Yom Kippur
For the week of October 8, 2011 / 10 Tishri 5772
Torah: Vayikra / Leviticus 16:1-34 & Bemidbar / Numbers 29:7-11
Haftarah: Isaiah 57:14 - 58:14


An Unreasonable Facsimile

And it shall be said, "Build up, build up, prepare the way, remove every obstruction from my people's way." (Isaiah 57:14; ESV)

I don't know if this sort of thing is still done, but I remember when I was a kid, contests would often refer to something called a "reasonable facsimile." This had to do with the contest promoters allowing for an alternative to the official contest form. Instead of cutting it out of a magazine or newspaper or having to acquire it from the contest promoters, it was acceptable to create and submit your own form as long as all the required information was included.

Yom Kippur is the holiest day in the Jewish calendar and begins this year on the evening of Friday, October 7. Yom Kippur was part of the God-ordained religious system designed to prepare Israel for the coming of the Messiah. In particular it illustrates our separation from God and anticipates our restoration to right relationship with him through the Messiah's sacrifice. Not long after Yeshua's coming, the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed. The old system was no longer required, since Yeshua's sacrificial death and resurrection provides everything that Yom Kippur and the rest of the Temple service looked forward to.

The destruction of the Temple created a crisis for the first century Jewish leadership who did not accept Yeshua as Messiah. If Yeshua was not the Messiah, then how was their understanding of Judaism to continue? Tragically, instead of recognizing their error, they developed a new version of Judaism that, though reminiscent of God's original system, was based on human ingenuity, not God's direction. They thought they were creating a reasonable facsimile, but they were not. So year after year an unreasonable facsimile of this most important day has been observed, while the reality of restoration to God in Yeshua is ignored.

As Jewish believers should we embrace this unreasonable facsimile? I have great respect for our heritage, but not when it detracts from the reality of God. Even if the Temple were still standing, the observance of Yom Kippur would be obsolete and unnecessary.

This would be a good time to ask ourselves if we have truly come to grips with what Yeshua has done on our behalf. Do we understand how alienated we were and how intimately connected we now are? Do we live as people reconciled to God, children of God, who have unhindered access to his very presence? Do we represent him to others as though this were true or do we undermine his reality by not allowing him to be everything that he wants to be in and through us.

At this time of year it can be intimidating to boldly reflect God's reality when so many of our people are deeply engaged in an unreasonable facsimile. To stand for something that the overwhelming majority rejects is a challenge. But what good does it do to give in to feelings of intimidation? Is it better to leave people in error - even worse - to encourage them to continue in misguided traditions when they can enter into the fullness of God through the Messiah now?

Wouldn't it be terrible to learn that you failed to win a contest, not because you weren't picked, but because your submission was misinformed, that you submitted an unreasonable facsimile? The opportunity to experience the reality of God as anticipated by the original Yom Kippur is much more than a contest. Full forgiveness of sin and restoration to God are available to anyone who is willing to access God, but only if we do so according to his Truth - his Truth as revealed in the Messiah.

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