Should Christians care about Yom Kippur?



The Festival of Trumpets is behind us and our focus turns now to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. But is this a day that Christians should pay attention to? Does it have any meaning for those whose atonement was already provided by the precious Blood of Jesus on Calvary's cross?

On Yom Kippur during Temple times, the High Priest set aside two goats - one for God and one for 'Azazel'. He would sacrifice the first goat on the Altar, pouring out its blood as a substitutionary atonement for the sins of Israel. Afterwards, he would lay his hands on the second goat, symbolically placing the sins of the people on it and send it off into the wilderness to wander alone.

For years, I wondered about this. I didn't quite understand it since once the first goat was sacrificed, what then was the purpose of the second? If the blood of the first goat was meant to atone for the sins of Israel then why would the High Priest place Israel's sins on the second goat after that sacrifice had been offered?

After years of wondering, I believe the Lord showed me something this year which I had never seen before regarding the two goats.

The goat offered to atone for the sins of the people took care of sins for which the children of Israel repented.

The second goat, called Azazel in Hebrew (which is another name for the devil) had a different function. What the High Priest laid on 'Azazel' were the sins for which no repentance had been made. Without repentance, those sins did not qualify to be 'covered' by the atoning blood of the first goat. What a powerful picture of the perfect atonement we receive from Jesus!

Now the goat as an animal is symbolic of rebellion and stubbornness, which is at the root of sin. When we fail to repent for our failures in obeying God, it is as if we allow 'Azazel' (the enemy of our souls) to hold on to our failures since we have not taken them to the Lord and been forgiven. He can then 'wander' around in the wilderness of our lives, harassing and/or tempting us to further sin, oppressing us with shame and guilt and feelings of worthlessness. Repentance will keep us from that wilderness.

For the blood washed child of God who has received the Lord's forgiveness and cleansing work through Calvary your sin and my sin - literally - is no more! God erases it and He even said He forgets it. But if we harbor any sin or failure for which we have not repented, that's where we get in trouble.

For example, we may feel justified in being resentful if someone has insulted or offended us. Well, so maybe they have. After all, Jesus did teach us to pray, 'Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass us against us.' Clearly, He was telling us, 'Look, you will get offended in life. It just happens. So here is what you do - forgive.' If we were never going to be offended, He wouldn't have given us instruction into what to do about it!!

During these days leading up to Yom Kippur, I find myself asking the Holy Spirit to convict me of any hidden sin I may not be aware of. Could this be why the psalmist wrote: 'Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and uncover my hidden thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in Your everlasting way.' Psalm 139:23-24

Yom Kippur means something to me this year - more than ever.

Rather than a somber and sorrowful day, for us it's a celebration of the glorious salvation purchased for us on Calvary with the sacred Blood of the Lamb of God who delivered us from our 'goat' nature so that we might become mirror images of Him to the glory of God the Father.

Let us hasten to grant Jesus full access to our innermost thoughts and hidden motives, that we might be totally and completely free for service in the Kingdom of God.

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