Atonement is nearly upon us. The first thing that probably pops into our heads is the fact that it is a day of fasting. Last year, I wrote about how fasting allows us to focus more on God and our Messiah rather than food and drink, thus having a day where we are “at-one” with God. This is the only day in ancient Israel that the high priest was allowed to enter the Holy of Holies. We now have the ultimate High Priest always in the Holy of Holies, and He allows us to have access to our Father through Him.
Well, this year I wanted to focus on something different. I wanted to look at a deeper fast other than abstaining from food and drink. It is something we can do in addition to physically fasting, and I believe it is one trait that this day has that we should not neglect—mercy and kindness towards others.
Will the fast I choose be like this:
A day for a person to deny himself,
to bow his head like a reed,
and to spread out sackcloth and ashes?
Will you call this a fast
and a day acceptable to the Lord?
Isn’t the fast I choose:
To break the chains of wickedness,
to untie the ropes of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free,
and to tear off every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
to bring the poor and homeless into your house,
to clothe the naked when you see him,
and not to ignore your own flesh and blood? (Isa 58:4-7)
Isn’t this exactly what our Messiah did for us? This day should remind us how merciful our Father and our Messiah truly are. Our Father willingly sacrificed His only Son, who willingly forsook His heavenly state to become human to die for us, a perfect sacrifice that atoned all of our sins. He, our perfect judge, mercifully gave His life for us, and this day should remind us of that. It should also point us into the direction of walking in His footsteps.
Jesus reminds us of the deeper meaning of this day. We are redeemed because of His mercy, love, and kindness; therefore we are to show this to others. This lesson is not new. What delights God? “To do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with [our] God” (Micah 6:8). What is better than sacrifice? Jesus tells us, “mercy and not sacrifice” (Mat 9:13, referring to Hos 6:6).
The truth of the matter is, God has been trying to get this point across for thousands of years. He has always wanted us to think of others first and to treat people justly. It is one major point in the books by the prophets. It is why He lays out how to treat our neighbor in Leviticus. It is the reason that Jesus tells us that every time we give food to the hungry, a drink to the thirsty, and clothes to the naked, we are doing it for Him (Matt 25:35-40).
Therefore, on this Atonement, meditate on the ways you can show others mercy, love, kindness, to lift a heavy burden, etc… Think of others and pray for others. I know that this day is also a day of introspection and reflection for ourselves, but don’t neglect to think of your neighbor. Maybe one way is to share some of your food that your aren’t eating that day. Remember, “Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy” (Matt 5:7)