Yom Kippur was not my favorite Holiday growing up. I don't think
I ever really understood it. I knew I was supposed to fast, to
confess my sins, but that was about all I knew. Most of the Jewish
Holidays, I really liked, had stories I could readily understand
Chanukah, is the story of the Maccabees, and their great victory
and the oil burning for eight days. Passover, when God redeemed
us out of the land of egypt and took down the evil Pharoah. Purim,
the story of Esther's bravery in approaching the king to save
her people, as we all cry boo to evil Haman and yea to brave
and righteous Mordecai.
Those were holidays I could understand. They all followed the
classic Jewish Holiday tradition, the old joke. They tried to
kill us, we won, let's eat!
Even holidays like Shavuot, when we are celebrating God giving
the Law on mt. Sinai, or Sukkot, tabernacles, where we all live
in booths for 7 days, have stories. But Yom Kippur is different.
Here it is, the Holiest day of the year, but what's the story?
Yom Kippur does have a story in the Torah, but even if you know
the story, it is still hard to grasp. Essentially, God told the
Israelites that on one day a year, the Day of Atonement, Yom
Kippur, they were to have a special sacrifice.
The High priest would take two goats or lambs, one he would slay
as a sacrifice, and sprinkle the blood on the altar and the ark,
and all the holy items, and then with the other living ram, he
would lay his hands on it and confess all the sins of the nation
of Israel, and take the ram out of the camp, supposedly carrying
all the sins of the nation on its head.
And thus by doing this, Israel would make atonement, or Kippur
for it's sin each year. That is the story in a nutshell. Not
bad, but still I am not sure if we could get Charlton Heston
to act in it, but that's the story.
But growing up, I never even heard that story. Just fasting and
confessing our sins and going to temple.
Now today, I know that Judaism doesn't have a temple and doesn't
really stress the sacrifices anymore. So that is why we really
don't have even that story on Yom Kippur.
But I think People are desperate for a story. That is one of
the reasons I think so many different traditions have risen within
Judaism, all telling different stories.
One tradition is to swing chickens over your head to collect
your sin. In fact, one rabbi, took a chicken in a small airplane
and circled Washington DC, trying to collect the sin of Washington
DC. In my mind, it would take a lot more than one chicken to
collect the sin of Washington DC.
Another traditions, in some communities, is to receive "thirty-nine
lashes." On the day before Yom Kippur, Pious Jews ask a neighbor
or friend to strike them thirty nine times with a strap as self-inflicted
punishment for sins committed.
I don't mean to make light of these traditions, but this goes
to show you there are a variety of stories about Yom Kippur these
days; and I still think that true story of Yom Kippur can still
be understood today even without the temple and sacrifices.
I think the key to understanding the real story of Yom Kippur,
the day of atonement, is to understand atonement. The most important
verse in the Torah in understanding the nature of Atonement is
And that is the verse we are going to concentrate on tonight.
Lev. 17:11 For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have
given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls,
for it is the blood that makes atonement by reason of the life.
In this verse we see three things about the atonement:
Firstly, the blood of the atonement
Secondly, the place of the atonementAnd
Thirdly, the gift of the atonement
Firstly, the blood of the atonement.
This verse says, it is the blood, which makes atonement. Why
does blood make atonement for us. Well, the verse is helpful
to answer that question for us as well.
It says: For the life of the flesh is in the blood. The life
of an animal is in the blood.
Not the flesh or physical being, but the Life, or nephesh (some
translations say soul). As we prayed earlier tonight, that we
are to love God with all of our Naf-shecha, all of our soul.
That life, or nephesh, would be represented by it's blood.
Verse 14, says, "the life is in the blood, because it's blood is
Blood is a substance which is obviously necessary to life. No
blood in the creature: no life. So I think blood is chosen as
fitting representation of the creature's life.
My father died about 5 years ago. I will never forget sitting
in the hospital room with his dead body. I was there with my
family for about an hour. It was strange. My Dad's body was there,
but it was just a shell. His life was gone. My Dad was gone.
Now my Dad was a believer, and I knew my Dad was with the Lord.
This was just his body, his life was no longer there. The flesh
was there, but his Nephesh, His life, had gone to be with the
This is the life, this verse talking about. In Leviticus, Blood
would represent or symbolize life or as some commentators say, the
death of that life.
As the blood of a sacrifice is poured out, so is it's life.
Thus, blood became a holy substance. God said, because blood was
to represent life, man is never to eat it. It is to be offered
unto God only.
Thus, the blood, the life was never consumed or eaten by man,
but always offered back to God, who is the giver of life.
And when it was offered to God in worship and placed on the altar
an amazing thing would occur. This blood would then make atonement
for the life of the worshipper.
Thus, life for life would occur. The life of the animal sacrificed
would be offered in the place of the life of the worshiper.
So, when you offered a sacrifice and poured out the blood on the
altar, this blood, which represented the life of that animal,
would be accepted in the place of your life. It died in your
place. It atoned for you.
This act of worship was just not a giving of thanks, but the
expression of an innocent life given for a guilty one.
But our verse is not only specific about Blood being used for
atonement, but also, it says that blood is to be offered in a
very specific place.
That place was to be on the altar.
I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement.
In Verses 1 through 9 of this chapter (Leviticus 17), it talks about this place.
Basically, in verse 3 & 4, it says, if someone makes an offering
in the field, and does not bring it before the tabernacle of
the Lord, the blood will be imputed to him, he will be guilty
of it, it will not make atonement for him.
And, more than that, it says, anyone making offerings anywhere
else but this tabernacle is to be cut off from the people.
Wow, pretty serious. God is very serious about the place of the
offering. At the Tabernacle, which is his dwelling place, upon
Why is this such a big deal? Well, I think it gives us a clue.
