"Also on the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a day of atonement: it shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD. And ye shall do no work in that same day: for it is a day of atonement, to make an atonement for you before the LORD your God." - Leviticus 23:27-28
This year, Jews in Israel celebrate the High Holy days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur during a time of uncertainty. On September 23, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas asked the United Nations to recognize a Palestinian State without having made even the most basic of concessions toward peace with Israel – like recognizing Israel's right to exist or denouncing terrorism. Yasser Arafat may be gone, and Mahmoud Abbas may want to settle things peaceably, but the true heart of the Palestinian Authority has not changed over the decades. At the bottom of their hearts, the Arab world considers Israel an infected sliver that wants a good pinch.
"Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's speech leaves little hope for the future," said Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin (Likud) on Monday while meeting with Japanese Ambassador to Israel Haruhisa Takeuchi. Rivlin said, "[Abbas] cries over the loss of his home in Safed in '48, and not the establishment of the settlements in '67. Abbas's speech illustrates in the best way why today, 63 years later, there isn't peace between the sides."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu followed Abbas with his own speech, describing the dangers Israel faced to its security and calling for a return to negotiations. The United States has promised to veto the Palestinian statehood bid, but the whole charade demonstrates how futile attempts at negotiating have become. Everybody senses it. There are certain items on which neither Israel nor the Arabs are willing to budge.
East Jerusalem appears to be one of those items. Since 1967, the Jews have had control over all of Jerusalem, including the Old City with the Western Wall and Temple Mount. Although the Islamic Waqf controls the actual Temple Mount, the site remains Judaism's holiest as location of the ancient Temple that once housed the Ark of the Covenant. No Hebrew prayer is permitted on the Temple Mount, but many Jews don't mind; they do not want to accidentally tread across the spot that once held the Temple's Holy of Holies. The Palestinians may want East Jerusalem back as part of a peace agreement, but nobody should ask the Jews to give up the part of Jerusalem that holds the Western Wall or the ancient site of the Temple. For Netanyahu, it's not a remote option.
Yom Kippur is the most holy day of the Jewish year. The Day of Atonement is observed on the 10th of Tishri, which this year starts at sunset on Friday, October 7th and ends at sunset on October 8th. All day on the 10th of Tishri, Jews will take off work and fast for this holy and most solemn day of repentance and reconciliation.
When the Temple still stood, it was on this day - the only day - that the High Priest was able to enter the Holy of Holies, and then only after elaborate ceremonial washings, offerings, and associated rituals. This was also the day that two goats were selected. One goat was killed as an offering to atone for sins, and one, the "scapegoat," had the nation's sins ceremonially placed on it and was sent into the wilderness in order to remove those sins far away from the people. The ceremonial acts that were to be carried out by the High Priest on Yom Kippur are described in Leviticus 16 (see also Exodus 30:10; Leviticus 23:27-31, 25:9; Numbers 29:7-11).
The Sacrificial Messiah In The Old Testament:
Yom Kippur traditionally ends with one long note of the Shofar, a musical instrument made from a ram's horn. The significance of the ram's horn is traditionally rooted in Genesis 22. Here God commands Abraham "Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of," (Gen 22:2). Abraham is called upon by God to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, as a test of his faith. After God halts the sacrifice at the last minute, Abraham spies a ram trapped by his horns in a nearby thicket and offers the animal instead of his son.
It is interesting to note that this is the first instance in which the word "love" appears in Scripture. God commands Abraham to sacrifice "thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest." In this passage Isaac is identified as Abraham's only son, without mention of Ishmael. Isaac was the son of promise, and Abraham was acting out prophecy.
When Isaac asked his father where was the lamb to sacrifice for the burnt offering, Abraham said, "My son, God will provide himself a lamb…" That day, God provided a ram to take the place of Isaac, but He ultimately had another Lamb to take the place of Isaac and Abraham and the rest of us as well. It is suspected that the particular mountain Abraham took Isaac in the land of Moriah is the same mount on the eastern edge of what is now Jerusalem where Solomon built the Temple (2Ch 3:1), and the uppermost part of that mountain is believed to be the very spot where the "only Son" of God was later crucified.
Woven throughout the Old Testament feasts is the foreshadowing of God's plan for the redemption of mankind. Those of us who have placed our trust in Jesus Christ are able to enter behind the veil and stand in the Holy of Holies. We have forgiveness because of the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ on the cross. He is our scapegoat. Our sins are placed on him and sent far far away. His blood was sprinkled for our atonement, and because of him we are cleansed and made holy before God.
May Israel continue to trust in the LORD as did Abraham, and may the Messiah soon come and reign in torn and weary Jerusalem. The heathen may rage and plot, but God is in charge. He says, "Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee." - Psalm 2:6-7
[Editor's Note: This is the second installment of a three part series on the fall feasts of Israel. Next week's article will cover Succoth - the Feast of Tabernacles.]