Although Judaism considers it the holiest day of the year, most people outside Judaism have never heard of Yom Kippur. Yom Kippur (יום כפור) means "Day of Atonement." It is one of the appointed times on God's calendar: the tenth day of the seventh month. It is a fast day, a day for confessing sins, repenting and asking God for forgiveness. In the days of the Tabernacle and Temple, it was a day of solemn sacrificial rituals for purification and atonement. It was the only day of the year when the high priest was allowed to enter the Holy of Holies.
In the synagogue today, Yom Kippur is filled with beautiful liturgical services during which the congregation confesses their sins and prays through a series of prayers of contrition and petitions for mercy. A spirit of solemn grandeur permeates the air. Tears of repentance moisten people's eyes as their prayers unfold in inspiring, haunting melodies. By the end of the day, when it is time to break the fast, the soul of the worshipper is satiated with the presence of God.
Yom Kippur can be compared to "spring cleaning." After the long winter, some people turn their households upside down, tidying everything, washing the windows, scrubbing the floors and thoroughly cleaning the house. Of course they maintain the home throughout the year, but spring cleaning is an annual time of concentrated and detailed washing and clearing. Spring cleaning gives people the opportunity to take care of messes that accumulate over the year and are otherwise left unattended.
In the days of the Tabernacle and Temple, Yom Kippur was sort of like a spring cleaning (fall cleaning, to be more precise). The idea is that over the course of a year, the Tabernacle (or Temple) became more and more ritually unfit. As people traipsed in and out, they carried with them ritual contamination, sin, iniquity and wickedness. Their trafficking through the holy place left a residue of spiritual pollution. Eventually, that spiritual pollution could accumulate to the point where God would be forced to withdraw His dwelling presence from the sanctuary. To prevent such an outcome, God appointed the purification rituals of the Day of Atonement to cleanse His sanctuary.
Although there is no Temple today, the annual clean-up day is still an important spiritual discipline. The apostles teach that believers constitute a collective Temple of the Holy Spirit. The concentrated day of fasting, confession, repentance and petition for forgiveness is like an annual spiritual clean-up. This does not mean that we do not regularly confess our sins and repent. Nor does it mean that our sins are not forgiven by the blood of Messiah. It simply means that, once a year, it is a good idea to take inventory, straighten things up and scrub down the soul. That's what the Day of Atonement is all about.
The Day of Atonement is a day for humbling one's soul. It is the day for confession, supplication, fasting and weeping. Yom Kippur is about coming near to God.
Jewish custom refers to the Day of Atonement as Judgment Day because of its biblical associations with sin, atonement and forgiveness. The traditional synagogue Day of Atonement service lasts most of the day. Since it is a fast day, the whole day is spent in prayer, confession, study and reflection.
For disciples of Yeshua, the Day of Atonement is a special and significant day. The writer of the book of Hebrews shows us how the rituals of the Day of Atonement foreshadowed the work of Messiah—not in the Temple on earth, but in the heavenly Temple. He carried His own blood into the Holy of Holies of the heavenly Temple. Thus the rituals of the Day of Atonement foreshadow the redemptive work of Messiah.
On the Day of Atonement, we rehearse Yeshua's work on our behalf as we concern ourselves with the cleansing, atoning work of Messiah that has wrought for us forgiveness, pardon and right standing with God.
G'mar Chatimah Tovah!
We wish you a good inscription in the Book of Life.
Yom Kippur begins at sundown on Fri, 29 September 2017.