"There are many reasons in our modern world not to take Yom Kippur seriously. The popular religious spirit urges us to believe forgiveness is easy and cheaply received so that penitence and uttering confessions with the lips are passé. But God says of this day, 'On this day shall atonement be made for you, to cleanse you; from all your sins you shall be clean before the Lord.'” (Lev 16:30).
Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, The Fast, begins this week.
How can we, disciples of Yeshua, keep Yom Kippur? God gives us these commands for Yom Kippur:
- Don't work: "You shall do no work at all. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live." Lev 23:31
- Deny yourself: "This is to be an eternal commandment: On the tenth day of the seventh month you must deny yourselves—whether native-born or an foreigner living among you."
- Have a holy meeting: "The tenth day of this seventh month is Yom-Kippur; you are to have a holy convocation, you are to deny yourselves, and you are to bring an offering made by fire to Adonai."
- Bring additional offerings: "Present as an aroma pleasing to the LORD a burnt offering of one young bull, one ram and seven male lambs a year old, all without defect. With the bull prepare a grain offering of three-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil; with the ram, two-tenths; and with each of the seven lambs, one-tenth. Include one male goat as a sin offering, in addition to the sin offering for atonement and the regular burnt offering with its grain offering, and their drink offerings."
What does "deny yourself" mean? Messianic scholar J.K. McKee explains,
"Surveying Jewish history, it is very easy to see that fasting—abstaining from food—was most definitely the traditional interpretation and application of what it means for one to afflict himself or herself on Yom Kippur by the time of Yeshua. A direct reference to Yom Kippur appears in Acts 27:9, which says that on Paul’s way to Rome “considerable time had passed and the voyage was now dangerous, since even the fast was already over, Paul began to admonish them.” Here “the fast” (Grk. tēn nēsteian, th .n nhstei,an) is undoubtedly Yom Kippur. Commentators are almost unanimously agreed that this is Yom Kippur. [Christian theologian and scholar] F.F. Bruce explains, “By the ‘Fast’ [Luke] means, of course, the Great Day of Atonement, which falls on Tishri 10.”
Perhaps a bigger question on the minds of many Christians is, do disciples of Yeshua have any business keeping Yom Kippur, fasting, and repenting? After all, Yeshua is our atonement, and in his name is the forgiveness of sins.
My conviction is this: Yeshua did not take away from God's commandments (Matthew 5:17-21), and we know from the gospels that Yeshua celebrated the feasts of the Lord. But what about Yom Kippur - does Messiah's sacrifice cancel God's day of atonement? Consider God's commandment: "This is to be an eternal commandment, wherever you live, whether native or foreigner: you must deny yourselves."
I believe that too much of Messiah faith today is focused on cheap, easy forgiveness. We flippantly approach God, we do not understand how grievous our sin is to Him, it's too easy to say, "Messiah took my sin, so I don't even have to be concerned about my sin; I am a friend of God."
But look at John the Baptist - his message?
"Repent! God's kingdom is coming."
And Messiah’s message?
"From that time on, Yeshua began proclaiming, ‘Turn from your sins to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near!’”
The message of repentance, admission of wrongdoing, remorse for sin, humility, confession to God — this ain’t popular, folks. But it’s biblical.
Yom Kippur is a time for Yeshua’s disciples to come to God in humility, to cease from work, to fast, to meet with the believers, to return to God in repentance.
As the Psalmist said, "A broken spirit you will not despise, and a contrite, chastened heart you will not turn away." Let it be likewise for us on Yom Kippur.