The Day of Atonements?
From 1973 to 1988 I gave messages to churches in France and Quebec every year on the Day of Atonement. The name of the day, however, was not in the singular format. The French translation is Le Jour des Expiations or the Day of Expiations or Atonements. Furthermore, I discovered a few days ago that the French were right! That's exactly how the Hebrew reads. While Jews call the day Yom Kippur, in the Hebrew Scriptures the tern is Yom Kippurim. The noun form of the verb that literally means "to cover" comes in plural form.
God is a God of expansive and profound concepts, reflected in the Hebrew language He employed. He is also, however, a God of details. I believe we can always find a lesson in God's details.
What can we learn about this day of fasting from this detail? Why did God say "atonements"?
One reason is obvious: on this day God commanded not one, but many animals to be sacrificed.
We will examine other important reasons, but first, let's look at the English word atonement. Actually, it's a word William Tyndale coined in 1526 when he translated his version of the English Bible. And what an interesting one! He combined at and one to make atone.
While Tyndale did not understand the broad, conceptual understanding of Hebrew words like the one for atone and atonement, he hit on an important concept that marries the Old and New Covenants. Jesus' prayed a prayer for His church in John 17:21 that could never be answered under the Old Covenant. While the concept of God being One (echad, Deut. 6:4) is one that has been embraced preciously by Jews, the truth on this subject far surpasses what they grasp. The amazing truth is that the Godhead is indeed One in the sense of united or unified and the members of the Triune God Family want to enlarge that Family. They want all mankind to be joined in unity -- become at one with them.
Yes, I said them. Jesus the Word said "us" when making man (Gen. 1:26). While the Trinity is not becoming a "billioninity" or a billion or more members of the original Godhead or Trinity, God is inviting all mankind to be like Him in character, love and power, to be "Gods" on the earth under His authority. His passion is not merely to receive our worship. His desire and joy is to have us be one with Him, in agreement with His ways of love, and to be like Him in every way.
This day of "the coverings," to use only one of the many meanings of this term, is a key to enable our oneness with God. One important way, which we will discuss later, is that this day allows us to get rid of Satan and his works from our lives. It is the devil who has separated us from God by his demons and the power of sin that has buffeted us since our birth.
God Covers Everything
The word "cover" has a limited meaning, and that meaning certainly applies to the limited Old Covenant. But God is a big God and He uses big words -- not highfalutin terms we can't easily grasp, but words that are large in their scope. He covered a lot in that Hebrew word for cover, however we choose to spell it to convey the pronunciation in English. God used kippourim or kippurim to describe more than the temporary and less than best covering of sins by animal sacrifices.
God is a forward-looking God who knows the end before the beginning. Under Moses the atonements were calling on the mercy of a holy God by meeting the strict requirements of a law replete with innumerable sacrifices of bulls and goats to appease or pacify Him. It was a simple covering of the sin from His sight, so to speak. This kippur allowed this holy God (represented on earth as the Word, who would later become Jesus) to bless His physical people. One sad fact remained: the sins still belonged to them.
This allowance was a proof of God's love and mercy (In fact, the same root word described the "mercy seat" or seat of coverings). The God Family of Love had agreed long before creation on a plan -- an awesome plan that took Satan's rebellion into account. This plan of love would demonstrate a much greater love and have a more profound and permanent result.
Father Love and Jesus, the Son of Love, agreed upon the plan. Love would come down in the form of God's Son Jesus, shedding His blood for all mankind. The making of many atonements would cease.
Rigor Mortis for the Rigaramole of Rituals
The Book of Hebrews powerfully portrays the end of the need for the unending round of rigorous rituals. Its language, with terms like "day by day" and "year by year," express the monotony, the daily grind of sacrifices. They seemed to lead nowhere. Yet they all led to Jesus, the perfect sacrifice. Every Day of Atonement(s) the same process was repeated.
Jesus has special blessings for those who keep this day and His other Sabbath rests (Heb. 4:9). They learn more of who Jesus is, more of the plan of Father Love for all mankind and they begin to experience the height, depth and breadth of God's love, knowing they are clean in His eyes. They know God loves them and they need no human works or penance to make them acceptable to Him.
