Yom Kippur

This day is the most holy day the Hebrew/Jewish people celebrate every year. This article will share with you where it is in the Bible and how it is “celebrated” today. Having lived in Israel, I can share with you a personal experience. My prayer is that you understand WHY God established this day, and HOW it should influence your life.

Let us first look at verses from the Bible that show the beginning of when this day began.

Here are verses from Leviticus 16:29-31

“It is to be a permanent regulation for you that on the tenth day of the seventh month you are to deny yourselves and not do any kind of work, both the citizen and the foreigner living with you. 30 For on this day, atonement will be made for you to purify you; you will be clean before Adonai from all your sins. 31 It is a Shabbat of complete rest for you, and you are to deny yourselves. “This is a permanent regulation.” (CJB)

These verses share with us that this is a day that is a “high” Shabbat. What do I mean by “high?” It means that it is in essence “more holy” than a regular Shabbat. There is something different.

Verse 29 says it is a day to “deny yourselves.” It is a day that no work is done (which is like a Shabbat) for both the citizen and foreigner. The words, “deny yourselves” is what sets this day apart from other Shabbats. It says this twice in these verses. Jews have taken this to mean, “fast.” It has been understood that for 24 hours there is no food or drink. It does not specifically say this in the Word/Torah, but rabbi’s have said that denying food is the ultimate way to “deny” oneself.

Another important piece that sets this day apart from others is that an atonement will be made to purify the people. This sacrifice will make the Hebrews/Jews clean before Adonai. This sacrifice will purify them for the next year.

Also in these verses are the words (twice), this is to be a “permanent regulation.”

Some people might say that this is only one part of the Bible. Only a couple verses. Let us see if we can find other evidence of this day. In Leviticus 23:26-32 it says:

Adonai said to Moshe, 27 “The tenth day of this seventh month is Yom-Kippur; you are to have a holy convocation, you are to deny yourselves, and you are to bring an offering made by fire to Adonai. 28 You are not to do any kind of work on that day, because it is Yom-Kippur, to make atonement for you before Adonai your God. 29 Anyone who does not deny himself on that day is to be cut off from his people; 30 and anyone who does any kind of work on that day, I will destroy from among his people. 31 You are not to do any kind of work; it is a permanent regulation through all your generations, no matter where you live. 32 It will be for you a Shabbat of complete rest, and you are to deny yourselves; you are to rest on your Shabbat from evening the ninth day of the month until the following evening.” (CJB)

These verses firmly establish what was stated several chapters earlier. It is a reinforcement of the Words already written.

On this day the priests would enter the Holy of Holies with a sacrifice. The first part of Leviticus chapter 16 explains in detail what God expected to have happen on this day. There are TWO goats. One goat was to be slaughtered and established as the sacrifice for ALL the people. This is Leviticus 16:5-19 –

5 “Next, he is to slaughter the goat of the sin offering which is for the people, bring its blood inside the curtain and do with its blood as he did with the bull’s blood, sprinkling it on the ark-cover and in front of the ark-cover. 16 He will make atonement for the Holy Place because of the uncleannesses of the people of Isra’el and because of their transgressions — all their sins; and he is to do the same for the tent of meeting which is there with them right in the middle of their uncleannesses. 17 No one is to be present in the tent of meeting from the time he enters the Holy Place to make atonement until the time he comes out, having made atonement for himself, for his household and for the entire community of Isra’el. 18 Then he is to go out to the altar that is before Adonai and make atonement for it; he is to take some of the bull’s blood and some of the goat’s blood and put it on all the horns of the altar. 19 He is to sprinkle some of the blood on it with his finger seven times, thus purifying it and setting it apart from the uncleannesses of the people of Isra’el. (CJB)

The other goat had ALL the sins of the people placed on it and then it was sent out into the wilderness.  This goat was called the scapegoat. Leviticus 16:20-22 –

20 “When he has finished atoning for the Holy Place, the tent of meeting and the altar, he is to present the live goat. 21 Aharon is to lay both his hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the transgressions, crimes and sins of the people of Isra’el; he is to put them on the head of the goat and then send it away into the desert with a man appointed for the purpose. 22 The goat will bear all their transgressions away to some isolated place, and he is to let the goat go in the desert. (CJB)

As we can see, there are two ways that the sin is cleansed. One is through a slaughter. The other is a sending out into the wilderness.

