This is the holiest day of all God’s feasts; the Day of Atonement. This is the ONE day of the year when the high priest can enter the presence of God behind the veil.
We saw the Day of Atonement activities spelled out for us previously in chapter 16. God’s directions here DO NOT contradict ANY of His previous instructions. But He doesn’t go into the same details as He previously did when prescribing this day’s activities.
The first part of the day was spent by the high priest making a sacrifice for his and his family’s sins. Then the sins of the people as a nation were addressed. Since the consecration of the Tabernacle, this was the only day each year that anyone went beyond the veil of the Holy of Holies. The blood of the sacrifices on this day were brought into the very presence of the Lord. ANY insincerity or deviation from God’s prescribed directions met with disaster for the one doing this task.
I was curious about the term I kept reading, “afflict yourselves.” I had to look it up to be sure I was reading what our Author intended. More bible scholars than I can count have researched this term for me and they say it means to fast both food and drink specifically and to abstain from self-gratifying activities essentially.
Another thing I’m told that Isaiah added to this “affliction” activities is doing good to and for others. This might be an “affliction” to one person and a natural extension to another. The one who is always giving will probably not see this as an “affliction” for themselves. Maybe their “affliction” could be in receiving good from others instead. Just a thought. I know I find it much easier to do things for others than to let others do for me.
God also commanded that there be NO work done on this day. It was HIS day and HE was to be the focus of it from start to finish. He didn’t say no “ordinary” work but “no” work. I am assuming that this did not include the religious leaders who would offer the prescribed offerings and officiate at the Synagogues. This service to God was not considered work but an act of worship.
When looking at how this festival is observed today, the whole nation spends the day in prayer. From sunset of the 10th day until an hour after sunset on the 11th day the people attend prayers services. They also abstain from ALL food and drink, including water; if their health allows it. Their entire day is directed at making CERTAIN God knows they are repentant for ALL their sins of the year. They are trying to obtain His forgiveness and grace for another year and secure their place in the Book of Life for another year.
Here is where my heart breaks for these people. They are still trying to gain something temporary that God willingly gave permanently. I applaud their focus on repentance. I love the idea of doing good for others and giving up grudges. But I cannot fathom having to worry every year if I’ll make it this year onto God’s “nice” list. Sounds more like Santa Clause than God when put this way.
But God provided a way for a permanent place in the Book of Life. It was through Jesus. HE is our atoning sacrifice forever. His work doesn’t have an expiration date on it. He writes your name in permanent ink; blood. He doesn’t use a pencil or start a new list every year. It is a perpetual account of all the names from the beginning of time until the end of time too.
Yes! We will answer for our actions, good and bad, in this life but they are not what gets our name written in His Book of Life. Only accepting God’s free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ gets our name there. To the one who has accepted this gift this holiday should be one of rejoicing instead of fretful remembrance. Rejoice because God has adopted you as His child. Sing praises to Him for His great mercies. And share His good news with ANYONE who will listen. Also, look at your life and see if it lines up with His will for it. Make changes out of LOVE for Him, not out of fear.
Father God, thank You for making a way for me to have a permanent place in Your book. I know I didn’t earn it myself, no matter how hard I work at it. I would fall flat on my face each year and PRAY for better results next year if I had to rely on my own merits. PRAISE GOD I don’t have to!!! Thank You for that security!
THANK YOU JESUS for being my atoning sacrifice! I would be lost without You. Thank You for speaking to the Father on my behalf. Thank You for loving me enough to go through the unimaginable pain You endured; pain beyond the physical realm to separation completely from You Father. I have NO stronger words to offer to state my gratitude and love. Forever and always, Thank You!