Torah Reading: Leviticus 16: 1-34 & Numbers 29:7-11
Haftorah Reading: Isaiah 57:14 – 58:14, Jonah 1:1 – 4:11, Micah 7: 18-20
At first glance you may well be saying, ‘Whew, that’s a lot to read!’ Yes it is. We’ll not try to tackle all of that in one post! So here’s what caught my attention this week as I read through all these verses.
The high and lofty one who lives in eternity, the Holy One, says this: ‘I live in the high and holy place and with those whose spirits are contrite and humble and revive the courage of those with repentant hearts. Isaiah 57:15
Key words: contrite and humble – two aspects of ‘those with repentant hearts.’ What do those words really mean?
A person who is ‘contrite’ has a genuine sense of remorse or sorrow over what they’ve done and a desire to make it right. This goes far deeper than a casual ‘I’m sorry.’ To be contrite means, for example, that if I have spoken harshly to someone and wounded them, I not only apologize with sincerity but go out of my way to re-affirm my respect for them. To be contrite, therefore, includes action or behavior that outwardly expresses my inner regret.
Humility has been defined in a variety of ways, one of my favorite ones being ‘the quality of rightly evaluating your strengths as gifts of God and not of your own making.’ Humility is the total opposite of the ‘Me first’ attitude. Humility causes us to see and value the worth of all of God’s people and to go ‘the second mile’ in our service to others. In a nutshell, a humble person puts God and others ahead of his own selfish interests. Thus the book of Proverbs admonishes us: When pride comes, then comes dishonor but with the humble is wisdom. 11:2-3 And again, Humility and the fear of the LORD bring wealth and honor and life. (22:4)
Considered in Judaism as the holiest day of the year, Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement – is observed with fasting and prayer at the end of a month long period of repentance. This is the annual season of stepping back from our busy lives a bit and reviewing our life for the past year. How have we failed in our walk with God? What progress have we made? Where do we need to press in and grow stronger in His service in the days ahead?
It is also important to recognize that this is specifically called the Day of ATONEMENT, not the day of Forgiveness, though we do pray for forgiveness on the day of atonement. But there is a difference between forgiveness and atonement. The Scriptures make abundantly clear that whenever we repent and turn to God, He forgives us – all through the year, not just on this day.
Atonement is a little different. Think of it this way. If I visit your home and you have a white carpet on which I spill a glass of purple grape juice, you may get rather upset but if I apologize and ask you to forgive me, you will because we’re friends. However, the purple stain is still on the white rug. Atonement is made when I ask you for a rag and rug cleaner and I get down on my hands and knees to remove the stain. Atonement is repairing the damage done by the offense committed.
Sin damages our relationship with our Heavenly Father, whether we sin by commission or omission. When we recognize our sin and repent, asking forgiveness, He forgives. Making atonement for that sin is when we repair the damage by re-focusing our priorities on our relationship with Him and putting our own interests in the subordinate place.
It is written in Leviticus 16:30 that the LORD says, ‘On that day [Yom Kippur] offerings of purification will be made for you and you will be purified in the LORD’s presence from all your sins.’ I especially like the way this verse is translated in the TLV translation: ‘For on this day, atonement will be made for you, to cleanse you. From all your sins, you will be clean before Adonai.’
To be forgiven is one of the greatest gifts we can receive. To be forgiven AND atoned for is even greater! Every sin has its consequence. If a spouse or friend betrays you, you may forgive them but the trust between you is broken. That’s the consequence. To repeat: Atonement is about repairing the consequence of our sins. We are not always able to do that for ourselves and even we do, our efforts may fall short.
The good news of Yom Kippur is that God Himself has promised to make atonement on our behalf…and He has and He does. For that He deserves our eternal gratitude and love.
In Tune with Torah this week = May the words of Micah the prophet which are read during the Yom Kippur service, be more meaningful to you at this time than ever before and may the love of God for you become more and more real to you today and in the days ahead. Where is another God like you, who pardons the guilt of the remnant, overlooking the sins of His special people? You will not stay angry with your people forever, because You delight in showing unfailing love. Once again You will have compassion on us. You will trample our sins under your feet and throw them into the depths of the ocean! You will show us Your faithfulness and unfailing love as You promised to our ancestors, Abraham and Jacob, long ago. Micah 7: 18-20
May all of our names be written in the Book of Life.