Yom Kippur - Day of Atonement

by Joseph Hunting

From the dawn of mankind's sojourn on this planet the human race has been plagued by pestilence and disease. In ancient times these ran their course, but in more recent times medical science has eliminated many of these diseases. However, there is one malady that medical science will never be able to cure. It has been the cause of untold misery and suffering and finally results in death. The Bible calls it sin.

The Universal Jewish Encyclopedia makes this comment: "Among the Hebrew words used to denote sin are het, avon and pasha. Originally het meant a missing of the goal or of the mark as in Proverbs 19:2 which may be translated literally: 'He that hasteth with his feet loseth his way' … avon means crookedness or perversion of the right order. The most grievous sin is pasha or rebellion. The verb is used in 2 Kings 1:1 in reference to Moab's rebellion against Israel, but in the theological sense it means rebellion against God and man's better nature …"

Whatever our beliefs concerning sin may be, the awful consequences of it are the same. All mankind's efforts to eradicate this evil have been to no avail. The "war to end all wars" resulted in a world blood-bath far worse than its predecessor. The League of Nations failed to bring about universal peace. The U.N. has likewise failed to realize its goal. And in the meantime our news media constantly remind us that sin is alive and doing well.

I'm reminded of the old adage: "When all else fails, read the maker's handbook." How often we try to fix some appliance until in desperation we dig up the maker's manual and read the instructions!

And in regard to sin, the Maker's handbook, the Bible, has much to say, not the least important being the Divine judgement cast upon the sinner: "The soul that sinneth, it shall die" (Ezekiel 18:20). On the other hand, there is forgiveness by means of the death of a substitute innocent victim. It is important to refer to the Maker's Handbook for a very vital instruction concerning the death of the victim.

If it was strangled or put to death by poisoning or by any other means other than by shedding of its blood, there would be no forgiveness. The Bible, the Word of God, regards the vital element to be the blood of the innocent victim. "For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: FOR IT IS THE BLOOD THAT MAKES ATONEMENT FOR THE SOUL" (Leviticus 17:11).

Not everybody subscribes to the Maker's remedy for mankind's most malicious malady. Indeed, in ancient times, it was only Israel who knew the secret, and today relatively few avail themselves of the original prescription. The Divine remedy for the forgiveness of sin was outlined to Israel on the original Day of Atonement.

Aaron the High Priest, clad in holy linen garments, sacrificed a bullock for himself and his household, and then presented two goats before the Lord at the Tabernacle. Lots were cast to decide which goat was to be offered for the sin-offering, and which was to be the scapegoat. Aaron then took a censor with incense, and the blood of the bullock, which he sprinkled upon the Mercy Seat in the Holy of Holies. Then he killed the goat as the sin offering for the people and again entered the Holy of Holies to sprinkle its blood on the Mercy Seat. He then sprinkled the remaining blood of the bullock and the goat upon the horns of the altar to hallow and cleanse it.

The remaining ceremony on this most solemn of days was highly significant. Aaron laid his hands upon the head of the scapegoat and confessed over it all the iniquities, sins and transgressions of the people. The goat was then led away as the sin-bearer into the wilderness, never to return to Israel. In latter centuries, the goat was cast over a cliff or headland to die on the rocks below.

This ceremony was repeated every year, year after year, until A.D. 70 when the Temple was destroyed and the long dispersion of the Jewish people began that was to last for nineteen centuries. With no High Priest and no Temple and no Mercy Seat, Israel has been unable to observe this most holy of days as laid down in the Scripture. Instead of sacrifice and the shedding of blood, prayer and fasting have been substituted.

If the original prescription for the forgiveness of sin is not now available because the essential requirements are no longer available, is there another Divine prescription? Whilst prayer and fasting are highly commendable, the essential element, the blood, is no longer available. It has been, as it were, withdrawn from supply.

However, if we continue our search in the Scriptures, we can make an amazing discovery — that there is an atonement that has been made and which still meets the requirements of the shedding of blood for the forgiveness of sin. And furthermore, this was recorded in a special letter written to the Hebrews nineteen centuries ago by one who realized the implications of the Temple's destruction.

"But that appointed time came when Christ the Messiah appeared as a High Priest of the better things that have come and are to come. Then through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with human hands, that is, not a part of this material creation, He went once for all into the Holy of Holies (of Heaven), not by virtue of the blood of goats and calves (by which to make reconciliation between God and man), but His own blood, having found and secured a complete redemption, an everlasting release for us.

"For if the mere sprinkling of unholy and defiled persons with blood of goats and bulls and with the ashes of a burnt heifer is sufficient for the purification of the body, how much more surely shall the blood of Messiah, who by virtue of His eternal Spirit (His own pre-existent divine personality) has offered Himself an unblemished sacrifice to God, purify our consciences from dead works and lifeless observances to serve the ever-living God?" (9:11-14 Amplified Bible).