God’s Chosen People – Part 4

Isaiah 53 And Atonement

The idea of atonement is one of he most important spiritual truths in the Bible.

Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement, forgiving others and being forgiven by God. Most people have a difficult time explaining the idea of atonement to others. Both Judaism and Christianity have this teaching in common and are built on this concept, so we should make every effort to understand what it means. The idea that the Servant dies for our sins cannot be understood without grasping what the Bible teaches about atonement.

A Personal God

The first idea essential to the concept of atonement is that there is a personal God who made us, loves us, desires a relationship with us and who holds us accountable for our actions. This personal God is holy and righteous and created all things that we enjoy in life. He gives us parameters for our behavior so that we don’t misuse the blessings He gives us. Ignoring these guidelines instructed in Scripture, is called sin.

Why do so many find it hard to meet God’s standard? Atonement cannot be fully understood or explained without first believing that there is a personal and holy God that is the Creator of all things.

When people don’t follow God’s standards, the Bible describes it as “missing the mark” – sin. If sin were not universal, then atonement would be optional or only the worst among us would need it. However, according to the Bible, we all need it because all have sinned.

In Isaiah 53:6, we are described as sheep going astray: “All we like sheep did go astray, we turned everyone to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. 

Atonement is based on restoring what is broken and removing the offense so that any disruption in our relationship with God can be healed. Traditional Judaism teaches that men and women have both a good and evil inclination. I tend to agree with that. We have the ability to make either the right or the wrong decision. Being “selfish” is easy, but being “selfless” is hard. The good news is that, there is a day coming when the benefits of atonement will fill the earth.

Isaiah 11:6 – And the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.

Isaiah 2:4 – And He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide for many people; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.

Many people look for different ways for atonement. There is nothing wrong with making amends with others to earn their forgiveness. However, making amends is different from receiving atonement from God. With God, some might try to earn atonement by personal sacrifice, volunteering or giving money to charities. These efforts have great merit, but once we stop doing them, our sense of peace starts to fade. Seeking atonement on our own efforts will soon become too much. Believe it or not, this is how a lot of people think, “I do a lot more good for people, and that ought to make up for the bad.”

There are several religions in the world that take this concept of believing they can earn atonement by purifying themselves. However, the Bible teaches that Christianity is not one of them. Removing the alienation and guilt that keep us from a close personal relationship with One Creator only comes about when the problem of sin is removed!

The Bible teaches that no one is capable of achieving the depth of repentance that would enable us to meet God’s holy standards. Most of the time we fail to realize that we fail to live the way we were created to live. How then if we ourselves are the problem, then how could we possible be the cure? We all need help.

Atonement Is A Gift From God

Atonement begins and ends with God’s efforts, and our responsibility is simply to accept what God has accomplished on our behalf through Jesus Christ. This is called “unmerited, unearned,” gift from God – GRACE!

Whenever the ancient Israelites sinned, they were called upon by the Torah to offer a sacrifice in the Temple. But because of their imperfect nature, they would tend to not remember all their sins that they had committed. Therefore, one day a year, the Day of Atonement ,or Yom Kippur, the Israelite’s could rest in the fact that God would forgive the sins they had missed.

On the Day of Atonement, the sins for which the Israelites had not offered a sacrifice, were covered by which is called  “Kafar.” The High Priest would enter into the Holy of Holies and sprinkle the blood of a bull or a goat on the place over which the presence of God hovered, known as the “mercy-seat.” This sounds very barbaric today, but it had to be done. Why?

Leviticus 17:11 says, “For the life of flesh is in the blood; and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement by reason of life.”

When there is no blood, there is no life. When blood is tainted with disease, individuals suffer – whether from Aids, Hepatitis C or leukemia – tainted blood can easily lead to death. When an animal was slaughtered and its blood shed, it was understood that the animal was experiencing the price of penalty for sin. The death of the animal was a reminder to the worshiper that sin easily leads to death. It also reminded the Israelites of the Passover, when the blood of the lamb had saved their firstborn sons from death.

Hebrews 9:22 says, “And according to the law almost all things are purged with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission (forgiveness ) of sins.

It is clearly stated that, without the shedding of sacrificial innocent blood there is no atonement.

In Isaiah 53, the prophet indicates that the Servant will die as a substitute for us; through His death our sins are forgiven and we are granted the gift of atonement.

Isaiah 53:10, 11 – Yet it pleased the LORD to crush Him by disease; to see if His soul would offer itself in restitution, that He might see His seed, prolong His days, and that the purpose of the LORD might prosper by His hand: (Verse 11) Of the travail of His soul He shall see to the full, even My Servant, who by His knowledge did justify the Righteous One to the many, and their iniquities He did bear.

Only through accepting God’s atonement will we experience peace in our relationship with our Creator – a peace that will enable us to face life and even death with a confidence that comes from an intimate personal relationship with the God who made us. Atonement is designed to bring things back together and to restore the “Shalom” of humanity.