Category Archives: Yom Kippur

The Trinity in Lev. 23?

unspecified-19-1Tonight begins Sukkoth.  Sukkoth, the Feast of Tabernacles (“Booths” in the ESV), is the third of three autumn pilgrimage festivals appointed by God in Leviticus 23.  This particular festival is the celebration festival of the autumn calendar.  The first two, Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur are solemn, but Sukkoth is festival of rejoicing.

I was on the radio this week, and the guy on the board was talking to me during a break and relating that he saw on Facebook the admonition to not wish Jewish people a “Happy Rosh HaShanah,” because Rosh HaShanah is anything but happy.  It is a solemn memorial.  But to wish Jewish people a Happy Sukkoth would not be untoward.  (Truthfully, I don’t know many Jewish people who would take offense at their friends wishing them a happy Rosh HaShanah, but the usual greeting is La Shana Tova, literally, “A Good Year,” referencing the greater greeting of “May your name be inscribed for a good year,” that inscription being in the Book of Life.)  In our Detroit branch we gave away many baskets of apples & honey with that greeting.  You can see those on the Facebook page (  But as Sukkoth is a festival of rejoicing, rejoice!  Happy Sukkoth, or even better, Chag Sukkoth Sameach!

We built our booth, or Sukkah, on Sunday afternoon following our service.  (You can see a picture and video on our Facebook page too!)  The Sukkah is a relatively flimsy booth built with a roof of branches that do nothing to keep the rain or the sun out.  It is a reminder of the booths we lived in in the desert as we schlepped from Egypt to Israel following God’s deliverance of his people from bondage.  The message is that anything we build with our hands is flimsy indeed compared to the building that God is providing for us.  A time of remembrance and a time of rejoicing in God’s constant care and provision.

In many ways, and I preached this during Yom Kippur, the three autumn festivals are a picture of God himself and are very Trinitarian.  On Rosh HaShanah, God the Father blows a trumpet to get our attention off of ourselves and onto Him.  Then he shows us our deliverance on Yom Kippur as God the Son takes on flesh and blood and becomes the sacrifice for our atonement.  These are solemn acts indeed and our response is one of quiet solemnity.  But at Sukkoth we rejoice as God, the Holy Spirit, is poured out upon us and shows us His sacrifice, His love, and His provision.  All three persons of the Godhead are there in these three festivals!  What a joy to share this truth with those who cannot see.


To everything there is a season…

UntitledSeptember brings what I call “learning season.”  Yes, of course, learning is year-round, but the Autumn brings a new crop of students.  This semester I have 15 high school-aged students that I tutor in Classical Conversations (, and 6 new seminary students who are learning to share their faith in a Jewish context.  Additionally, I have had opportunity to write for a new book coming out by Concordia Publishing House called The Christian Difference, and work with LCMS Witness and Outreach on their new missions curriculum Every One His Witness.

All of this stuff, in addition to the mission society and the congregation, keeps me pretty busy.  But it all serves the mission of the Church, so I am happy to do the work.  But, nothing brings instant gratification!  Everything in missions takes time and perseverance.  The book isn’t coming out until 2019 and I rarely hear from the students that I work with.  So it was with great joy that I received the following e-mail:

“Hi there–remember me?  My husband and I are in SC now.  We started a church here 12 years ago.  We have about 40 members now.  I have become friends with a really interesting Jewish lady who makes me think of you and times I spent with your church.   She came to our Christmas eve service in 2016.  We have had several discussions and she is now willing to take classes with Keith to become baptized and join our church.  Thought you might be interested in hearing about her.  Her parents escaped the Holocaust and came to New York City.”

This dear Jewish lady, Carol, is 77 years old and was baptized in August.  What a blessing!  The pastor and his wife were involved with our ministry while he was a student at Concordia over 17 years ago.

Back in the ’50’s, Pete Seeger wrote “Turn! Turn! Turn!,” (Judy Collins sings it here) an almost verbatim rendition of Ecc. 3:1-8.  We have a Hebrew lithograph of that text on the wall of our sanctuary.  I look at that on occasion and have to remind myself that God’s timing is always perfect, so I just have to wait.  And occasionally, He blesses me with a glimpse.  He did that through that e-mail!  Keep Keith, Judy and Carol in your prayers, as they walk together in Y’shua, especially during this High Holy Season. Now Carol’s name is truly written in the Lamb’s Book of Life!  Shalom, Peace.

Yom Kippur–The Lamb’s Book

Tree of LifeIllustration:  “L’Arbre de Vie (‘Tree of life’– sketch to vitrage in Chapelle des Cordeliers in Sarrebourg)” by Marc Chagall, 1974.

