I love that the events of the Old Testament are a centuries-long love story between God and His people that foreshadows for us an even more intimate relationship with God through the coming Christ and the grace and mercy that is given through His sacrifice on the cross. God initiated relationship with a people that He chose for Himself - the Israelite nation that began with one man, Abraham. He then initiated relationship with the whole world by one man: Jesus Christ. What began as a relationship between God and man through law thousands of years ago is now a relationship of love and grace and mercy that is written on the hearts of all people who have received forgiveness through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
Although I was not born into Judaism, I personally feel a special kinship with the Jewish people because Jesus Christ was born out of the line of the Israelites and the day that I received Him as my Lord and Savior is the day I was adopted by the Father as His daughter. Because of that, I’ve always been interested in understanding Jewish observances and how they are a picture of my Lord, Jesus Christ.
For 24 hours beginning at sundown today, Jews all over the world observe Yom Kippur, The Day of Atonement, which is a day of fasting, repentance and prayer to atone for their sins. Atonement means, “satisfaction or reparation for a wrong or injury; amends.” The Jewish people consider it one of the, if not the holiest day of the year. The Day of Atonement is described in Leviticus, chapter 16, where the Lord spoke to Moses and told him that his brother, Aaron, was to make atonement with a young bull as a sin offering for himself and his household, and a ram for a burnt offering.
Then, Aaron was to take two male goats from the Israelite community. One goat was sacrificed to the Lord for a sin offering for the people. The blood that was shed was sprinkled on the atonement cover (or mercy seat – the cover of the Ark of the Covenant) to make atonement for the Most Holy Place, the Tent of Meeting and the altar, because of the uncleanness and rebellion of the Israelites.
The other goat, the scapegoat, was then presented alive to the Lord. Aaron was to lay both hands on the head of the goat and confess over it all the sins of the Israelites. Then the goat would carry the sins upon itself and be sent out into the desert.
And to the people, God said, "This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: on the tenth day of the seventh month you must deny yourselves and not do any work—whether native-born or an alien living among you- because on this day atonement will be made for you, to cleanse you. Then, before the LORD, you will be clean from all your sins. It is a sabbath of rest, and you must deny yourselves; it is a lasting ordinance. The priest who is anointed and ordained to succeed his father as high priest is to make atonement. He is to put on the sacred linen garments and make atonement for the Most Holy Place, for the Tent of Meeting and the altar, and for the priests and all the people of the community. ‘This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: atonement is to be made once a year for all the sins of the Israelites.’ And it was done, as the LORD commanded Moses.” (Leviticus 16:29-34)
At one time a law was given that a literal goat be given as a scapegoat to carry the sins of the Israelites far away from them. This foreshadowed the Messiah Who would be our scapegoat, taken from within the Israelite community. Yet He willingly gave Himself as a sacrifice as He took on the sins of the world and removed them from us as far as the east is from the west. He also is the Son of the Father, the High Priest, who makes atonement for us, just as God commanded the Israelites all those thousands of years ago.
And at the moment His work on the cross was done, the foot-thick veil that separated the Most Holy Place, the place where God resided and only priests were given access, was ripped from top to bottom. No longer would God’s dwelling be separate from His people because of their sins, but rather He would now reside in the hearts of His people because Jesus Christ made atonement for them all. God was inviting us in to Him for a relationship through grace rather than through law.
I hope we use the precious and fleeting time we’ve been given in this life and the gift of our salvation to let God’s glorious love live in and through our hearts every day of the year until the day in Heaven when we bow before Him – our very Mercy Seat.