An End to Terrible Days
for everyone ...
by Scott Brown
The following presents the words of Scott Brown, a Messianic Jewish believer. He speaks of Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement, such that everyone can learn of a link between the Old and the New. This is only one of many examples of Messianic shadows cast over the Jewish holy days. Yom Kippur is a yearly Jewish observance concerning personal atonement. First there is the new year celebration, then ten days referred to as terrible days leading to this day of atonement. This is a serious occasion, not like other holy days that bring a spirit of celebration. The subject of forgiveness of sin involves a Messianic type (a foreshadow of the coming Messiah) presented as two goats. How often have you wondered about the origin of the term: scapegoat? Perhaps you use this term in your daily life and yet do not know its connection to the past. The following words were spoken aloud before a Jewish and Gentile audience on the occasion of Yom Kippur eve.
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'Listen as I read the first four verses of Leviticus 16:
'Now the LORD spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron when they offered profane fire before the LORD and died. The LORD said to Moses: "Tell your brother Aaron not to come simply at any time into the Holy Place, inside the veil, before the mercy seat which is on the ark, lest he die, for I appear in the cloud above the mercy seat.' (Leviticus 16:1,2)
'Remember the picture here, we have the children of Israel in the wilderness, the tabernacle, the gorgeous tent, wherein the presence of God dwelt. The Holy of Holies above the Ark of the Covenant, the mercy seat...
'Thus Aaron shall come unto the holy place with the blood of a young bull as a sin offering and of a ram as a burnt offering. He shall put holy linen tunic, and the linen trousers on his body; he shall be girded with a linen sash and with the linen turban he shall be attired. These are holy garments; therefore he shall wash his body in water and put them on.' (Leviticus 16:3,4)
'It's a little strange that the whole passage begins with a reminder of the death of Aaron's two elder sons...Nadab and Abihu. But it's not so odd when you consider the theme we see in the first four verses. What word was repeated four times in three verses? The word holy. God is speaking of his holiness. And he begins this view of Yom Kippur to remind them that these two boys Nadab and Abihu were virtually fried because they had no respect for his holiness. And the God of Israel is not a Henny Youngman God! He doesn't stand around with a fiddle and complain about getting no respect! He demands holiness.
'... Do you want a God who is less than holy? I don't. I want a holy, perfect God. Like Groucho Marks once said, "I don't want to belong to a club that would have me as a member!" Now if you think about that it's good sense. I don't want to belong to a God, or accepted by a God, who winks at sin... I want a holy God.
'God's holiness is essential to Yom Kippur. It's spoken of 87 times in the book of Leviticus alone, and a bit more than another word, which is spoken 86 times... lets see if we can spot it. In verses 14 and 15...
'He, Aaron, shall take some of the blood of the bull and sprinkle it with his finger on the mercy seat, on the east side, and before the mercy seat he shall sprinkle some of the blood with his finger seven times. Then he shall kill the goat of the sin offering, which is for the people, bring its blood inside the veil, do with the blood as he did with the blood of the bull and sprinkle it on the mercy seat and before the mercy seat.
Life is in The Blood
'Did you spot it? Yeah... this reads like a high school biology textbook! Blood. Blood is another key idea for Yom Kippur from God's perspective. But why blood and why is it tied so close to holiness? Eighty-six times blood, eighty-seven times holiness! Why? A few reasons. Number one, God considers life sacred. And he said the life is in the blood. The life of the flesh is in the blood. In Leviticus 17 he says it at least four times... the life of the flesh is in the blood.
'Number two, if God is holy, he is perfectly just. Now that's great news for those of us in this room who are perfect! But for the rest of us it's reason to schmitz—we should sweat about this thing—because perfect justice demands payment—for how many transgressions? Yeah. All of them, all 613 of the Hebrew Scriptures... But you're probably saying I'd never murder anyone, well that's great... have you ever disobeyed your parents? Did you ever covet, ever desire, something that never belonged to you?
