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Appointed Times: The Fall Feasts

In the second temple period, the Talmud records that the Levites tied a scarlet thread around one of the horns of the Azazel. After its death, witnesses were sent to examine the thread. When the thread turned white, as it had done for centuries, they knew their sins had been forgiven them in fulfillment of Isaiah 1:18 “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”

The Talmud also records that 40 years before the destruction of the temple the thread no longer turned white. Coinciding with the death and resurrection of Yeshua around 30 AD, The Most High rejected the Azazel sacrifice. For Israel, Yom Kippur could no longer be looked forward to as a day of atonement and reconciliation with God, but by its two other nomenclatures: The Day of Judgment, and The Great and Awesome Day of the Lord.

Entire books have been written on the rituals of the High Priest on Yom Kippur. We have neither the time nor the space here to delve into the many wonders of this holiday.

Yet many speak of “the God of the Old Testament” as a wrathful, angry God. But an examination of Yom Kippur demonstrates a merciful God, eager to forgive and full of grace. On Yom Kippur, two goats were brought before the High Priest: one for sacrifice on the altar, and one to be driven into the wilderness. The altar sacrifice was an asham offering. The asham was the substitutionary atonement for all the sins the people were ignorant of committing. This evidence is indication of God’s mercy, in His holiness wiping away even the smallest of transgressions.

It likewise speaks of Messiah Yeshua. In Isaiah 53:10, regarding the suffering Servant, we read, “But the LORD was pleased To crush Him, putting Him to grief; If He would render Himself as a guilt offering,” The Hebrew here for the guilt offering is none other than asham. Our Messiah became our guilt offering, carrying our sins off into the wilderness of Hell so that our scarlet sins could be white as snow, so that even sins we committed in ignorance would be wiped away before the Judge.

What can Yom Kippur mean for us today? It can be a very healing and cathartic event if we will let it. Yom Kippur is a day to review sins as God outlines them in Scripture. It is a day to say to yourself, “Yes, I have gossiped. Yes, I have had lust in my heart. Yes, I have been angry with my brother. Yes, I have been arrogant,” and on and on. It is a day to be mindful of the asham offering that was made on your behalf. To be mindful, and grateful.

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Category: Biblical Studies, Winter 2000

About the Author: Kevin M. Williams, Litt.D., H.L.D. has served in Messianic ministries since 1987 and has written numerous articles and been a featured speaker at regional and international conferences on Messianic Judaism.

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