This past Tuesday and Wednesday was an exciting time for Orthodox Jews. Perhaps you noticed on your calendar the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. Most Christians don’t understand the significance of this special day, but it truly is the holiest day of the year in Judaism. The Jewish people observe a 25-hour long fast with intensive prayer.
Yom Kippur is a biblical even that is explained in great detail in Leviticus 16. You may be more familiar with the translation, “Day of Atonement.” Leviticus 16:29 mandates that atonement for sins for the Jews take place on the 10th day of the 7th month every year. I have read many definitions of the word “atone,” but my favorite comes from Dyson Hague’s title on this topic in The Fundamentals: At-One-Ment by Propitiation. Sin creates a rift between God and man. Man needs to make amends in order for the fellowship to be repaired. The cleansing from sin made Israel “At One” with God. That is what Yom Kippur is all about, it was the “At-One-Ment Day.” Consider the process in Leviticus 16.
Once a year, the High Priest would make a special sacrifice for the sins of the people. He began by selecting two male goats, a male ram and a young bull.
The High Priest bathed and dressed in special garments.
The High Priest then sacrificed the bull as a sin offering for himself and his family. He brought the blood of the bull, a censer full of burning coals, and two handfuls of incense into the tabernacle. He put the incense on the fire of the altar of incense.
The High Priest entered the Holy of Holies sprinkling the blood of the bull onto the Mercy Seat on top of the Ark seven times with his finger.
After returning outside, he took two male goats and cast lots for them. The first goat was “for the LORD,” and the second would become the “scapegoat.”
The High Priest sacrificed the first goat on the altar for the sins of the people. The blood of the goat was brought into the Holy of Holies and again sprinkled on the Ark seven times.
When the High Priest returned outside to the front of the tabernacle, he took the blood of the bull and the goat sprinkled it onto the “horns” on the altar of sacrifice seven times.
The High Priest called for the scapegoat and laid both of his hands on its head confessing the sin of Israel. He then sent the goat away into the desert. The scapegoat was a symbol for God carrying away the sins of Israel.
Lastly, the High Priest removed his special garments, bathed again, put his regular High Priestly garments back on, and offered up the ram as a burnt offering to make atonement for himself and the people together.
If God required such detail on the Day of Atonement, it was very important for the Jews. For Christians, this is an incredible picture of what Christ did on the cross. In Jesus we see the High Priest, the sacrifice, and the scapegoat once for all. By dying on the cross, Jesus appeased the wrath of God (propitiation) against all those who put their faith in Christ.
Colossians 2:13-15 – And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.
Guilty, vile, and helpless we;
Spotless Lamb of God was He;
“Full atonement!” can it be?
Hallelujah! What a Savior!