The Feasts of the Lord
The Day of Atonement
In 1967 Thomas A Harris wrote a self-help book which became a best seller. Does anyone remember the name of it? It was “I’m OK – You’re OK.” It sold over 15 million copies. The main theme and idea of the book is, “I feel good about myself and feel you’re pretty OK as well.”
The LA Times said, “Extraordinary. Harris has helped millions find the freedom to change, liberate their adult effectiveness, and achieve joyful intimacy with others.” Self-help books like this may make us feel good in a shallow way, just as a Joel Osteen sermon may do, but they certainly don’t do anything in helping us achieve joyful intimacy with God. In fact, they will inevitably leave us in a worse condition than when we began because the ever-nagging idea which is in all of us is that there is a God, and we can never know if we are OK with Him or not.
This is true with every religion on the planet as well. In the end, all of them but one attempt to resolve this problem in an upward way. We do things in order to appease God. In theological terminology, it is called “works-based salvation.” Works-based salvation is the defining element of every single religious expression known to man with but one exception – biblical Christianity.
It defines many sects within the greater umbrella of Christianity as well, but these cannot be considered “biblical Christianity,” meaning that which is based on what God has stated in His word. Although offensive to many to list these various subsects, it is actually inappropriate to not do so. Unless someone knows they are not acting in accord with God’s rules, they will never know how to act and respond accordingly.
A classic example of works-based salvation is Roman Catholicism. Their faith is defined in their own canons, and these canons of Roman Catholic law state explicitly that which is contrary to the Bible. An example of this is found in seven of the canons from their Counsel of Trent. Some of them are a bit wordy, but one will suffice to demonstrate this –
“Canon 12. If any one saith, that justifying faith is nothing else but confidence in the divine mercy which remits sins for Christ’s sake; or, that this confidence alone is that whereby we are justified; let him be anathema.”
What they have declared anathema is the very heart of the gospel message. If you’re not sure if I’m telling the truth, take a moment to read Ephesians 2:8, 9, or Galatians 2:16, or a host of other verses which clearly teach this.
Canon 12, along with several other canons from Trent actually declares the Apostle Paul anathema, or consigned to damnation. One of the canons would do the same to Jesus. But as Jesus is the ultimate Author of Scripture, all of the same canons implicitly damn Him as well – not a good place to be in when one must stand before the One they have damned with their words, but who will do the actual damning of their eternal souls.
Text Verse: “So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, 17 which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.” Colossians 2:16, 17
My brother, Ethan, once drove by a billboard that had a picture of Christ on the cross on it. Along with that was the question, “If I’m OK and you’re OK, what am I doing up here?” Think it through. If we could work our way back to God, and I mean if even one person on this planet and in all ages of human history could work his way back to God, then what would be the point of sending Jesus? If one person could do it, then it would entirely negate the purpose of the cross. The God/Man would have wasted His time, spent His effort vainly, shed His blood without need, and given up His breath in futility. But God is wiser than that.
He saw the need, He understood man’s inability to meet that need, and He sent His only begotten and beloved Son to take care of the problem. The pain of the cross is the only way that God can say to us, “I’m Ok – You’re OK.” It is this, and no other way. God did the work, man must do the believing – so the Bible does say. Why is that so hard for people to understand?
Let us put aside our prideful deeds and trust in the finished, and all sufficient atoning work of the Lord Jesus. It is a moment in history which was prefigured by a particular Feast of the Lord, the record of which is found in His superior word. And so let’s turn to that precious word once again and… May God speak to us through His word today and may His glorious name ever be praised.
Yom Kippur, The Day of Atonement
26 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying:
The words indicate that an entirely new feast is introduced. In other words, this is not a continuation of the Feast of Acclamation which was detailed in the previous three verses. Instead, it is a stand alone feast day which is to be heralded in as such.
The verse begins with the Hebrew word akh, translated here as, “also.” It is often used as a restrictive, or limiting word, translated as “only.” Only this feast, and the next-to-be-described feast of Sukkoth, begin with akh. It thus signifies that this is a peculiar feast. As it is a limiting word, one must contemplate what part of the verse is being set apart. Is it “Only on the tenth day of the month;” is it “Only it shall be a holy convocation;” is it “Only you shall afflict your souls;” or is it, “Only there shall be an offering by fire to the Lord.”?
