Tomorrow at sundown begins one of the holiest days on the Biblical calendar, The Day of Atonement. Our Jewish siblings call it Yom Kippur which is a shortening of the actual translation, Yom Ha-Kippurim.
We first learn about the concept of “atonement” in Exodus 30:10, “Once a year Aaron shall perform the rite of atonement on its horns. Throughout your generations he shall perform the atonement for it once a year with the blood of the atoning purification offering. It is most holy to the Lord.” We see it again but in more detail as we read chapter 16. It explains the sacrifices and offerings as well as the process. Verses 15 through 22 show that blood is the key to cleansing, to atonement.
Leviticus 23:26-32 describe how WE should behave on this day, “The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Now, the tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement; it shall be a holy convocation for you: you shall humble yourselves and present the Lord’s offering by fire, and you shall do no work during that entire day, for it is a Day of Atonement, to make atonement on your behalf before the Lord your God. For those who do not humble themselves during that entire day shall be cut off from the people. And anyone who does any work during that entire day, such a one I will destroy from the midst of the people. You shall do no work. This is a statute forever throughout your generations in all your settlements. It shall be to you a Sabbath of complete rest, and you shall humble yourselves; on the ninth day of the month at evening, from evening to evening you shall keep your Sabbath.” We are to 1) do no work and 2) humble ourselves. But what does it mean in this context to humble oneself?
If we take that word, humble and translate it to Hebrew it would be ‘anah, meaning to be bowed down, afflicted, weakened, or self-denial. These are also descriptor words for fasting. However, I paused when studying this word due to the fact if it was fasting from food why not use the Hebrew word tsum? But, I kept digging. In Isaiah 58:10 we see the same word, ‘anah, used, “if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday.” The translator team for the NRSVue chose the word afflicted here instead of humbled like in the other passage. The Hebrew is the same word, ‘anah. We can compare this and see it is in relation to food. Thus, we are not work nor eat food on the Day of Atonement.
As I mentioned a couple paragraphs above, blood is the needed item to cleanse or rather “atone” for transgressions of the Torah (Law/Instructions). We see in Isaiah 53 that it was foretold through the prophet there would come a time when we would receive the FINAL sacrifice for our sins, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all… Out of his anguish he shall see; he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge. The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out himself to death and was numbered with the transgressors, yet he bore the sin of many and made intercession for the transgressors.” (Isaiah 53:6, 11-12).
Now, if we turn our Bibles to the New Testament we will see WHO that final sacrifice is, “For our sake God made the one who knew no sin to be sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Yeshuah Hamashiach (Jesus Christ) was the spotless lamb, the innocent who made the FINAL blood offering on our behalf for all time. We see that spelled out in Hebrews 9 specifically, it calls out the need for the blood atonement that Christ offered. Verses 27-28 is the culmination, “And just as it is appointed for mortals to die once and after that the judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.”
And so, as we approach Yom Ha-Kippurim let us abide by Yahweh’s instructions, do no work and fast. Remember the Salvation that Yeshuah Hamashiach brings us. “He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, having died to sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24).