Recently, on the Hebrew calendar, Yom Kippur, “Day of Atonement”, was celebrated. This is the most solemn and holy of Jewish observances. It is the one day even many secularist and religiously indifferent Jews show up at synagogue. As reported in the Chicago Jewish Star, “many synagogue seats are sold out and overflow crowds congregate in every type of hall around the country.” So, why so much emphasis on this day?
Let’s look in our Bibles to Leviticus, chapters 16 and 23. Here we learn that once a year, the tenth day of the seventh month was to be a day of total fasting, [the only 24 hour fast period required by Mosaic Law]. “For on this day, he [the priest] shall make atonement, [root meaning-to cover up] for you, to cleanse you, that you may be clean from your sins before the Lord”. (vs.16:30) The high priest would take a bull, two goats, and a ram. One goat would be set aside, the others would be sacrificed. Then he would enter the Most Holy Place and he would sprinkle their blood on the mercy seat, [aka the cover of the ark] first for his sins then for the sins of the people. Then, the high priest would come out from the Most Holy and apply and sprinkle blood on the altar. After this, he would take the live goat and put both his hands on its head and confess over it the sins of the children of Israel. The goat then would be led into the wilderness to an inaccessible region and released. This has become known as the scapegoat.
The New Testament explains that “In those sacrifices, there is a reminder of sins every year for it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sin.” [Heb. 10:3,4] “But Christ [Messiah] came as High Priest….not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered into the Most Holy Place once and for all time, having obtained eternal redemption.” [Heb. 9:11, 12] “By the will of God we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus once and for all”. [Heb.10:10]
Today many people are yearning for release from guilt. Some look to psychologists to ease their conscience. Others turn to drugs or some strange religious philosophy. Humans seem compelled to seek freedom from a guilt laden soul. To the Jews of today, the idea of release from the power of guilt is potent enough to fill their meeting places.
The simple message of the gospel is what all of us need. We must look to God for our forgiveness. Jesus paid the price once and for all time! If we obey Him, His blood cleanses us from all our sins; through repentance [changing our ways and turning toward God], and baptism we can know this release from guilt, and look forward to eternal life when Jesus returns! “So, Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to save those who eagerly are waiting for Him”. [Heb. 9:28]