The author of Hebrews paints a picture of the monotony and futility of the endless round of rituals compared to Jesus' sacrifice. Listen to the language: "Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same
sacrifices, which can never take away sins" (Heb. 10:11). The sacrificial law, unlike God's moral law, was a fading shadow of something much greater. It could "never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near…in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year by year" (Heb. 10:1,3).
Satan's system of religiosity still has practices that make religious people live as if Jesus never came. The universal church teaches that you must do laborious works or penance to pacify a holy God. In this case you are appeasing a cruel god -- not the God named Love who sent His Son to die for us.
I once belonged to a congregation whose leadership reminded us every year at the springtime observance of Jesus' death that we were sinners, which we were not. This annual guilt trip was the antithesis of the reason Jesus died. He sacrificed Himself to rid us of guilt, not to create more of it.
One of the signs of death is the stiffening of the muscles of the corpse. It's called rigor mortis. The incessant round and rigaramole of rituals has been declared dead and buried, so to speak, by the sacrifice of Jesus. But religion has failed to feel the rigor mortis, burdening its adherents with unnecessary rituals, indulgences to pay for sins, penance without repentance -- and a monstrous guilt trip. The one atonement Jesus made does not seem to have registered. Crucifixes keep Him on the cross, making even the Savior continue to suffer. It seems kippurim, atonements, is still in effect for many Christians.
Sin-conscious and Suffering
But did Jesus say He continues to suffer and wants us to suffer under a burden of continual sacrifices to try to justify what has already been justified? "For the law [not the moral law, but the law of sacrifices], since it has only a shadow of the good things to come [Jesus and all the blessings He would bring], and not the very form of things" could never make our spirit man perfect as Jesus' atonement does (Heb. 10:1). Verse 2 continues: "Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, because the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have had consciousness of sins?"
Yet we see today that most Christians are sin-conscious rather than righteousness-conscious. They carry a cross they were never called to bear -- the cross of Jesus. It is true we are to lay down our lives as living sacrifices and be willing to die physically if called to do so (even though few have this calling and anointing). But Jesus tells us to deny ourselves and take up our cross -- not His. Jesus never asked us to pay the price He paid. He paid it once.
Why do we leave Jesus on the cross? Unlike the plural kippurim or sacrifices that were necessary before Jesus died for us, He make one kippur -- one sacrifice that did more than cover our sins. Under the Old Covenant, these covered sins still belong to those who committed them. On the other hand, by His blood Jesus completely blotted out our sins.
He went before His Father the day after His resurrection as the wave sheaf offering, offering His blood in the heavenly temple once and only once. Hebrews states that He did not "offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the holy place year by year with blood that is not his own. Otherwise He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself" (Heb. 9:25-26).
Jesus was brought down off the cross, was buried, resurrected and ascended to heaven to be our High Priest. He does not appreciate being pictured and sculpted on a cross. He is risen. He's alive -- in us. He suffered the penalty and consequences of sin, including all the terrors and traumas released in the Day of Atonement, once and only once. It was excruciating, but it's over.
The only suffering Jesus wants us to endure is a suffering that brings joy -- resisting sin and accepting persecution with love and forgiveness. God wants us to be like Him. He empowers us to forgive. However, if we do not use that empowerment, He cannot forgive us (Mat. 6:15).
Jesus paid 100% of the price for sin. He wants us to suffer 0%. When we confess our sins, we can put the cross of Jesus between us and the law of sowing and reaping. He offers us freedom from sin and its consequences, but some don't get it.
Why is the Christian world so conscious of sin? Why can't we be conscious of the righteousness Jesus paid for us? Why can't we feel clean -- "squeaky-clean"? The answer has much to do with keeping this Day of Atonement.
"Like it Never Happened!"
Accidents happen. Auto body repair shops make lots of money from these mishaps. One local company has a large billboard with the words: "Like it never happened!"
We don't always mean to sin. We slip up and miss the mark. All sin, the ones we purpose in our hearts and the "accidents," are covered under God's plan of redemption. But they are much more than covered. They are blotted out -- removed from God's memory. "Yes, You will cast all their sins Into the depths of the sea" (Micah 7:19). "I will remember their sins no more" (Heb. 8:12).
Some body shops don't do the kind of job they promise. While the evidence may be slight, you can still see where your car got "hurt" and it may even remind you of the trauma you experienced.
