In the fall of 1973 I was home on leave from the military before reporting to my next duty assignment with 2nd Air Force’s, 2nd Security Police Squadron located at Barksdale AFB, which was a part of the old Strategic Air Command of the United States Air Force. The newly-agreed-to Paris Peace Accords had detailed the end of the Vietnam War and the Homecoming for our POW’s had taken place just a few months earlier. The last American bombs were dropped in Indochina on August 15th of 1973 on a target in Cambodia and for the most part, things were quieting down on the world scene … or so it seemed.
Anwar el Sadat, the newest President of Egypt, was struggling with his country’s failing economy. President Sadat had recently expelled the 22,000 Russian advisors from Egypt and opened up new diplomatic channels with the US. His hope was to gain sympathy and support in recovering the land in the Sinai which had been lost to Israel in the 1967 Six Day War. Sadat also formed an alliance with Syrian President, Hafez al-Assad, the father of the current Syrian President, Basher al-Assad, and was formulating a secret plan to attack Israel.
To complete the political scene in the fall of 1973, the Prime Minister of Israel was Golda Meir, the Russian President was Brezhnev, the US Secretary of State was Kissinger, and the President of the United States was Richard Nixon. These all played their roles in the events which took place now 40 years ago.
Why am I mentioning these things today? Because of the anniversary which just took place yesterday in Israel … the 40th Anniversary of the Yom Kippur War, marked by celebration of the most holy day of the year for Jews. I remember it well. I was sitting in the living room of Brenda’s parents home when an announcement interrupted the programming on the television requesting all US military personnel on leave or away from post to report to their superiors immediately. I did so and found that my name was not on the deployment list and that my leave had not been cancelled as of yet. Nonetheless I was intensely interested in the unfolding events.
That evening the news carried the report that Israel had been attacked and invaded by both air and ground attack by Egypt from the south and Syria from the North. The attack happened while Jewish families were celebrating the most holy day of the year, Yom Kippur. A day in which all Jews are called to 25 hours fasting and prayer … a day in which many military personnel are released from duty to travel home to be with family on this special day set aside for repentance and return to God for forgiveness of sin. Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, a day to reconcile with neighbors, friends, enemies and Almighty God.
It took a few days before Israeli forces could get organized and begin to aggressively repel the onslaught. President Nixon withheld sending military support for a week to show sympathy for Egypt’s concerns. In the meanwhile, Iraqi forces joined Syria who also received support from Jordan. However … once the Israeli military got fully into place they pushed back the Syrians and held off the Egyptians for 19 days amid heavy casualties until a cease fire was secured by the United Nations. In the end, Israel held its ground in the south while gaining new ground in the north. Perhaps this war, more than any other, is remembered because of the element of surprise and the total disregard of the holy moment observed on Yom Kippur.
In Leviticus chapter 16 we are told of the significance of this holy day. The fall season is marked with several important events all beginning with the first day the seventh month of the Jewish calendar. The month is called Tishrei and although it is the seventh month it nonetheless is the beginning of the Jewish New Year. The first day of Tishrei is Rosh Hashanah – the New Year’s Day.
Jewish tradition teaches that on that day God writes names in the Book of Life and the Book of Death along with each person’s fate for the coming year. Those fates, however, are not sealed for 10 days thus giving each person an opportunity to get right with God. Two things are generally required during those 10 Days of Awe: 1) to reconcile with others; & 2) to get right with God. The 10th day of Tishrei, called the Day of Atonement, is a day of total fasting and long prayers of repentance. That day ended last night at sundown in Israel. According to the law, it is now too late to change your fate. Either your name is written in the Book of Life or it is not!
It was on the Day of Atonement that the High Priest was allowed to enter the Holy of Holies for his once per year visit, to consecrate the Temple by sprinkling the blood of a bull and a goat on and before the mercy seat which set atop the Ark of the Covenant. Then the High Priest would also sanctify the whole temple by consecrating the altar with the same sprinkling of blood. Once these holy moments were accomplished, he would turn his attention to a scapegoat which had been chosen by God for that purpose. The High Priest would lay both of his hands on the head of the goat and pronounce, or confess, all of the past year’s sins of Israel over the goat thereby laying all of the sins of Israel on this scapegoat which would then be led into the wilderness and released.
This had to be done each year to clear the people of sin and temporarily release them from the penalty of death which sin requires.
10 But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before the LORD, to make an atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness.
21 And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness:
22 And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited: and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness.
Once, this was the only hope mankind had to temporarily rid himself of the penalties of sin and be accepted by God. Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the sprinkling of blood and the confession of sins, laying them on the chosen scapegoat, were all shadows of a better and more permanent event to come. These elements of worship were foreshadows of what God would do through Messiah – not once each year, but once and for all, eternally and forever!
Jesus is not only the Sacrifice whose blood cleanses us from all sin and reconciles us to God but He is also the High Priest of God entering into the very throne room of heaven once for all mankind to obtain mercy and make a way for us.
Jesus bore our sins and took our infirmities to the grave. He also rose victorious without those sins, sicknesses, worries or fears … He left them in the grave … He left them in hades … He left them in hell with the devil.
As I said earlier, according to the law, it is now too late to change your fate. Either your name is written in the Book of Life or it is not!
Personally, I am thankful that the law does not have the last say concerning the salvation of my soul! Don’t get me wrong … in order to have eternal life we still must be right with God – however, righteousness cannot come by keeping the law.
Galatians 3:21 Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not! For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law.
Righteousness and eternal life cannot come by the law but rather by faith in the Righteous One who is the Giver of life.
3 For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh,
4 that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
1 John 5
11 And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.
12 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.
Colossians 1:14 In Jesus we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins.
You can seal your eternal fate today by simply opening your heart to God and receiving Jesus as Messiah. This can be your Yom Kippur, once and for all.