Day of Atonement gets Personal
You shall afflict your souls and do no work on the Day of Atonement we are told in Leviticus 23:27-29.
The scripture equates the affliction of soul and doing no work with atonement. So what is atonement? Webster’s Dictionary says it is “reconciliation”. Let’s say then, Yom Kippur is a very special, annual day to be sure you are right with God.
We know you cannot be right with God if you are not right with your fellow man and woman. (Matt 25:40,44) Hence, the incorporation into the day (and in preparation for the day) with the practice of repenting—restoring of any broken relationships. This is where most of your affront to God will have occurred over the last twelve months. Hopefully, you will not have waited until the very end of the year to make amends! It is the restoration of broken relationships that is an essential part of reconciliation with God.
Why the connection between “no work” and “reconciliation”? Note when this observance was first commanded by God. It was at Mt. Sinai, not too long after the Israelites had been freed from the shackles of slavery in Egypt. Where will a lot of your offense be likely to occur?—in the workplace! Think what an Israelite’s recent response to a slave environment might have been. Can you forgive that taskmaster you work for? Or, how about the co-worker who uses your just-gathered straw for his bricks? Or, the wife who didn’t put any horseradish in your lunch box this morning when you headed out to make bricks? Or,…fill in your your reactions to your experiences which should be addressed and made right.
Doing no work is that dramatic pause that lets you step back and asses your relationship to work itself.
Last year a big opportunity for me to atone came the morning before the Day of Atonement. My wife commented concerning the way I handled a phone conversation. I didn’t like her suggested corrections and stewed on them all day—all the while knowing this solemn day before the Lord was fast approaching. Finally I confessed to God my inability to let go of my grievance. I didn’t want to confront her with it as it wasn’t her problem—it was mine: my inability to graciously hear some positive suggestions (“Yeah, right!” had been my thoughts all day long). I repented to the Lord and soon began to feel a softening toward my wife. I could start anticipating a much more successful Holy Day. I did complete the reconciliation by also asking my wife to forgive me for my coolness to her during the day. She forgave me and asked me in turn to forgive her for her abrupt manner of “assessing” my phone conversation—ahhh…sweet reconciliation.
This little example, while not strictly from the workplace, was a soul battle and being retired our home is our workplace. My mind, will, and emotions were definitely involved and this is Satan’s favorite battleground. It would seem that this thought-life conflict should not be affecting my relationship with Father. After all, don’t I have any privacy? Well, no, I don’t! God knows my every thought and it is these thoughts which when not dealt with keep me from having clean hands and a pure heart. (Ps 24:4)
Why has the “affliction of soul” been interpreted as calling for a day of fasting? To me, it goes hand in hand with the “no work” instruction. Nothing is to interrupt the total giving of this one day a year to a stringent soul searching. The soul (mind) is the reservoir of the past year’s interactions, but the vehicle which should be allowed to do the audit is your human spirit. We are body, soul and spirit. It is our spirit’s nexus with Holy Spirit which can truly purge the records of our interrelationships and thought life—of the foibles of our will and emotions.
The Day could best be spent in an attitude of an ascended spirit—seeking Holy Spirit’s defining and assessing of what is stored in the recesses of our minds. This deliberate activity between Holy Spirit, human spirit, and mind will bring us to the close of a highly successful day of reconciliation with fellow man, self—and upper most—Father God.
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