Forgiving ourselves and others means we do not remind ourselves or others of the hurts. We may not forget like God does, but in love toward ourselves and others, we don't bring up the incident, unless we use it as a teaching tool without experiencing any pain.
On one episode of The Andy Griffith Show years ago, Sheriff Andy and Deputy Barney were reminiscing about some good old times together. But Barney's hurt came out in a funny way when he meandered back into the past to cite an incident with Andy that the deputy initially laughed about. But as he kept on talking, it was easy to see that this little incident had left a lot of pain in his heart. It was obvious that in all these years together he had not forgiven Andy for a small thing that nonetheless loomed large in Barney's heart.
Why is unforgiveness not so obvious to us when we are the ones with the hurt? If you still have the pain, admit it: you have not forgiven.
I have been a Christian for over forty years. Sadly, many of those years I lived with pain in my heart because of the way a ministerial superior treated me. Had I known my identity in Jesus, the pain would not have been as great and I would have given it to God and forgiven him. I always said to others that I forgave this man, but I should have recognized the telltale sign of unforgiveness: the pain was still there.
Many Christians continually remind themselves of past hurts and sins. Little dents in their spiritual fenders haunt them throughout their Christian life. While God has made them brand new, better than any body shop can do, they feel they must do something -- some act of penance to make up for that sin or hurt. They must try to do something good in their human strength to appease a God they don't think has quite forgiven them. They are keeping kippurim. Their rigaramole of righteous acts is a fleshly act that does not even pacify God as did the round of animal sacrifices in Israel. It grieves Him. He offers freedom from suffering, but they want to suffer.
For God, that sin never happened. But they can't put it behind them "like it never happened." Why? One of the main reasons may surprise you.
"In the Flesh" -- or Makkadesh?
The sad truth is that many Christians don't really believe God loves them -- unconditionally. Although it's in the Bible, they have not internalized the truth that God is Love (I John 4:8). His name is Agape in Greek, Love in English. And He has many names, including one important name we shall explore shortly: Yehovah Makkadesh. We will see how most believers today have done things "in the flesh" because they don't know God as Makkadesh.
They have preferred to listen to popular doctrines of demons rather than come into line with Love, His names and His ways -- expressed in His laws.
Did I say "laws'? That may be a bad word for many Christians, who associate it with legalism. But it is not a bad word for God. He is Love and His law is also love. If you love His law like David did, you prove your love for Him (Ps. 119:47-48). Jesus Himself said, "If you love Me, You will keep My commandments" (John 14:15).
It is popular to say today, "Jesus did it all for me. I don't have to obey all those rules." And they wonder why they are suffering -- struggling. They wonder why they are burdened. Why do Christians feel guilty, unworthy? Why do those who are supposed to be free commit sin and suffer sometimes more than unbelievers?
Could it be that Satan's lie has messed us up? Instead of "Jesus did it all for me. I don't have to obey the law," how about, "Jesus bore it all for me, so I need to lay down to Him my sin and pain."
The truth is that most Christians are holding to past sins, hurts, pains, burdens, regrets, fears, dreads and sorrows. Their hearts are weighed down, but it seems they can't heed Jesus' offer: "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest" (Mat. 11:28).
"A Time to Heal"
Why? One reason may surprise you. Probably no preacher ever told them that the Greek words for "rest" in these verses were the words that the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures at the time used for the Sabbath rest. And the weekly Sabbath rest was not the only time Jesus offered to take our burdens.
Preachers preach about it. Songs talk about it. But nobody seems to have figured out how to do it. "I'm gonna lay down my burdens, down by the riverside, down by the riverside…" Could it be that the main question that opens the door for the answer is not "how" -- but "when"?
While God is always available to us through prayer, He has always met with His people at specific times. You may not be familiar with those times because most pastors today will tell you that they are Jewish and legalistic. That's a lie. They are neither Jewish nor legalistic. They are the days of Love. Father Love gave them to His people through Jesus, who spoke the Ten Commandments on Sinai and added a little later all of the appointed times when God chose to meet with His people.
Jesus kept those days of Love, as did the apostles, including the apostle of love, John, who history records taught His disciple Polycarp to keep these same days in spite of those who wanted to change them.
