What is Yom Kippur?
Falling on the 10th of Tishrei in the Hebraic calendar—scarcely more than a week after Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year; the Feast of Trumpets)—Yom Kippur is a day of reflection, self-denial, and supplication to God. Yom Kippur is also known as the ‘Day of Atonement,’ or even the ‘One Day of the Year,’ and is part of the Jewish Fall Feast days. Yet, despite its close proximity to Rosh Hashanah, it is not a day of feasting, but one of fasting and repentance… a seeking of atonement in the Courts of Heaven. A feast not of food, but of time spent with the Lord, for it is considered to be the holiest day of the year.
“…the tenth day of this seventh month shall be the Day of Atonement. It shall be a holy convocation for you; you shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire to the Lord. And you shall do no work… for it is the Day of Atonement, to make atonement for you before the Lord your God.”—Leviticus 23:27-28
How is Yom Kippur Important to Us as Believers?
As Believers, many of us have lost our connection to the Jewish roots of our faith; connections Jesus Himself lived by, as did generations of Believers that followed.
Now, that is not to say that Jesus taught that we, as Gentiles, are meant to do everything exactly as our Jewish brothers and sisters. After all, He did not condone those additions of traditions made by men, such as the Pharisees or Sadducees. Nor did He tell His disciples to take knives and circumcise Gentile Believers—for He gave them circumcision of the heart. Still, it was Yeshua who said that He did not come to destroy the law, but to fulfill it—and that not one word of it has or will pass away until all is fulfilled. Yet, for our sakes He removed its burden by offering us His grace, the Holy Spirit, and a host of other gifts… that His Word might be written upon our hearts. That we might fulfill it in love and receive redemption through His grace and Blood should we stumble.
“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”—Matthew 5:17-19
We are meant to fulfill the Word of the Lord, so when God says that we are to spend one day, such as the Day of Atonement—Yom Kippur—denying ourselves, spending time with the Lord in deep personal reflection and repentance, giving up offerings, seeking forgiveness for our transgressions, etc., then we would be blessed to do so. Details such as the physical nature of our offerings to God may have changed, and no longer does the High Priest of the Temple enter with blood—for Jesus, the ultimate High Priest, paid the price through His Blood forever. Yet, neither Jesus nor His Word say that the days He set forth to remind us of our connection to Him no longer have value. For while Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection have allowed us to seek forgiveness every day of the year, these specially designated Holy Days—these moeds (or divine appointments)—are in line with God’s calendar. His timing is always perfect, He never changes, and if He desires us to seek Him out with specific intent, who are we to argue? Who are we to judge… for, “He is the Rock, His work is perfect; for all His ways are justice, a God of truth and without injustice; righteous and upright is He.”—Deuteronomy 32:4
“As for God, His way is perfect; the word of the Lord is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him.”—2 Samuel 22:31
The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;
the statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;
the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”—Psalm 19:7-9
How Can We Enter into Repentance on Yom Kippur?
Yom Kippur is considered to be the holiest day of the year, as well as the most solemn. It often includes collective repentance as those in each community seek to seal themselves into right standing with God for the year in which they, only a week prior, stepped into. It is a time of setting our calendar to God’s and coming into alignment with His will.
For those who are Believers, there are many traditions mentioned of this Holy Day which may seem unusual. Collective repentance being one…
In the Western culture, most believe that transgressions begin and end solely in each of our hearts and actions. Yet, there are many things that, collectively—even if we do not condone directly—still affect us. Take abortion for a broad example. Many Believers are against it, yet we live in a nation that has abortion available and even funded in many states. Therefore, the entire nation is connected to it. As a result, it is important that we, as a collective body of Believers, repent on behalf of the nation—so that the innocent blood does not cling to the nation, or the people of the nation. So that future actions will not follow a path of destruction as the blood cries from the ground.
“… ‘…The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground. So now you are cursed from the earth, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand.”—Genesis 4:10-11
“For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”—Matthew 18:20
“Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?”—Romans 2:4
This is not to say that repentance on Yom Kippur is wholly collective—for time alone with our Father where we reset our alignment and seek forgiveness is not only important, it is imperative. It broadens our scope, it allows us to sound the alarm so that we are not found guilty, and it allows us a special connection with fellow Believers as we stand together before God. It acts as a reminder that we each lack perfection, but that, by the grace of God, we are continually being made perfect.
Another thing we as Believers may not understand is “setting our calendar to God’s…”
Many of us live by the Gregorian calendar and this in itself is not an issue. God knows after all that we live in a society and world where this is the norm. Yet, God’s timing is found in the Hebraic calendar. It is woven into who He is—His timing and seasons being hidden within His very heartbeat.
Because of this it is important to understand God’s timing. Asking Him to shift us to His timing, learning about the Hebraic calendar and holy days from the Word and other resources allow us a wider view of His timing. They allow us to understand our Father and what we are to do in each season—as well as what we might face, both good and bad.
In each special Feast season and in every observance, we find that the end result is our coming closer to God.
In repentance on Yom Kippur, we find our Father’s face and grace beyond measure. In His timing we find wholeness and direction for the year—even down to months and seasons.
Repentance and changing our timing are in no way God punishing us. Rather, it is a pouring out of His love, for He is a good Father who does not delight in punishing us but molding us into the best version of ourselves.
“…He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in mercy.”—Micah 7:18
“For whom the Lord loves He corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights.”—Proverbs 3:12
Yom Kippur is a time devoted to the Lord, to seeking His face, to alignment, and to forgiveness as we start the new year in Him. By seeking our Father through repentance, we not only discover that which we are lacking, but the grace and fullness of God as we ask Him to replace our weakness with His strength, our timing with His timing, and our purpose with His purpose.
When we do this, we not only enjoy a day spent a hairs-breadth from the Lord in repentance, but we enjoy being aligned and purposed… because the other side of repentance and alignment are joy, peace, purpose, and fulfillment.
So, this Yom Kippur let us seek repentance, relationship, and timing. Let us seek God first so that we may walk in life this year. Or, as Jewish tradition says, “Let us be written into the Book of Life for the coming year.”
“I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days…”—Deuteronomy 30:19-20