To atone means to cover and every year the people of Israel collectively repented and the High Priest would go in to the Holy of Holies to atone for Israel’s sins. Then one day after hundreds of yearly sacrifices Jesus came and was the final sacrifice and we now have free and open access to God. That is the short version of the story but let’s look at the details, where love Himself is found.
Too many times as Christians we make an unnecessary division of Old and New Testament. The God of the Old is the God of the New and the law of Old was the grace of its time. When you look at the regulations in context of that time period it was God’s way of giving and showing His love. He made a distinction between His people. We read over and over God made a distinction between the Hebrews and the Egyptians during the plagues. Until the ministry of Jesus was accomplished the law represented the way of grace, when the sacrifice was completed we were able to enter fully into that grace. We must make a distinction between Galatians and Hebrews. Galatians tells us as Christians we are Blessed through Abraham and the book of Hebrews written to the Jewish people tells them it is no longer about a system of sacrifices but trusting Jesus as the ultimate sacrifice.
This brings us to what we as Christians can gain from acknowledging the Day of Atonement. Leviticus 23:26-32 NKJV And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 27 “Also the tenth day of this seventh month shall be the Day of Atonement. It shall be a holy convocation for you; you shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire to the Lord. 28 And you shall do no work on that same day, for it is the Day of Atonement, to make atonement for you before the Lord your God. 29 For any person who is not afflicted in soul on that same day shall be cut off from his people. 30 And any person who does any work on that same day, that person I will destroy from among his people. 31 You shall do no manner of work; it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. 32 It shall be to you a sabbath of solemn rest, and you shall afflict your souls; on the ninth day of the month at evening, from evening to evening, you shall celebrate your sabbath.”
To afflict your soul means to humble yourselves. Leading up to Atonement are the Ten Days of Awe where you seek forgiveness from those you have wronged, extend forgiveness towards other and do acts of charity. All of this prepares you for the ceremony of the Priest sending the scapegoat into the wilderness as a symbol of sin being far from God’s people.
We no longer need a scapegoat and we don’t need to sacrifice every year, Jesus is that final sacrifice. Jesus has provided us with the open access the people of Israel longed for in the Old Testament. Let us follow the words of Scripture and humble ourselves and prepare to enter Tabernacles with a pure heart and clean hands.
The last thing that is done on Atonement is you go through the Mikvah, you are baptized. Baptism is not a Christian thing, it is a Bible thing and every year on Atonement Jews enter the Mikvah to be immersed in water symbolizing newness, that the mistakes and sins of the previous year are gone and that they are offering themselves anew to God.
We can all get off track in our lives, we can miss the mark from time to time and that is why God set up His feast calendar. the Feasts are like a guardrail so to speak, to keep our relationship with God on track. So while you may not do a traditional fast or choose to be baptized, or other things associated with Yom Kippur, all of us can take time to humble ourselves before God, repent, spend time thinking on the goodness of God and renewing our dedication to God, His Word and His ways.
None of these feasts are about rules, they are about loving God and setting aside specific and special times to be with Him. This is why God classified the Sabbath as a Holy Day (holiday), so that one day each week would be specifically set aside for you and Him. To set aside the busyness of life and say God this day is for you. It refocuses us and calms us. Take advantage of the calendar God has set up, humble yourself, refocus yourself, and prepare your heart to enter in to Tabernacles, a time when His presence can be more real to us than any other.