The Day of Atonement (Lev. 23:26-32) or Yom Kippur. This is the most solemn holy day for the Jewish people. We’ve come through the Days of Awe, which were about repentance, and now we’re on the last day. This is the time when God brings about his judgment. It was on this day that the High Priest would make a sacrifice (a goat) to pay for not only his sins, but also the sins of the people. Upon the completion of this atonement sacrifice, a second goat was released into the wilderness. This goat, a scapegoat, took the sins of the people, Israel’s sins, into the wilderness, never to return. Lev. 16:34. (The Lord says,) “This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: Atonement is to be made once a year for all the sins of the Israelites.”
What does the New Testament say about this? Hebrews 13:11-12 states: The high priest carries the blood of the animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp. And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. Can we see how this is a reflection of what Jesus did for mankind on the cross? He is our atonement. He paid the price for our sins once and for all. He became our High Priest.
Some believe that this time of judgment, Yom Kippur, Jesus fulfilled when He willingly went to the cross. Many believe that this has yet to be fulfilled, saying that it prophetically points to the Second Coming of Jesus, when He returns to earth. And still others believe that the Day of Atonement is for the Jewish remnant when (and I quote from Zechariah 12:10) they "look upon Him whom they have pierced", repent of their sins, and receive Him as their Messiah.
According to Jewish tradition, the Book of Jonah is read at this time. It is a short book in the OT. Remember Jonah & the whale and its lesson that we can never run away from God? There is so much that can be learned from this man, this book. I will touch on just a small portion of it.
Jonah is first introduced in 2Kings 14:25 when we read about the evilness of King Jeroboam II. He did not turn away from the sins of past kings causing Israel to commit them. He was the one who restored the boundaries of Israel….in accordance with the word of the Lord….spoken through his servant Jonah son of Amittai, the prophet from Gath Hepher. Jonah was a prophet. I mention this because when we look at the Book of Jonah, we see no reference to this role and yet Jonah 1:1 states: The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai. This may be a difficult reach for some of us, however, I believe that the original recipients would have known that he was the same man.
Jonah is an established prophet to whom the Lord speaks. Jonah 1:2 – [The Lord says] “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come upon me.” One would think that if the Lord wanted to destroy this city, He would simply do so. Why send someone to warn them? To me the obvious response is that He wanted to give the people “one more chance” to repent. We hear this a lot today – the Lord is the God of second chances. Having the kind of relationship Jonah had with the Lord, Jonah probably knew this. After all, he had given out warnings before. Yet, in this case, Jonah ran away from the Lord (vs 3) and basically headed in the opposite direction. Why would he do this?
A couple of thoughts come to mind:
1. Hatred for the Ninevites. Nineveh was the capital of Assyria, a definite enemy of Israel.
2. What if they repented – how might that effect Israel’s relationship with them?
3. The OT tells us of several prophets (Hosea, Joel, Amos, Micah, Haggai, etc.) who shared words from the Lord to the Israelites about the need to repent and return to God. These men faithfully went before a people who refused to listen. And now one man goes to Nineveh and the Ninevites repent? How would that look?
Jonah 3:5 & 10 tell us what ultimately happened. The Ninevites believed God….When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened.
But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry. (4:1) I’m stopping here because I’d like to pose the following questions. Have we ever found ourselves reacting like Jonah? Have we ever faced the dilemma of being used of the Lord but not in the way we imagined? Have we ever been frustrated by the results of our prayers or ministry? I hope none of us has experienced Jonah’s feelings in 4:3 where he states: “Now, O Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.” May our disappointments never reach that level!
As prayers and intercessors, let us be found faithful to continue to press in before our Lord even when things don’t make sense. Whether this season of chaos and difficulties (in our lives, in our country) is temporary or if it gets worse, we need to keep our eyes, minds and spirits focused on the Lord, on Yeshua. He is the only one who will give us the strength and the fortitude to keep going, to keep praying, to keep interceding on behalf of the many. We many not like what we see; our prayers may not get answered in the way we hoped; we may find ourselves thinking “what’s the point”; but this should all challenge us to remain firmly entrenched in the truth of God’s word and in the power of who God is!!! Finally, let us remember, that God desires for none to perish but instead come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). The Lord continues to give second chances each and every day.