(This was obviously written a few days ago. So apologies for posting it late here)
“29 “And this shall be a lasting statute for you: in the seventh month, on the tenth of the month, you must deny yourselves and you must not do any work, whether the native or the alien who is dwelling in your midst, 30 because on this day he shall make atonement for you to cleanse you; you must be clean from all your sins before Yahweh.” (Lev 16)
Yesterday I asked why pray? Not a segue I would have chosen for Yom Kippur but I’m not in charge. Today, is the Jewish Day of Atonement. The one day of the year the High Priest was allowed, no, required to enter the Holy of Holies, the Sanctuary, the Holy Presence of the Only Real and Almighty Creator of the Universe, there in physical form in a cloud of glory and make atonement for the sins of the people. If that isn’t the picture of prayer, I don’t know what is. Face to face with God! Sprinkling blood for his own sins. Sprinkling blood for the people’s sins. Bringing in coals from the eternal fire. Burning incense, its recipe prescribed by God, the smoke the visible symbol of prayer going up before the Cloud of Glory upon the Mercy Seat. All a picture of the throne room of God where we will someday come face to face with our Creator. That’s Prayer!
Leviticus 16 goes through the rite. This was no joke. Aaron’s sons had been slain for doing it wrong (Lev 10). God will not be mocked by those who should know better, particularly to His very face,“3 Therefore Moses said to Aaron, “This is what Yahweh spoke, saying, ‘Among those who are close to me I will show myself holy, and in the presence of all the people I will display my glory.’ Since the very first day we sinned, God’s been showing His amazing grace in even this most simplest of ways: by hiding His Holy Face from us, so we would not be consumed by His Holiness. He has to hold back or we would be scorched right off the face of the earth! Even Moses was only allowed to see His back.
So… Wow! God of the Old Testament, eh? Mr. Angry God. Really scary dude. Different God than we got now. Right? Jesus is the kindler, gentler God. Guess God went soft in his old age or something, eh?
Wrong. Same God. Even Balaam knew it,
“19 God is not a man, that he should lie,
nor a son of humankind,
that he should change his mind.
Has he said, and will he not do it?
And has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?” (Num 23)
In our soft focus, baby kissing, blue eyed, feather haired Jesus era it’s easy for us to forget that Jesus is God. The same God who struck down Nadab and Abihu. The same God who opened the Earth and swallowed Korah. The same God who ordered the complete destruction of every man, woman and child of Canaan. The same God who drowned the Earth and all but eight of its inhabitants. Some say it was Jesus himself who spoke with Abraham about Sodom and Gomorrah. Why am I pounding this point? Am I just an angry guy? Am I trying to diminish the soft focus view of Jesus?
Heavens forfend! I am trying to make it all the more wonderful! If God changed his mind, if God himself could change, then what glory is that? A little, maybe. But if God the Eternal, God the Immutable, God the Unchanging came to Earth to offer Himself for our sins?? If our sins are every bit as punishable as Nadab’s, Abihu’s, Korah’s, the Canaanites, the antediluvians, Sodom’s, Gomorrah’s, then how great is His love, how great His mercy, how great His grace that He made a way for us to be saved!?
“16 For people swear by what is greater than themselves, and the oath for confirmation is the end of all dispute for them. 17 In the same way God, because he wanted to show even more to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of his resolve, guaranteed it with an oath, 18 in order that through two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge may have powerful encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us, 19 which we have like an anchor of the soul, both firm and steadfast, and entering into the inside of the curtain, 20 where Jesus, the forerunner for us, entered, because he became a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” (Heb 6)
Melchizadek. You know what this mysterious priest-king of the Salem (Peace) brought out for Abraham? Bread and wine. (Gen 14) Jesus, God became our High Priest! But more than that, He was our sacrifice! A perfect, spotless lamb. A truly pure human, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, life for life. “14 “I am the good shepherd, and I know my own, and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father, and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep which are not from this fold. I must bring these also, and they will hear my voice, and they will become one flock—one shepherd. 17 Because of this the Father loves me, because I lay down my life so that I may take possession of it again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down voluntarily. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take possession of it again. This commandment I received from my Father.” (John 10)
Now go back to Leviticus 16 and read it as what it is, the promise of Jesus. Washed; dressed in pure white; his blood making atonement; his body slaughtered and burned and taken outside the camp; our sins on him to wander the desolate wastes forever, far from us; entering the Holy of Holies to see God face to face! Only now, he doesn’t do this for one day only. He does not sin, so He has no need to leave the presence. He is there eternally! Eternally, every minute of every day, asking God for mercy for us! His blood atoning for our sins, every minute of every day! Now, now we have peace with God! “27 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you—not as the world gives, I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. 28 You have heard that I said to you, ‘I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I am.” (John 14)
And because His sacrifice is perfect and eternal, because we have this peace with God, we are now made right with Him, we are adopted Sons and Daughters. The veil is torn asunder. There is now no division between us and the Holy God! We may enter the sanctuary where our sacrifice and our High Priest plead for us! Every day is Yom Kippur! Every day is Passover! Every day is Communion. We are in the Holy of Holies! Why would we pray?
How could we NOT?