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Bridging the gap

But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance. Hebrews 9.7

Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the year for Jews. It reaches back to the days before the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem when, clothed in white linen after ceremonial washing, the high priest entered the holy of holies and offered a sacrifice on behalf of the people. Then he placed his hands on a goat "transferring" the sins of the people onto this "scapegoat", which was then be driven into the wilderness to die. It is said that the high priest entered the inner sanctuary with a rope tied around his waist in case God should strike him down in his righteous anger.

It is useful to bear all this in mind as we consider the significance of Jesus' priestly ministry. No longer have we to walk in fear of God's wrath. Rather we are encouraged to enjoy him as our loving heavenly father. This would have been unthinkable to our spiritual forefathers in ancient Judaism. Now it can be as natural as breathing. Not to be taken for granted, however, and certainly not to be abused. As we are exhorted to honour our earthly parents, while enjoying the intimacy of family life, so we should revel in God's paternal embrace without forgetting that he remains our creator and judge and therefore is equally deserving of our reverence and praise.



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