The Day of Atonement Pt 1: Repentance
What’s the holiest day of the year? For the Children of Israel, there was no question: it was the Day of Atonement. Passover was the day of our personal atonement, the day the Sacrificial Lamb of God died in our place. We have been rescued from death because a perfect substitute sacrifice, Jesus Christ, was found. We are like Isaac, freed from the altar of death. As you applied and received the precious blood of Jesus over the doorpost of your heart, you come to salvation in the New Covenant. Now, let’s look at the original purposes of God’s most holy day on the Hebrew calendar.
We’ve been talking about God’s appointments with His people and the principles He wanted to share with them through each, and we are entering what’s called the Fall Feast Season. Though we have covered some feasts that are truly meaningful, for the Children of Israel no time was holier than the Day of Atonement. But He didn’t simply toss His people straight into this holy day; He put it in the midst of a feast season. He set up Atonement with the Feast of Trumpets, a feast designed to help them remember where they’d been and to repent, and then He followed it up with what the Children of Israel just referred to as “the Feast” (or the Feast of Tabernacles).
Atonement, a day of prayer, righteousness, and faith, would result in the supernatural cleansing of the people. This holiest of days would cleanse or cover the people of their sins. Pretty important, right? Yes—but the promises only started there.
Traditionally, Christians do not have a single day of the year—let alone ten days—where we focus on repentance. I have heard some people say that it’s hard to be under the law, but I think that this is an example that our walk under grace calls us to a higher standard than under the law!
Christians do not repent one time a year; we are called to repent daily, regularly. We can repent at any time in prayer because we have a living relationship with God.
With this understanding that God’s people had one time a year of corporate repentance, read how Jesus taught His disciples to pray:
Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors and do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. (Matthew 6:9-13 NKJV)
This word, “debts,” means our sins. So this is the template that Jesus taught us to use when praying, and it includes repentance in the same breath as asking for provision and protection from the devil. We don’t have to wait for a feast season; we can examine our lives on a daily basis, repent, and allow God to correct our course as needed.
The next time you pray—the very next time!—look at your life. How do you treat others? What condition is the condition of your heart? How is your attitude? Is God your priority? Do you have unforgiveness in your heart? If you realize you have something against someone, don’t go any further; do what you can to make it right. Forgive and release them. Don’t let the enemy get an advantage over you.
Modern Christians lack a proper understanding of what it means to “fear the Lord.” The Children of Israel understood. The Feast of Trumpets was designed to set them up for Atonement with awe and reverence, and I strongly encourage you to take some time to study what it means to have the fear of the Lord. Yes, it is the beginning of wisdom, but it is the reverential awe that we as sinners saved by grace should have for a God equally full of righteousness and mercy.
In our freedom, sometimes I think we lose the opportunity to be reminded to clean our spiritual house occasionally. The Feast of Trumpets provided Israel an opportunity to make things right, and their hearts and with one another. It was customary to seek reconciliation with people that you may have wronged during the year, and they had ten days of introspection to help them prepare for the Day of Atonement.
I would like to suggest that we as Christians also have an opportunity for this type of introspection, repentance, and even restitution in relationships: Communion.
Paul tells us we are to examine ourselves before taking communion so that we do not partake of the Lord’s Supper unworthily. Paul gives the Corinthian church instructions on how they are to take the Lords Supper. After giving detailed instructions on how to take Communion, he explains how they are to examine themselves.
But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this reason, many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged.
(1 Corinthians 11:28-31 NKJV).
Remember, the point of learning about these feasts is not so that we hold ourselves responsible for following Hebrew practices exactly. It’s to understand the principles behind them and their application to us as New Testament believers. A period of repentance was essential to God for His people then...and it is now.
Every time you pray and every time you take Communion, be reminded of the Feast of Trumpets and the reverential awe that God’s people were to cultivate in their hearts. Take it as an opportunity to examine yourself, as Paul directs, so that instead of eating and drinking judgment or damnation to yourself, you can instead do some spiritual housecleaning and eat and drink blessing.
This sets us up for Atonement, the next step in the process God designed—and trust me, it only gets better from here!