“29 And this shall be a statute for ever unto you: that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, ye shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, whether it be one of your own country, or a stranger that sojourneth among you:
30 For on that day shall the priest make an atonement for you, to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins before the Lord.
31 It shall be a sabbath of rest unto you, and ye shall afflict your souls, by a statute for ever.” Lev. 16: 29-31
A friend once suggested we spend Yom Kippur rejoicing over the fact Messiah made the ultimate sacrifice for us and our sins have been forgiven once and forever. At first, it seemed like a marvelous idea. Wouldn’t the Father be happy His children are spending all day rejoicing over His wonderful gift? Why would Yahweh want us to afflict our souls once a year forever? Why would we need to?
“…Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” Phil. 2:12
Paul faced the same question. Once we are saved, is there a place for sober minded fear concerning the extent to which we are honest with both the Holy Spirit and our own heart? Should we be deeply concerned with our relationship with God? Paul certainly thought so. He reminded us the Jews in the wilderness had the gospel and yet ignored the voice of God, perishing in the desert. He sternly warned the spirit filled believers of the first century they, also, would die in the wilderness if they ignored the voice of God in the depths of their heart and failed to obey Him.
Jesus likewise warned God’s people, if you are listening to the voice of Yahweh, but not acting on His words in faith, the attacks of the enemy will utterly destroy you. He declared only those who hear and obey God’s voice reap the benefit of the gospel, comparing those who didn’t approach God with an honest and obedient heart to those who build their home on sand.
But aren’t all those who love Jesus already walking in the truth? John implored believers to “walk in the light, as He is in the light,” so the blood of Jesus Christ will cleanse them from all sin. It is the act of responding to the voice of Yahweh, honestly revealing your own fearful heart to Him, crying out for revelation of the truth in a given circumstance, and trusting He will respond to you because of what He did for you in Messiah, that brings you into the light. It is then the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses you from the sin that so easily beset you.
It is perfectly possible for believers to think they are fine with God, when the truth is they are hiding behind a refuge of lies because they simply cannot face the truth about themselves. Many Jews did not seem to understand this, and neither do many believers. Jesus promised, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free,” but some thought they knew the truth already because they were children of Abraham. You are not facing the truth just because you are a believer. The prisons you are in because of sin, fear and unbelief have been unlocked by the death and resurrection of Jesus, but you must walk out the door. It is scary. The truth will destroy everything but itself and leave you alone with God.
In Malachai, God’s people were sure they were fine with the LORD. Yahweh thought differently. His people were stealing the tithe, betraying their wives, and giving Yahweh the maimed and worthless for a sacrifice. Sounds familiar. It is easy in hindsight to see the hideous face of personal sin. However, betrayal, fear, and greed are invisible when they are lying in bed next to you.
The man who hid his talent was shocked He was to be cast into outer darkness. The wedding guest who arrived without the proper attire was speechless. In Deuteronomy 30, God calls His people to return to Him from the farthest corners of heaven and earth and to love Him with their whole heart.
“6 And the Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.” Deut. 30:6
The process of having your heart circumcised does not happen in a day. It is a painful and intimate process. It requires believers to afflict their souls before God. It is a violent act. God knows this, and He is well aware of our aversion to pain. This is why He called us to take Yom Kippur seriously.
Of course, repentance is always available, but what we can do anytime we often never get around to. Yahweh believes this is serious business. And while the gentiles, our adopted brothers and sisters, are not required to observe Yom Kippur, Jewish believers, as the elder brothers and sisters in the family of God, are. It is a family get together, and it is for our own good.
Moreover, these are known as the days of awe. As we see our own brokenness and the immense love of God in providing Himself as a sacrifice for our sin, we should be filled with awe. If the sacrifice of Yahweh’s beloved creatures reveals the immeasurable love of God for His people, how much more the sacrifice of His own self on the cross? How much more awe inspiring is it, that He would do such a thing for a people such as us?
“To every thing there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.” Song of Solomon 3:1
Once we have set apart the day of Yom Kippur for the purpose Yahweh created it, after we have taken a hard, clear eyed look at ourselves, after we have had a good cry and accepted the loving restoration of our God, we can rise up and get ready to party like there’s no tomorrow.
There’s certainly no harm in that.