This past Wednesday was Yom Kippur, the day of atonement described in Leviticus 23. Literally, kippur means “covering”. A gracious God made provision for his people that, every year, their sin could be “covered” by a blood sacrifice made in a sacred assembly. Until the next year, they could have peace knowing that their sins were forgiven.
I’ve been thinking about atonement and what it means in my own life for many weeks now. I realized that I have been trying to atone for my sin my entire life. As a Christian, of course I would say that Jesus paid for my sins. But I also found comfort in whatever steps I took to cover over, or atone for, them. For example, if I screamed at my best friend or lied to my parents, I could always apologize. I could confess and ask for forgiveness. Additionally, I could grow in that area. Maybe memorize a few Scriptures about anger or about honesty and see improvement in those places of my life. The point is, I could always make it right. I would say that Jesus was the one who covered my sin but secretly I was also trying to make it ok through my own means.
I realized this a few months ago, in the middle of a breakdown in Starbucks. I literally sobbed as a dear friend sat across from me in silence, mourning with me. I finally came to grips with a sin that I could never cover. One that I could never make right. All opportunities to apologize, change or grow were lost forever.
Then the truth hit me and was both horrifying and beautiful – none of my sin was ever ok. I had never done a single thing to make it right or to atone for it. The violence that Yeshua suffered at the cross was the only thing that could ever make it “ok”. I am thankful for Yom Kippur’s reminder to me of my need. I am even more thankful that what Yeshua did was something wholly other than “covering” my sin for a year – He completely took it away.
The Greek words used of Yeshua in the NT testify to this. Even when they are rendered in English as “atone,” the meaning is to take away, or to remove. God’s wrath was not postponed for another year, it was completely satisfied by His sacrifice .
I desperately need that. I have to come to the end of myself and my efforts to cover over my own sin and fall down in worship of the only One who could completely take it away.