'God says I've given blood, remember it's a gift. Totally apart from our works. I've given blood on the altar to make atonement for the soul. So the key ideas of Yom Kippur are what? Holiness, blood, and mediation. Mediation... the term cohen (pronounced koh-hane), priest (one acting as a mediator), is said more times than holy and blood all together, 189 times in the book of Leviticus. Speaking of a mediator between man and God, those are the big ideas of Yom Kippur. All right, we have now got those themes in mind, let's describe the ritual sacrifice for this ancient day of atonement. I'm not going to read Leviticus 17, let me describe what's going on, it's very dramatic.
'Now the sin offering for the entire nation consisted of two so-called he goats—male goats. Now think of this scene. Picture the tabernacle, it's a relatively small tent, outside of which is the altar—where the sacrifices were made. Outside of this tent are two to three million Jewish worshipers. And they are all facing the altar. Between the people and the altar are two goats. It's an incredible sight if you think about it. The two goats stood with their backs to the people. They were facing the sanctuary. Both of these goats had the same size, appearance, they cost exactly the same, and they appeared to be identical. This is by no coincidence. In an urn nearby were two tablets which were also identical, except for the inscriptions that were on the tablets. One of the tablets said: 'Yahweh', the Tetragrammaton for the name of God. The other one said: 'Azazel.' That's a very difficult word to interpret. The word for goat in Hebrew is Ez; the Arabic term Azela means to remove; and the Hebrew term azel means to turn away or reject. So, the best we can come up with is: The get outta here goat! That's what this azazel was. Yahweh... Azazel... Now, it's got to be stressed—please don't miss this—the two goats represented one being serving two functions. I can say that because the Scripture says the two goats were together appointed a sacrifice for sin, for the congregation. Not two, but a sacrifice. The two lots emphasize this point, again they are identical in every way except for the duties for which they were assigned. One is for Azazel, the other is for Yahweh.
'The lots were assigned randomly. It didn't matter which goat was assigned which, for their identities intermingled identically. The goats were one in terms of their identity, but distinctively two in terms of their function. So, what is this two-fold function? Here it is, the lots are drawn, the one that says Yahweh is applied to the first goat. That goat is slaughtered. Its blood is sprinkled in front of the Ark of the Covenant. Why? Leviticus 16:16 says, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, because of their transgressions, for all their sins. In other words, it was a sin offering for the whole nation.
'Now, this is the third and final time the High Priest would enter into the presence of God, taking in with him the blood of this Yahweh goat. But what follows this is the pinnacle the most dramatic point of the whole service. One goat remains in the outer court facing the alter. Suddenly he is turned around and two to three million Jews are facing one goat. All eyes are on him, the High Priest goes up to this animal, he lays his hands on the animal and Leviticus says the animal became sin. Not speaking metaphorically, not speaking symbolically, the animal embodied sin, it became the sin of Israel. Then the second goat, the Azazel goat, the get outta here goat, becomes a despised object. Despised and rejected, this goat was to be removed from the camp as quickly as possible.
'If you think about it, it's ironic, that the very thing which is to carry away the sin of Israel, should be so despised and oh so rejected. At this point Jewish history, I'm speaking of temple times, the Mishna records that a scarlet sash was tied to the horns of the goat. He is lead to a high precipice by what the Scripture calls the fit man. His name was something like Schwatrzenagerburg! Well, maybe... anyway... He is taken out about ten miles to this precipice, a high precipice, where the sash is cut. A piece of this scarlet sash is then tacked to the precipice. Next, the High Priest pushes the goat off the cliff. Jewish history records that as the life passed out of the sin bearing goat, which had become sin for Israel, the scarlet sash—supernaturally—turned white. As though God were saying—through Isaiah as he said in chapter 1, verse 18—'though your sins be as scarlet, yet will they become as white as snow.'
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Coincidence of Timing or A Message for Us!
