Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Celebrate Yom Kippur (day of atonement)?

The holiest day?

Yom Kippur, also known as Day of Atonement, is the holiest day of the year according to Jewish tradition.

From the perspective of the finished work of Jesus, this should be perfectly obvious.

Many Christians however, feel obliged to follow after the Jewish traditions and celebrate the feasts and Yom Kippur is where it all comes together for them at a very deep and personal level.

Ultimately it comes down to a choice ...

You either see the shadow and embrace the shadow, or you encounter the Person Himself and experience His embrace.

You are either under the law and feel the need to adhere to the commandments and do the works of the law to achieve your own salvation or you choose to receive the Free Gift of Grace - Jesus Himself in Person ... simple choice ...

Right on to Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur is in the middle between the feast of Trumpets, Rosh Hashanah on 1 and 2 Tishri in the Jewish calendar and the feast of Tabernacles, Sukkot on 15 to 21 Tishri in the Jewish calendar.

On this holiest-than-any-other-day millions of people will be celebrating the traditional Hebrew feast of Atonement day or Yom Kippur, observing all the rituals and traditions that go with it.

From shadow to Reality

So, it may be worth our while to look at how this feast was fulfilled by Messiah Jesus in the finest details imaginable.

Yom Kippur is regarded as the Sabbath of Sabbaths, whereas the preceding Rosh Hashanah (or rather Yom Teruah) is regarded as the new beginning and falls on the first day of Tishri. 

Remember we previously dealt with some of the Jewish feasts hereherehere and here and elsewhere?

As you read, bear this in mind and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you how Jesus fulfilled particular aspects of the feast. Look them up in the scriptures. Study them and let the Holy Spirit speak to you about them. There are many fulfillment that are not even mentioned in this post.

They do what?

Yom Kippur is commemorated on the tenth day of the seventh month (Tishri) in the Hebrew calendar. During this time, stretching from Rosh Hashanah, each and every Jew would have constantly reviewed and contemplated all of his or her sins of the previous year.

Jewish (wrong) tradition has it that God inscribes each person's fate for the coming year into the Book of Life on Rosh Hashanah, and then waits until Yom Kippur to seal the verdict. 

Aren't these traditions just a binding, restrictive, religious force all by themselves?

Compare this tradition with what Paul says in Colossians 2:13-14: And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.

It goes on and on

During the Days of Awe (the period from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur), a Jewish follower of the law tries to amend his or her behavior and seeks forgiveness for wrongs done against God and man. Remember that this is rather in-vain simply because there is no atonement sacrifice offered yet.

So, Yom Kippur is the time for public and private petitions and confessions of sins and guilt accompanied by the prescribed offers and sacrifices for atonement that follow. At the end of Yom Kippur the law-abiding Jew can only but hope that he has been forgiven by God and that the offers he presented to God may have been pleasing to Him. 

The Jewish Talmud states, Yom Kippur atones for those who repent and does not atone for those who do not repent. Hopefully they remembered all their sins and did not miss confession on some ...

And then there is the other person ...

Mostly all of what is done during Yom Kippur depends on the proficiency of the High Priest. If you have a lousy High Priest, you could expect to have few sins atoned for.

And the offer itself ...

Much also depended on the offer presented to God as well as on the effective and accurate transferring of your sins onto the a goat (Azazel - see below). If you had a lousy offer or transfer of sins, you could expect to have poor atonement for your sins.

I am so glad that we have a perfect offer in Jesus and that we have a perfect High Priest in Jesus!


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So, what are the many details?

Very Importantly and strictly according to the law and prescripts, the head priest or Kohen Gadol (in the days of the temple this could only be performed by the head priest) on the day of Yom Kippur, had to follow a precise order and sequence of services, sacrifices, and purification rituals.

As you follow each of these rituals take time to see how they all have been meticulously fulfilled by Christ Jesus.

The first ritual for cleansing of high priest and the priests and the first garment change takes place when the priests immerse themselves in the bath called the mikvah to purify themselves from all uncleanness. The head priest or priests (later times) clothe themselves in special golden garments after immersing and the subsequent washing of hands and feet in the mikvah.

One of the first things to do is the morning offering (Tamid). The chief priest (High Preiets or Kohen Gadol) or priest (Kohen) starts the day by performing the regular daily (Tamid) offering.

The second cleansing and garment change ritual. The Kohen Gadol immerses again in a special mikvah, the sea or copper container in the temple courtyard. He now changes into special linen garments. This time he washes his hands and feet twice, once after removing the golden garments and again before putting on the linen garments.

Prescribed rituals concerning the bull as a personal sin-offering follows. The Kohen Gadol now performs prescribed rituals pertaining to confession over the bull on behalf for himself and his household. He may now pronounce the Holy Name of God, יְהֹוָה or YHVH. As he does so the people immediately fall down on their faces.

The ritual slaughtering of the bull follows. The bull is slaughtered in the prescribed manner as a sin-offering and the Kohen Gadol receives its blood in a bowl.

So, now we have the blood ...

The ritual lottery of the goats now takes place where the Kohen Gadol draws lots over two goats, one being for the Lord and one for Azazel (scapegoat). The Kohen Gadol ties a red band around the horns of the goat for Azazel.

Ritual incense preparation occurs from the altar where the Kohen Gadol takes up a special shovel and scrapes up a heap of embers. Holding the shovel, he throws a hand full of incense into a vessel with much difficulty and in accordance with many rituals and prescriptions.

