Yom Kippur 5773

“What is your problem?” (Morning: Torah Service)

Neilah Service (Evening)

Commentary notes below:

Yom Kippur 5773 (26th September 2012)

“What is your problem?”

We stand before our Maker and Creator, once more remembering the day when the High Priest would go into the Holy of Holies alone. Sacrifice, right at the core of Judaism, is the response of God to our ancient problem of sin and our inbuilt predilection to it. Judaism exists to point the way towards the solutions to human problems and issues of which sin is the greatest.

In so many ways, sin is an overwhelming and discouraging problem. At times it seems just too much, too big, too powerful an urge, almost inevitable and humanly speaking unavoidable. We can so focus on sin and its effects that we miss the point: sin is not the problem.

When you consider the columns of Torah width given to sin and its effects, even to the sacrifices brought to cover it and atone for it, you surely could be forgiven for thinking that I’d lost the plot. But no. Let me remind you of one of the ‘greats’ of Jewish history: King David. His life was an enigma on many levels, including on the righteous dimension. Here was a man who had apparently regularly spied on Bat Sheva (no-one reacts in the way he did after just one peek), went on to devise a way to join with her, carried it through to commit adultery and then to cover his tracks by sending her husband to a certain death – effectively culpable of murder by proxy. And yet he wrote some of the most sublime Psalms, prayers of deep repentance and supplication to God, powerfully moving testimony to his relationship with God and the full awareness of his own faults and failings, even on a capital level. To cap it all, he is called by God ‘a man after my own heart’! Yes he also experienced some of the judgements of God in his own life and the generations that followed reaped what had been sown. Yet this man was powerfully used of God in his generation to achieve the establishment of the Jewish Kingdom, Israel. He stands as a beacon in our history and has the privilege and honour of being in the Messianic line of descent.

We can get so caught up with sin that we utterly miss the crucial point: God has made a way to deal with it! From the outset sacrifices were commanded to deal with the problem of sin and in sending Yeshua Mashichanu to us, He once and for all dealt with the problem of sin! We are to live lives full of HIS life. It still feels like a problem to us because we have failed to fully comprehend the depths of God’s way, that He made it possible to be forgiven and accepted again by Him, DESPITE all our sins. If we focus on our precarious position before God, we will carry around burdens of guilt and condemnation (not conviction which is different) that will swallow us up. God’s way was to solve our problem, so it is no longer a problem. It’s called keeping sin in perspective.

Read Isaiah 53:10. It pleased the Lord to bruise Him. Yeshua’s death, evil’s activity in a righteously created world, did God ‘want’ that? Yes (think about it), God took pleasure in sending His Son to the brutal and painful death that overtook Him. Despite the tragedy of the separation that ripped the closeness of the Godhead apart, it pleased Him because He knew that you and I were to be restored to Him once more, salvation was possible and the close living, loving relationship He had always desired would be real for all time, with the ‘problem’ of sin removed and dealt with.

Was Yeshua’s death good? We have to say yes. That evil can be so transformative in the end due to God’s providential hand reveals not only His power but His ability to utterly save to the last, to defeat evil intentions and turn them to good. This IS our God. God allowed this death, this sacrifice to be brought and He can and does use it for your good, if you would accept it for yourself. He is literally waiting for you to call on His name, reach out to Him and ask Him to apply that sacrifice to YOUR life.

The only reason you can’t let go is not because God’s way isn’t comprehensive enough – you know it is – it’s because you can’t forgive yourself for what you’ve done, what you’ve been like, and that needs to stop right here and today. By holding on, you undermine what God has done, you devalue it and weaken the force of what He took pleasure in doing: saving you and delivering you from sin. A caged animal will hesitate when given freedom because the cage, the restrictions become home and comfortable; don’t let sin do that to you! It is for freedom and redemption that God has called you, not to continue to live in a self-imposed cage of sinful habituality.

You need to start accepting the sins of the past, you can’t un-happen them; you need to live now in the reality that they have been dealt with, understand that He uses everything to make you who you are, and that this process of deliverance will set you free. Use the redemptive tools God has given you, us, to deal with your life while not allowing yourself to be locked into the failing past. You can’t shock Him because sin is not the problem, He has dealt with that and you need to be – and are – set free.

King David was a man after God’s heart because of one simple truth: he was yielded to God. As such he repented and rapidly sought God’s face when he sinned, trusting all the time in God’s power to forgive and restore. Because he yielded to God in this way, knowing God’s ability, he became who he was, one of our greats. Sin doesn’t break the covenant we have with God; we are disciplined of course but it is never ruptured because deep down God has always had a way to deal with sin, and as such was able to keep covenants intact. It’s why we read that Yeshua came not to judge but to save. Stop whipping yourself and start trusting; stop looking at the sin in others and start bringing salvation instead; trust God. Lift up your heads, weary ones, for our redemption is not only near, but right here with us today.

Torah: Num 29:7-11 Haftorah: Is 58:1-14 MW: Heb 9:1-14

Yom Kippur, Neilah Service

Read Job 38:1-21, 31-33, 40:7-14, 40:4-5.

Job was a man who walked with God, knew of His love, His promises, His blessings, had 10 children, was blameless and upright before God, feared God and shunned evil. A man whom the Lord ‘boasted’ about in the Heavenly realms, someone who actually did what was right. Was he merely a man who lived out the righteousness of God in his own strength and so needed to be shown what his real position in the universe was, or was he truly born again, deeply knowing God, living in trusting faithfulness? We are not entirely sure based on the record we have, but I err towards the latter.

So why did he have to go through such terrible trials and suffering? I believe he needed to learn something powerful. Even though he walked before God blameless, knowing and trusting Him, by the end of the book we see a different man. God hasn’t changed but Job has. God reveals Himself at a profoundly deep level and when you read the passages above you see the magnificence of God, and in comparison the speck that man is. Although I said this morning that sin isn’t the problem – and it isn’t – we count on the present spiritual reality and our ease of asking forgiveness for sin to continue, knowing that God will and does remove our debts.

Job had got used to this aspect of his life, and because of this he had begun to lose sight of God, or at least who God really is in comparison to himself. Rav Shaul summarised it thus in Rom 6:1-2 ‘Shall we continue is sin that grace may abound? Certainly not.’ Taking God’s mercy cheaply is sin. Taking Him for granted is to deny Him His rightful place and power in our lives.

Presented with God, Job says ‘behold I am vile’ – or in the Hebrew, little, minute, as if nothing in comparison to God Himself. Yes he continued to live a ‘kosher’ life, yet the awe and majesty of God was missing. He felt that he had some control, some ‘status’ before God but God was going to have none of it. It is at that moment when we truly DO understand our own place in the cosmic order, so small, that we wonder at the majesty of God and His ways, His ability to justify and make righteous and that we truly become human again. We stop pretending in our habitual daily routines that we maybe ARE someone after all, we stop hiding behind Mitzvot as a shield and say, ‘just let me serve You’.

Humility, as Job found out, is the only response to God and His ways. A humility that leads to a life of sacrificial obedience and outpouring, regardless of the consequences and not mindful if rewards are attached or other human recognition is acknowledged.

What do YOU worry about? Or maybe we should simply ask, who are YOU? Too habitual? Too normal now? As God has forgiven today, if your response to Him has been genuine (and only you and He know that), you now need to re-appraise your standing before moving on in Him.