Yesterday marked the 12th anniversary of 9/11. It was interesting to see the comments from people in my Facebook feed. Many people reflected on what they were doing at the time they found out about the towers 12 years ago and how they would forever have that memory etched in their heart. Comments ranged from “Never forget” to ” I found it weird not being in NYC today. Not one person in Seattle mentioned 9/11″ to ” With remembrance for life lost, repentance for how far we are from peace 12 years later, and an ever-deepening confidence that there is only One who can lead us to a peace that endures.” I found myself personally struggling with how 9/11 crept up on me this year and how my life has gone back to “normal” and how little I have thought of that day, particularly in the last few years. I even lived in Manhattan for a period of five years (and for two years worked in the Nasdaq building right across from the trade center site) and knew many people who were personally affected by the tragedy (my husband’s cousin by the grace of God was late to work that morning and not in the towers, but lost all of her coworkers to the attacks). So, I certainly am familiar with the feeling of “loss”/”shock”/”fear”, etc. that the day invokes. But how quickly we can become numb…it was so good to stop and remember yesterday – to reflect on the day, the heroes, the lives lost, and to just pause for a moment and recall how that day impacted us – how it turned our world upside down then and made us prioritize and reassess. It is important to take the time to reflect and remember….because in our busy world and with our selfish natures, it is so easy to forget.
Which brings me to this post. Yesterday, God took me somewhere in my quiet time that has been unchartered territory in my life thus far (and coincidentally can be tied in to my thoughts above regarding 9/11). Based on the research I did yesterday, I feel led to construct this post, because I have a feeling this may be unchartered territory for many of you as well. There is not a lot out there regarding what I am about to discuss – the importance of acknowledging Yom Kippur with your Christian family.
Let me start at the beginning. Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement, is one of the seven feasts celebrated by the Jewish people (this year, Yom Kippur will be celebrated from sundown September 13th until sundown September 14th). These feasts were laid out/”appointed” by God in Leviticus 23 – “these are the set times of the Lord, the sacred occasions, which you shall celebrate each at its appointed time” – Lev. 23:4). Many Christians (myself included – up until yesterday) are not aware of the significance of these Biblical holidays. There are four spring holidays (Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, and Pentecost) and three fall holidays (Trumpets, Day of Atonement, and Tabernacles). God’s eternal plan – from chaos to eternity – is brilliantly revealed through the nature and timing of the seven annual feasts. The spring festivals clearly prophesied the first coming of Jesus, so it stands to reason that the fall festivals are also prophetic of Christ’s second coming. Here is a good chart I found from Heart of Wisdom that outlines the Biblical holidays and ties in the significance of the life of Christ with the holidays:
Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement, is actually a fast day (not a feast day) and it is spent in fasting, prayer, and confession. In the Bible, this was one gracious day a year given by God whereby an individual could receive forgiveness. The high priest entered the holy of holies to make atonement for the nation by sacrificing an animal. “Also on the tenth day of the seventh month there shall be a Day of Atonement: it shall be a holy convocation unto you; and ye shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire to the Lord” (Lev. 23:27)
There were two goats used on the Day of Atonement. God’s instruction of the sacrifice and the scapegoat can be found in Leviticus 16. To briefly summarize, for one goat, the high priest in Israel would lay his hands on its head, to impute on it all the sins of Israel. That goat was carried out of the Israeli camp and set free. This goat, called the “scapegoat,” points to Christ (“Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” – John 1:29). Jesus carried our sin upon Himself (our sin was imputed on him just as the sins of Israel were imputed on the scapegoat).
The second goat was slaughtered as an offering to God, which is also symbolical of Christ, as He was slain for our sins. “We have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” – Hebrews 10:10
So, if you’ve made it this far in the blog post, you are probably wondering why I am advocating the acknowledgement of Yom Kippur as a Christian since Christ has already atoned for our sins. Let me lay out three reasons.
WHY A CHRISTIAN FAMILY SHOULD ACKNOWLEDGE YOM KIPPUR:
1. Yom Kippur was an annual holiday appointed by God in Leviticus 23. Just as I mentioned at the start of this blog post how easily we forget things (such as the impact of 9/11), I believe our Heavenly Father knew we needed an annual reminder of His plan of redemption. Therefore, He appointed seven different holidays throughout the year that focus on various aspects of His redemptive plan toward mankind and He wants us to stop, reflect, repent, and rejoice on those days of remembrance. We are not to forget. We need time to meditate – time to pause – time to stop being numb to the magnificent mystery of salvation and redemption that God has set in place through his Son, Jesus. It truly is something that leaves you with nothing less than complete awe if you consider it – “This salvation was something even the prophets wanted to know more about when they prophesied about this gracious salvation prepared for you. They wondered what time or situation the Spirit of Christ within them was talking about when he told them in advance about Christ’s suffering and his great glory afterward. They were told that their messages were not for themselves, but for you. And now this Good News has been announced to you by those who preached in the power of the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. It is all so wonderful that even the angels are eagerly watching these things happen.”
