Cease From Striving
Yahveh emphasizes the importance of the Day of Atonement by stating that all Israel must afflict or humble themselves and that anyone who didn’t would be cut off. Three times it states (within six verses), that the people must afflict themselves (Lev. 23:27, 29, 32), and those who didn’t would be cut off from the people. To afflict, humble or deny meant that Israel was to realize that they didn’t have anything in themselves to boast about before God. It was a proper attitude for one to appear before God, looking to Him for forgiveness, without pride in their hearts.
Fasting, going without food and water, was the way that the physical meaning of the word ‘to afflict’ was carried out. Fasting is a way of setting apart that which is necessary for physical life and was pleasurable to Israel. It allowed them to enter into what Yahveh was doing for them in a very focused way. It spoke of their setting apart their carnality, their flesh, their ‘physical’ for the things of God, that His Will would be done in their life. It’s the greatest picture of death to self: if you don’t eat, you die. And three times (within four verses), Yahveh says that they must not work on this day. The penalty being that they would be destroyed by God Himself (Lev. 23:28-29, 31).
We are to cease from our strivings ‘do to’ for God, die to self and ‘rest’ in Him, that He might work His works through us, by His Spirit. Fasting for one day weakens us. We don’t want to do anything. It shows us that we really don’t have much, in our own strength. With this understanding of our carnal condition, it makes it easier for us to give way to Him in all things, every day.
In Lev. 23:32 (and also 16:31), we find the term Shabat Shabatone שַׁבַּת שַׁבָּתוֹן a Sabbath of absolute rest. It speaks of perfect trust in Yahveh for the forgiveness of, and freedom from, their sin and guilt. It speaks of not striving in one’s own strength to please God.
When God speaks of rest on Shabat (Hebrew for Sabbath), it’s not confined to the physical. Yahveh was telling them that they had to learn to really trust Him for their very life, their food, their clothes and their well being. This would bring them true peace and rest. They couldn’t make atonement for themselves and they had to realize this in the depth of their being. They were given this special opportunity once a year. It pictured them accepting, by way of obedience and trusting in their God, the covering or forgiveness of their sins that God provided.
As we might expect, for Israel to realize this total forgiveness once a year was a very precious source of life for them. Every Israeli knew he stood in good fellowship or ‘at peace’ with his God. Yahveh was removing the sins of Israel and all were to cease from their work and striving to be holy, and allow God to cleanse them and make them holy. Yahveh was setting them free again, a picture of the Sacrifice of Yeshua.
We see that Yom Kipor was not established to appease an angry God but quite the contrary, that Yahveh, the holy and loving God, made a way for forgiveness to be had for His people Israel. This also allowed Him to continue to literally dwell in the midst of His people. Even with the best intentions, Israel sinned against Him. Their response was gratefulness and a life that desired to love Him with all their heart, soul and strength and their neighbor as themself.