All things are cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.”
“’For the soul of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make covering for your soul; for it is the blood that makes covering for the soul.’”
The Jewish writer of the book of Hebrews makes a Midrash on the aforementioned text explaining its wider implications:
“And according to the Torahall things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.”
—Hebrews 9:21-23—Hebrews 9:21-23
The writer of the book of Hebrews—approx. 70 A.D. around the time of the destruction of the Temple—uses the word forgiveness—remission—and not simply covering. Why? Because the sacrificial system was a foreshadowing of a blood covering that would not only cover our sins but also cleanse them eternally. That covering is seen in our Messiah in whose blood we are both covered and cleansed, not temporarily but eternally.
“After saying above, ‘Sacrifices and offerings and whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You have not desired, nor have You taken pleasure in them’ (which are offered according to the Torah—Instruction), then He said, ‘Behold, I have come to do Your will.’ He takes away the first in order to establish the second. By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Yeshua HaMashiach once for all.”
Why have I started a Yom Kippur message with Scripture that doesn’t directly explain this Convocation—calling together? Because without the foundational premise of blood atonement—covering, cleansing--Yom Kippur has very little significance. We cannot, through the beating of our chests and the desperate prayers of this day, ever achieve right standing with G-d. Why? Because it is only through the blood that a right relationship can be restored. The Temple sacrificial practice could never atone for us eternally. Am I saying that our prayers and actions are invalid? No! But they are only valid if founded on the atoning—covering and cleansing—sacrifice of Messiah: it is through His blood that we are perfected and are being—in prayers and acts of repentance born of the Ruach HaKodesh—made Holy or sanctified. (Hebrews 10:14)
Now, let’s start again using one of the passages that describe this Holy Day, perhaps the Holiest of Jewish Days, Yom Kippur, also known as The Fast and The Day:
“The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘On exactly the tenth day of this seventh month is the day of covering; it shall be a holy gathering for you, and you shall humble your souls and present an offering by fire to the Lord. You shall not do any work on this same day, for it is a day of covering, to make covering on your behalf before the Lord your God. If there is any person who will not humble himself on this same day, he shall be cut off from his people. As for any person who does any work on this same day, that person I will destroy from among his people. You shall do no work at all. It is to be a perpetual statute throughout your generations in all your dwelling places. It is to be a sabbath of complete rest to you, and you shall humble your souls; on the ninth of the month at evening, from evening until evening you shall keep your sabbath.’”
This passage covers concisely that which is covered in detail in Vayikra/Leviticus 16. Today Judaism no longer has a Temple or a sacrificial system and so the rabbis have introduced other practices to compensate for the inability for Israel to make the sacrifices that the Torah requires. While I might disagree with the orthodox Jewish perspective regarding the blood sacrifice, I find the additional rabbinical practices for this gathering symbolic of our Messiah Yeshua. The following are the basic regime of observances in which I see Messianic parallels or pictures of the Messiah Yeshua:
· It is taught by some that Historically Yom Kippur was they day on which G-d forgave Israel the sin of the worship of the golden calf. It is noteworthy that Aaron’s sacrifice on this day for the covering of his own sin as High Priest, was a bull, the counter point to the golden calf, a just and fitting reminder for Aaron. This is a wonderful picture of the mercy G-d shows us today when we turn from idolatry.
· Before Yom Kippur Jewish people seek forgiveness from those they have sinned against. This of course is a wonderful reminder of the words of Yeshua:
“’Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that another person has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to that person, and then come and present your offering.’”
· At the end of Yom Kippur the books of life and death are sealed, thus determining who will live for the next year. In Messiah we are already assured that not only will He be with us into the New Year but that we also have eternal life with Him in G-d. We are no longer awaiting punishment, we have G-d’s promise of eternal life. (Yochanan/John 3:16)
· Teshuva/returning to G-d, is practiced: using the steps 1. Regret 2. Cessation 3. Confession and 4. resolution/reconciliation. As Messianic believers we can see this practice as a reminder of our need to keep a short account with G-d and people, we should be aware of this daily and not just once a year on Yom Kippur.
· The Fast, begins on the eve of Yom Kippur and lasts until the following evening at Havdalah—the separation of the mundane and the sacred. Yeshua said:
“’Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.’”
– Mattitiyahu/Matthew 6:16-18 (NASB)
· Kol Nidrei a prayer at sundown. This is the one time of the year when it is acceptable to wear a Tallit—prayer shawl—at night; thus we surround ourselves with the symbol of G-d’s word--Yeshua—as we approach HaShem for forgiveness. This prayer asks for the annulment of rash vows, a clean slate for the year ahead. Followers of Yeshua can seek G-d at any time with concerns regarding rash decisions, we also know that, “If we confess our sin He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
· Following the morning Torah reading, Yizkor, a prayer for lost loved ones is recited. In Messiah we trust that our believing loved ones are eternally in His presence, awaiting the resurrection and the Olam Haba—World to Come.
· Musaf—afternoon prayer service, recounts the Yom Kippur rite as performed in the Temple at Jerusalem according to Vayikra/Leviticus 16. We should never forget the high price that must be paid for sin. This is a poignant reminder of Messiah Yeshua’s sacrificial death on a Roman cross.
· Mincha—evening prayer. Prior to the final prayers the book of Jonah is read. The book of Jonah tells the unfinished story of the Jewish prophet’s struggle with G-d’s mercy toward others: we see the continued work of G-d to redeem Israel—who are represented by the frustrated prophet.
· Ne’ilah—closing of the doors. This final prayer is the opportunity to seal our names in the book of life. The Shofar sounds the final sound and the day is complete. In Messiah we are assured of our place, written in the lamb’s blood, in the lamb’s book of life. When we hear the final shofar, we will rejoice because for us it will be the sound of gathering and reconciliation to G-d, the beginning of the Olam Haba—World to Come.
