Returning to God

Posted in Holy Days/Holidays

Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is the most solemn day of the year. In the sanctuary service of the original tabernacle, this was a day of permanently cleansing and removing all the sin of the prior year. It was a solemn day of fasting and prayer, during which everyone was to search their hearts to be sure that there was no sin left unconfessed and unrepented. Anyone that still had any sin left on their record had their name blotted from the Book of Life. Therefore, a common greeting on the Day of Atonement was “May your name be written in (or “not be blotted from”) the Book of Life.”

If the theory is correct that God’s end time events will correspond with the fall feast days as the first coming of Jesus fulfilled the spring feast days, the Day of Atonement would equate to the judgment day. Those who have confessed all sin, removed it from their lives, and returned to a proper walk with God will be free of the wages of sin and will have their names written in the Book of Life, while those who still have sins that they have been unwilling or unable to conquer will have their names blotted from the Book of Life.

True repentance is more than just recognizing and seeking forgiveness of sin. True repentance will also include a return to the direction from which your sin diverted you. In the book, 60 Days: A Spiritual Guide to the High Holidays, Simon Jacobson writes: “Before you can embrace the right path, you must leave the wrong path; you must regret having taken it and you must go away from it. The idea of teshuvah (Strong’s #8666, the Hebrew word for “return”) is not just repenting, but also includes the idea of returning. It’s not just damage control, it is returning to the essence that was always pure – it is returning to God.” (Parenthesis mine.)

The Hebrew word translated as “atonement” is from “kippurim” (Strong’s #3725). It comes from the root word “kaphar (#3722) which means to cover, forgive, be merciful, pardon, purge, or reconcile. A related word is kaphoreth (#3727), which is the word for the “mercy seat” which was God’s throne on the Ark of the Covenant. This is a day for God to show his mercy, to cover, forgive, and pardon our sins, so that we can be reconciled to Him. 1 John 1:9 reminds us that, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Psalm 103:12 promises us that, “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.”

Many of God’s holy days have a theme of our needs toward God: recognizing our need for a Saviour (Passover), the need to remove sin from our lives (Unleavened Bread, Day of Atonement), and the need for the indwelling of God’s Holy Spirit (Pentecost). Yet the Day of Atonement is unique, in that it is the only day where we are told to “afflict our souls.” (Leviticus 23:27) Other passages in Scripture point to this meaning that we are to fast. (Isaiah 53:3, 5, 10; Psalm 35:13; Psalm 69:11). In the New Testament, Acts 27:9 refers to the Day of Atonement simply as “the fast”.

Despite the New Testament being full of references to fasting, modern Christians rarely utilize this powerful spiritual tool. In the Sermon on the Mount, Yeshua (Jesus) talks about “when thou doest thine alms” (Matthew 6:2, a reference to charitable giving); and “when thou prayest” (Matthew 6:5); and “when ye fast” (Matthew 6:16). He doesn’t say “if”, he says “when”. And he puts fasting on the same level as charitable contributions and prayer. He shows what a powerful tool fasting can be in Matthew 17:21, where the disciples were unable to cast out an evil spirit, and Yeshua told them that this kind would not come out without much prayer and fasting.

As you are reading this article, we are still in the ten day period known as the Days of Awe leading up to the Day of Atonement. As mentioned last week, each of these days should have a special time of prayer for searching your soul, turning away from sin and back to God. As the Day of Atonement arrives, it is a picture of the final Day of Judgment. This year, I hope you will consider spending the day in earnest fasting and prayer, seeking to remove all sin from your life, because the day will come when it is too late, and your name will be blotted from the Book of Life.