With Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) now past, the next “feast” God set in place is actually a fast, Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement.
So, a (hopefully) really brief history: The Day of Atonement is first mentioned in Leviticus 23:26-32. Basically what happened was the high priest would take one goat, slaughter it and sprinkle blood on the altar of sacrifice to cover up the sins of the entire nation. Then he would be washed from head to toe and put on fresh, white linen clothes and enter the innermost sanctuary…the Holiest of Holies where only he was allowed to enter one day per year. When he came out, he would take another goat, the “scapegoat” and place his hands on the animal, laying all the curses of the sins of the people on it. Then the animal was released to wander in the wilderness, symbolizing that those sins, now covered by the blood of the first sacrifice, were also forgotten by God and put far away from the people.
Okay, so this is gory and pretty gross if we take the time to really imagine the smells and sights and sounds of these sacrifices. But, what I love is that there is still relevance in remembering the Day of Atonement today.
It’s pretty easy to see that Jesus came to be our sacrifice…a perfect, one-time for all eternity, never requiring more bloodshed kind of sacrifice for us. And one fabulous thing is that His blood didn’t just cover up our sin…it actually washed it away! But He is also our High Priest. He is the only one clean enough, perfect enough, worthy enough to approach God. But He gave us a way to enter into God’s Presence, face-to-face, not only just one day a year, but everyday! He is our Intercessor and our Sacrifice.
So, Yom Kippur is, again, a time to remember God’s Lordship in our lives. It’s listed as a feast, even though it is truly a day spent fasting. But this is actually so good to remember that our real feasts in life aren’t around food, but when we feast on the Word and the Presence of God!
Traditionally, Jews have celebrated by fasting from food and work and also resting, repenting and bringing gifts to the Lord. Fasting is simply dedicating a period of time to God and purposefully denying ourselves of something that can easily be given priority over God. This could be food, internet, T.V…etc. Again, just as with Rosh Hashanah, it’s not about fulfilling a formula or performing a particular method. It’s about remembering what God has done for us and putting Him first once again. It’s about realizing that we are actually able to come face-to-face and know Him with the closeness of best friends…..spouses…..a father and his child.
[In case you’re interested, Yom Kippur this year begins at sundown on September 25, 2012. And as a reminder, if you’re interested in diving deeper into how the traditional Feasts impact us as believers today, I recommend The Torah Blessing by Larry Huch. It’s a fabulous resource with great ideas, without placing a burden of legalism on believers. Remember, it’s not about the method…it’s about establishing a memorial honoring the Lordship of God in your life.]