Dressed in white, my family made our way to the nearest river in our hometown. It’s a beautiful spot to watch the falls cascading down the rocks while a few ducks and geese float along the gentle rapids. We found a clearing near the water, and there, we opened our Bibles in observance of the second fall feast: The Day of Atonement.
What is The Day of Atonement?
Ten days after the Feast of Trumpets, The Day of Atonement arrives as one of the highest holy days of the year. When the Israelites first built the Tabernacle, the Levitical high priest would perform a ceremony in order to cleanse the nation of their sin from the previous year. The Atonement ceremony included laying hands on the head of one of two goats. The chosen goat would then ‘receive’ the sins of the people and be released into the wilderness to die.
Only then could the high priest enter the Holy of Holies without being struck dead. Once the ceremony was complete, the Israelites were cleansed, symbolizing their readiness to dwell with God.
How do you observe?
The Days of Awe are the ten days after Feast of Trumpets, and it’s a time of prayer, repentance, and settling debts. The people have a feast the evening before Atonement, but on the actual day, they deny themselves with a fast to recognize God’s holiness and to hate their sin. Temples have several services during the day with blessings, prayers, and Scripture.
The Tashlich ceremony, typically done on the first day of Rosh Hashanah, is where the people cast bread crumbs or stones into a body of water to represent casting off their sin.
⇑ Keep reading to see why this is relevant ⇑
- Hebrews 9:14
- Matthew 6:14-15
- Micah 7:19
- Leviticus 16:29, 23:27, 17:11
- Isaiah 58
Why is it important?
God instructed His people to observe this day, not because laying hands on a goat took away sin, but because it was a rehearsal to prepare them for when the Messiah, Jesus, would come and redeem them. He was the high priest who bridges the gap between us and God in the Holy of Holies. He was also the sacrifice, who took the weight of our sin, so we can be ready to dwell with Him in eternity.
How do I apply?
Remember the stones I mentioned in my last blog? I’d passed them around earlier, and now was the time to bring them out. Mine was colored with different symbols revealing my sin. Holding onto our stones, we took communion, remembering Jesus’s blood shed for the world.
*This next part is something I added and is probably not done in other congregations. *
I poured the wine (juice) over the stones and then I poured water over them to represent the blood and water that gushed from Jesus’ side when he died. Then, we threw the rocks into the river, believing in Jesus’ gift of washing our sins away.
Hurling my rock into the water uniquely touched my heart. I sent the stone that kept reminding me of all my weaknesses and failings careening into the river, and once it left my hand, I realized I could never retrieve it again.
Going back to the person we were before the blood of Jesus would be just as impossible as me wading in the water trying to find my rock. Just like that stone, that sinful person is dead and gone never to remind me of who I used to be.
Our sins have been washed away, and now we can walk in the newness of life hand in hand with Jesus! Praise God!
The Day of Atonement is just the beginning. Are you ready to dwell with Jesus? That will lead us into my next and final feast blog: The Feast of Tabernacles. I hope you’ll join me!