Yom Kippur is a Jewish holiday that is also known as the Day of Atonement. It is the most important Jewish holiday of the year and is observed by Jewish congregations around the world from the most orthodox to the most progressive. On Yom Kippur faithful Jews present themselves to the Lord in fasting, prayer, scripture reading, and most of all repentance. But many Christians have no idea what Yom Kippur is or where it is from in the Bible. The following excepts from our UrbanFaith Magazine lessons help to provide some clarity about Yom Kippur’s Biblical foundation.
The Day of Atonement was for atoning of all the Children of Israel’s sins and failures, and allowing for God to dwell among them. Only on this day was the high priest allowed to enter into the veiled Holy of Holies, the holiest of areas, without risking death. While sin separates man from God, His love does not want this separation to remain. In these verses, the high priest now sacrifices a goat as a sin offering for the people. This sacrifice of the goat represents the blood sacrifice required to satisfy the righteousness and justice of God on behalf of the people. In Judaism, sacrifices are no longer offered since the temple no longer exists, but Yom Kippur remains a day of repentance which is coupled with fasting as a way of expressing humility and remorse before God and community. Thus, God no longer requires sacrifices in Judaism, only a humble heart. It is important to understand that God’s love cannot be expressed unless His justice is satisfied.
One purpose of the Day of Atonement was to cleanse the tabernacle of the uncleanliness introduced into it by the unclean worshipers. The rituals we see here allowed for God’s continual presence among His people. For the second time, the high priest enters the Holy of Holies and sprinkles the blood of the goat on and in front of the mercy seat and over the altar. Now we see that he is atoning not only for the people, but also the place itself. For both Jews and Christians, it is no longer the Old Testament temple or tabernacle, but our entire beings that are the tabernacles in which God dwells. For Christians, the sacrifice of Jesus atoned for our sins and cleansed our tabernacles—our bodies, souls, and spirits—in the sight of God.
God provided the Day of Atonement so that His flawed and often sinful people could “ offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship” (from Romans 12:1, NIV). Pray and ask God to help you in this area. Commit to believing that not only does God love and accept you the way you are, but more importantly, He is ready to use you without hesitation or exception. Tell God that you are ready for Him to use you, today.
There is a widespread myth in many churches that God sends generational curses on people for the sins of their parents. The myth argues that I am being punished by God because my father or mother sinned against God, didn’t repent for a sin, or did something wrong. The belief in this myth is often rooted more in experience than in the truth of God’s Word. Sometimes people feel like their difficulties must be a punishment from God, and yet the blame for that punishment rests on their parents who should have done something differently. However, Ezekiel 18:1-4 (NLT) says:
“Then another message came to me from the LORD:
“Why do you quote this proverb concerning the land of Israel: ‘The parents have eaten sour grapes, but their children’s mouths pucker at the taste’?
As surely as I live, says the Sovereign LORD, you will not quote this proverb anymore in Israel.
For all people are mine to judge—both parents and children alike. And this is my rule: The person who sins is the one who will die.”
As we read through the rest of the chapter, it is abundantly clear that the Lord does not hold the sins of parents against their children or the sins of children against their parents. In its context, this scripture was particularly important because the prophets made it clear that the judgment of God on Israel was not because of the sins of past generations.
Ezekiel and Jeremiah’s audiences in Israel were going into Babylonian captivity because of their sins against God, not because God was punishing them for the sins of every generation of Israelites up to that point (Ezekiel 18:4, Jeremiah 31:29-30). The Lord judges each person according to their own actions, not the actions of anyone else. Each person in Israel had the ability and responsibility to choose a right relationship with the Lord and to follow His commandments; it was not based on the decision of their parents.
The myth continued even in Jesus’ time. In John 9, Jesus is questioned about why a young man was born blind. The crowd thought it was because of his parents’ sins or his sins. Jesus responds that the answer is neither. He explains that it was an opportunity for God to be glorified when the man was healed (John 9:3). The sins of the man’s parents did not cause the blindness. There was no curse from God for sin.
