In a culture striving for permissiveness, the self-critical mood of Yom Kippur strikes a note of jarring counterpoint. The tradition’s answer is that guilt in its right time and place is healthy; it is crucial to conscience. Moral maturity lies in a willingness to recognize one’s own sins . . . Concrete acts can be corrected; bad patterns can be overcome. Against the brokenness of guilt and the isolation of sin, Yom Kippur offers the wholeness of living. To this end confession of sins on Yom Kippur is imperative.
Covenant Believers, like the Jews, need the annual summon of the Day of Atonement to self-examination, repentance, and cleansing. We need to search our hearts and see if the sins we have confessed and asked to be forgiven have also been forsaken. If we sense sinful tendencies in our lives, the Day of Atonement offers an annual opportunity to seek and experience divine forgiveness and cleansing.
(26) And YHWH spoke to Moses saying,
(27) Also, on the tenth of this seventh month shall be a day of atonement; there shall be a holy gathering, and you shall humble your souls and shall bring a fire offering to YHWH.
(28) And you shall do no work in this same day, for it is a day of atonement, to atone for you before YHWH your Elohim.
(29) For any person who is not humbled in this same day shall be cut off from his people.
(30) And any person who does any work in this same day, I shall even destroy that person from the midst of his people.
(31) You shall do no work; it is a never ending statute throughout your generations, in all your dwellings.
(32) It is a Sabbath of rest to you, and you shall humble your souls in the ninth of the month at evening; from evening until evening you shall keep your Sabbath.
(1) And the Word of YHWH was to Jonah the second time, saying,
(2) Rise up, go to Nineveh, the great city, and cry out to it the proclamation that I am declaring to you.
(3) And Jonah rose up and went to Nineveh according to the Word of YHWH. And Nineveh was a great city to Elohim, of three days’ journey.
(4) And Jonah began to enter a day’s journey into the city. And he cried out and said, Yet forty days and Nineveh shall be overturned!
(5) And the men of Nineveh believed in Elohim, and they called a fast and put on sackclothes, from the greatest of them even to the least of them.
(6) And the word touched even to the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he took his robe from him and covered himself with sackcloth and sat on the ashes.
(7) And he cried and said in Nineveh by the decree of the king and of his great ones, saying, Do not let man or beast, herd or flock, taste anything; do not let them feed nor let them drink water.
(8) But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth. And let them call with strength to Elohim. And let them each one turn from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands.
(9) Who knows? He may turn, and Elohim may have pity and turn away from the glow of His anger, that we do not perish.
(10) And Elohim saw their works that they turned from their evil way. And Elohim was compassionate over the evil that He had spoken to do to them, and He did not do it.
(6) With what shall I come before YHWH, to bow myself before the loftiness of Elohim? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves, sons of a year?
(7) Will YHWH be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of torrents of oil? Shall I give my first-born for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
(8) O man, He has declared to you what is good. And what does YHWH require of you, but to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your Elohim?
(18) Who is an Elohim like You, forgiving iniquity and passing by the transgression of the remnant of His possession? He does not make strong His anger forever, for He delights in grace.
(19) He will return to pity us; He will subdue our iniquities. Yea, You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.
(20) You will give faithfulness to Jacob, kindness to Abraham, which You have sworn to our fathers from the days of old.
(1) Call out with the throat! Do not spare. Lift up your voice like the ram’s horn! And declare to My people their rebellion, and their sins to the house of Jacob.
(2) Yet they seek Me day by day, and desire knowledge of My ways. As a nation that has done right, and not forsaking the judgment of their Elohim, they ask Me about judgments of righteousness; they desire to draw near to Elohim.
(3) They say, Why have we fasted, and You did not see? We have afflicted our soul, and You did not acknowledge. Behold, on the day of your fast you find pleasure; and you drive all your laborers hard.
(4) Look! You fast for strife, and for debate, and to strike with the fist of wickedness. Do not fast as today, to sound your voice in the high place.
(5) Is this like the fast I will choose, a day for a man to afflict his soul? To bow his head down like a bulrush, and he spreads sackcloth and ashes? Will you call to this as a fast and a day of delight to YHWH?
(6) Is this not the fast I have chosen: to open bands of wickedness, to undo thongs of the yoke, and to send out the oppressed ones free; even that you pull off every yoke?
(7) Is it not to break your bread to the hungry, that you should bring the wandering poor home? When will you see the naked and cover him, and you will not hide yourself from your flesh?
(8) Then your light shall break as the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; and your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of YHWH shall gather you.
(9) Then you shall call, and YHWH will answer; you shall cry, and He shall say, Here I am. If you put the yoke away from among you, the sending out of the finger, and the speaking of iniquity;
(10) And if you let out your soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then your light shall rise in the darkness, and your gloom shall be as the noonday.
(11) And YHWH shall always guide you, and satisfy your soul in dry places, and make strong your bones. And you shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.
(12) And those who come of you shall build the old ruins; you shall rear the foundations of many generations; and you shall be called, The Repairer of the Breach, the restorer of paths to live in.
(13) If you turn your foot away because of the Sabbath, from doing what you please on My holy days, and call the Sabbath a delight, to the holiness of YHWH, glorified; and shall glorify Him, to the holiness of not doing your own ways, from finding your own pleasure or speaking your word;
(14) Then you shall delight yourself in YHWH. And I will cause you to ride on the heights of the earth, and make you eat with the inheritance of your father Jacob. For the mouth of YHWH has spoken.
(5) Blessed are the meek! For they shall inherit the earth. Psalm 37:11
(6) Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness! For they shall be filled.
(8) But YHWH commends His love to us in this that we being yet sinners, Messiah died for us.
(9) Much more then, being justified now by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath through Him.
