The Day of Atonement

Randall E. Ricker

God shows us His plan for salvation by His festivals, which run throughout much of the year going from the spring into the summer and then into the fall. We are here together on the Day of Atonement, which is one of the fall festivals listed in Leviticus 23.

Read Leviticus chapter 23:26: “And the Lord spoke to Moses saying: ‘Also the tenth day of this seventh month shall be the Day of Atonement.’” This is referring to God’s sacred Hebrew calendar, and this day occurs in September or October.

Continue reading Leviticus 23:27-32. On this Day of Atonement we are not to work, and we are to afflict our souls. To afflict our souls means to humble ourselves and to fast. We will talk more about that a little bit later. This is the only day of the year that we are commanded to fast, and it tells us that from evening to evening you shall celebrate your Sabbath. God’s days start at evening, so on this tenth day of the seventh month, as it begins in the evening, we begin to fast. We fast throughout that whole day until the sun goes down again at the end of the day.

Leviticus 16 describes a ceremony that the high priest used to perform in the tabernacle or in the temple that helps us to understand what this day is all about. Read Leviticus 16:2. Aaron could not just come at any time into the Holy of Holies. He was only permitted to enter on this one day of the year, the Day of Atonement.

Read Leviticus 16:5-8. This word “scapegoat” is really from the Hebrew word azazel, which is another name for Satan. One of the goats was to represent Satan the devil, and the other one was for God. Lots were thrown to determine which was which. A separation occurs here between those who are God’s and those who are Satan’s.

We will continue reading in Leviticus 16:9-10, 15, and 20-22. This goat that represents Satan has the guilt for which Satan is responsible put on his head. We are responsible when we sin, but Satan is the one who tempts us to do it. Some of that responsibility is Satan’s, and that guilt (that responsibility) is put on his head, and he is put away. He is sent into the wilderness, a separated place.

Read Leviticus 16:29-31. The priest makes atonement by cleansing the people, just as now when we fast we allow God to cleanse us. This Day of Atonement pictures a separation (a judgment) between those who insist on going Satan’s way and simply will not repent, and those who will choose God’s way. We want to be sure we are headed the right way.

Once we understand that this day pictures Satan being put away, we can see some of the damage that Satan has been doing and why he needs to be put away. Read Isaiah 14: 3: “It shall come to pass in the day the Lord gives you rest from your sorrow, and from your fear and the hard bondage in which you were made to serve, that you will take up this proverb against the king ofBabylon…”

Satan is represented by the king ofBabylonin these verses in Isaiah. They talk about a future time when God gives us rest from our sorrow and from the bondage that Satan has held us in. Satan is indeed holding the world captive.

Continue reading from the last half of Isaiah 14:4 and read to verse 7. Satan does rule the whole earth, in fact, even now. But at that time when everyone will be released, the whole world will be at rest and quiet and singing!

Continue reading verses 12-17. Let’s remember these words that Satan is saying. In several places in the Bible, Satan is described as being like a man. Here he is described like a man who shook kingdoms, made the world as a wilderness, made it a desert, ruined the earth, destroyed cities, and kept prisoners.

In II Corinthians 4:4 Satan is described by the apostle Paul as the god (that is god with a small “g”) who is ruling this world, and he knows it.

Turn to Ephesians chapter 2:1-2. This is another name (another title) that he has been given, the prince of the power of the air. Now that we have radio, we understand that illustration. The radio waves in the air are around us all of the time, but if we do not have the right equipment, we cannot pick them up, and we don’t even know they are there. Satan’s broadcasting is similar. He broadcasts his bad attitudes and his evil thoughts, and we are there to pick them up. We have to resist. Some people do a very good job at resisting; others don’t seem to resist at all.

Go to Ephesians chapter 6:10-12. When people harm us and when people harm each other, it is not entirely their fault. They are being influenced by Satan and the demons. It is as if Satan and the demons have divided up the world into their little areas for which each one is responsible. Each one governs over an area, causing all kinds of trouble. This is what we are up against. We need Satan and his demons removed, and we need to be ready to replace them. Christ is already prepared: He has qualified to replace Satan the devil as the ruler of this world. But a ruler needs a government under Him. We must qualify to replace the demons who are ruling the earth right now.

Revelation 19:6-9 talks about what happens right before Satan is put away. Christ returns, and His wife (the bride, the firstfruits, the Church) will have made herself ready. Then the Church can marry Christ. We must become ready by cleaning away all the spots and blemishes. We need to have righteousness by keeping God’s commandments and doing all that God intends us to do. We need to be showing outgoing concern for people as we learn this way of love. We must learn all of this to be ready so that Christ can come back and marry us as His Church.

Revelation 20:1-3 discusses what happens after this event. We look forward to that day when Satan will be put away and bound for a thousand years. Satan will be put away where he can harm no one, just like that goat which was led away to a distant land, far away where it could have no contact with anyone.

On this Day of Atonement we read earlier that we are to afflict ourselves by fasting, so let’s study a little bit on the subject of fasting today. Let’s first see what we mean by “afflicting” ourselves. Read Psalm 35:13. A way to humble ourselves is by fasting, going without food and water for 24 hours.

We can see this again in Isaiah chapter 58:3: “‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and You have not seen? Why have we afflicted our souls, and You take no notice?’” These people afflicted their souls by fasting, again showing us that is what that phrase means.

What is fasting trying to accomplish and why are we fasting today? Read Isaiah 58:3-5. People must have the right attitude when they are fasting, and it is not a day to continue to harm people, hurt people, to try to get our own way, to preach harsh messages of destruction.

Continue reading Isaiah 58:6. Satan has control over the earth and the Church in bondage. We fast so that we can be free and then help others become free.

Verse 7: “‘Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out…’” We share our spiritual message with the people who are hungry for it.

Continue in verse 7: “‘When you see the naked, that you cover him, and not hide yourself from your own flesh?’” When someone is naked, he does not have the white linen garments that the bride is to have, as we read in Revelation 19. If someone is having trouble, help them to develop God’s character.

Read Isaiah 58 verses 8-11. We are not to be accusing people, and we have to stop doing such things if we want our fast to be productive and to learn something. We are like a garden that is bearing fruit as we grow in righteous character for God.

Read verses 12-14. These last two verses talk about how we are not to be doing our own pleasure on the Sabbath, whether it is the Day of Atonement or a weekly Sabbath. We should delight in that Sabbath but not do our own thing on that day. Do not do anything that is going to keep us from knowing what day it is, understanding that day, and appreciating that day. We certainly do not work on that day.

Since we understand now that fasting is a way to humble ourselves, let’s read James 4:6-10. Instead of being proud, we should be humble. We resist the devil by submitting to God and not thinking too highly of ourselves. We want to cleanse our hands. In other words, stop doing bad things. Purify our hearts. Stop thinking bad thoughts toward each other. Instead, we seek to humble ourselves, and He will lift us up.

I Peter 5:5-9 also talks about humbling ourselves. Satan is compared to a roaring lion who will devour us, and he will destroy us if we let him. Instead we must humble ourselves and be sober. Be very careful what we are thinking and do not yield to that temptation. Be vigilant and watch for Satan’s thoughts and attitudes and the bad things that he does. Realize they are coming from him and resist. If we resist, he must flee.

Verse 10 tells us that God is trying to perfect us; He wants us to have perfectly righteous character.

We are learning that this Day of Atonement is prophetic of Satan being put away along with any who will not repent, and it is also a day to fast to help us resist Satan. If we resist Satan and continue to grow and overcome, we can be ready to receive the reward after Christ returns.