'According to Jewish history this miracle occurred every year as though God were confirming the viability of the Yom Kippur sacrifice. He was saying: Yes, One more year I have pushed away the judgment, one more year I have accepted this sacrifice. But the Talmud, the rabbinic commentary on the Hebrew Scriptures, also records a turn of events which shocked and terrified the people of Israel. Listen to this... reading from the Babylonian tractate, Yoma 39b, speaking of the last years when the Second Temple stood, something odd was happening in those parts of the world:
'our rabbis taught: During the last forty years before the destruction of the Temple the lot ['For the Lord'] did not come up in the right hand; nor did the crimson-coloured strap become white; nor did the western-most light shine; and the doors of the Hekal would open by themselves, ...'
'Something is going on! The scarlet sash that would constantly turn white—when the sin bearing goat dies—suddenly stopped turning white. The doors of the Temple would swing open as if to say: 'you are all welcome now. Come into my presence.'
'The western most light of the golden lampstand kept going out as if to say the Ruack-HaKodesh, the spirit of God, was no longer present. And the lot that had always come up in the right hand started to come up randomly. Why? What happened? Had God forsaken his principles. Was he no longer willing to atone for the sins of Israel.
'The scarlet sash had stopped turning white because this imperfect atonement—which needed yearly maintenance ... provided access to God for only one man (the High Priest), only one day of the year, and then not without fear and trembling—this imperfect atonement was made perfect by the sacrifice of a perfect Messiah.
'Is it just coincidence that this Messiah willingly sacrificed himself forty years before the destruction of the Temple? It was precisely when these things began to happen. Is it just a coincidence, the Scriptures say of the Messiah, that he too was despised and rejected. That we hid our faces from him. Surely he has borne our grief the Lord says, carried our sorrows as the scapegoat. He was lead as a sheep to the slaughter. And the Lord has laid on him the inequity of us all. And the B'irt Chadashah (i.e., New Covenant; see Jeremiah 31:31), confirms that God made Him, Messiah who knew no sin, to become sin for us, exactly as we saw in Leviticus—of the scapegoat. Why? That we might become the righteous of God.
Paying the Price
'Why two identical goats for the Yom Kippur sacrifice? It's clear, the first goat paid the price sin demands; and revealed the means of the payment, that was blood—he was slaughtered. The second goat shows the glorious result of that payment. Removal of sins from the camp, purification and cleansing, and together they form a dramatic portrait of atonement. And a foreshadow of the One who would come twice to the Earth. One individual, dual functions. A Messiah who had come once to pay the price, life for life. Scriptures say that in due time Messiah died for the ungodly. The just for the unjust. You see the picture. But he comes again to purge and remove sin.
'The Bible says in Hebrews 9:28 'Messiah was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for him, he will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation. He comes again, not to deal with the sin problem, its been dealt with the first time. He comes again to consummate the work of salvation—to remove the presence and power of sin. Hallelujah!
'Folks Yom Kippur is here. We know what God requires, he requires a mediator and an offering. We've seen it in Scripture, he demands blood.
'I've got a question for you, it's an obvious one. First of all, who is going to be your mediator? Are you going to mediate? Psalm 49 says nobody can mediate for himself, no one can provide redemption for himself or for another. The cost of redemption is too high. Give it up!
'There's another question: What's your offering going to be? It has to be blood, is it going be your blood? Will you fast? The rabbis say that when we fast our body produces fewer red blood cells, and therefore we come before God with this so called sacrifice of blood, and say 'God please receive this as an offering.'
'Don't waste your time! Don't you see the Tanach says that God has laid his hands on him, the Messiah. And all the inequity has been laid on him. Psalm 40 and Hebrews 10 tell us: 'Sacrifice an offering the Lord doesn't desire; but a body he has prepared for us.'
'Do you see it? God has provided both a mediator and an offering in the King Messiah, the Hope of Israel, the Light to the Gentiles. And if he is your Kippora, you have passed over life's greatest crisis. I don't know what you're involved in right now, I am sure there is some trial in your life, but it's nothing like the judgment of God. If you have received the Kippora through the perfect mediation, the perfect blood sacrifice, that Messiah has provided, then that's all behind you. The crisis point of the world is behind you. That's great! No reason to despair.'
