Wednesday after Cantate
Scripture: Leviticus 23:23-44 (NKJV)
23 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 24 “Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a sabbath-rest, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation. 25 You shall do no customary work on it; and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the LORD.'”
26 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: 27 “Also the tenth day of this seventh month shall be the Day of Atonement. It shall be a holy convocation for you; you shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire to the LORD. 28 And you shall do no work on that same day, for it is the Day of Atonement, to make atonement for you before the LORD your God. 29 For any person who is not afflicted in soul on that same day shall be cut off from his people. 30 And any person who does any work on that same day, that person I will destroy from among his people. 31 You shall do no manner of work; it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. 32 It shall be to you a sabbath of solemn rest, and you shall afflict your souls; on the ninth day of the month at evening, from evening to evening, you shall celebrate your sabbath.”
33 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 34 “Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the Feast of Tabernacles for seven days to the LORD. 35 On the first day there shall be a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work on it. 36 For seven days you shall offer an offering made by fire to the LORD. On the eighth day you shall have a holy convocation, and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the LORD. It is a sacred assembly, and you shall do no customary work on it. 37 These are the feasts of the LORD which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, to offer an offering made by fire to the LORD, a burnt offering and a grain offering, a sacrifice and drink offerings, everything on its day—38 besides the Sabbaths of the LORD, besides your gifts, besides all your vows, and besides all your freewill offerings which you give to the LORD.
39 ‘Also on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the fruit of the land, you shall keep the feast of the LORD for seven days; on the first day there shall be a sabbath-rest, and on the eighth day a sabbath-rest. 40 And you shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of beautiful trees, branches of palm trees, the boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days. 41 You shall keep it as a feast to the LORD for seven days in the year. It shall be a statute forever in your generations. You shall celebrate it in the seventh month. 42 You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All who are native Israelites shall dwell in booths, 43 that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.'”
44 So Moses declared to the children of Israel the feasts of the LORD.
The Day of Atonement was not for Israel to do but for Israel to receive. No work is to be done, and the one who does any work is to be destroyed. By this our Lord wants to teach all Christians that our atonement is not the work of our own hands. During Lent, and every Sunday, we gather to hear of our atonement won by Jesus, and have that atonement applied to us in the absolution and in the Lord’s Supper. We have not earned that salvation. We have done nothing because atonement is the work of Jesus and its application the work of the Holy Ghost. So, the entire work of salvation is God’s work, not our work.
Israel is also to afflict their souls. The Lord desires true contrition from them, which is to sorrow over their sins, repenting of them and wanting to be rid of them. St. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 7:10 that “godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.” The affliction the Lord desires from Israel (in both testaments) is the affliction which leads us to repent of our sins so that we can hear the Gospel. In the Gospel we hear that in Christ our sins are forgiven, our guilt covered, and our shame is taken away. In the Day of Atonement we see a picture of the Christian life. We are commanded to repent, cease our strivings for our own atonement, and receive the atonement of Christ by faith.