As a specific day is set apart for other feasts, it is surely not referring to the set day. On other feasts there are holy convocations, and on other feasts there are offerings by fire to the Lord. Therefore, it appears that the stress is laid upon the words, “you shall afflict your souls.”
This alone is unique to the feast days recorded here. And in fact, the term is used three times in these six verses. There is a stress upon it that is not to be overlooked or ignored. In fact, the word anah, or afflict, is used five times in the book of Leviticus, and all five are in either Chapter 16, or in these eight verses, all dealing with the Day of Atonement.
The word carries several meanings, but it gives the sense of looking down or browbeating. Thus, it here signifies to humble or abase oneself. There was to be no self-exaltation on this day, but rather the people were to avow their lowly state before the Lord.
27 (con’t) the tenth day of this seventh month
The specific day is selected, it was to commence at evening of the ninth day of the month of Ethanim (later known as Tishri), and continue until the evening of the tenth day. This is not because it has a future fulfillment in Christ, but because of what it signifies in Christ. As we have already gone through the Day of Atonement guidelines which were given in chapter 16, we know that this day was fulfilled in Christ’s crucifixion. That did not occur on the tenth day of the seventh month. Rather it occurred on the fourteenth day of the first month. However, atonement logically follows redemption. A person is redeemed, and then the sins are atoned for, even if these things happen simultaneously in God’s mind.
The Day of Atonement is logically prior to the Feast of Sukkoth, which commences on the fifteenth day of this same month. Sukkoth, as we will see, pictures Christ dwelling in a tabernacle of flesh, and His people dwelling with Him. This could not be realized, in its fullest, until after our sins are atoned for. Thus, this feast precedes that of Sukkoth.
This is an important point to remember because, as we have noted before, it is a common claim that the three fall feasts are not yet fulfilled in Christ, and they will only be fulfilled in His second advent. This is false, and it is heresy. To say that Christ has not fulfilled these feasts is to say that Christ did not fulfill the law. Thus, the law is still binding on us. But Christ is the end of the law for all who believe. There is no future fulfillment of these feasts, even if there are continuing applications of them. Christ died once for all sinners, but each sinner’s Day of Atonement comes on whatever day they come to Christ. It is gigantic error to say that these feasts are yet to be fulfilled.
27 (con’t) shall be the Day of Atonement.
The Hebrew is only three words, yom ha’kippurim hu – “Day Atonements it.” Yom means “day.” Ha’kippurim means, “the expiations,” or “the atonements,” it being a plural word.
This word is identical with kopher, which has several interconnected meanings, all of which signify a covering. It can be a bribe (where a bribe covers the eyes of the one bribed); it can be pitch – as in bitumen; it can be henna – as in dyeing; or it can be a ransom, or a satisfaction. Each of these is connected to the word kaphar from which kopher comes. Kaphar indicates “to appease,” or “to atone.”
Considering all of this, we can see that this is a day in which sins are covered over, carried away, and a ransom is made in order to satisfy or appease the wrath of God. If one looks at Christ’s work in this light, he can see that before the covering, God saw flaw. Once the covering is made, God only sees that which made the covering.
This is why Paul uses the term “in Christ.” When God looks at us, He does not see us in the state we are – fallen and wayward. Rather, He sees Christ’s covering of us and nothing more. We have been ransomed, we are covered, we are deemed as flawless – all because of Another; all because of Christ.
