Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement is recognized world wide as a day of affliction. Why? Because that is what the text says. On Yom Kippur we are to “afflict our souls.” But there is another chapter of scripture that casts the Day of Yom Kippur in a slightly different light. Yes, a day of affliction for the people of God, but what are we to do besides this. Is that the limit? Just fast, pray, and sit back and contemplate God? Or is there something grander in scope that is to be accomplished on this day?
Yom Teruah is one of the most mysterious of the festivals that is recorded in Leviticus 23. There are no clear instructions, or even any meaning ascribed to the day. It is simply a day of blasts or shouts. That is all. But this day is spoken of throughout scripture in may ways, though seldom by name. When we look to the history of the day in extra Biblical sources we discover that it was the day of coronation. They day when the king ascended to the throne. There are many passages that explore this topic of enthronement, but none is perhaps as profound as the Gospel of Mark.
Just after reading about the sin sacrifice in Leviticus 4, we then read about the guilt sacrifice. A sacrifice that is in many ways related to the sin sacrifice and yet not. It is its own thing. How are they different? What do they reveal about us as humans? Sin brings guilt… doesn't it? If sin causes a person to be guilty then why two separate sacrifices? Is there perhaps something we are missing from the way that we usually conceptualize the ideas of sin and guilt?
Of the various types of sacrifices that are described in the book of Leviticus, the sin sacrifice is perhaps the most misunderstood. As Hebrews says, it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin! If this is the case. If the sin sacrifice never did take away sin, then what was its purpose? What role did it serve in the worship of Israel, and what can we learn from this sacrifice today?