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.
Read Leviticus 16:11-19 for the full scripture reference.
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.