A Heart for the Lord

Yom Kippur 5774 (September 13-14, 2013) in Jerusalem at the Western Wall
Yom Kippur 5774 (September 13-14, 2013) in Jerusalem at the Western Wall

The Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, also known as the Day of Atonement, ended this past Saturday at nightfall. It is a very solemn holiday, and this year in particular marked the 40th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War when the Egyptian and Syrian armies made a surprise attack on Israel. Yom Kippur is the last day of the High Holy Days, (also known as the Days of Awe), a 10-day period between Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur, and the entire country fasts on Yom Kippur. In fact, the entire country “grinds to a halt” on Yom Kippur. As stated in an article titled, Israel marks solemn, silent Day of Atonement in The Times of Israel”:

“Jews traditionally spend the solemn day fasting and asking God for forgiveness at intense prayer services in synagogues. It caps a 10-day period of soul-searching that began with Rosh Hoshanah, the Jewish new year holiday . . . .

“Yom Kippur is unique in Israel because it touches almost the entire country. A high portion of the secular population observes the fast–and even those who don’t fast tend to refrain from eating in public, and quietly watch movies or rest at home” (quote source here).

“During Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (and in the days leading up to them) Jews embark upon the serious task of examining their lives and repenting for any wrongs they have committed during the previous year. This process of repentance is called ‘teshuvah.’ Jews are encouraged to make amends with anyone they have wronged and to make plans for improving during the coming year” (quote source here).

“On Rosh Hashanah, Jews often say to one another, ‘May you be inscribed and sealed in the Book of Life.’ The High Holiday period is a choice between life and death, righteousness and sin, and those who repent are on their way to being inscribed in the ‘Book of Life,’ which brings with it the promise of a good year. The belief is that on Rosh Hashanah, the names are written in the book, and on Yom Kippur (10 days later) the book is sealed. These 10 days are referred to as the Days of Awe” (quote source here).

For Christians, Yom Kippur “has deep theological significance in the New Testament” as Jesus Christ’s death on the cross completed the work once and for all from the animal sacrifices the Old Testament priests offered to take away sin (quote source here). The Book of Hebrews, specifically chapters 8-10, point to Jesus Christ’s completed work on the cross as our great High Priest. As the writer of Hebrews states in Hebrews 10:1-18:

Christ’s Sacrifice Once for All

The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins. It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said:

“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
but a body you prepared for me;
with burnt offerings and sin offerings
you were not pleased.
Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—
I have come to do your will, my God.’”

First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them”—though they were offered in accordance with the law. Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” He sets aside the first to establish the second. And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.

The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says:

“This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.”

Then he adds:

“Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.”

And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.

returnWhile Jesus was on this earth He participated in all of the Jewish festivals and, in fact, His death on the cross coincided with Passover, as He became the ultimate and final sacrifice (Passover lamb) for sin. And as I have come to learn about the Jewish holidays in the past year and a half and specifically the significance of the High Holy Days (Rosh Hashanah through Yom Kippur) which centers around intense prayer, fasting and repentance, as a Christian I realize fully that Jesus Christ, the long awaited Messiah, is our great High Priest, and “where these (sins and lawless acts) have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin in no longer necessary” (Hebrews 10:18). However, the apostle Paul urges us in Ephesians 4:1-16, to “walk worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love” (v. 1). And I John 1-5 reminds us to live in the light and not in darkness; to love and not to hate; to not love this world and all it has to offer (e.g., “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life”–v. 2:16); and to keep ourselves from idols (and anything that distracts us from our love of God and Jesus Christ is an idol).

Yom Kippur is a time for us, as Christians, to reflect on our lives and how we are living them in this world and with others, either as servants of Jesus Christ or serving ourselves. In a devotion in Open Windows,” published by LifeWay titled, “A Heart for the Lord,” Darla Brantley, adult Sunday School teacher, First Baptist Church, Winfield, Alabama, writes the following (Note: devotional passage reference is Jeremiah 24:4-7 and she starts by quoting Jeremiah 24:7):

“And I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the LORD: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God: for they shall return unto me with their whole heart” ~Jeremiah 24:7 (KJV).

Emergency weather personnel must feel frustrated when they warn people of incoming storms and no one seems to listen. Forecasters advise listeners of danger and encourage them to take necessary precautions. Many residents heed the warnings and evacuate or take shelter while others simply ignore the warnings.

As a prophet of God, Jeremiah had a difficult job. He worked for decades trying to get God’s people to turn from their wicked ways by providing warnings of God’s coming judgment. He grieved their deafness to God’s message. However, God encouraged Jeremiah through a vision, letting the prophet know that those who heeded Jeremiah’s warning would be protected. God promised that His people would long to know Him.

Have you lost your focus on the Lord? Have you ignored warnings from fellow believers or God’s Word? Have you stopped listening to the still, small voice of your Savior? Heed the message your Father has for you. Return to God with all your heart, and enjoy close fellowship with your Creator. Allow Him to protect, comfort and sustain you.

Father, I want to know You and obey Your will. Help me return to You with all my heart.

Even though Yom Kippur is now over for this year, it is never too late to reflect on our walk with the Lord and if we have lost our focus or grown cold towards Him because of all this world has to offer us, especially here in America, we can at any moment return to Him with a humble heart and, once again, enjoy close fellowship with Him. Why not take a few moments today to listen to His “still, small voice” . . . .

He’s calling . . .

Are we listening?

YouTube video: “Come Worship the Lord” by Shannon Wexelberg:

Photo #1 credit and article here
Photo #2 credit here