2. Christ did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17-19). During his time on earth, Christ participated in the high holy days (see John 2:23; John 5:1; John 7:2,10, 14, 37; John 11:55-56; John 12:12; John 13:1; and Luke 2:41-42), and there is evidence that the members of the early church did as well (see Acts 2:1, Acts 20:16, Acts 18:21, and 1 Cor 5:7). Understanding the significance of Yom Kippur (or any of the high holy days) leads to a greater understanding of God’s Word. I love this quote from www.chosenpeople.com:
“As most people read the Bible – which is the story of mankind in general and Israel in particular – it is as if we were watching an old movie in black and white, with some details but not all. Yet if we read the Bible from a Jewish perspective, understanding the authors’ point of view, the audiences and the geographical/historical context, then we understand so much more. The movie instantly turns to color, and details we never knew existed pop up on the screen.
The Levitical calendar is not only a reminder of God’s holy convocations for the children of Israel, but it also renders a vivid picture of God’s love, grace, and provision for the Jewish people and the rest of mankind. It helps us to better understand not only the Jewish people, but the God of the Jewish people, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob… our God, and His Word.”
3. Yom Kippur is an incredibly important day for the nation of Israel and the compassion and zeal that the Father has for His people, Israel, should make us as Christians stop and blush at our own selfishness. Our hearts have become like Jonah’s when is should be like that of Moses or Paul. It is perfectly legitimate and praiseworthy to rejoice in our own salvation, but should we now have our own interests so crucified that we can ask with Moses to be blotted out of the book of life or with Paul to be cursed and cut off from Christ if it would save Israel?
As noted on The Pursuit of Happy blog, “It’s hard to imagine that today’s replacement theology church would intercede on Israel’s behalf if the Father wanted to destroy them and make a people out of us, instead. That is a reality that should make us blush, beloved!
The blessing of loving what the Father loves is not only a joy, but it is also a grieving. It is easy to rejoice when He rejoices, but it is when we learn to weep when He weeps – and He weeps over Jerusalem – that we begin to discover the blessing of a life poured out and raised up again.”
So, now that I’ve laid out three reasons that I hope will persuade you to delve more into the spiritual significance of Yom Kippur for Christians, here are some ways I suggest you can acknowledge the holiday with your family:
WAYS A CHRISTIAN FAMILY CAN ACKNOWLEDGE YOM KIPPUR:
1. Start the day with prayer, confession, and repentance for yourself and your family. Specifically, think over any sins that we need to confess and repent of, and ask for God’s grace to be changed from the inside out. Ask the Lord for forgiveness and think over any strained relationships that you may have that you can work to mend.
2. Spend time throughout the day learning about Yom Kippur as a family. Read and discuss Lev. 16 and Lev. 23 as a family. Consider using stuffed “goat” props to teach your children about the sacrificial lamb and the scapegoat (and how Christ’s work fulfilled these Old Testament requirements). Take time to learn about the Biblical feasts as a whole. Below is a pdf by Chosen People Ministries that provides information about the Fall Feasts:
Here is an interesting article with thoughts about whether Christians should observe the Biblical holy days:
Below are some resources you can use with your children to teach them more about Yom Kippur:
Yom Kippur Activity Pack (specifically, pages 8-13 that deal with Jonah and the Whale as well as the shofar). Please note that the story of Jonah and the Whale is typically read at a Yom Kippur service. The story is read to remind the Jews of God’s infinite mercy (because he forgave Ninevah), to remind them of the need for repentance (as both Ninevah and Jonah needed to repent), to remind them that all the forces of the world are at God’s hand (The wind, the plant, the sea, and the great fish are all vehicles of God in this story), and to remind them that God answers prayer (just as Jonah was answered from the belly of the fish.) For more information on the significance of the shofar (ram’s horn), see point #3 below).
Yom Kippur Mini Book (this mini book highlights the things a typical Jewish family would do to celebrate Yom Kippur).
Grapevine Bible Studies – Biblical Feasts (this lesson covers not only Yom Kippur, but all the Biblical feasts)
3. Conduct a celebratory family meal that rejoices in the fact that Christ has atoned for all our sins and that He is coming back again for us! At the end of Yom Kippur, a shofar (ram’s horn) is blown before proclaiming, “Next Year in Jerusalem.” Traditionally, there is a meal following the end of Yom Kippur, breaking the fast. This meal is often taken with the entire congregation or with the family, to mark the end of the observance.
4. Spend time praying for Israel as a nation and for any Jewish friends you or your family knows personally. As noted above, Yom Kippur is typically ended with the phrase “next year in Jerusalem.” Our desire as Christians should also look to “next year in Jerusalem” from the standpoint of desiring Christ’s second coming. We need to diligently pray for Israel as a nation to understand that Christ is the Messiah and to pray for any Jewish friends we know personally.
I hope this post encourages you and your Christian family to prayerfully consider acknowledging or observing Yom Kippur this year. Next year in Jerusalem!