In order for this to happen though, Christ first had to cover us. It is in His cross that this atonement occurred. It is the most solemn day in all of human history. Therefore, in anticipation of that day, each year Israel would observe the Day of Atonement. They were informed that on this most holy and particular day…
27 (con’t) It shall be a holy convocation for you;
miqra qodesh yihyeh – “convocation holy it shall be.” This repeats verse 2 of this chapter which said, “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘The feasts of the Lord, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, these are My feasts.” The Lord designated certain days to be holy convocations, and this particular day was to be one of them. However, unlike all of the others, this one has a very specific and important guideline…
27 (con’t) you shall afflict your souls,
v’initem eth napshotekem – “and you shall afflict your souls.” These words are exactly repeated four times in Leviticus and Numbers, and all refer to the Day of Atonement. The mandate was first given in verse 16:29. It is generally accepted that “afflict your souls” means to fast. The people were to deny themselves food. However, it certainly also included refraining from any other pleasures, and also an active affliction of remembering the sins of the past year and mourning over them. In Acts 27:9, this day is referred to as tēn Nēsteian, or “the fast,” thus signifying the manner in which this day was conducted. But the word has a greater meaning in Christ where the word anah, or afflict, is used twice concerning this exact scene –
“Surely He has borne our griefs
And carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
We have turned, every one, to his own way;
And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He opened not His mouth;
He was led as a lamb to the slaughter,
And as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
So He opened not His mouth.
8 He was taken from prison and from judgment,
And who will declare His generation?
For He was cut off from the land of the living;
For the transgressions of My people He was stricken.” Isaiah 53:4-8
As Christ was so afflicted, the people were to anticipate that august life and atoning sacrifice with the afflicting of their own souls. They were not to do any work of any kind as well, acknowledging that they were in a state of affliction. Nothing regular was to be done, but rather this was to be a high Sabbath.
27 (con’t) and offer an offering made by fire to the Lord.
v’hiqravtem isheh l’Yehovah – “and offer an offering by fire to Yehovah.” The offerings mentioned here are more than just those given in Leviticus 16. Others were required, in addition to the regular daily offerings. Numbers 29 gives the specific offerings which were to be presented to the Lord –
“You shall present a burnt offering to the Lord as a sweet aroma: one young bull, one ram, and seven lambs in their first year. Be sure they are without blemish. 9 Their grain offering shall be of fine flour mixed with oil: three-tenths of an ephah for the bull, two-tenths for the one ram, 10 and one-tenth for each of the seven lambs; 11 also one kid of the goats as a sin offering, besides the sin offering for atonement, the regular burnt offering with its grain offering, and their drink offerings.” Numbers 29:8-11
These then are the total offerings which were presented to the Lord. In type and picture, every detail points to the Person and work of Christ.
28 And you shall do no work on that same day,
v’kal melakah lo ta’asu b’etsem ha’yom ha’zeh – “and all work no shall you do the bone the day that.” It sounds odd when literally translated, but the word etsem, or bone, means “the same.” This goes back to Genesis 2:23 when Adam declared that Eve was “bone of my bones.” In other words, they were of the same substance. That then carries on in the Hebrew language to reflect that which is the same. And so, on this same day which has just been described, no work was to be done. This is more than regular work, but all work. Though not a Saturday Sabbath, it was to be a high Sabbath of resting unto the Lord.
28 (con’t) for it is the Day of Atonement,
ki yom kippurim hu – “for Day Atonements it.” Again, the word kippurim is plural. It signifies “expiations.” On this day, all sins and transgressions for all the repentant souls were atoned for.
28 (con’t) to make atonement for you before the Lord your God.
l’kapher alekem liphne Yehovah elohekem – “to cover you before the face Yehovah your God.” The words are not uncommon, but they should be explained. When the Lord’s face is turned towards someone, it can be a bad thing or a good thing. In Leviticus 20:6, it says –
“And the person who turns to mediums and familiar spirits, to prostitute himself with them, I will set My face against that person and cut him off from his people.” Leviticus 20:6
That is bad news. However, the Lord’s face can signify blessing as well. This is seen, for example, in the Aaronic Blessing found in Numbers 6 –
“The Lord bless you and keep you;
25 The Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;
26 The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.”’ Numbers 6:24-26
That is good news. The difference in the two is how the person is viewed by the Lord. In the case of a sinner, one cannot stand before the face of the Lord and find blessing. But when one’s sins are covered, or atoned for, then what He sees is the covering, not the one covered. This is the purpose of atonement. It is to bring warring parties back together again, and hence it is an act and rite of at-one-ment in a very real sense.