'There are various themes for Yom Kippur that we are going to explore. The first one, unfortunately, concerns sin. Sin isn't a very popular subject. But it's the reason for the season! And sin is, frankly, the reason we need forgiveness. Technically—especially within the context of rabbinical Judaism—sin is breaking one of the 613 commands of the Hebrew Scriptures. But the Scripture amplifies the meaning of sin beyond the 'verb' dimension. There is a power of sin that the Scripture reveals. "Through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin... " Everybody was created to live eternally. The reason people have a fear of death is because it is not natural for us to die. We die because of the power of sin which has invaded our very fabric. A rabbi, Rabbi Paul, said: 'I wouldn't have known sin unless the Torah had revealed it.' And so what we have here is a Ashamnu, a meditation of self examination.
'Most are aware of the ten commandments. And if you don't know it, the ten commandments were really designed by the Manufacturer to reveal sin. The ten commandments are meant for anyone who thinks himself, or herself, perfect. God, in essence, says "Well, fine; there's an easy test! Just sidle up to these commands. See how you measure up. You may get through the first nine—although I doubt it—but the final one is a command that none of us has kept, that is one that deals with the heart—Thou shalt not covet...
'Rabbinic Judaism contains a special prayer called the viddui. Many believe—if this prayer is said on the death bed—this will atone for one's sin. Unfortunately that is not what the Scripture says. Psalm 49 tells us that no sinful person can redeem his or another's soul; it is too costly. Only the blood of a perfect sacrifice can atone for sin, according to Leviticus 17.
'The Hebrew prophets testified boldly of a sin bearer who would provide perfect atonement. According to the prophet Isaiah God has brought one from Israel, first for Israel, to provide himself a sin offering, and yet who would be despised and rejected by the Jewish people. ... He would render himself as a guilt offering. And by the way, anything that becomes a guilt offering must die. But we are told "he will see his offspring, he will prolong his days;" in other words this one who dies—as an offering for sin—returns to life. And by knowing him many are justified.
Foreshadows of What is to Come
'Torah contains many beautiful shadows which serve to define and highlight that which casts the shadow. And one of the most rich and majestic of these shadows is the very ordinance of Yom Kippur. I want to take a look at this 3500 year old ordinance through the eyes of rabbinic Judaism. We also want to look at this ancient observance through the eyes of biblical Judaism. Let's discover what is casting this shadow called Yom Kippur.
'How do modern Jewish people observe Yom Kippur? Certainly we don't celebrate it with the bubbly anticipation that we attach to the other Jewish holy days and holidays like Hanukkah, Purim, or Passover. There are several reasons for this sobriety. First, Yom Kippur is at the culmination of 'the 10 terrible days.' And at the end of 10 terrible days you're not exactly brimming with effervescence. We have had 10 terrible days, that's the technical term for it, also called the 'days of awe,' 'days of penitence,' the 'days of return,' and the 'days of repentance.' And if you hold to tradition, you are in a race against time during these 10 days so your name can be inscribed in the Book of Life before the book is closed on Yom Kippur. We are told by tradition that three books are opened; the Book of Life for the thoroughly righteous, the Book of Death for the not-so-righteous, and the Book of the In Between, for those of us who are trying to get in the Book of Life. And we have 10 days to get there. During that time there are no weddings, no simcahs—no rejoicings. Tradition says, if you fail the test of the 10 days your life will be cut short during the coming year. So you'd better succeed!
'Yom Kippur is a day of fasting, which probably explains why no one speaks of celebrating Yom Kippur. There aren't many people going around saying: "Happy Yom Kippur!" Fasting doesn't lend itself to happy celebrations. Rather, we say such things as "Yom Tov (good day) may your fast be easy." Another reason this is a sober day is because of the synagogue service itself. Five synagogue services beginning tonight with Kol Nidre and ending tomorrow night with the break-fast service.
