The word to Christians to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17), assumes that God wants to hear from us. Any time is a good time to pray.
Perhaps we can identify with the sentiment of President Abraham Lincoln who famously said, “I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go.” We know we need to pray to God, especially now, at this consequential time in history.
The Jewish holy day, Yom Kippur, or Day of Atonement, is on Monday, September 28. It concludes the ten days of repentance that began with the Jewish new year (Rosh Hashana). Yom Kippur is a day dedicated to prayer, meditation, and confession of sin.
Before the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem by the Babylonians, the anointed priest would bring the blood of a sacrificial animal into the Holy of Holies. He would sprinkle the blood on the atonement cover (mercy seat) that rested atop the Ark of the Covenant, thereby making atonement for his sins and for the sins of the nation.
This was followed by another sacrifice. Two goats were selected, one for sacrifice, and one to be a scapegoat. The blood from this sacrifice was spattered on the atonement cover in the Holy of Holies, and also upon the altar in the outer portion of the sanctuary. This was to make atonement for the sins of the people.
The priest then laid his hands on the head of the second goat, thereby ceremonially transferring the people’s sins to the innocent animal. That goat was taken out into the wilderness and released. This pictured God’s willingness to forgive and release us from our sins (Leviticus 16:1-34).
These and other preparations, ritual washings, and additional sacrifices are explained in the New Testament book of Hebrews. There we learn that now, because of the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ, believers may come “with the full assurance that faith brings” into the very presence of God. Those who trust in Jesus Christ for salvation are invited to “draw near to God” (Hebrews 9:19-22).
The author of Hebrews contrasts the obsolete ritual baths, special clothing, and animal sacrifices of the Day of Atonement with the freedom and confidence we enjoy through our Lord Jesus Christ. “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
Our observant Jewish neighbors will observe Yom Kippur on Monday. But they will celebrate this holy day without the necessary sacrifices for their sins, as required by the law of Moses. They have no Temple, Holy of Holies, Ark of the Covenant, or altar of sacrifice. Oh, that they would recognize the complete sufficiency of the sacrificial death of Jesus the Messiah. He is our High Priest, Passover lamb, and “the atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1John 2:2).
I am glad for the reminder the Day of Atonement gives us of the need to confess our sins and meditate on God’s gracious willingness to forgive. I want to follow the example of President Lincoln and to pray. Any time is a good time to pray, but I intend to let Monday be a reminder to pray for our nation.
Pastor Randy Faulkner