It is important to note that the sins or wrongdoing of a parent can absolutely impact a child.The characteristics of a parent can also be passed on to his children. We do not have to look far to see how the favoritism of Isaac can be seen in Jacob, or how the infidelity of David hurts his entire family. There are a plethora of statistics that identify significant correlation between adversity and surviving a childhood with a parent who abused drugs or was incarcerated, for example.
But statistics, family history, or precedent cannot define a person, even though they may impact the individual greatly. A person who learns not to trust because of an untrustworthy parent must deal with their trust issues. But they are not punished by God for their parent’s poor choices to lie and abuse trust. In fact, in scripture we see story after story of God empowering individuals to overcome their circumstances and family trauma. Moses went from adopted orphan to prince of Egypt to deliverer from Egypt. David was rejected by his father but became king of Israel. Jonathan stood up to his father Saul in order to save David. Esther was raised by her uncle and was an outcast before she became the queen of Persia and delivered her people.
There is no generational curse for those who follow the Lord. We are free from any curse because of the blood of Jesus Christ. Jesus has freed us from the power of sin, death, hell, and the grave. We have the Holy Spirit living inside of us. We can choose to love God and receive His love. We can receive peace, joy, and freedom through Christ, regardless of what our parents may have done.
We must reject the myth of generational curses as believers. Ezekiel and Jeremiah make that clear. Jesus breaks every curse. We can put our faith in God knowing we are not being punished for the sins of our parents. We can confront our unhealthy family histories and embrace our life-giving family traditions. We can walk in freedom from the myth of generational curses through the power of Jesus Christ our Savior!
Why is Revelation Scary? (It shouldn’t be for believers!)
There are a ton of misconceptions, misinterpretations, and misreadings of Revelation that are extremely popular, which makes it even more difficult for believers to understand what the book means and why it is important. It is the final book of the Bible, the last book written, and in some senses one of the most important books in shaping Christian theology and history, so why are we so afraid to read it?
Revelation is the only true and full apocalypse in scripture. Apocalypse comes from a Greek word meaning “unveiling” or “revealing” which is where we get our English word “Revelation.” Despite the popular rendering there is no “s” at the end of Revelation, because it is meant to be read as a single uncovering or vision of the truth of Jesus Christ and the ultimate judgment and redemption of humanity on earth.
Why is it so different than other New Testament books?
Part of the fear comes from Revelation’s unique content in the New Testament. For a modern reader who has navigated through the straightforward stories in the Gospels, the careful theological explanations of Paul, and the memorable words of encouragement from the other letters of the New Testament, arriving at revelation is confusing. Where did all this stuff about beasts, judgments, and visions come from? We were just reading about being good teaching and being encouraged!
Is it symbolic?
Another reason Revelation scares people is because its contents are largely symbolic visions. The visions are explained in the scriptures themselves in many cases, but in many cases they are mysterious. We like clarity, not mystery! But the ancient Jewish and Gentile audiences hearing or reading this Revelation didn’t have the same issue with mystery. We do not have to read far into the prophetic books of the Old Testament to see Revelation is part of a tradition of visions and mystery that is very much in line with the rest of the Biblical prophets. In fact, Revelation directly draws much of its imagery from Old Testament prophets such as Isaiah, Ezekiel, Zechariah, Jeremiah, Hosea, and others. The interpretation of some parts of Revelation in its context is still debated just as the interpretation of the Old Testament prophecies were debated in the New Testament, Jewish tradition, and even today.
Is it about the end of the world?
