It was a bloody affair. For the High Priest, and the people waiting in the balance of heaven’s mercy, the Day of Atonement as prescribed in Leviticus 16 was a bloody affair.
Each year on the tenth of Tishri, the priest first sacrificed one bull to cover his own sins. This prepared the way for him to take two goats for the sins of the people he represented. He killed one to cancel their failings and released one into the wilderness to carry the disgrace of God’s people away from sight and mind.
One of the holiest events of the year, this day called for a serious accounting of one’s life before God and man. As the High Priest performed his temple duties, the people fasted and waited in fear and trembling to be absolved for one more year of the consequences of failing a holy God.
Today we might say this season is our annual performance check-up; the time we measure ourselves against the righteous standard prescribed in God’s Word. The problem is the same as in the world before Yeshua was born — nobody can attain to the perfect record. Rectification must be made.
Since the destruction of the temple in 70 AD, no sacrifice has been made for the sins of the Jewish people. They still observe Yom Kippur or Day of Atonement with fasting and confession of sins. Instead, they hope their good deeds will overtake their bad deeds to qualify for a clean slate.
Some ultra-Orthodox Jews sacrifice a chicken in a ritual called, Kaparot, and say these words: “This is my exchange. This is my substitute. This is my expiation. This chicken shall go to death, and I shall proceed to a long life and peace.”
Confession of sins is made during the ten days preceding Day of Atonement. Humankind instinctively comprehends the power of confession to relieve the pressure missing the mark bears upon the soul.
I was intrigued to read of a man who tattooed on his chest the crime scene of a murder he committed . Anthony Garcia of Los Angeles, California, a member of the Rivera-13 gang, had a detailed account of the slaying of John Juarez carved with indelible ink into his own body. Police took note of the incriminating pictures which led to Garcia’s arrest. He later confessed and was convicted.
The Talmud states the scarlet thread tied on the neck of the scapegoat by the priest turned white as the goat was led out of the city into the wilderness. Interesting to note the last 40 years before the destruction of the temple, God did not accept the blood of the bulls or goats as sufficient redemption. The Talmud records that the goat’s scarlet thread did not turn white when it was released (Jacob Neusner, The Yerushalmi, p.156-157).
Today we are no different than those from yesterday. We must rid ourselves of sin’s consequences by confession. There is a remedy because of the blood sacrifice of Yeshua recorded in the New Covenant: Romans 10:9 tells us belief arises unto salvation when we confess the Lordship of Yeshua. And I John 1:9 says God is faithful and just to forgive when we tell Him of our sin.
For all of us, Day of Atonement is an important piece in God’s plan of redemption for mankind. It foreshadowed the foundations of our faith and relation with the Creator. It points forever to the sacrifice of Yeshua. We can rejoice for the price paid for the privilege to make confession of sin and the atoning work of the Messiah’s blood.