Thursday, April 20, 2017

About The Day Of Atonement

By Shirley Bennett

Jews still celebrate the feasts, or sacred days, that God prescribed for them. Moses relayed the Lord's words and later wrote down detailed instructions, so the people of Israel would not stray because of ignorance. The most sacred of all the observances was the Day of Atonement, when the high priest would enter into the innermost sanctum of the Tabernacle and offer a special sacrifice that would cleanse the people from their sins.

The Tabernacle was a tent and its enclosure that the Israelis constructed to the exact specifications given to Moses. The Lord dictated the dimensions, the materials to be used, and how each area of this worship center was to be used. Historians say that the Tabernacle was finished within one year of the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, while the people were wandering in the desert.

Later King Solomon built a temple, again to exact specifications. As in the Tabernacle, the Temple had an inner room where the glory of God dwelt. Once a year, the high priest - and he alone - could enter this hidden area without dying. He would prepare himself ritually and carry with him the sacrificial blood that would atone for the sins of the nation.

Of course, this sacrifice is symbolic. The scriptures reveal that the life is in the blood, and that the wages of sin are death. Blood must be shed to reconcile a holy God with his sinful people. The Jewish people would prepare for this, the most holy day in their calendar, with fasting, prayer, and repentance.

The Jews could no longer offer sacrifices after the Temple was destroyed. However, they have continued to spend a week of the seventh month of their calendar in repentance and prayer for God's forgiveness. They still regard this as the most significant time of the year, terminating in a special day when they can be forgiven and restored to fellowship with God.

Christians have their own rituals, based on the Jewish traditions but changed by Jesus' death and resurrection. Good Friday reminds them of the death of Jesus, who was the perfect sacrifice to pay for all sin. Easter celebrates his triumphal resurrection that signifies eternal life for all who believe. Instead of a week of preparation to receive God's forgiveness, Christians have the period of Lent. This forty-day time of self-denial and reflection on man's sinful condition leads up to the day of Jesus's death. Then Easter is a time of feasting and rejoicing.

Since orthodox Jews do not accept Jesus as their messiah, they hope to rebuild their temple one day and have a place to resume their ritual sacrifices. Christians accept Jesus' death as a one-time but eternally sufficient payment for the sins of all who repent, accept his sacrifice, and surrender their lives to him.

Although this special day is mainly a Jewish tradition, there is great significance in it for Christians, too. Knowing that man could not redeem himself, and that God so loved them that he not only allowed but required his son to die for mankind, leads to a deep regret for wickedness and a desire to live a holy life as much as possible.

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