Yom Kippur means Day of Atonement. This year, Yom Kippur began at sundown on October 8th. For 25 hours, observant Jews will fast, mindful of the reality of their own personal sin and its consequences. Over a ten day period, beginning with Rosh Hashanah, making things right with those they sinned against has been the priority. Restitution, if possible, is also necessary through acts of kindness. Why? It is because Rabbinic Judaism teaches that if the sin of a Jewish person’s life is not dealt with properly during the “ten days of awe,” their name will not be inscribed in the Book of Life for the next year.
While there is certainly nothing wrong with being mindful of those we have wronged, asking their forgiveness, and attempting to make things right in a tangible way, there is something terribly wrong that must be addressed. It is a matter of life and death.
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. – Ephesians 2:8–9
Long ago, the sons of Korah sang:
Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, In the city of our God, His holy mountain. Beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth, is Mount Zion in the far north, the city of the great King. God, in her palaces, Has made Himself known as a stronghold.
Jerusalem was surrounded by Rome’s army under the commanded of Titus. With no avenue of escape, the inhabitants of Jerusalem cowered behind the city walls, asking themselves, “What does our future hold?” Rome’s soldiers were known for the savagery they inflicted on those who dared rebel. The surviving inhabitants of the “city of the great King” would be dragged away in chains, displayed before the jubilant throngs of Rome as the spoil of war.
Why had God withdrawn His hand of protection from His Chosen People, His Holy City, and the golden Temple of which His people were so proud? It must have appeared to those living around Mt. Zion that their world was coming to an end!
The Rest of the Story
Once a year, the Jewish High Priest would enter the Holy of Holies to offer the blood sacrifice of Yom Kippur covering his own personal sins and also the sins of his people for the year ahead. Just before Jerusalem’s fall, Judaism’s religious leaders realized what was about to happen. Without the Temple, the priests’ sacrifices for the sin would no longer be possible. This raised an important question. “How could sin be forgiven?”
Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai knew what was going to happen. Spirited out of the city in a coffin, Zakkai was given permission by Titus to move to Yavneh with some of his talmidim (disciples). There, they were going to create a new Jewish religion, one that would operate without the Temple and its sacrificial system. As a God of order, the Lord had a much larger plan than the formation an alternative Jewish way of life.
In 70 A.D., the walls of Jerusalem were finally breached. The pent-up anger of Titus’ soldiers was released on the Temple. Just as Jesus had prophesied, not one stone was left on top of another. Evidence of that destruction lies today at the foot of the Temple Mount platform. Fast forward. For almost 2,000 years, the new religious system established by Yohanan ben Zakkai and his followers has been in place. In some ways, Yom Kippur is observed by most of the Jewish people of the world. Sadly, Rabbinic Judaism’s man-made system is wholly inadequate in addressing the problem of their sin.
And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. (Hebrews 9:22)
The Story of the Fall
Many who are reading this post are not Jewish. You may be asking, “What does this have to do with me?” Everything! Since Adam ate of the forbidden fruit of the “Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil” (Genesis 3:1-24), every person born has known the difference between the two. Deep down inside, every member of the human race knows something is desperately wrong. They are broken by their own personal sin. There is nothing that any of us can do to change that fact.
Adam and Eve attempted to address the problem of their own sin in their own way. Because of their shame, they hid themselves from God, sewing fig leaves together in attempt to cover their own shame. How did that work out for them? Not so well. In fact, not at all. Something more was needed.
Without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. To restore His relationship with the first couple on earth, God provided a sacrifice for Himself. He killed some of the animals He had made, took their skins, and made clothing to cover the shame of Adam and Eve. He did for them what they could not do for themselves. In Jesus Christ, He has done the same for you and me. Praise God!
Mankind’s religious systems are a lot like the fig leaves sewn together by Adam & Eve. All are a vain attempt to cover our greatest need, the forgiveness of our own personal sin. Only God can do that! That is why Jesus’ words, spoken during the last week of His life, continue to thunder in the ears of all who will listen.
And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34), which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins (Matthew 26:27-28).
If you are a believer in Jesus, your sins have already been covered by the blood shed by our Jewish Savior. With His burial, those sins were removed from the eyes of God. Best of all, with His resurrection, there is no longer any need for fear. Yeshua has conquered Satan and death. To receive forgiveness and eternal life, all you have to do is understand that you are a sinner separated from God and believe in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
PRAY… for the salvation of Jewish people everywhere.
As Yom Kippur comes to an end, please pray that the freely sacrificed blood of the completely sufficient Lamb of God would be applied to the hearts of Jewish people everywhere. Pray that God would use you to explain to the Jewish people you know that the final atonement has already been made, for you and for them.