dwelling place of God today, as revealed by the Apostle Paul, “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16) and we have been sanctified by the sacrifice of the LORD Jesus. The defilement that was our bodily, earthly tabernacle of the LORD God is forever cleansed and purified. The blood of Jesus made an unholy place, holy.
The second result was the removal of our sins. Nowhere is it told us what became of the goat in the wilderness, only God knows. Although many have speculated on its demise, God is quiet on this, and intentionally so. I believe, we as people, would have lost sight of what the goats greater purpose was in light of its fate. The goat was not designed to show us victim or sacrifice but simply the carrying away of our sins. So too, as we see Jesus removed from the cross and brought to the tomb set aside for Him, the rock rolled into place obscuring our view of the Savior. We are not privy to the events transpiring from that moment on until we see Jesus risen and glorified. Again, all we need to know is Jesus has carried away our sins and they are as far away from us, as the east is to west. The rest is a mystery that belongs to God.
The third result from the atonement, and clearly the most precious, is the welcome entry behind the veil into the Holy of Holies. For the Israelites, represented by the High Priest, it was but once a year he was allowed to enter. Everything dependent on the preceding activities having being performed exactly in the order God had ordained through Moses. Nothing could be changed or altered on the pain of instant death. But Jesus, our perfect sacrifice, has obtained for us the grace and boldness to enter into the Holy of Holies, giving us full access to the mercy seat. “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God…let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
Yom Kippur is as important a day for us today as it was for the Israelites thirty-five hundred years ago. Jesus Christ was the final and complete atonement for all the world by the gracious gift of His Father, our God. “For He so loved the world that He gave His only beloved Son that whosoever would believe in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
Yom Kippur is a Sabbath of Sabbaths for us as we remember the final atonement, deeply, gratefully giving thanks for our freedom and our rest from the slavery to sin. Even as the Holy Father freed the Israelites from their slavery to Egypt, Jesus has freed us from our slavery to sin. He has cleansed us thereby sanctifying us and made us holy unto the LORD. We are now made righteous and free to come before the LORD as did Moses in the Tent of Meeting (The Tabernacle) and commune with our God as He directs us in His purposes and plans for the future.
Peter sums it up quite clearly in 1 Peter 2:21-24, “since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in his mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.” Jesus Himself was both our scapegoat and our sacrifice. He both paid for our sin through the purity and holiness of His blood and forever threw our sin into the deep abyss of the sea never again to be remembered. Micah 7:19 concludes for us, “He will again have compassion on us; He will tread our iniquities underfoot. Yes, You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.”
It Is Finished
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