Brethren and sisters, I welcome you in Yah'shua's (Jesus') Name to this meeting which we have been commanded to do every year in all generations. As believers our identity is the New Covenant Nation of Israel, and as Israelites we have been blessed. Let us remind ourselves what Yahweh has said:
"And Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying: "Also the tenth day of this seventh month shall be the Day of Atonement. It shall be a holy convocation for you; you shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire to Yahweh. And you shall do no work on that same day, for it is the Day of Atonement, to make atonement for you before Yahweh your God. For any person who is not afflicted in soul on that same day shall be cut off from his people. And any person who does any work on that same day, that person I will destroy from among his people. You shall do no manner of work; it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. It shall be to you a Sabbath of solemn rest, and you shall afflict your souls; on the ninth day of the month at evening, from evening to evening, you shall celebrate your Sabbath"" (Lev.23:26-32, NKJV; cp. Num.29:7; Lev.16:30-31).
Now I am quite sure that some of you hearing that passage have misunderstood so I want to explain a few things. To begin with, we are not celebrating Old Covenant Yom Kippur. That means that there is no longer any earthly High Priest, no animal sacrifices, no Mosaic tabernacle or temple. There is, however, a temple in heaven and we have our heavenly High Priest, Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ), who offered Himself up 2,000 years ago as a final sacrifice for sin for the whole of the nation of Israel. Today we are to individually look within ourselves. Today we are each, and collectively, in an echad or oneness sense, the tabernacle or temple. The High Priest, Yah'shua (Jesus), stands ready to enter the very core of our temple, our 'Holy of Holies', to sprinkle the blood of His forgiveness on the Mercy Seat in our hearts. We are being offered nothing short of a complete cleansing for the sins of the last year. The question is: how? As I told you at the conclusion of my sermon yesterday, this is no mere empty ritual we are performing. We want to know and understand actually what is going on inside - we want to experience the living, cleansing Messiah (Christ).
In the Mosaic Covenant, it was the responsibility of the High Priest (Cohen Gadol) to conduct a special ceremony. The purpose of this ceremony was to purge all and every defilement from the shrine of the tabernacle. This he did by offering a bull and two goats. The first sacrifice was that of a bull on behalf of the High Priest himself in case his own sins were to bring defilement. Our High Priest Yah'shua (Jesus) had no need to do this as He was entirely without sin or defilement - He never broke Torah once. This offering was only for the fallible human High Priest.
The first of the two goats was offered to purge the shrine itself of any defilements brought about by the sins of the Israelite people (Lev.16:6). Thus the first aspect of Yom Kippur for us is the cleansing of the shrine of our own bodies, and what is that? It is our hearts. We desire that our hearts be purified so that we can be in loving relationship and communion with our Heavenly Father.
The second goat is not used as an offering at all. It is what is known as the Azazel or Scapegoat, a word which has crept into general use in our English language meaning a person made to bear the blame for others (Lev.16:7-8). This goat was sent away from the camp of Israel into the desert after the High Priest had laid his hands on its head and confessed over it all the iniquities and sins of Israel. It was then sent away to an inaccessible region (Lev.16:20-22).
So who are these goats pictures of? We will get clues from the names of the marks put on them. The first goat is called La Adonai and the second La Azazel. The first is 'the Lord' or Yah'shua (Jesus) Himself and the second is Satan. Can you see how some false theologies have arisen concerning the atonement because Christians have not understood the original Yom Kippur? Let's read the goat ceremony carefully to properly understand it:
"[The High Priest] shall take the two goats and present them before Yahweh at the door of the tabernacle of meeting. Then Aaron shall cast lots for the two goats: one lot for Yahweh and the other lot for the scapegoat. And Aaron shall bring the goat on which Yahweh's lot fell, and offer it as a sin offering. But the goat on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat shall be presented alive before Yahweh, to make atonement upon it, and to let it go as the scapegoat into the wilderness" (Lev.16:6-10, NKJV).