(10) For if while being enemies we were reconciled to YHWH through the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life;
(11) And not only so, but also glorying in YHWH through our Master Yahshua ha Mashiach, through whom we now received the atonement.
1 Peter 5:6
(6) Then be humbled under the mighty hand of YHWH, that He may exalt you in time;
(8) Draw near to YHWH, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, sinners! And purify your hearts, double minded ones!
(9) Be distressed, and mourn, and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy into shame.
(10) Be humbled before YHWH, and He will exalt you.
2 Corinthians 5:17-19
(17) So that if anyone is in Messiah, he is a new creation; the old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new!
(18) And all things are from YHWH, the One having atoned us to Himself through Yahshua Messiah, and having given to us the ministry of atonement,
(19) as, that YHWH was in Messiah atoning the world to Himself, not charging their deviations to them, and having put the Word of atonement in us.
(1) The Spirit of YHWH Elohim is on me, because YHWH has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the meek. He has sent Me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to captives, and complete opening to the bound ones;
(2) to proclaim the acceptable year of YHWH, and the day of vengeance of our Elohim; to comfort all who mourn;
(3) to appoint to those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of the spirit of infirmity, so that one calls them trees of righteousness, the planting of YHWH, in order to beautify Himself.
(16) For you do not desire sacrifice, or I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering.
(17) The sacrifices of YHWH are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O YHWH, You will not despise.
The challenge of the Day of Atonement is to take an annual spiritual inventory of our lives and to acknowledge and forsake our sinful ways. It is especially needed today when sin is excused, explained away, and relativized, rather than being acknowledged, confessed, and forsaken.
Although heart repentance was implied in the observance of the other feasts, on no other occasion is repentance so central as in the Day of Atonement. The Biblical basis for the emphasis on repentance and confession of sins is evident in the Biblical instructions: “And it shall be a statute to you for ever that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict yourselves, and shall do no work” (Lev 16:29; cf. Lev 23:27, 29, 32).
The “affliction of soul” is generally understood to mean fasting. This is a great tradition and often is quite effective. The emphasis, however, should be on the correct attitude of the heart. And fasting is truly spiritually effective only with practice and forethought.
If the general atonement made on this day is not to pass into a dreaded ritual to simply be endured, we must recognize the spiritual significance of the act of expiation. We must begin with penitential feelings, and manifest this penitential state by abstinence from ordinary enjoyments of life.
The message of the Day of Atonement for Covenant Believers today is the message of holy living in the present life in order to experience the final cleansing and renewal in the future Day of Yahshua Messiah’s coming.
Prior to the resurrection, only those who had repented, confessed, and forsaken their sins experienced the cleansing and renewal of the Day of Atonement. In the same way, only those Covenant Believers who repent, confess, and forsake their sins now will experience the final cleansing and removal of the “consciousness of sin” (Heb 10:2) when Yahshua Messiah will appear on the final Day of Atonement.
The Day of Atonement in the Old and New Testaments embodies the Good News of YHWH’s provision for the cleansing of sins and restoration to fellowship with Him. “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).
What a marvelous provision YHWH has made for His people to experience a cleansing and a new beginning through His atonement! This new beginning of the Day of Atonement is made possible through Yahshua Messiah’s atoning sacrifice. “Therefore, if any one is in Yahshua Messiah, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come” (2 Co 5:17). The ultimate fulfillment of the precious promise will be realized at the antitypical Day of Atonement when YHWH will dispose permanently of our sins and make all things new.
The promise of cleansing of the Day of Atonement has both a present and future phase. In the present, the Day of Atonement summons us to search our hearts and forsake our sinful ways by the power of Yahshua Messiah’s blood which can purify our lives (Heb 9:14). The moral cleansing we experience in the present reassures us of the future and final cleansing from the presence and consciousness of sin that will be accomplished on the antitypical Day of Atonement, when Yahshua Messiah “will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him” (Heb 9:28).
At a time when many are experiencing the crushing isolation of sin, the Day of Atonement has a message of hope. It reassures Covenant Believers that Yahshua Messiah will soon appear the second time, like the High Priest on the Day of Atonement, to punish unbelievers, to bind Satan, to cleanse believers and restore them to an harmonious relationship with YHWH. Such a hope gives us reasons to rejoice and encourage “one another, and all the more as . . . [we] see the Day drawing near” (Heb 10:25).
Strict food and water fasting to curb bodily appetites to heighten the awareness of spiritual needs is a good way to afflict the soul, but it can often miss the mark. It can cause the focus to be solely on the physical discomfort and divert the attention from spiritual growth. The exercise of physical affliction without the spiritual effect is a useless exercise and fails to reach the goal and intent of the law.
However, spiritual fasting from carnal life by silence, meditation, prayer, self-examination, and confession of sins avoids the pull of the physical needs away from the main focus. There are many instances in scripture where a “word fast” shows deference to YHWH.
Proverbs 30:32 If you have been foolish in lifting yourself up, or if you have thought evil, lay your hand on your mouth!
Job 40:4 Behold, I am vile! What shall I answer You? I will put my hand to my mouth.
Job 29:9 the rulers held back with words, and they laid a hand on their mouth;
Job 21:5 Turn toward me and be astonished, and put your hand on your mouth.
Spiritual fasting followed by deep, heart-felt rejoicing and thanks for the sacrifice of Yahshua and the cleansing of our sin by His blood is a better method of commemorating the Day of Atonement.
We have found that the practice of a total “word fast” for the first part of the day (sunset until the following noon) helps accomplish the goal of being YHWH focused and being humbled before HIM. We follow the “word fast” with praise from noon until sunset rejoicing for the expiation (payment for our sin that is made on our behalf) by the blood of Yahshua.