Jesus has established special days where we can lay down our burdens to Him. While He daily bears our burdens, these appointed weekly, monthly and annual times are especially anointed for divine exchange. We release on the weekly Sabbath days our sins, burdens, cares and concerns in exchange for a renewed joy directly from Jesus. Every month at the time of the new moon we release our long-term burdens, regrets, fears, dreads and the like as the Holy Spirit brings them to our minds. Annual Sabbath and feast days permit us to give gifts Satan has given us to Jesus and be renewed, restored and refreshed.
You probably remember the song whose lyrics were: "There is a season, turn, turn…and a time for every purpose under heaven." It came right out of the Bible (Eccl. 3:1-8). You know the song. You know the verses. But do you know the seasons?
There is a time to weep, to mourn and a time to heal. Often they go together. The new moons are times to sometimes tearfully uproot the things Satan has planted in our lives, throwing away the stones he has placed in our paths -- times to receive healing. The Sabbath and feast days of Love are also times of healing accompanied by laughter and singing. They are times to love -- to experience the love of God and to express love toward Him and toward one another.
Furthermore, the Sabbath days and all of Love's appointed times are closely associated with His name, Makkadesh. Not keeping these days can explain why the saints, or holy ones, are not so holy these days.
"Splish-splash" with Makkadesh -- the "Squeaky-Cleaner"
"Splish, splash, I was takin' a bath, on a Saturday night…" I can still hear the old record turning and the tune making my feet want to dance. And the singer got it right -- well, almost. Saturday before sunset is God's "bath time" for His children.
God reveals His names for a purpose. They represent what He promises to be and do for us. Makkadesh is one of Jesus' names that you cannot fully claim without obeying the verse that contains this name.
You'll find it in Exodus 31:13. Jesus says to Israel and to all who wear the name of the believers, the "Israel of God" or the church today (Gal. 6:16):"'You shall surely observe My Sabbaths [plural]; for this is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the [Eternal] who sanctifies you."
"Who sanctifies you" translates the Hebrew Makkadesh. Its meanings include make holy or make clean. If you are burdened with guilt about past sins or mistakes, or if you are carrying fear, dreads and regrets from the past, you can't feel squeaky-clean, can you? And if you don't know about Jesus' special times to take your burdens, you are destroyed for lack of knowledge (Hos. 4:6). You still feel dirty.
What a dirty lie Satan has told the church! "Oh, don't keep that Jewish Sabbath and all those Jewish days. They are burdens!"
No way, says Yahweh! Just the opposite is true. They are not burdens. They are the times set by Love Himself to release burdens to Jesus.
Christians, looking for some ethereal riverside, have missed the dates with their Bridegroom. They showed up on the wrong days. Paul indeed went out to a riverside (Acts 16:13), but He didn't throw his burdens in the river. He met with Jesus at this "place of prayer" and gave His weekly concerns to the Burden-bearer on the Sabbath day. He also kept Yom Kippurim, the Day of Atonement (Acts 27:9). His calendar was not highlighted with reminders about Christmas and Easter and Sunday school at Ceasarea, but with God's days -- the days of Love.
Tragic news headlines the newspaper of Christian experience today: we have missed Makkadesh. We have been "splish-slashing" in vain on Sunday, Christmas and Easter. But we have missed the anointed baths Jesus has for us. He wants to wash us clean.
When, and only when God gathers "those who grieve about the appointed feasts" (Zeph. 3:18), will Christians feel truly clean. Only then will the modern day church, the "daughter of Zion," be able to shout for joy. Only when they keep God's days will God be able to say: "[Jesus] has taken away His judgments against you, He has cleared away your enemies…He will exult over you with joy [simchah: festive joy, as He keeps His feasts with you]" (Zeph. 3:14-15,17a).
God cannot clean up His church until they begin to keep the days into which Makkadesh has poured Himself. As long as we bow to tradition and listen to lies and refuse to keep the days of Love, we will not know how much God loves us and how much we should value ourselves and others. As long as we stay in the flesh, we will not truly know Makkadesh.
Jesus' Pain -- Our Gain
I love the way prophet Rick Joyner expressed his view of pain. He explained that many people believe in the phrase, "no pain, no gain." His version was, "no pain, no pain." That's also God's version. But Christians aren't living it because they aren't keeping the Day of Atonement.
