The Day of Atonement. The day when Jews all over the world congregate and corporately ask God for forgiveness. One of the holiest days of the Jewish year, if not the holiest.
And how many of the millions of Jews that are celebrating, solemnly, this holy day are doing so waiting for the Messiah who has already come for them, but whom they do not not know?
I celebrate this day with fasting and solemn introspection, reflection and requests for forgiveness for myself and all my people. That is what this day is really about- not forgiveness just for my sins, but forgiveness for our sins.
The prophets all asked forgiveness for the people, Moses stood before God and asked forgiveness for the people, Yeshua asked forgiveness for the ones that crucified Him. Those who are godly and worship God ask forgiveness not just for themselves, but for their people and for others. And more than that- they forgive them, too.
We are not commanded to ask for forgiveness, we are commanded to be forgiving. When we ask God to forgive our people of the sins that we read in the Ashamnu and Al Chet prayers, are we also forgiving them?
When you pray to God for forgiveness of your sins, are you also praying that you forgive the sins of those that have done evil to you? That’s right, I didn’t get it backwards: do you pray for God to help you forgive them?
I think that’s what we should do- pray for God to forgive us, and for Him to help us to forgive them, too. That’s the hard part, isn’t it? After all, even Jonah knew that God is not just willing to forgive, but that God desires to forgive: it is paramount in His heart to forgive the sinner. Maybe that’s why we read the book of Jonah on this day; it’s about forgiveness, and not just from God. Jonah ran away from God’s calling and we know exactly why (Jonah 4:2.) He told God he knew God was compassionate and gracious, and that if Nineveh did repent God would forgive them. Jonah, on the other hand, was clearly not in a forgiving mood. Jonah did not want to pray for Nineveh, he wanted them destroyed. But, after some slight additional motivation, he followed God’s command to warn them. And then, when God forgave them, Jonah was angry.
We need to be less like Jonah and more like God. We need, also, to pray to God for the strength, compassion and humility that will help us to be more forgiving of others. Humility, forgiveness, meekness and compassion all require great strength. A fool is easily angered, talks without thinking, and is more interested in his or her own opinion than listening to others (there’s a lot more about what a fool is like in Proverbs.) Being loud, self-absorbed, discompassionate and unforgiving is easy for us. It is all part of our sin nature, our inherent iniquity.
The Ruach ha Kodesh (Holy Spirit) is the only thing that can help us to overcome the natural tendencies we have to be sinful and ungodly.
That brings us back to the earlier statement I made about so many Jews asking for forgiveness, waiting for the Messiah and not knowing or acknowledging that He already has come. It’s really sad: Jewish culture is founded on the belief of a Messiah to come and bring us back to God, to overcome our sins and reconcile us to the Holy One of Israel, and yet the historical teachings have been totally against the idea that Yeshua/Jesus is that Messiah. The Tanakh is full of references and descriptions, and Yeshua fulfilled them, yet He is still ignored and rejected by “mainstream” Judaism. Only the Messianic Jews, and many Christians who are seeking their Hebraic roots, really understand and know the true Messiah of Israel (and the world) and worship God as God said to do in the Torah. Which is exactly how Yeshua/Jesus said to worship God, as well.
Today is a day to ask forgiveness, so I ask God to forgive those of His people who have been taught, wrongfully, that Yeshua is not His Messiah. I also pray, O Lord, you forgive those that have taught and continue to teach others to reject Yeshua, for (as Yeshua said) they know not what they are doing. And, finally, O Lord, I ask that you help me and everyone reading this to forgive them, as well, for leading so many from righteousness directly to Sheol. Please forgive them, and show Your forgiveness by opening their eyes, their ears, and their hearts to the truth about Yeshua Ha Meshiach.
Thank you, Father God, for the forgiveness that You give to us, the forgiveness you provided to us through Yeshua, and for helping us to be able to forgive others.