It should be obvious, that the term “make atonement for you” is referring only to the people of Israel. They were the chosen nation, and they alone were covered by the Lord’s annual provision which occurred on this sacred day. However, this is the type, and then there is the Antitype. The atoning sacrifice of Christ, the fulfillment of what is seen here, is sufficient for all people and at all times who will come to Him by faith. John clearly and specifically states this in his first epistle –
“My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.” 1 John 2:1, 2
The Greek word translated there as “propitiation” means, “atoning sacrifice.” It is Christ who is the atoning sacrifice for the whole world; for any who will simply come. The word “propitiation” in English literally means “to appease.” Thus one can again see how God’s wrath is appeased in Christ’s covering of us, thus allowing us to be acceptable as we stand in the face of the Lord.
29 For any person who is not afflicted in soul on that same day shall be cut off from his people.
The Hebrew begins the verse with ki kal ha’nephesh asher lo t’unneh, or “For all the soul which no be afflicted.” The soul stands for the person, but it is the soul which shall be cut off from the people. The phrase is used six times in Leviticus to indicate excision from the people of Israel, and it is important that consistency of these words be maintained. What is important here is what this pictures. In the Antitype, Christ, there is the truth that any who will not come to Him will be cut off from the presence of God. It is the soul which is eternal, and that soul will be lost unless the afflictions of Christ are imputed to him. If not, then only the option of eternal separation from the presence of God is left.
All of this effort in presenting to the world these ancient types and pictures, and all of the centuries of Israel’s history, has been compiled to show us the immense importance of not missing what God would do in the Person of Jesus. When we hurriedly read through these often difficult passages, we miss the importance of what God is attempting to relay to us. But every word is calling out to us to consider and act. This then makes it so immensely sad when people reject Christ’s work, as if it is somehow insufficient to save, and they fall back on observing these mere shadows. What a dishonor to God to do so. What a rejection of the horrors of the cross! And so, what a horrifying place to find oneself.
30 And any person who does any work on that same day, that person I will destroy from among his people.
Again, instead of “person,” the word “soul” is used twice in this verse, and it is for the same reason as before. The soul is eternal. The doctrine of anthropological hylomorphism teaches that a person is a soul/body unity. The soul can be, and is, separated from the body when the body dies.
However, the soul lives on in an unnatural state. But though unnatural, it does live on. A soul which is destroyed then means “lost.” One can get a future taste of what Revelation speaks of with the words, limnen tou puros, or “Lake of Fire.” Everything that Israel faced in a physical manner is realized in a spiritual reality for the greater world. Scary stuff for those who should care, but as of yet still don’t, or for those who do care, but have been misled about the way to avoid that terrible fate.
The prohibition here is for any and all kinds of work. This day alone was set aside as a special Sabbath-type day. Not even meals could be made, which was something allowed on the other holy convocations. This was to be a unique and awesome day for the people to remember and keep. This is made explicit with…
31 You shall do no manner of work;
kal melakah lo taasu – “all work no shall you do.” The repetition is a Hebraic way of stressing the point. We might stress this by saying, “You are absolutely not to do any work on that day.” But in the Hebrew manner, repeating the same thing is such a stress.
Two points about this. First, by default, the priests were exempt from this absolute prohibition, because it is they who had to do the work for the people in conducting the rituals for atonement. Secondly, as the priests are representatives of the Lord, then the work that they do is all-sufficient for the accomplishment of the needed atonement.
In other words, right here in this prohibition is seen the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith – an all-sufficient salvation. The priest’s work is, in type, that of Christ Jesus, our true High Priest. That was exta-supercalifragilisticexpialidociously seen in our evaluation of Leviticus 16. Every detail of what the priest did was, point by point, fulfilled in the life and work of Christ.
Therefore, as the admonition to do no work, of any kind, at all, in any way, and without exception, is given to the people of Israel, then it is a clear, precise, and absolute picture of our not doing any work, of any kind, at all, in any way, and without exception, in order to be saved. There is no “I” in this equation. It is completely and absolutely the work of the High Priest, and His work alone, which brings about our atonement and the propitious, blessed relationship that we experience with God. Will somebody please say, “Amen.”
