Yom Kippur: Sacred Sacrifice

Jewish Voice’s Staff Evangelist Messianic Rabbi Jack Zimmerman explains the Jewish traditions of Yom Kippur, as outlined in Leviticus 23:26-32 – denying yourself, abstaining from work, and making sacrifices unto God. Then he offers how Yeshua is the fulfillment of this “Day of Atonement.”

In Leviticus 23:26-32 God tells the people how to celebrate the Day of Atonement when they enter the Holy Land. God tells them to gather as a sacred assembly, bring Him a fire offering, to abstain from any work, and to deny themselves. (These last two stipulations God deemed so important He told the Israelites three times).

Why would God remind them to keep these commands? First of all, the Israelites were a stiff-necked people and were slow to follow directions. They needed reminding so that they would obey. Second, denying oneself meant fasting; and the combination of fasting and abstaining from work meant that one’s full focus would be on God. It was like having a date day with God: It’s you and God and nothing else is allowed to interfere. The purpose of focusing on God and God alone was so that the people could enter a state of holiness with God. In Leviticus 19:2, God instructs the Israelites to be holy just as God is holy. Our holiness comes from our total devotion and focus on God.

In those days there was an interesting ingredient to holiness: sacrifice. When the Israelites got into the Promised Land, on the 10th day of the mont of Tishrei was the day that your sins would be forgiven. All your sins of the prior year would be wiped out on this one day.

You had to go out in your field and find an animal that was important to you because it was a source of food and added value to your family. That way, it would be a true sacrifice. You would be giving up something that you truly cared about. The animal must be spotless, without any mark or blemish, perfect in every way.

The family would then bring this ram, bull, or goat to the priest at the tabernacle. The priest would sacrifice your animal and take the blood and go into the most holy place, the inner tent. This was the only day of the year that the High Priest was allowed to do this.  He would take the blood of the sacrificed animal and sprinkle it on the mercy seat of the Ark of the Covenant, or the cover of the Ark.

This festival is called the Day of Atonement. In Hebrew it’s called Yom Kippur. However, Yom Kippur doesn’t translate directly to “Day of Atonement.” It is better translated as “Day of Covering.” This is the day that your sins were covered. It’s almost like God was saying, “It’s all right. I got you covered.”

But blood from sacrificial animals could only cover sins; the blood couldn’t eradicate the sins of the people. At the time, the sacrifice acted more like a Band-Aid that covers a wound. No one could see your scab, but it was still there.

After the High Priest came out of the Most Holy Place and had sacrificed the animal and sprinkled the blood on your family’s behalf, you were cleansed. You were good for another whole year.

This system worked fine until 70 A.D. when Rome came in and destroyed the second temple in Jerusalem. When that happened, there was a major problem because the only place the Israelites could sacrifice their animal offerings was in the holy temple—and the temple had been destroyed.

The rabbis decided to reconfigure how they followed the rules as explained in Leviticus 23:26-32. The decided to just do what they could to honor the law. They couldn’t offer an animal or fire sacrifice, but they could still deny themselves, abstain from work, and consider the day a Sabbath rest with the Lord done in sacred assembly. For the last 2,000 years, Jewish People have been doing just that.

Jewish People today who don’t yet know Yeshua go to Synagogue, repent of their sins, fast for 24 hours, and do no work. After that, they will conclude that God has forgiven them of their sins.

But here’s what Jewish People don’t know. God prepared the Israelites in advance in the wilderness not only to observe the feasts and festivals once they got into the Holy Land, but when the temple was destroyed, God had still prepared them in advance in terms of sacrifice because 40 years before the temple was destroyed, God had already taken care of the sacrifices for them in the once-and-for-all sacrifice of Yeshua.

He’s our Yom Kippur. He’s not just the sacrifice. He is also the tabernacle and the High Priest. In taking care of the sacrifice, God gave the people a three-in-one solution. Yeshua handles it all.

Book Rabbi Jack to speak about Jewish holidays, feasts, festivals, traditions, etc. at your church or congregation. Visit our Church Relations page.

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