By DR. CHUCK MISLER, KOINONIA HOUSE —
“Also on the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a day of atonement: it shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD. And ye shall do no work in that same day: for it is a day of atonement, to make an atonement for you before the LORD your God” (Leviticus 23:27-28).
Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is perhaps the most solemn holiday on the Jewish calendar. This day of repentance and reconciliation is observed on the 10th of Tishri, from sunset on Tuesday, September 25 to sunset September 26 this year, and Jews all over the world will take the day off to fast and pray. In a bit of grim irony, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is scheduled to give a speech before the United Nations on September 26. In his speech last year, Ahmadinejad railed against the West and denied the horror of the Holocaust. Israel is asking the world to boycott this year’s harangue from the Iranian leader, especially one offered by an avowed enemy of the Jews on the Day of Atonement.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will not arrive at the United Nations until September 27, the day after Yom Kippur, and Israeli officials do not expect him to meet with U.S. President Barack Obama. Netanyahu will have the opportunity to speak at the United Nations as well, and he will likely speak about the ever-increasing danger of Iran’s nuclear program, the need for harsher sanctions, and the insistence that whatever the cost, Iran must not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons. Ahmadinejad has repeatedly called for the destruction of the state of Israel, and while the world oozes along with painfully slow diplomatic efforts to halt the program, Iran has been charging on toward its nuclear goals.
Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations Ron Prosor expressed the weakness of the diplomatic efforts to stop Iran thus far, telling the Times of Israel last Thursday, “Iran’s nuclear program is like an express train from New York to Washington, and the international community’s response is like a local train that stops at every stop. At one stop Russia wants to get off, at another someone else wants to get on. In order to work, diplomacy has to build up the speed” necessary to stop the nuclear program, he said. “The international community doesn’t have the option of doing nothing,” he warned.
The Day of Atonement
It was on Yom Kippur and this day alone that the High Priest was able to enter the Holy of Holies—after elaborate ceremonial washings, offerings, and associated rituals. This was also the day that two goats were selected, one for an offering and one as the “scapegoat.” The blood of the goat that was sacrificed would be sprinkled seven times on the mercy seat of the ark of the covenant in the Holy of Holies to “make an atonement for the holy place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel and because of their transgressions in all their sins…” (Lev 16:16). Then, after the priest had also sprinkled the tabernacle of the congregation and the horns of the altar, the sins of the nation were ceremonially placed on the head of the scapegoat, which was sent out into the desert, taking the sins of the people away from the camp.
“And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness: And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited: and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness” (Leviticus 16:21-22).
Woven throughout the Old Testament feasts are foreshadowings of God’s plan for the redemption of mankind. As many aspects of the feasts were prophetic, the Day of Atonement is also Messianic. The blood of the sacrifice was sprinkled to cleanse the people. The scapegoat bore the sins, taking them far from the people and out of sight (See also Exodus 30:10; Leviticus 16:2-34; 23:27-31; Numbers 29:7-11).
Yom Kippur traditionally ends with one long note of the Shofar, a musical instrument usually made from a ram’s horn. The significance of the ram’s horn is traditionally rooted in Genesis 22. Here God commands Abraham “Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.” Abraham is called upon by God to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, as a test of his faith. After God halts the sacrifice at the last minute, Abraham spies a ram trapped by his horns in a nearby thicket and offers the animal instead as a sacrifice.
It is interesting to note that this is the first instance in which the word “love” appears in Scripture. God commands Abraham to sacrifice “thine only son Issac, whom thou lovest.” In this passage Isaac is identified as Abraham’s only son. Isaac, the child of promise, and not Ishmael, is the focus of God’s plan here, and it becomes clear that Abraham is acting out prophecy. Mount Moriah is the traditional symbolic location of the Garden of Eden—the place where man first sinned. It is appropriate that the substitution of the ram for Isaac might have prophetically taken place at the very same spot on Mount Moriah where the “only begotten Son” of God was later crucified, paying for the sins of the world.
According to the Jewish Virtual Library, “At the summit of Mount Moriah, traditionally, is the ‘Foundation Stone,’ the symbolic fundament of the world’s creation, and reputedly the site of the Temple’s Holy of Holies, the supreme embodiment of the relationship between God and the people of Israel.
The High Priest alone was permitted to go behind the veil and sprinkle the blood offering in the Holy of Holies once each year. When Jesus Christ died, however, Matthew 27:51 reports that the veil was torn in two. Those of us who have placed our trust in Jesus Christ are able to enter behind the veil and stand in the Holy of Holies, cleansed by the blood of the sacrifice provided by God Himself. We have forgiveness because of the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ on the cross. He is our scapegoat. His blood was sprinkled for our atonement, and because of him we are cleansed and made holy before God. That is something that no enemy or nuclear weapon can ever take away from us.