But the last reason Revelation is so scary to most people is probably the most widespread: its subject. But even that is misunderstood. Most people think about Revelation as the book about the end of the world. The ultimate judgment of God. The pictures of heaven and hell. Some of those things can be found in Revelation. But the pictures we have seen made popular of heaven with winged angels, clouds, and an old white man with a long beard are not Biblical. The images of hell with fire, pitchforks, and red demons dancing around are not Biblical. Much of that imagery comes from Dante’s Divine Comedy (more commonly known because of Dante’s Inferno), which wasn’t written until hundreds of years after the Bible and was a work of fiction. There are intense images of “heaven” in Revelation, including the throne room of God, the lamb slain from the foundation of the earth, and even New Jerusalem. But the end of the book contradicts much of what people think about heaven. In the end, heaven is not focused on us getting mansions, but all the universe worshipping the Lord. And the Kingdom of God is not us living eternally away from earth, but heaven uniting with earth and God with humans in an eternal city. The images of “hell” are also not what we expect. Hell is pictured as the underworld where the dead rise from to judgment, a never-ending pit where the devil can fall for a thousand years, a figure that is judged itself along with “death and the grave”, and the most popular image of the Lake of Fire where Satan and his followers are eternally tormented. The scriptures don’t explain many details about what this lake is like; simply that it is burning with fiery sulfur. Satan is definitely not in charge there, there are not demons playing, and no horns or pitchforks mentioned at all.
Why should we not be afraid as believers?
But in order to know why Revelation should not be scary for believers at all we need to simply read the first and last chapters. Revelation tells us how we should react in Revelation 22:10-11 says:
10 And he said to me, “Do not seal the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is at hand.
11 He who is unjust, let him be unjust still; he who is filthy, let him be filthy still; he who is righteous, let him be righteous still; he who is holy, let him be holy still.”
This was written almost 2000 years ago. The warning then was to not even seal up the Revelation so that people could read it quickly. And when they heard it, it may not change their behavior. It was meant to encourage those who were following Jesus. The Revelation of Jesus Christ is like the Gospel of John, it is meant to give believers hope by revealing God’s eternal purposes, not to scare us. Revelation is not simply a book of future prophecies. It describes through metaphors the birth of Jesus, the rebellion of Satan, and the deception of humanity right alongside battles, judgments, and the eternal city to come.
For us it can also serve as an important encouragement and part of our faith. The first century readers who were hearing it felt persecuted. They had waited for Jesus to return for decades at that point and didn’t know what to do next. They were beginning to lose hope and question their faith as we hear made clear in the first two chapters with the letters to the seven churches. And the Revelation of Jesus Christ was given to them to remind them that God had everything under control. Jesus will return. Justice will prevail. Wickedness will be punished. Satan will be defeated. People will be united. The dead will rise. The Lord will dwell with humanity. The will of God is being done behind the scenes even when we can’t see it. Our God is in control of everything, and all we have to do is be faithful to Him. It is now revealed that Jesus Christ will overcome our temporary situations ultimately, but for now we can hold onto this encouragement that He is faithful to do everything He promised.
Have you ever looked at someone else’s life and thought how much better theirs seemed to be compared to yours? Maybe it was their confidence that made you say, “Wow, I don’t have it like they do,” or “I wish I could be as bold as they are.” Sometimes we compare material things, accomplishments, and even money. But what reward is there in comparing? Comparison can work to our advantage if what we see from another inspires us to be better. But on the flip side, comparison usually robs us of joy and gratitude for our unique and individually destined path.
As believers, we will experience many things that will try to stop us from living the full and abundant life God intended for us. Comparison is one of those acts that can steal our own joy and appreciation for what God has done for us. Here are 3 major ways that comparison robs us:
Comparison can decrease our own self-confidence
Being confident is a power, and when we begin to measure ourselves to others, we chip away at that power. Being self-assured and having a firm grasp on the truth about who God has called you to be is illuminating and attractive. But spending our time thinking about how our neighbor has “more” than us will lower our sense of certainty in ourselves. As we live and fear God, the Lord will give us strong confidence as stated in Proverbs 14:26. So even if your friend just bought a new, shiny car, it doesn’t mean you have to fall into a spiral of thoughts about how you don’t have a new car. That thought can start with the car but can end in another wave of topics that you can compare yourself to, and that’s not fair to you. Remember that God has given you what you need for your journey, so you can be confident in your own story.
