A Day for Atonement?

There is a Yiddish saying: If a man knew the day and time of his death, he could live as he wanted and then repent before the Malach HaMovis (Angel of Death) came to take him.”

As people face their mortality, many do think about repentance —taking more time for God and godliness. But God never intended us to wait till the last minute for such things.

God gave Israel various ways to reflect on the need for godliness throughout their lives, climaxing in the once-a-year Day of Atonement. It was designed to teach that repentance, contrition and sacrifice were inextricably linked. The interval between the Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah) and the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) is called “The Ten Days of Awe.” It is a time for repentance, restitution and prayers of contrition.

Tshuvah, the Hebrew word for repentance, connotes a change in direction. Sometimes it is translated, “conversion.” The Ten Days of Awe of the Hebrew calendar were to produce repentance by helping the Jewish worshipers to contemplate God’s holiness and turn from all attitudes and actions which fall short of His righteousness. The High Priest then interceded on behalf of the people with the required blood sacrifice.

Today Israel has no sacrifices, no holy of holies—and no High Priest to enter and make intercession, even if that holy place still existed. It’s as though Israel’s annual act of atonement has been cut off to indicate that True Atonement is elsewhere, with another High Priest and another Offering. New Testament believers know that Jesus is that High Priest and that the sacrifice of Himself makes full atonement for those who receive it. And that is not an annual event. It happened in one day, for all time, at Calvary.

Maybe if a person knew the time of his death he could wait till the last minute to repent, and turn to God—but think of all the missed years of forgiveness and joy.

This year’s Ten Days of Awe begin at sundown, September 29 and end at sundown, October 9. It is appropriate to send Jewish friends a Rosh Hashanah card at any time in that interval. And please join us in praying that many of our people will open their hearts to Jesus during this time of spiritual reflection.


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