'The synagogue services are very difficult. They're long and exhausting because of the endless prayers of rote confession and repentance. We are pleading to God to forgive us, as we replay every single category of transgression. It's amazing how many sins you can think of if you have enough time: Sins of omission, sins of commission, and everything in between. Now concerning the fast, the Bible contains no explicit instruction to fast. In fact, according to Isaiah chapter 58, God mocks the ritual fast. And again I am speaking of a fast that is only done ritually—not with a pure motive. The Lord seems to say in Isaiah 58: "Do you really think this is my idea of fasting? I can see your heart. My fast is not just abstaining from food. My fast is giving food to those who are hungry. My fast is liberating those who are oppressed. My fast is speaking words that build up and don't tear down."
How Do You Believe?
'But for the most part, sadly, the Jewish community fasts because that's what the Jewish community does. I recently spoke with a young Jewish woman.
I said, "Do you believe in God?"
She said, "Sometimes."
I said, "Do you fast on Yom Kippur?"
She said. "Of Course, I'm a Jew!"
'In other words she was dogmatic about fasting, but not at all dogmatic about her faith in God. Unfortunately the Torah prescription for this day is all but abandoned in traditional Judaism. I'm not indicting, I'm only observing. The Torah prescription for atonement can be reduced to this: Access to God through a mediator by means of blood. That's it! The statement of Yom Kippur is: 'You have access to me by my terms... through a mediator who bears with him innocent blood.' Believe it or not, largely by the influence of one man, this whole concept has been abandoned. And the one man is a scholarly rabbi from the first century named Yochanan ben-Zakkai—a great man, a man who loved God. But, a man who made a fatal error for our people. I'm reading from a historic Jewish document:
'As Rabbi Yochanan ben-Zakkai was coming forth from Jerusalem, Rabbi Yehoshua followed after him and beheld the Temple in ruins. 'Oy vay,' (which is interpreted 'Woe unto us') Rabbi Yehoshua called... Woe unto us that this the place where the iniquities of Israel were atoned... the place of the Temple, is laid waste. 'My son,' Rabbi ben-Zakkai said, 'Don't be grieved, we have another atonement as effective as this. And what is it? It is acts of loving kindness.'
'Largely because of one prominent rabbi, Judaism's view of atonement shifted from God's way to man's way; from God's doing—by means of a mediator bringing a blood sacrifice—to man's doing—by means of righteous deeds.
'Further, upon reading Rabbi Kertzer's book, 'What Is A Jew,' I was shocked to discover how far we Jews have strayed from God's design for true atonement. The rabbi writes:
'"Judaism cannot accept the principle of vicarious atonement."
'Did you hear that? Did you believe it? What is Passover all about but an account of national redemption by means of vicarious atonement? What are all the temple sacrifices about except an animal dying for a guilty worshiper—a life for a life... vicarious atonement. What is Yom Kippur all about?
'He goes on to say:
'"No one, we believe can serve as an intermediary between man and God. We approach God, each man after his own fashion without a mediator."
'But in the Torah you will see no one subject addressed more than the subject of mediation between man and God. Ironically, the Rabbi Yochanan ben-Zakkai, who above all men should have been assured of his salvation, had no such occurrence. Encyclopedia Judaica records that Rabbi Yochanan ben-Zakkai, at his death bed, was so stricken with fear and doubt that his disciples standing around him said: 'Master what's wrong?' He said "What's wrong... here I am about to meet my Creator and I know not where I go.'
How sad. His despair has become the legacy of the Jewish people. So much so that in synagogues all around the world tonight and tomorrow, Jewish worshipers will stand, open the siddur (the prayer book), and corporately say a prayer that goes something like this:
'Here we stand priestly and privileged, inheritors of the past and makers of the future. Yet here we stand burdened with sin and shame.'
And the last line of the prayer is this:
'Who shall save us now?'