How does this relate to the New Testament? For those who believe Jesus is the Messiah, we see that Jesus is our Passover Lamb, but we also know that He is the person established as atonement for ALL our transgressions. This day is when we can recognize that God sent Someone to be our atonement. That God sent Someone to be our scapegoat. That Someone is our Messiah.

This day is also the culmination of Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish “New Year”). On Rosh Hashana the Jewish people ask God to write their name in the Book of Life. The next 10 days are the “Days of Awe” and they ask those around them for forgiveness of anything they did wrong in the past year. That way, when Yom Kippur, The Day of Atonement” arrives, they have taken care of all their wrongs against others. They also ask forgiveness from God Himself so that when Yom Kippur arrives they are clean before God and He will “seal” their verdict for the coming year.

In the modern world, living in Israel, this day is definitely set apart. The whole country shuts down – literally. No one drives on the roads (more on that later), the airport even shuts down. No planes in or out for 24 hours.  There is truly a sense of quietness that enters the Land. It is different than a regular Shabbat. Instead of seeing some cars out on the roads, there are none.

This day is supposed to be where one is inside praying and reflecting, or at the synagogue praying. Since there is no Temple, no sacrifices can be made, so fasting is their affliction and they are “hoping” God will seal their name in the Book of Life. They “hope” that they have done enough mitzvot (good deeds) to secure a place with God.

If one doesn’t drive, how do I know what is, or is not, open?

Here is a personal way that I found out… One of our first Yom Kippur’s in the country we had a young woman who came to get baptized. We decided to invite her up for dinner. Thinking she would spend the night with us, we had our meal knowing that Yom Kippur was entering. After dinner she informs us that she wants to return to her hotel. All of a sudden we are in a dilemma. We told her no one drives. She really wants to go. I decided to take her.

The drive to the hotel was the most interesting I have ever experienced. We had to drive about 7 miles into Tiberias. The first village we went through was absolutely horrific. See, on Yom Kippur – because there are no cars in the streets – everyone heads outside to ride bikes and walk in the streets. These people were out, full force, when we drove through. We had people that were pushing on our vehicle as we drove by. People were yelling at us as we went through the village. It was the most tense situation I have ever been in. Once through that scenario it was not too bad. It was quiet roads until Tiberias, and Tiberias – strangely enough – no one was out.

I dropped the young woman off and returned to the house. I saw a few cars out, and who knows what they were doing. With my hazards on I drove slowly, acting like I was having an emergency. Thankfully, driving through the village on my return, the roads were empty.

Some may ask why I tell this story… As I was driving through the village and the people were “condemning” me for driving, I had to wonder why they were not in their homes spending time with God. Why were they finding time to cause problems for someone in the road, rather than talking with God? I found it strange that this is a day when they are supposed to be asking for forgiveness from God and praying that He would seal them in the Book of Life, and they were throwing accusations at someone else. They had no idea why I was driving, yet they were very angry with me. It seemed like a contradiction.

We are all on a journey. On that journey we need to ask God to show us His ways. He wants us to seek Him in Spirit and Truth. This day of Yom Kippur is a day that needs to be set apart. We should stop and reflect on His Atonement for us. We need to recognize that He has asked us to separate ourselves from others.

This day is not a time for us to judge others, rather a time for our personal reflection. There is something to be said about having a day that we set apart to understand God’s atonement for us. We must understand that God truly wants us to be repentant before Him and that we need to evaluate our lives and ask for forgiveness when He reveals things to us. We should be asking God to show us where we have wronged someone. We should be asking God to forgive us for what we have done that has gone against His Word.

As people who believe Jesus is our Atonement, we are blessed that we do not need to sacrifice or enter the Holy of Holies to have our sins removed.  Jesus took care of that when He died for us. Jesus is our answer. We have a freedom to walk knowing that our sins have been redeemed.

I encourage you to begin understanding the calendar that God gave Moses and the Children of Israel. I encourage you to look for the secrets of His Word that can bring a deeper understanding of who your Creator is. Yom Kippur is one day that was established for this reason.

Yom Kippur this year in 2020 begins Sunday at sundown and is celebrated until sundown Monday evening…

 — Rose Horton

Photo by Anton Mislawsky on Unsplash