Yah'shua (Jesus) bore the sins of the world in order to cleanse the sanctuary - our bodies and spirits - so that we could be clean. The atoning sacrifice is available here and now for everyone who will receive it. We have only to open our hearts and invite Him in. But what actually happens to those sins? They are laid upon the head of Satan himself That is his punishment for introducing sin into the universe in the first place. The wilderness into which the second goat is sent - an 'inaccessible place' - is hell itself, which is inaccessible to those who have been purged of sin by the first goat. You have probably wondered why Satan is often depicted as a goat in art - the Goat of Mendes, for instance - and this is the reason. He is the scapegoat because he truly is to blame for all the woe and suffering of the ages. And what is his reward? He will reap what he has sown. Every iniquity that you and I have ever committed, because we believed his lies and deceptions, will return to him the moment we repent and accept the atoning sacrifice of the La Adonai goat. Every time a human being repents, fire is heaped upon Satan. So you can guess why he doesn't want you to repent.
Our culture and traditions have tended to view the goat as an entirely negative symbol. When we think of Yah'shua (Jesus) we tend to think only of the Lamb symbol. But we must remember that He was also the La Adonai goat.
Messianic Jews tend to understand the passage of casting of lots to be connected with the way the nations have treated the Jewish people. They believe that those who have mistreated the Jews will go to the left hand (to condemnation) and those who have treated them well to the right hand (to blessing). But this is not correct. They base this understanding on a teaching of Yah'shua (Jesus) which I would like to briefly consider to correct that error:
"When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, 'Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.' "Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?' "And the King will answer and say to them, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.' "Then He will also say to those on the left hand, 'Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.' "Then they also will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?' "Then He will answer them, saying, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.' "And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life"" (Matt.25:31-46, NKJV).
As you will see, this has nothing to do with the Jews but the way the nations treat the followers of Christ. Nations that persecuted Christians will go to the left (and to condemnation), and those who treated them well, to the right (and to blessing). It is on this basis that some nations will cease to exist during the Millennium and others will continue, and yet others that are now extinct shall again be restored.
Thus Yah'shua (Jesus) is a type of the La Adonai goat. He was our sin offering to Yahweh. Upon Him Yahweh laid the sins of the whole world so that those who would be saved would have the opportunity to choose His cleansing (Is.53:1-6; 1 Cor.15:3; Gal.1:3-4; GHeb.2:17; 1 Jn.2:2; 4:10).
This, then, is the outline of the Old Covenant Yom Kippur. Anciently, the Israelite people did certain things, and then the High Priest acted on their behalf, performing certain rituals to ensure that their sins were extirpated. What of us today? What are we commanded to do? Well, actually much the same as the Israelites were then. Let's remind ourselves:
"... you shall do no work on this day, for it is a day of atonement, to make atonement for you before Yahweh your Elohim. For whoever is not afflicted on this day shall be cut off from among His people. And whoever does any work on that same day I will destroy from among His people ... It shall be to you a Sabbath rest, and you shall afflict yourselves; on the ninth day of the month from evening to evening, you shall keep your Sabbath" (Lev.23:28-32, Amp.Ver.).
These are indeed harsh words but very important harsh words nevertheless, and it is vitally important that we understand them. I particularly want the pastors of the assemblies to understand them. For what is being laid out here are conditions for membership in the nation of Israel.
Twice Yahweh says that the people will be "cut off" or excommunicated. The word 'cut off' in Hebrew is karath and specifically means to be cut off from the covenant. What are those conditions? Those who break the Sabbath and those who do not 'afflict' themselves.
Israel is not a social club. It is a covenant people set-apart to be holy - different, distinct from the nations. Why? Because it is supposed to be an example, a beacon of light, a lighthouse, an ensign, a message of hope. People are supposed to look at Israel and exclaim: "Behold, Yahweh's people! That is what we want to be too!" How will they know it is Israel? By their righteousness! How do they become righteous? By their own efforts? No, God forbid! The message of the Bible is that our self-effort is like filthy rags (Is.64:6). We are made right by the atonement of blood, through faith in Christ leading to obedience to Torah in love.