Jesus said to [Thomas], ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me'” (John 14:6).

On our journey to the cross we have visited two festivals, Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, and these two festivals have shown us two aspects of our Christian walk. At Rosh HaShanah we looked at the call to faith God gave us, and how He continues to call us to service and worship. And as we traveled with Jesus to Yom Kippur, we saw the completeness of the sacrifice which Jesus made for us, the sacrifice which make us worthy to respond to God’s call.

At Rosh HaShanah, Jewish people send each other a greeting. “La Shanah Tovu Tiku Teivu,” which means “May your name be inscribed for a good year.” The prayer is that your name will be inscribed by God into His Book of Life. But at Yom Kippur, the obvious question remains unasked. “Is It?” Is the work you have done  sufficient to appease a God who cannot abide with sin?

You have God’s promise that your name is indeed inscribed in the Book of Life.  What makes you different from those whose names are in the Book of Death?  God has called you to the path of Life, and by His grace you know that Jesus’ atoning sacrifice on the cross is the only way to pay for your sins.  God has saved you, and He has written your name in the Book of Life.

As a believer in Christ, your journey is on the less-traveled road with Jesus.  There may be obstacles and temptations to turn to a side road, but this is the road of Life.  The easy road without Him is a smooth journey to death.

Prayer:   Lord God, you sustain me through the hardship in my life. Thank you for calling me to faith and for sending your Son to walk with me through the weeds of sin. In Y’shua’s name, Amen.

Ponder the path:  As you stumble and fall over the weeds and ruts of your sins, your Traveling Companion is there to help you up. Look around you. Is there anyone else at the crossroads who looks confused. Share your path with them.



Yom Kippur–Complete Forgiveness

Prophet JeremiahIllustration:  “Prophet Jeremiah” by Marc Chagall, oil on canvas, 1968.

“‘And this shall be a statute forever for you, that atonement may be made for the people of Israel once in the year because of all their sins.’ And Moses did as the LORD commanded him” (Leviticus 16:34).

“This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28).

We pause in our journey at the city walls. The sacrifices are complete. The carcasses of the animals are being burned outside the city. The priest is cleansed. The scapegoat has been banished. Another year has come and gone. It is a new beginning. We are reborn…for another year.

Spring is the time of new beginnings as we seasonally see the birth, life and death of God’s creation. Though Yom Kippur is a fall festival, we see something of the Spring in it. For we are born anew. But the covenant God made with the Israelites required yearly sacrifices, yearly trips to the temple for atonement.  Cleansed from our sin to live our lives, only to come back to the temple again, dead in our transgressions, seeking reconciliation with God again. But God has a better plan for us than this yearly trek. God sent a prophet, Jeremiah, to announce the new covenant that would make complete atonement once for all.  “‘Behold, the days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will make a new covenant … I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. … For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more'” (Jeremiah 31:31-34).  Jeremiah proclaimed this new covenant 600 years before Christ–the fulfillment of the covenant–was born.

The new covenant is not like the one in Leviticus, that requires annual sacrifices.  The sacrifice is once for all, and through this sacrifice the law is written on our hearts and in our minds. Jesus announced this new covenant at his last supper with the disciples, just hours before he was lead away to fulfill it. The benefits of this new covenant are ours every time we confess to a fellow believer and receive the assurance that indeed we are completely forgiven.   Now every day is Yom Kippur.

Prayer:  Dear God, thank You for the complete forgiveness You have given me. I love you Lord. Help me to give myself completely to You. In Y’shua’s name, Amen.

Ponder the path:  Is there something that you feel God could not possibly forgive you for? Go to your pastor today and know that all of your sins are forgiven completely by the shed blood of God’s sacrifice, His Son Jesus.



Yom Kippur–The Scapegoat (Second Sunday in Lent)

Wandering JewIllustration:  “Wandering Jew” by Marc Chagall, ink on paper, 1914.

“And Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions, all their sins. And he shall put them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who is in readiness” (Leviticus 16:21).

Have you ever been blamed for something you didn’t do? Perhaps as a child, your older brother or sister made you the scapegoat for them. How did it feel? Often, there was nothing you could do to defend yourself. No matter what you would have said, it wouldn’t have made any difference.

Notice that the scapegoat does not take the blame for another’s actions. When the high priest confessed the sins of the people on the head of the goat, he was not saying that the goat did the deed. No, the scapegoat only pays the price for the deed.

We make others our scapegoat all the time in an effort to shift responsibility for our action or inaction. As we walk along the path, only we can take the responsibility for our decisions. No one else can play the scapegoat–save one. Jesus is our scapegoat.  Through the prophet Isaiah, God said, “Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities” (Isiah 53:11).  Jesus was righteous, and bore all of our iniquities, or sins.  He paid the price for them.  And He did nothing to defend Himself.

