Our calendar is littered with national days. There’s national donut day and national pirate day and other nonsensical observations throughout the year. Most of these national days are worthless. Not to further clutter the calendar, but maybe there should be one more national day suggested.
You have reached the peak of Leviticus once you read chapter sixteen. The Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) is the most significant day of the Jewish calendar. Two words stand out in the study of this Hebrew practice. Atonement is the first noted word which simply means “ransom.” You more than likely associate the word with the bad guys issuing the ransom note for the kidnapped loved one. The ransom is a paid substitute in exchange. The sin of the Israelites demanded death, but the priest would spill the life, the blood, of the innocent animal as the ransom. The second goat was the scapegoat which pictured God’s desire to forever remove the sins of man, never to be brought against them again. Jesus was the one who blotted “out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross” (Colossians 2:14). He was the Lamb who took away the sins of the world (John 1:29). He gave His “life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).
Man’s nature is so corrupted that God not only prescribes the action but also the attitude. It is natural for us to grow desensitized regarding our sin. As the preacher speaks, as you read the Scripture, or as a friend admonishes you, you are inclined to harden your heart. God tells Israel, “Afflict your souls” (Leviticus 16:29, 31). This is a vigorous response to this gruesome ritual. This word vividly reminds Israel of their affliction, pain, and humiliation in Egypt! This same distress forced them to appeal to God, their only hope. Now, once a year a national day of affliction demonstrates the internal severity of repentance.
Repentance is almost lost entirely among Christians, yet it’s the most needful response in order to maintain fellowship with God. Without it, you will grow calloused toward your sin and distant from your one Hope. The most healthy thing you can do is daily remind yourself of your sin, repent of your sin, and rejoice in your Savior. “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up” (James 4:8-10).
So how about a new National Day of Repentance? How about observing this day every day of your life in order to protect your fellowship with God?
“Reminding ourselves of the gospel is the most important daily habit we can establish.”— C. J. Mahaney
As part of my job at Geisinger, I often have to look up anywhere from 10 to 50 patient charts each day. Sometimes I have need to look up a chart for a current patient, while other times it might be several weeks after the fact that I have to go back in to check something. Every once in a while, I will get a brief but uncomfortable message that will pop up on the screen as I attempt to enter someone’s chart. It will say, “you are about to enter the account of a deceased patient” and the system will then double check to see if I really want to keep proceeding. While death is obviously a common thing at a hospital, that message still has a way of stopping me, even for just a second or two.
Our passage today reminds us of another death that has taken place. Colossians 3:1-3 says, “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” Paul just comes right out and says, “you are dead.” Nothing like a direct statement like that to get our attention! Obviously, he is not referring to physical death but to a spiritual death. He is saying that when someone comes to Christ, their life as was once constituted has died, it’s over. Our lives are now “hidden with Christ.” As Paul writes in Acts 17:28, “For in Him we live, and move, and have our being.”
He also further explains this idea in Col. 3:5, telling us to “mortify our members which are upon the earth.” Things like fornication, uncleanness, and covetousness. He adds another list in verse 8 to include sins such as anger, blasphemy, and lying.
So Paul is urging us today to consider our old man dead and to put to death the desires of our fleshly nature and to instead live a Christ-centered life that is bringing forth spiritual fruit. Consider the idea of someone trying to access your chart before you came to Christ and having a message pop up that says, “you are entering the account of a deceased patient.”
I wonder why Psalms was not entitled “The Lamentations of Israel”? Many of the Psalms have Israel confronting their enemies; of which, they never lacked. To this day, they are the most hated of people. Israel is surrounded by enemies. They cannot go anywhere in the world where they can live peaceably. Even in America they cannot live free from persecution. Does this example remind you of anything? How about Christians? True followers of the Lord Jesus suffer persecution no matter where we reside. We have much in common with Israel.
We, as believers, do not suffer the persecution that our brethren do in foreign countries; nor the pain of our Christian ancestors in this country. We could speak of the burnings and drownings of the faithful. Read the words to the hymn, “Faith of Our Fathers”, and you will see it is a testimony of their trials. There are those who hide to worship God for fear of being killed.
I dread the thought of waking to find our country surrounded by those threatening our annihilation, as did Israel in 1967 (“For, lo, thine enemies make a tumult: and they that hate thee have lifted up the head. They have taken crafty counsel against thy people, and consulted against thy hidden ones. They have said, Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation; that the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance (Ps. 83:2-4). Sounds like lines from a present-day newspaper. Just as horrifying is being rounded up for extermination in a concentration camp, or being a missionary having your car lit afire with you in it. What is the root of this anger? A hatred for the things of God! The world would do the same to us if they could. Remember what Jesus said, “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you” (John 15:18).
Most Jews are not believers of Messiah, but the fact their roots are in the true-God make them targets like Christians. If people of Judeo-Christian faith would disavow the True One, our problems would cease immediately. To this we say- never Lord! God will exonerate the faithful. “And the LORD thy God will put all these curses upon thine enemies, and on them that hate thee, which persecuted thee (Deu. 30:7). When we are rebuked for our faith, remember the root is hatred of God. The psalmist petitions God in Ps.83:17-18, “Let them be confounded and troubled for ever; yea, let them be put to shame, and perish: That men may know that thou, whose name alone is JEHOVAH, art the most high over all the earth.” We pray that all mankind would be saved, but that will not happen. We will always have enemies amongst us as followers of Christ. But God will take care of it all and it will be worth it all!