Our county schools are closed tomorrow. Apparently, Montgomery County Public Schools aren’t supposed to call it a religious holiday anymore, but the day is truly an important date on the Jewish calendar. Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, begins tonight, the 15th, and continues through tomorrow evening. For observant Jewish people, it is a day of repentance to God. It is often observed by 25 hours of fasting, going to synagogue, and praying. Yom Kippur is considered the holiest day of the year.

The Day of Atonement in Scripture

This special day is described in several places in Scripture, including Leviticus 23:26-28: “The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘On exactly the tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement; it shall be a holy convocation for you, and you shall humble your souls and present an offering by fire to the Lord. You shall not do any work on this same day, for it is a day of atonement, to make atonement on your behalf before the Lord your God.’”

One remarkable aspect of the Day of Atonement was the scapegoat. Leviticus asserts that two goats were to be identified for this special day. One was to be sacrificed as a sin offering. The other was to be released into the wilderness after the high priests had confessed the sins of the people. This second one was the scapegoat, a physical representation of the sins of the people being removed from the land.

Jesus and Yom Kippur

Both goats are pictures of what Jesus would ultimately do for us. Indeed, Jesus fulfills the promise of both goats. He paid the penalty for our sins, taking the punishment we deserved, and removed our sins as well. The prophet Isaiah foretold this, writing: All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him [Jesus].

The Day of Atonement was a reminder of the people’s sinfulness and their need for forgiveness. Aren’t you thankful that Jesus was our perfect and complete sacrifice? He offers us total forgiveness. Because of His death and resurrection, we need not fear God’s wrath if we put our trust in Him. Instead, we get to experience His love, a love so great that Jesus was willing to sacrifice Himself for us.

Have a blessed Yom Kippur!