Jesus was led to a mountain to die on a cross, but He rose from the dead three days later.  He has victory over death!  Because He is our Scapegoat, we also have victory through His death on the cross.

Prayer:  Lord God, forgive me for my sins against you and others. Give me strength to accept responsibility for my actions, and thank you for sending your Son to be my scapegoat. In Y’shua’s name, Amen.

Ponder the path:  Have you ever blamed someone else for your mistakes?  This is a good time to accept responsibility, knowing that the debt for your sin has already been paid.



Yom Kippur–The Sacrifice

The Cattle DealerIllustration:  “The Cattle Dealer,” by Marc Chagall, oil on canvas, 1912.

“If any one of the house of Israel or of the strangers who sojourn among them eats any blood, I will set my face against that person who eats blood and will cut him off from among his people. For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life” (Leviticus 17:10-11).

As we journey closer to the temple, we notice that the road ahead is sprinkled with blood. The Yom Kippur sacrifices have begun. God has decreed that blood must be shed, that it is blood that makes atonement for us. So we bring our sacrifices to the temple: bulls and goats–innocent animals that must die for us to be forgiven.

Jesus was a righteous Jew who kept the covenant with God. He would have been among those who brought sacrifices to the temple, and Jesus was certainly at the temple every year for this festival. Knowing what He knew, how hard it must have been for Him to see the deaths of these animals. He knew that this was just a picture of the sacrifice that was to come. He knew that the bulls and goats were just precursors of the sacrifice that God would make once for all, and that He would be that sacrifice. By that once-for-all sacrifice, God’s people would never have to slaughter another animal to atone for their sins.

By the death that this season anticipates, your sins have been paid for in full. Now our offerings at the temple are not sacrifices, but gifts of thanksgiving. Praise Him!

Prayer: My Lord God, You are the Creator of all things and have blessed me with much. Thank You for the sacrifice You made in my stead, and give me a heart filled with joy as I make an offering to You. In Y’shua’s name, Amen.

Ponder the path: Tomorrow is Sunday. Consider the offering you will bring. Remember the sacrifice that Jesus made for you and give with a grateful heart.

Yom Kippur–The Preparation

A Group of People (Preparation)Illustration:  “A Group of People,” by Marc Chagall, pencil, wash, and ink on paper, 1914.

“And the LORD said to Moses, “Tell Aaron your brother not to come at any time into the Holy Place inside the veil, before the mercy seat that is on the ark, so that he may not die. For I will appear in the cloud over the mercy seat” (Leviticus 16:2).

As we journey to the Feast of Yom Kippur, we notice that people have gathered from all over the country.  They are resting from work, fasting, meditating and praying for forgiveness of their sins.  God has appointed this as a solemn time of preparation for the sacrifice being offered on their behalf by the priest.

Yom Kippur is the only day that the priest enters the Most Holy Place.  That is why everyone has gathered and everyone has prepared.  This is a special day.

Lent is a season of preparation too.  We are preparing ourselves for the sacrifice that is to come.  For the people of Jesus’ time, the preparation was outward, though its purpose was to prepare people’s hearts for the miracle of forgiveness to come.  Today, our preparation is less visible.  But what does the Lord require of us?  The psalmist says, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart” (Psalm 51:17).  God has appointed this time for us to prepare for the sacrifice of His Son.  His sacrifice was one for all time, for all of us, and we especially remember it each year during the Lenten season.

Prayer:  Our Lord, thank You for helping me to prepare my heart.  Give me a broken and contrite heart as I get ready to celebrate Christ’s victory over death.  In Y’shua’s name, Amen.

Ponder the path:  As you continue to prepare for Easter, examine your heart. Take time to prepare your spirit to receive again the good news of Christ’s resurrection, the fulfillment of Yom Kippur.  Then help others to prepare by sharing that good news!


Yom Kippur–Deny Yourselves

SolitudeIllustration:  “Solitude” by Marc Chagall, oil on canvas, 1933.


“Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it’”(Matthew 16:24-25).

One of God’s directions for this leg of the journey is to deny ourselves.  What does that mean, especially in the context of Jesus’ atoning work for us?

Denying ourselves has traditionally been expressed by fasting, and in most Jewish households, Yom Kippur is a fast day. No food or water is consumed on this day. For Jewish people, this may be an appropriate fast, for food has always come between God and His people. Remember the children of Israel in the wilderness? They were ready to abandon the path God lead them on to escape slavery in Egypt, simply for want of food. So today, as God further demonstrates our complete inability to negotiate our atonement, He commands us to give up whatever remains a barrier to our heart for God.