The incense offering takes place. Holding the shovel and the vessel, he enters the temple’s Holy of Holies (Kadosh Hakadashim). In the days of the first temple when the Ark of the Covenant was still present, he would place the shovel between the poles of the Ark. In latter days (remember the ark had disappeared during the Babylonian siege of Nebuchadnezzar) he would place the shovel where the Ark would have been. He would then burn the incense on the embers according to the prescripts.

The sprinkling of the bull's blood ceremony commences when the Kohen Gadol takes the bowl with the bull’s blood and enters the Holy of Holies once again. He sprinkles the bull’s blood with his fingers eight times before the Ark of the Covenant or where it would have stood (in latter days when the Ark was no more).

The sin-offering for priests (Kohanim) in terms of the goat for the Lord takes place. The Kohen Gadol would now go to the eastern courtyard gate. He lays his hands (semikha) on the goat for the Lord and pronounces confession on behalf of the Kohanim. Once again the people would fall on their faces hearing the Holy Name of God, יְהֹוָה or YHVH pronounced by the Kohen Gadol. The goat for the Lord is then slaughtered and it's blood received by the Kohen Gadol in another bowl.

The sprinkling of goat’s blood ceremony follows when the Kohen Gadol enters the Holy of Holies again and sprinkles goat’s blood from the bowl with his fingers eight times, the same way he did with the blood of the bull and in accordance with prescribed rituals.

Now the sprinkling of blood in the holy place takes place. In the holy place of the temple the Kohen Gadol now takes the bull's blood from the stand where he left it after his previous entrance and sprinkles it with his fingers eight times in the direction of the curtain (parochet) separating the holy place from the Holy of Holies. He then takes the bowl with the goat's blood and sprinkles it eight times in the same manner.

A ceremony involving the smearing of blood on the golden (incense) altar takes place. The Kohen Gadol removes the goat’s blood from the stand and mixes it with the blood of the bull in that bowl. He then smears the mixture of blood on each of the four corners of the golden (incense) altar. He then sprinkles the blood eight times on the altar.

The goat for Azazel ceremony takes place as the Kohen Gadol leaves the holy place in the temple and walks to the gate where the Azazel is being held. Near the gate he places his hands on the goat (Azazel) and confesses all the sins of the people of Israel. This may take some time. The people fall on their faces as soon a they hear the Holy Name of God, יְהֹוָה or YHVH pronounced by the Kohen Gadol

Individual confessions occur during the goat for Azazel ceremony as general confessions are uttered by the high priest. Individuals would mutter and confess their own sins privately. The Kohen Gadol then sends the goat into the wilderness for it never to return. And their sins are gone. Yet, occasionally the goat would return back home. So, in latter years to prevent its return, the goat was led to a cliff outside Jerusalem and pushed off the edge.

The sacrificial animals rituals are done as soon as the Azazel was led of the cliff. The Kohen Gadol removes the insides of the bull and intertwines the bodies and intestines of the animals. Helpers take sacrificial carcasses to the ash heaps (Beit Ha Deshen) where it is burned upon confirmation that the Azazel was no longer amongst the people.

Prescribed Torah (book of the law) readings commence and the Kohen Gadol would now read scriptures whilst passing through the gate amongst the people.

The third ritual for cleansing and garment change. The Kohen Gadol removes his linen garments, immerses in the mikvah in the temple court yard once more and changes into a new set of golden garments. Rituals concerning the washing of his hands and feet before changing are once again observed.

The offering of rams takes place as the Kohen Gadol offers two rams on the outer altar and receives their blood in a bowl. He pours out the bowl on the northeast and southwest corners of the outer altar. The carcasses are then dismembered and the parts burned on the outer altar.

The grain and wine offering commences at the same time as the offering of the rams. A grain and wine (mincha and nesachim) offering is  made with additional (musaf) offerings by the Kohen Gadol.

The ritual burning of intestines takes place. The insides of the initial bull and goat carcasses are now burned on the outer altar by the Kohen Gadol.

The forth ritual for cleansing and garment change commences as the Kohen Gadol removes his golden garments, immerses himself again in the mikvah and changes to a new set of linen garments following the rituals of the washing his hands and feet twice.

The removal of incense is now done by the Kohen Gadol as he returns to the Holy of Holies once more and removes the vessel with incense along with the shovel.

The fifth ritual for cleansing and garment change follows immediately after the exist of the Kohen Gadol from the Holy of Holies. He changes again from his linen garments, immerses in the mikvah and changes into a third set of golden garments by observing rituals concerning the washing of his hands and feet twice.

At last the evening (Tamid) offering commences. The Kohen Gadol concludes the tamid (daily) offering in the special golden garments where after he washes his hands and feet a tenth time.

Can we summarize?

In all these rituals:
  1. the Kohen Gadol wore five sets of garments (three golden and two white linen);
  2. immersed in the mikvah five times;
  3. washed his hands and feet ten times;
  4. sacrifices included two (daily) lambs, one bull, two goats, and two rams, with accompanying mincha (meal) offerings, wine libations, and three incense offerings (the regular two daily and an additional one for Yom Kippur);
  5. the Kohen Gadol entered the Holy of Holies three times; and
  6. the Tetragrammaton or Holy Name of God, יְהֹוָה or YHVH was pronounced three times, once for each confession.
All this with a lot of confusion and controversy

A lot of controversy exist amongst Jewish scholars in explaining how they derived at the many rituals, some of which are not even to be accounted for in the torah.

What is a Christ-follower to do?

What remains for a follower of Jesus is merely to admit:
But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building;
Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.

For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh:

How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
Heb 9:11-14
... and celebrate Jesus!
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