Now the Church or Messianic Community is Israel. It's the same covenant people. There isn't 'Israel' on one side and 'the Church' on the other. This is the error of both orthodox Christians and Messianic Jews. We come to Christ by faith but that's not all - we attain a tribal membership. We become grafted into Israel (Rom.11). And the moment you become Israel you are required to do what Israel was commanded to do from the beginning. The covenants of the believer in Christ are the covenants of Israel. The promises to the believer in Christ are the promises to Israel. You can't be a Christian and not be Israel, and you cannot leave Israel without leaving Christ. And I am not talking about the Talmudic Jewish republic in the Middle East which styles itself 'Israel' - that isn't the Israel of the Bible. It's an Edomite counterfeit. Whoever is in Christ is a member of Yahweh's Israel, not some man-made political or cultural unit.
If you despise the Day of Atonement - Yom Kippur - you despise the Messiah and you despise the true Israel, which is the Messianic Community. Today is a Sabbath and your attitude towards it determines whether you are an Israelite or not. If you despise it then, my friend, your heart is not right before God! And if your heart is not right, what are you supposed to do? The same as your reaction should be to all sin - you should, as the Scripture says, "afflict" yourself.
Now let's not misunderstand this either. By 'afflict' it doesn't mean to go and beat yourself with a whip. Plenty of misguided Christians so-called have done such things in the past. The Hebrew 'anah, which we translate 'afflict', means to humble. When Israel is commanded to 'afflict' herself it is to HUMBLE herself, specifically, by fasting in penitence. Those who will not humble themselves will, it is written, "be destroyed from among His people" (Lev.23:29). And what does that mean? Quite simply, it means that if you do not align yourself to be included in the atonement being made for you at Yom Kippur that you are excluding yourself from the salvation of Israel. It means that you are placing yourself in the world and the condemnation thereof. If your heart is not in Yom Kippur it means that your heart is not repentant and that you are despising the shame of Christ in taking upon Him the sins of the world so that you - your soul - can be cleansed and made pure. So of course such a soul is cast out! Of course such a soul is destroyed! It is casting itself out into the hands of Satan - it is identical to associating yourself with the Azazel goat, to be put in a place in inaccessibility, away from Yahweh's people. When you turn away from Yom Kippur you turn away from the Atonement of Christ and join yourself to Satan on whom the sins of the world are heaped in the lake of fire. You are choosing to remain in your sins!
We come, then, to the issue between God and man: his unwillingness to repent - to afflict himself with guilt and sorrow by recognising that he is proud and rebellious. That is why on this day we are to have a Sabbath rest from all the things we usually do on ordinary days and it is why I have been extra strict this year in forbidding my family to engage in any kind of entertainment, because entertainment distracts us from the path of deliverance.
I honestly believe that we are still missing the point of the Sabbath Day, let alone Yom Kippur or the other festivals of Yahweh. Let me remind you what scripture says:
"If you keep the Sabbath holy, not having your own fun and business on that day, but enjoy the Sabbath and speaking of it with delight as Yahweh's holy day, and honouring Yahweh in what you do, not following your own desires and pleasures, not talking idly - then Yahweh will be your delight, and I will see to it that you ride high, and get your full share of the blessings I promised to Jacob, your father, Yahweh has spoken" (Is.58:13-14, Living Bible).
Many believers resent the Sabbath day, especially some of the young people, because to them it is a block to doing the things they like doing. And they especially resent the Sabbath rules their parents impose on them. They may even rationalise: "Well, it shouldn't be forced. We should be free to choose." And that's right - we are free to choose, but first we have to choose whether we are going to be a part of the nation of Israel or not. We all live in our own countries and we are bound by the laws of that country. We may not like them and may grumble about them, but without laws, there would be anarchy. Our country's laws are not, alas, always righteous or just. But Yahweh's Torah is. We live with our families and must abide the families' rules too so long as we are with them. Yes, you can choose whether to walk in Torah or not. You can choose whether to be a member of Israel or not, at least when you come of age. You can choose to 'leave home' as Judah briefly did, but he came back and subjected himself to his father Jacob who was then the head of the tribe and nation of Israel. That is our choice: to align ourselves with the Messiah who became the La Adonai goat or with Satan who is the Azazel goat.