God knows our hearts well. He knows the challenges that have been before us as we have walked this path to Mt. Calvary. He guides us through the obstacles that we have placed before ourselves. But He also knows the road ahead, and desires our whole heart. So on this day, He reminds us again that there is something we continue to grasp that we need to give up to Him instead.

During Lent it is traditional to “give up something.”  For some it is chocolate, and for others it is a midday meal.  Y’shua walks with us and tells us to deny ourselves and take up our cross.  Denying ourselves helps us remain focused on God’s promises and His gift of forgiveness and everlasting life.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, “the founder and perfecter of our faith…” (Hebrews 12:2).

Prayer:  Dear God, sometimes I do not even know the depth of my dependence on things other than you. Give me the strength and guidance to deny myself and walk with you a little closer today. In Y’shua’s name, Amen.

Ponder the path:  If you were to fast today, what food or activity would you choose to eliminate?  Why?

YOM KIPPUR (Day of Atonement)

The tenth day of the Jewish month, Tishri, September or October.

Name:  Yom (Hebrew for day) Kippur (Hebrew for covering, referring to the covering of sin, equivalent to the English “atonement”).

Purpose:  To atone for the sins of the priests and the people.

Old Testament:  “Atonement is to be made once a year for all the sins of the Israelites” (Leviticus 16:34).  “The tenth day of the seventh month is the Day of Atonement.  Hold a sacred assembly and deny yourselves, and present an offering … Do not work on that day … when atonement is made for you before the LORD” (Leviticus 23:27-28).  Also Leviticus 16; Numbers 29:7-11.

New Testament:  Romans 3:24-26; Hebrews 9:7, 10:3, 19-22.

Observance:  Next to the Sabbath, Yom Kippur is considered the most holy day on the Jewish calendar.  It is preceded by the 10 Days of Awe, which are filled with personal reflection and repentance.  In Bible times there was a solemn assembly during which the High Priest made two sacrifices for the atonement (covering) of sins.

This was the only day on which the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies.  He entered first to sprinkle the blood of the first sacrificed bull on the mercy seat to make atonement for his sins.  The sedond time he entered to sprinkle the blood of a sacrificed goat for the sins of Israel.

The Jewish people observed Yom Kippur throughout the centuries as a day of rest, fasting, meditation and prayer to find forgiveness of sins and thus begin the new year with a clear conscience.

Tradition:  Because no sacrifices have been made since the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D., Jewish people see forgiveness through their own prayers and the good that they do.  It is customary to ask and to give forgiveness to each other, believing that God’s forgiveness depends on people being forgiving to each other.

At a service on Yom Kippur Eve, Kol Nidre (all vows), each person affirms promises to God for the coming year and prays to be excused from previous vows not kept.

Fulfillment:  “We have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:10).

Yom Kippur–A Day of Rest

Young Girl on a Sofa (Mariaska)

Illustration:  “Young Girl on a Sofa (Mariaska)” by Marc Chagall, oil on canvas, 1907.

“And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Now on the tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement. It shall be for you a time of holy convocation, and you shall afflict yourselves and present a food offering to the LORD. And you shall not do any work on that very day, for it is a Day of Atonement, to make atonement for you before the LORD your God'” (Leviticus 23:26-28).

The road we have walked with Jesus is a long one with many obstacles. We are tired and in need of refreshment. We look in our guidebook, the Bible, for direction as we wearily look into the distance ahead. Another picture emerges. We are walking to the Feast of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.  Just in time, God has decreed another day of rest.

Today, the day of rest is welcome, and God seems serious about us resting today. He makes it very clear that no work will be done on this day, the work is God’s. There is nothing we can do to achieve our own atonement (paying our debt of sin to make us right, or “at one,” with God). He will make atonement for us.

Lent also is a time of rest and preparation for the atoning sacrifice. During Lent, we remember Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross to pay for our sins.  This time of rest is God saying, “Stop!  Stop trying to make Me love you.  My Son, Jesus, has paid for your sins and I have brought you back to Me.”

As you walk through Lent on the path of Life, take the opportunity to consider your sin, to realize the magnitude of your shortcomings before God.  It is tempting to take a side trip onto the path of good works, seeking to appease God and negotiate your own reconciliation.  But the path of self-reliance leads only to death.  Remain on the path with Y’shua, who is God’s sacrifice of atonement for you.  The Sacrifice walks with you daily, and has already done all the work to make you right with God.

Prayer:  Father God, thank you for doing all the work for me, that by Your gift of faith, we are reconciled to You. Thank you for giving me rest. In Y’shua’s name, Amen.

Ponder the path:  Good works are the fruit of a thankful heart that accepts the forgiveness won on the cross by Y’shua.