This day explains God's plan of love, a wise plan that foreknew what the enemy would do. Sin was Satan's idea. He is the one originally responsible for the existence of sin in the world. Sin was Satan's "gift" to mankind. He gave it to Adam, and he gave it to us when we were born. He has continued to give us ideas about how to sin.
While sin belonged to Satan and was his gift to man, Love sent down His Son to take that sin upon Himself. He took it all, all the sin, all the pain of sin, all the terrors and traumas that Satan has brought us. That is what Atonement means. Jesus became a sin and a guilt offering, bearing our sorrows and pains, sicknesses and diseases, our griefs, regrets, dreads and fears.
So all that pain, unlike in Old Covenant times of endless atonements, does not belong to us. It belongs to Jesus. He sets us free from all guilt.
Last month, my wife and I took some wrong turns and encountered a train on the way to a movie we did not want to miss. I allowed frustration to enter, as well as worry and anxiety that we might be late for the movie. Consequently, my foot got a tad heavy on the gas, when to my surprise, I spied a radar camera pointed at me.
I confessed the sin to God, and laid down the guilt feeling and shame to Jesus. I then claimed seven-fold return from the thief, Satan (Prov. 6:31). My wife asked me, "How can you do that when it was your fault?"
Good question. Jesus took not only my sins and mistakes on His cross. He also took away the guilt and shame. He took all the gifts Satan gave me. Sin is from Satan. Jesus then took that sin with which Satan tempted me on His cross. So why should I be timid about claiming seven-fold back from Satan? That sin and that guilt no longer belong to me, and they originated from Satan. I know that sounds flippant, as in Flip Wilson who said, "the devil made me do it," but it's true. When I choose to do what the devil "makes" me do or tempts me to do, I can lay it down to Jesus. It's no longer mine. Jesus paid all my sins and all my debts (Col. 2:14).
Furthermore, He is my covering, my kippur. He is El Shaddai, literally "the many breasted One of all provision." He gathers His people unto Him like chicks under a hen and covers all our debts. I have an anointed prayer shawl that reminds me that I am covered or wrapped in the Word, Jesus, and healing rises in the wings (as the Jews called the tassels) of the Sun of Righteousness, Jesus. The plural kippurim, once a continual reminder of sin, now unveils its conceptual meaning, revealing the vastness of the promises of the New Covenant.
That conceptual meaning, as confirmed by Leviticus 16, also includes the final banishment of Satan. Before Jesus chases Him away into the blackness of darkness in a totally different dimension to be mentally tormented forever, He places upon Satan the sin and the guilt whose price He paid for to set us free from Satan's gifts. But since they originally belonged to Satan and he was sin's perpetrator, Jesus rightly places on him the guilt of all mankind. He is not a scapegoat, but an azazel (the Hebrew word for the live goat chased into the desert) who deserves what he gets.
We chose to follow Satan at one time, but thanks to Jesus we don't get what we deserve. Jesus took it, and then at the very end He puts it back on the head of the dirty rotten scoundrel who invented sin. And that's something to celebrate.
"Thou Shalt Do the Dance"
While not acclaimed by the critics or at the box office, Evan Almighty had some interesting moments of truth. At the end, God (Morgan Freeman) reveals what the scriptwriter calls the Eleventh Commandment: "Thou shalt do the dance!" Rejoicing ensues as the actors go to it with great rhythm.
The dance of victory is also important to God. There is indeed a time to dance, and if ever there was a time to dance, it is on the Day of Atonement. It celebrates the day of Satan's defeat! He is under our feet. And God wants us to dance on his head on the Day of Atonement in a dance of great victory. Dancing while fasting is powerful. The anointing of the day and the anointing of the dance combine to make Satan furious.
He hates this day more than any other. All the more reason for us to keep it! Satan is God's enemy and ours.
We claim back on this day all Satan has stolen from us. We call for the freedom from the traumas he has given us. We rejoice that he will have to bear all those traumas as well as all our sin, guilt and shame. What a shame that we as the church today have not kept this day! What a shame that we have let the liar tells us this day was a burden! It is a burden only to him. Let us lay down to Jesus the shame and the sin of not keeping the days of Love. Let us rejoice in getting to know Makkadesh, the Divine Master of the Sabbath and all the Sabbath days, Jesus our Saviour who takes away all our sin and washes us clean again -- squeaky-clean.