“He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” Isaiah 53:12
The significance of Yom Kippur
Tonight marks the beginning of the holiest Jewish Holiday, Yom Kippur. In chapter 53 of Isaiah, the prophet speaks about how Yom Kippur would one day find its fulfilment in the Messiah.
Each year on Yom Kippur, the High Priest chose two goats, one to symbolically carry the sins of the people into the wilderness, the other to be sacrificed on the altar to pacify God’s wrath over sin. He then entered the Holy of Holies of the Tabernacle (later on the Temple in Jerusalem) and interceded before the Ark of the Covenant for his people for God to have mercy (read more in Leviticus 16).
About 1200 years after the Israelites celebrated the first Yom Kippur in the wilderness, Yeshua, who was without sin, became the true scapegoat, carrying the sin of the people – us – and putting sin to death when He gave His life on the cross.
And this is not all: since his resurrection from the dead and ascension to Heaven, Yeshua now is the true and eternal High Priest interceding on our behalf before the throne of His Father, the eternal Holy of Holies.
The perfect Lamb of God
One popular prayer recited on Yom Kippur (and the Days of Awe preceding it) is Psalm 51: “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.”
King David knew that forgiveness of sin always has been and always will be founded on God’s mercy and unfailing love. When he was caught in adultery, David didn’t have some bulls slaughtered, he pleaded for God’s mercy!
Never could the blood of lambs and bulls, or a goat sent into the wilderness, take away sin. These were but an image of the perfect Lamb of God to come, who would take on Himself the sins of the world (Isaiah 53:5 &11).
It is this Lamb’s blood which God sees when He forgives sin, both King David’s and ours, moving His heart to have compassion on us.
Read what Isaiah foretold about Yeshua’s suffering and its significance for us:
1 Who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
4 Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was punished.
9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
nor was any deceit in his mouth.
10 Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
11 After he has suffered,
he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
and he will bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.
May the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, bless you this Yom Kippur and be gracious to you!