“When Aaron has finished making atonement for the Most Holy Place, the tent of meeting and the altar, he shall bring forward the live goat. He is to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites—all their sins—and put them on the goat’s head. He shall send the goat away into the wilderness in the care of someone appointed for the task. The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a remote place; and the man shall release it in the wilderness." Leviticus 16:20-22
Tomorrow (9/14/13) is the Jewish high holy day of Yom Kippur. In short, it is the occassion on which the Old Testament Day of Atonement is celebrated by Jews all over the world. It comes from the one day a year in which the Hebrew high priest performed a sacrifice for the atonement of the sins of the people committed that year. It was also the one time per year that the high priest could go behind the veil in the tabernacle (or temple) and come into the presence of God in a place called the holiest of holies for the purpose of making the sacrifice. At the conclusion of the event, all were considered clean (Leviticus 16:30).
Though this was a great and glorious demonstration of the love of God toward His people, there was one problem: the sacrifices did not take away sins. It is recorded in Hebrews 10:1-4, "For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, because the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have had consciousness of sins? But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year by year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins."
The good news, beloved, is that there IS a sacrifice that was made for the forgiveness of sin, the cleansing of conciences, the bestowing of righteousness and the provision of salvation. Further, it was and is made available not just to the Jews but to all who will accept it. It was Jesus who said to God, "'Here I am, I have come to do your will.' [In so doing] He sets aside the first [covenant] to establish the second. And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all," Hebrews 10:9-10 (NIV). There is no longer any need for an earthly high priest to intercede on our behalf. There is no longer any need to sacrifice bulls and goats. There is no longer any need for these things to be done year after year. To the praise of the Almighty, they have been done once and for all.
As you hear about Yom Kippur this weekend, just remember that necessary atonement has been accomplished in Jesus and it is worth celebrating daily.