Verse 3 is talking about peace offerings, or fellowship offerings.
That was an offering in which you actually ate of the sacrifice
there at the temple, symbolically eating it in fellowship or
relationship with God. You had a meal with God in worship.
Many times we think of worship as going into a building and singing
about God. But God sees worship as in intimate act, between you
The Greek word for worship, literally means, "a kiss towards". Worship
of God is a kiss towards God.
That is why he says in these verses, don't offer sacrifices in
any other place, don't offer them in the field to your other
gods. God told them when they offered it some place else, or
offered to other gods, they were playing the harlot or commiting
They were cheating on their relationship with God.
Worship is intimate. If you want intimacy with someone, you need
to be devoted to just that person. God wanted their undivided
I have heard many people say, "why can't I just believe what
I want. I have a relationship with God. But it's my own God."
I say, what other relationships do you have that it doesn't matter
what you believe about the person you have that relationship
The relationship God most frequently uses to illustrate his relationship
to us is Marriage. In Marriage, it is critical to know who that
person really is that you are married to. What you happen to
believe about him may be nice, but it only matters if it is true.
God wants for us to be his people, and for us to say, you are
my God. My personal relational, loving God.
But in order for us to know him, we have to know who he is. We
can't just blindly love whatever. Then we are not really loving
anything, or we are just loving the idea of being in love, which
many people do, which always ends in disaster.
I know one lady, who said she was in love with this guy who was
so wonderful. But, anyone, I mean anyone could see from
a mile away, this guy was a major-league jerk. So why was she
so in love with him. Frankly, It looked to me that she loved
being in love. She loved that sensation, the emotions, the hope
the accompanies it. Which I can understand, but if that is all
it is, it is really more about you, than the other person anyway.
But ultimately, the reality of who this guy was manifested itself,
and it's a mess, because the fantasy she thought she was in love
with didn't exist.
Yes, it does matter what you believe. You need to believe what's
real, what's true.
God said to the Israelites, this is the place you will worship,
because I don't want you to be confused. Here I will meet with
you, here I will reveal who I am. Come to me, not to your imagination.
God has told us that life is in the blood, and the place it is to
be offered is on the altar. But he also says, it is a gift actually;
I have given it to you on the altar.
The atonement is a GIFT!
There is something interesting in the Hebrew here. Listen, I
don't pretend to be some Hebrew scholar, I know just enough to
But this is pretty neat.
In English, the subject and verb are two separate words, like
I gave or I have given. But in Hebrew it's just one word, the
subject and verb together. Here Nataati. I have given; but when
a biblical writer wanted to emphasize the subject, he would still
place a personal pronoun before the verb, and that is what is happening
It just doesn't say Nataativ, I have given it, but it says, Ani
Nataativ, I, I have given it. The ani, the I is not necessary
but it serves as emphasis.
Some places they might translate this, as I, even I, I, surely
I have given it. The writer does not want you to miss this. God
says I have given atonement to you.
This really turns the idea of sacrifices on its head. We normally
think of sacrifices as something we are giving to God, but here
God says it is actually something I am giving to you.
God has given us a gift of being able to make atonement through
a sacrifice. When we are offering a sacrifice, God is the one
doing the giving, not us.
Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, is a gift from God to us. It
is not something we give to God through our fasting and confessing.
It is a gift from God.
The gift of providing a way by which we can be forgiven, a way
by which atonement, ransom, can be made for us. The High Priest
would give the life of an animal in exchange for the lives of
the whole nation of Israel
This whole system of atonement for the sins of Israel was to
be in the sight of all the nations. God is showing a picture
of what he was planning to do for Israel and for the world: The
In Zechariah, God promises to remove the sin of the land in a
single day. In Isaiah, God says he will lay the sins of everyone
on his servant, the Messiah.
Those promises of God to have his Messiah be a sacrifice for
the world would be the ultimate Yom Kippur, the ultimate day
of atonement. This happened when the Messiah, Yeshua, was sacrificed
on the cross. The ultimate gift of God to us.
He has provided a way by which we all can be forgiven, and be
in relationship to Him. Yeshua gave his life, shed his blood,
You may say, but I don't need this gift or atonement. Well, God
says you do, that we are guilty! God separated Israel from himself
because they were essentially dirty, defiled. God says we all
There is not one of us who even has anything that God needs.
He doesn't need you. You need him. God doesn't need to be in
a relationship with you. But the radical thing is that, he wants
to be in a relationship with us.
So how can a pure and holy God embrace a wreck like us?
Atonement was God's gift to us. God gave us the blood upon the
altar for our atonement. The life could be given for our life.
That life, that blood was Y'shua's, our Messiah.
That is the story of Yom Kippur, His life given for our life.
So if that is the story we should remember, how should that make
us feel when we think about it?
Well, I think it should both humble us and affirm us.
If Yom Kippur doesn't humble you, then you don't get it. You
don't understand why someone has to die for you. You don't understand:
* how wicked you are,
* how worthy of judgement you are,
* how unworthy you are of mercy and of a relationship with God.
When you realize that, then you are humbled that God has made a way
to forgive you.
But, Yom Kippur should not only humble you, it should also
affirm you, it should make you feel secure, comforted. If Yom
Kippur does not make you feel loved and affirmed, then you also
don't get it.
If you don't feel affirmed, then you don't understand, the incredible
extent God has gone to be in a relationship with you:
* The choosing of Israel,
* the tabernacle,
* the sacrifices,
* ultimately and climatically the giving of his Son, was all for you.
If you don't
feel affirmed tonight, then you don't understand how much God
The story of Yom Kippur says you are far worse than you ever
dared imagine, but you are also far more loved than you ever
The story of Yom Kippur: He died for us. That is a story worth