Comparison can create a cycle of dissatisfaction
Think about it: when you compare your life to something that seems better you make it difficult to be fully satisfied. In Philippians, Apostle Paul speaks on some lessons that he learned. He instructs us to be content in whatever state we’re in (Philippians 4:11). This helps us learn to be truly aware and grateful for what’s right in front of us so that we’re not constantly searching for better or different. However, remaining content is easier said than done, and that’s how comparison can seep in and taint God’s preferred perspective for us. Our flesh is weak and doesn’t want to do what’s best. Without the feeling of dissatisfaction being checked, this can create a mind-draining cycle of seeing what’s different, good, unpleasant, pure, better, wrong, and greater in someone else, which can lead to feelings of doubt, jealousy, and even depression. But as believers, we have to lean into God through prayer when we see ourselves sinking in those thoughts. He will be faithful to pull us out of the spiral.
Comparison can rob us of the will power and the motivation to try
The danger is that if comparison goes on for too long, it can cause you to shut down and stop your own efforts toward greatness. The thought that, “Oh, they have it already, or they can do it better, so why should I?” can debilitate our energy to do what God has assigned us to do. Whether it’s to start a business, run a charity organization, go to college, post your helpful blog, or showcase your art, it’s imperative that you push through and do it. Motivation is something that needs to be fed, because you’re not always going to feel “motivated.” We all have those days, and it’s natural to feel unmotivated occasionally. But harmful comparison will always paralyze our motivation and drive to access our destinies. It’s super important that we seek God for our purpose in life so that we can have an anchor in our hearts to keep us grounded when comparison rears its ugly head.
I think it’s safe to say that we’ve all had moments of comparison. If comparison flows from a pure place, it can inspire you, but many times the opposite is true. Be encouraged knowing that God will give you exactly what you need to bless you and bring Him glory . He trusted you with your own gifts, talents, passions, and personality. As you think about comparison, ask God to shift your mind to seeing the good He’s placed in you. As the Word says in Philippians 1:6 (NIV), “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus”. Do not allow the greatness He has begun in you be stolen by comparison. You are too valuable to let that happen.
Have you ever looked at your life and wondered how your needs would be met this week? Have you been in need of advice and not known where to turn? Have you ever wondered what your purpose is? How can you grow in your relationship with God?
The answer to all these questions is prayer. Many of us want to pray, but struggle to figure out how to pray which is the reason why Pastor John Hannah wrote his book: Just Pray: How a Life of Prayer Grows Unshakeable Faith which is now available everywhere and can be found here. UrbanFaith interviewed Pastor John Hannah about his new book Just Pray: How A Life Of Prayer Grows Unshakeable Faith. The full interview is linked above.
Prayer is a foundational part of every Christian’s life, it is literally the way we communicate with God. As we desire to grow in our relationship with God, we must learn how to pray in ways that are powerful and practical. Pastor Hannah leads prayer calls weekly with thousands of people, has spoken and taught on the subject of prayer for decades, and has decided to share his insights on why and how we can grow in our prayer life as foundational to a life of faith through this book.
About Pastor John Hannah
John F. Hannah is the founder and lead pastor of New Life Covenant Church Southeast. A speaker and author, he has impacted thousands of lives through his ministry and dedication to serve. Through his focused desire to teach people how to grow their relationship with God, Pastor Hannah has become renowned for his commitment to prayer. Because of his heart for people, Hannah has traveled the globe speaking in regions of Jiji, Australia, and South Africa and even shared multiple media and conference platforms with acclaimed faith-based leaders Bishop T.D. Jakes and Steve Harvey. He has been married to Anna Hannah for over twenty-five years.