31 (con’t) it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.
khuqat olam l’dorotekem b’kol mo-she-vo-tekem – “statute forever to your generations in all your dwellings.” The phrase khuqat olam, or “statute forever,” has been explained quite a few times, but it must be explained again just in case its meaning has leaked out of your ear. The word olam gives the sense of “to the vanishing point.” “Throughout your generations” means that it was to be continuous and without interruption. “All your dwellings” means that it applies to all Israel without exception. As a Feast of the Lord, it was an annual anticipatory look to the time when Christ would come and fulfill it. At that time, the shadow would become substance. With the introduction of the New Covenant, this has come to its vanishing point; it is fulfilled and annulled in Christ.
However, what it pictures continues on in Christ. No person may work in order to receive the blessing of entering the presence of God. All people must rest in the finished work of Christ alone, and none can receive His mediation as our High Priest without receiving His all-sufficient atoning sacrifice by faith alone. The pattern is set, the word is written, the decision is final. All Christ, only Christ, and in Christ alone.
32 It shall be to you a sabbath of solemn rest,
shabbath shabbathon hu lakem – “Sabbath complete rest it to you.” This exact same phrase, with one minor difference, is given in Leviticus 16:31 as well. Here it says, shabbath shabbathon hu lakem; there it says shabbath shabbathon hi lakem. Why is it a hi and not a hu? What with this are we to do? If you’re not sure, then why am I asking you?
Not understanding the nuances of this, and as not one scholar that I know of has commented on this difference, I picked up the ipad and called Sergio in Israel. Fortunately, he was having a pastor’s conference at his house, and with a little back and forth, the explanation rose up to meet my ears. The word hi or hu in either form means “it.” However, hi in verse 16:31 is tied to the feminine word Sabbath. Here in 23:32 it is tied to the masculine word shabbaton, or “complete rest.” Why did the Lord change hi to hu? Again, if you don’t know, then why am I asking you?
The reason why is because in Leviticus 16:31 the focus is on the Sabbath; here it is on Rest. Christ is our Sabbath rest, that is made explicit in Hebrews 4:3 – “For we who have believed do enter that rest…” That was explained, in detail, in our Sabbath sermons, including the one from Leviticus 23:3.
However, the change from hi to hu here is obvious from the context. What has been the constant admonition during these instructions? No work! God has given us an amazing insight into Christ and His work. First, He is our Sabbath Rest – we rest in Him positionally. But Christ is also the end of the law for all who believe. He has done the work, we find our rest in Him actually. The focus goes from Christ our place of Rest, to Christ because of Whom we rest.
32 (con’t) and you shall afflict your souls;
This is the third and final time that anah, or “afflict,” is mentioned in this passage. The repetition is given to demonstrate to the people that simply fasting is not enough to meet the demands of this holy day. Not only were they to not work, but they were to actively afflict their souls. Doing one, but not doing the other was insufficient. Not working anticipated our not working for salvation; afflicting their souls anticipated our acceptance of Christ’s afflictions for our atonement.
32 (con’t) on the ninth day of the month at evening,
The words here explain the words of verse 27. The tenth day of the month means the ninth day of the month at evening. If this went unstated, then one might assume that it was meant to be commenced on the evening of the tenth. Such is not the case. Instead, a day goes…
32 (con’t) from evening to evening,
m’erev ad erev – “from evening to evening.” The day starts in the evening of the ninth, and goes through until the evening of the tenth. The pattern was established at the creation. A day is from evening to evening according to the Hebrew reckoning of a day.
This is why, even from the first day of creation, and even before the sun and the moon were set in place to show us an evening or a morning, that the record says, “So the evening and the morning were the first day.” The pattern was set in God’s mind before creation, so that we would know that in the creation, a literal day is meant for each day of the creation. The logic is not to be missed, and yet often is. It is in this unchanging 24-hour period that the day is reckoned, and so it is with the evening of the ninth day of the seventh month at evening…
*32 (fin) you shall celebrate your sabbath.”
tishbetu shabatekem – “resting in your day of rest.” These words explain exactly what was referred to earlier with the change of hi to hu when speaking of the Sabbath of complete rest. Christ is our Sabbath rest, and we are to rest – meaning not work – in Him. Instead, we are to live by faith in what He has done and not attempt to merit God’s favor through deeds of the law.