If you are repelled by the Sabbath and by Yom Kippur, my friend, it is because there is a deadly nature within you that is not redeemed. It means, in a word, that part of you - or maybe all of you if you have never accepted Christ - is unsaved. It means that part or all of you is claiming ownership of yourself. At Yom Kippur we are offered to make a change in life both to join Israel or remain in it. This is why in NCCG we have our Annual Priesthood Weighing during the Teshuvah season where the officers of the Church give an accounting of their priesthood stewardships. The honour of high calling is always conditional upon repentance.
Satan keeps us out of the Kingdom principally by fear rooted in lies. He wants you to believe that being a Christian and walking in Torah is 'bad news' for you. He wants you to view these things as a kind of prison limiting your freedom. He wants you to believe, as he persuaded Eve, that you can become your own god or ruler. Which is why Satan champions liberalism. He just loves our liberal democracy which allows us to live pretty much as we want. Satan says: "Do your own thing!" He says: "Just love ... in any way you want." Of course, he tells others to hate, kill, hurt, and oppress too - he is, after all, the lawless one (2 Thess.2:8-9) and it doesn't matter to him that his 'rules' are entirely contradictory. If you choose his anarchy and false 'freedom', remember that you are heading for the wilderness with your sins firmly fixed to your back, as are Satan's. It is a burden you'll always have to bear until you ask release from Yah'shua (Jesus).
Brethren and sisters, Yom Kippur is good news. It isn't something to fear or dread! It isn't 'legalistic bondage', so-called. Yom Kippur is your opportunity to afflict yourself by fasting and recognising your humble position. During the season of Teshuvah, if we align ourselves to it, Yahweh afflicts us by bringing our sins to remembrance. He stirs us up or allows others to stir us up for this purpose. Why does He do this? Because He knows that the lies we believe in are what actually afflicts us, because every lie we believe is a doorway to demonic harassment - to feelings of depression, boredom, loneliness, despair - you name it, all that is negative and self-destructive originates in deception. We do, of course, spontaneously recoil at inner hurt - but Yahweh is saying to you: "No, please, don't recoil from the hurt, the rejection, the loneliness. I want you to get a handle on these feelings and thoughts so that you can be healed. I want to expose all the lies in your life so that you can know what true love is. I want you to know Me as I really am and not the killjoy that Satan wants you to believe that I am. Come to Me and let Me show you the truth and the way to abundant living." In other words, don't run away from the internal conflicts of your soul, but bring them to the Cross of Calvary to be healed.
At Yom Kippur we do this together as families, congregations, and the whole nation of Israel. This evening at 5 p.m. we shall assemble for the Neilah service - for the service of Atonement. Here we can come with open hearts before Yahweh and plead the blood of Yah'shua (Jesus) on us as families and as a Covenant People - as a Nation called to holiness. Please do not be afraid. Use this afternoon to think about these things and to bring your heart into a place of quietness and humility. Please don't come to hear a sermon but to be a living sermon yourself, for this evening we shall be gathering to pray.
Let me assure you that the things of Yahweh are not only good but delicious too. Let me assure you that this is no ritualistic religion but a real live encounter with the Creator. Let me assure you that this is not about making life miserable but about setting aside the obstacles to true happiness which are all of Satan's counterfeits. Let me assure you that what this is really all about is a life of true love. So with that thought I welcome you back here later in the afternoon. And may the Lord of the Covenant bless and protect your hearts and souls as you afflict yourself a little while longer in your search for a full and complete redemption. Amen.