“And nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”
“In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last shofar: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”
—1 Corinthians 15:52
Examining the text:
“The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘On exactly the tenth day of this seventh month is the day of covering; it shall be a holy gathering for you, and you shall humble your souls…”
This was to be a gathering of the people of Israel, a time when every member of Israel was to humble themselves in repentance before the L-rd. Traditionally the term humble your souls/flesh is understood to infer the practice of fasting, this lead to the Holiday being known by both the name Yom Kippur—Day of Covering—and the name Ha-Tsom—the Fast. In addition to this, some call this gathering Ha Yom—the Day—in reference to the Day of Judgment. The instruction to humble your soul, can also be understood as a literal command to have humility of heart before G-d, after all it is conceivable that one might fast without humility: in fact that is the very thing Yeshua warns His disciples not to do (Mattitiyahu/Matthew 6:16-18 ). Humility is an action of the heart and not the flesh alone. Fasting is to be an outward symbol of that which emanates from the heart.
“Present an offering by fire to the Lord.”
Leviticus chapter 16 details and the function of the Priesthood as the High Priest officiates over the offerings of Yom Kippur. There are a litany of covering sacrifices and offerings that show the need for all things to be covered before the Holy One of Israel.
1. the High Priest makes covering for the Holy of Holies
2. he makes covering for himself
3. he makes covering for the people
4. he makes covering for the Mishkan—tent of meeting
5. he makes covering for the altar
6. he sends out the scapegoat which carries the sins of Israel
7. he sacrifices the rams for himself and the people to make a covering
Covering is made for both the people and the inanimate objects of the Tent of meeting. We see here the evidence that all things are affected by the entering of sin into the world. The Scriptures say that creation groans for its redemption. If Rosh Hashanah is the traditional day of the creation of humanity, perhaps Yom Kippur commemorates the need for sacrificial covering that arose when Adam and Eve sinned, after all they left the garden wearing skins. This covering was also temporary, a precursor to the temporary symbolic covering of Israel’s sacrificial system. The Scapegoat was sent into the wilderness each year alive, carrying the sins of Israel, perhaps metaphorically seeking out the Messiah who would one day take all sin upon Himself.
“’You shall not do any work on this same day, for it is a day of covering, to make covering on your behalf before the Lord your God. If there is any person who will not humble himself on this same day, he shall be cut off from his people. As for any person who does any work on this same day, that person I will destroy from among his people. You shall do no work at all. It is to be a perpetual statute throughout your generations in all your dwelling places. It is to be a sabbath of complete rest to you, and you shall humble your souls; on the ninth of the month at evening, from evening until evening you shall keep your sabbath.’”
This is obviously and firstly an instruction not to work. Israel was to spend its day focusing on G-d and in contemplative introspection considering how far short they had fallen from His glory. This is also an important revelation to all people, in that nothing we could ever do, that is, no work of our own can redeem us, cover us. This is affirmed by the words, “to make covering on your behalf.” We need G-d to make covering for us. This is yet again a foreshadowing of the gospel message, “it is by faith you are saved and not by works, lest anyone should boast of his own ability to save himself.” G-d’s part, is our reconciliation to Himself. Our part, is to have the humility to accept His part. He is King regardless, those who humbly admit their need for His covering and cleansing through Messiah will remain inside the camp, those who do not will be cut off from G-d’s people—the Hebrew means destroyed. This is as true today as it was then, only it is not a temporary earthly existence we speak of but rather an eternal one; either an eternal remaining or an eternal cutting off.
Yeshua’s sacrifice, our covering and our cleansing:
“Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time onward until His enemies be made a footstool for His feet. For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us; for after saying,
“This is the covenant that I will make with them
After those days, says the Lord:
I will put My laws upon their heart,
And on their mind I will write them,”
He then says,
“And their sins and their lawless deeds
I will remember no more.”
Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin.”
All the Yom Kippurs leading up to Yeshua’s death were coverings awaiting cleansing. Yeshua’s sacrifice brought cleansing to all that had gone before and all that would be in the future so that anyone who believes in Him might know without a doubt that his sin is forgiven eternally. This new covenant sealed in the blood of Yeshua means that the symbolic act of covering that had gone before, but could not cleanse, is no longer needed. Where there is true eternal forgiveness, there is no longer any need for the temporary covering of the sacrificial system. This should come as good news to Jews and Christians, after all there is no longer a Temple on earth, but, Messiah has made a way for us, so that we may enter into the very presence of G-d, into the Holy place of the Temple in the heavens.
Tradition and the Scarlet thread:
At the time of Herod’s Temple, it is said that the scapegoat of Yom Kippur had a scarlet cloth tied to it prior to being released. If the goat returned and the cloth had turned white, it was believed that this meant that G-d had forgiven Israel her sin. The Talmud inadvertently gives affirmation to Yeshua by telling us that for forty years prior to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, the goat returned with the cloth still scarlet because of Israel’s great sin against G-d. It is interesting to note that it was approximately 30 A.D. when Yeshua died—the final Yom Kippur Sacrifice. Forty years later in 70 A.D. Roman soldiers destroyed the Temple. Perhaps the scapegoat had been trying to tell us something? Maybe if we had listened to his bleating we would have heard him say, “You’ve been looking to the wrong goat.” Yeshua is the sacrificial covering for Yom Kippur and the cleansing lamb of Passover, He enfolds all the sacrifices of Israel, He has brought them to an end. His sacrifice is all we need.
“’Come now, and let us reason together,’ Says the Lord, ‘Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool.’”
“Where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin.”
© Alastair Brown 2013