And behold, a man came up to him, saying, "Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?" And he (Yeshua) said to him … “If you would enter life, keep the commandments." He (the man) said to him, "Which ones?" And Yeshua said, "You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
This week we are studying about the observances that mark what is commonly called ‘Yom HaKippurim/the Day of Atonements’. These come at the heel of the mishap with Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10). After the premature death of the two young men, people now realize the serious nature of what they were getting involved in by coming close to God and any precautionary measure are welcomed. This is what this is all about: a protocol by which it is safe to approach God.
The text of Leviticus tells us that God tells the Children of Israel that, On this day shall atonement be made for you to cleanse you. You shall be clean before the LORD from all your sins(Leviticus 16:30). Did it really work? Why was Yeshua needed then? Later the writer of Hebrews tells us that, It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins (Hebrews 10:4). Did one statement contradict the other?
We ask these questions because of a misunderstanding in the nuances of the language due to translation, but also because we are again looking at these things through the ‘Old vs. New Testament’, and ‘Law vs. Grace’ lenses, one working against the other. Also, our present parameters of understanding being very far removed from the original texts, culture, and ideas makes it very difficult.
A clearer reading of these texts though reveals that they speak of two different things. The first speaks of national ritual cleansing by the priest approaching the Ark behind the curtain on the behalf of all the people, a cleansing that has to be repeated year after year, while the second speaks of national spiritual eternal redemption done once and for all. The sages of Judaism understood that only repentance brought expiation for sin not offerings, as they say, Neither sin offering, not guilt offering nor the Day of atonement can bring expiation without repentance (Tosefta Yoma 5.9), and repentance, meaning the return of the heart towards obedience to Torah, was the main message brought by John the Immerser and Yeshua (Matthew 3:2; 4:17). We must also remember that when the Levitical Festivals were given, which includes Yom HaKippurim, (Leviticus 23) they were given to the Children of Israel as a perpetual command (Leviticus 23:31).
Today we have a Temple-less reality so we are only able to fulfill certain parts of these commandments like the fasting for example. One Day the Temple is to be rebuilt and inaugurated by Messiah. May we on that Day be as a Bride who has prepared herself for the coming of her betrothed; one who is physically and spiritually ready to enter His Kingdom, familiar with His biddings and the ways of His kingdom. Studying the Levitical laws of offerings and the Levitical Festivals teaches about the functions and roles of Messiah in our life.