Yom Kippur-The Day of Atonement
Yom Kippur falls between the Feast of Trumpets and the Feast of Tabernacles and is the holiest day of the year in the Jewish calendar. Unlike all the other feasts it is not a time of rejoicing but afflicting the soul. In Leviticus 23:26-32 the command for the Israelites to afflict their souls was given three times in that brief passage emphasising the importance of it.
The Day of Atonement has always had great significance in the Jewish calendar but following the Babylonian exile which was considered a judgement from God (Daniel 9:2; c.f. 2 Chronicles 36:21; Jeremiah 25:9-12), fulfilling the law became essential since it was directly linked with Temple service in which atonement was made for the sins of the people.[i]
Leviticus 16:1-34 gives us the precise instructions concerning how the high priest would perform his duties. Interestingly, the instructions in Leviticus 16 for the Day of Atonement follow the death of the two sons of Aaron when they offered profane fire on the altar. This reminds us that we must approach the Lord with reverence and in the way that He has shown us. The high priest would enter into the holy place with a bull offering as a sin offering and a ram offering as a burnt offering. The high priest would wash and then put on the holy garments. The bull offering would be for himself and his house.
The lots and the scapegoat
The high priest would then cast lots for the two goats. One lot would be sacrificed unto the Lord and the other was set free in the wilderness as the scapegoat. But why the need for two goats?
The two goats speak of the completeness and sufficiency of the sacrifice of Messiah Yeshua (Jesus).[ii] The goats represent how Yeshua atoned for sin through one sacrifice and removes sin. The Lord Jesus never sinned, and He was the perfect, unblemished Lamb of God. He was sacrificed as a sin offering and He takes away the sin of the world. Psalm 103:12 says, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.”
Jesus is the High Priest
The book of Hebrews provides a vital commentary on Leviticus, explains what this all means and who Jesus is. We know from the Torah in Leviticus 17:11, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.” Hebrews 9:22 corresponds with this, “And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission.
How then could atonement be made without a temple to perform sacrifices since without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness for sin? Hebrews 10:11-14 answers that exactly.
‘And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, 13 from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. 14 For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.’
This also means that if you turn from your sins and trust in Yeshua as Messiah, you can have your sins forgiven and be reconciled to God.
‘Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:14-16).’
[i] Bryan W. Sheldon The Messiah and the feasts of Israel (Gospel Folio Press, 2007; Port Colbourne), p146
[ii] Peter Sammons Israel’s Holy Moedim and their prophetic significance today (Glory to Glory Publications, 2017; Cambridge), p116.