For the previous 11 months and 29 days, the Israelites had worked under the law to obtain God’s favor, and none of them succeeded. For them, only wrath and indignation could result from their inability to keep the law. But God gave them grace. On this momentous and august day which came each year, they were to do nothing but rest and afflict their souls.
And this was totally up to them. They would be scattered throughout the land of Israel, and for many, nobody but they alone would know if they had actually refrained from work and food, and if they had also actively afflicted their souls.
In other words, this Day of days was a day of faith. It would be between their hearts and God. Would they come by faith in their minds to Jerusalem and accept the atoning sacrifice which was being made for them? Or would they continue on in their own futile attempts at pleasing God and/or just living life without regard to Him, ignoring His word, and find only deserved condemnation lay ahead?
The choice was theirs, and the same choice is ours today. For you, what will it be? Will you rest in the complete rest which is found in Christ? Please, come to the cross of Christ and put away the vain struggle which separates you from Him. The Day of Atonement was only a picture of what was to come in the Person and work of Christ. Concerning the Day of Atonement, in Christ we proclaim, “Feast fulfilled.”
There is no future fulfillment of this feast in the nation of Israel. If you have been taught that, you have been misled. Christ is the end of the law, including this portion of it. Atonement has been secured, and each may now access that gift of God, but you must act. There is no blanket covering. God expects you to reach out by faith and receive the work of His Son. And then He expects you to rest in that completed work, once and for all. Come to the cross, give up the law which died there, and be reconciled once and forever to our heavenly Father.
Closing Verse: “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” 1 John 4:9-11
Next Week: Leviticus 23:33-44 Forever in the presence of God, free from the devil’s shackles… (The Feasts of the Lord, Tabernacles) (42nd Leviticus Sermon)
The Lord has you exactly where He wants you. He has a good plan and purpose for you. Even if you have a lifetime of sin heaped up behind you, He can wash it away and purify you completely and wholly. So follow Him and trust Him and He will do marvelous things for you and through you.
This week’s lesson to remember: For those in Christ, God can say to us “I’m OK – You’re OK – All is AOK.” And as a point of commendation for God, Thomas Harris sold 15 million copies of a book that is now all but forgotten. The Bible has been printed over 5 billion times, probably much over, and it is still being sold, downloaded, internet searched, and printed billions of times a year. The most printed, read, studied, and loved book in all of human history is the Word of God! Go God!
The Day of Atonement
And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying:
These are the words He was then relaying
“Also the tenth day of this seventh month
Shall be the Day of Atonement
It shall be a holy convocation for you
This is how it shall be spent
You shall afflict your souls, according to this word
And offer an offering made by fire to the Lord
And on that same day you shall do no work
For it is the Day of Atonement, such is this day
To make atonement for you
Before the Lord your God, as to you I now say
For any person who is not afflicted in soul in this way
On that same day shall be cut off from his people, so I say
And any person who does any work
On that same day, pay heed to my word
That person I will destroy from among his people
When my anger he has stirred
You shall do no manner of work
It shall be a statute forever
Throughout your generations in all your dwellings
From this statute, you shall deviate never
It shall be to you a sabbath of solemn rest
And you shall your souls afflict
On the ninth day of the month at evening, from evening to evening
You shall celebrate your sabbath, according to this edict
O God, through Christ we are restored to You again
Our sins are covered, we have atonement
The gift of the cross shouts out to all men
The enmity is ceased, and the wrath has been spent
Thank You for what our Lord has done
Thank You that we are no longer laden with guilt
Through Calvary’s cross, our victory is won
There when Christ’s precious blood was spilt
Praises to You, endless praises, even forevermore
Praise to You from here on earth, and even to heaven’s shore
Hallelujah and Amen…