Sermon: All Flesh Shall See the Salvation of God
Martin G. Collins
Given 09-Oct-19; 60 minutes
Mankind is under the wrath of God and the world is as it is because of that. It is no use expecting God to bless people who deliberately ignore Him and rebel against Him and insult His holy name. Undoubtedly the world is as it is because of what the apostle Paul tells us in Romans 1:18, "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all in godliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness."
God withdraws His restraining power. At times He hands the world over to a reprobate mind. He allows people to reap the consequences of their own foolish thinking. They say that there is no God and that they can live without God and they can manage their own affairs. Well, they are being allowed to see what happens when they do and that is one of the ways that God manifests His wrath upon rebellion and the arrogance of men and women. He just lets the established penalties for sin play themselves out.
Please turn with me to Luke 3. God inspired Isaiah to prophecy that the Messiah would come to bring the salvation of God to all human beings and Luke records that John the Baptizer quoted part of Isaiah's prophecy of the Messiah's coming in John's day to begin to announce to the world the coming of the Kingdom of God to earth, which will bring the salvation of God, eventually, to the sight of everyone.
Luke 3:4-6 As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, saying: "The voice of one crying in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord; make His paths straight. Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill brought low; the crooked places shall be made straight and the rough ways smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'"
But although this was announced to the world, to the Jews first and then to the Gentiles, it has had little effect on the world itself. The knowledge and understanding of the plan of God was meant for the church which was established by Jesus Christ. The church has had the responsibility to prepare the way of the Lord ever since and even before that in the individuals that God used as prophets.
Turn over to Isaiah 40, please. Firstly, therefore, Isaiah's prophecy was inspired to comfort God's people and commissioned us to prepare the way of the Lord. Secondly, to announce to the world that the glory of the Lord shall be revealed. This passage we are going to read in Isaiah 40 is related to that from which Luke took his words.
Isaiah 40:1-3 "Comfort, yes, comfort My people!" says your God. "Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and cry out to her, that her warfare has ended, that her iniquity is pardoned; for she has received from the Lord's hand double for all her sins." The voice of one crying in the wilderness: "Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God."
Isaiah 40:5 The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.
All flesh, of course, means all human beings. And the word flesh is often used to signify human nature or mankind in general. Now the idea is that the deliverance of God's people would be such a display of divine intervention that all nations would discern the evidences of His power and glory. But the language here in Isaiah 40 is such that it is not confined just to that alone. It applies more directly to the arrival of the Messiah and to the fact that through Him the glory of the Lord would be manifest to all nations. At His second coming the world will see the Lord as He really is. And thanks to His atoning sacrifice, their spiritual blindness will be removed when the demons are constrained to outer darkness and God's Spirit is given to all humanity.
There was a practical application required on our part, which, as the firstfruits who are at one with Jesus Christ and with the Father thanks to the application of atonement on Passover as a forerunner to what the entire world would receive, we must work hard at being in harmony and unity with God and at peace with ourselves and one another. Now, this is part of the meaning of the Day of Atonement. Atonement has made this harmony and unity possible. What will atonement provide for the world?
All doctors recognize the reality of psychosomatic disorders when some deeply troubled spiritual reality manifests itself in a physical element that seems to have no biological cause. Our life and our minds are stronger than we can possibly imagine, thanks to God's perfect design. Our physical lives are immensely impacted by our mental condition. Many studies and experiments show how people who feel lonely and depressed succumb to medical problems and die far, far more than those in good spiritual condition.
Now, it is a fact that for excellent physical condition, good health, and longevity, mental conditioning is as vital as diet and exercise. But of all the mental and spiritual conditioning that is so necessary to physical health, Atonement is vital for mental and spiritual health, as well as our physical health, because it affects that as well. For any normal sensitive human being who has lived a few years past adolescence, it is almost impossible not to feel an oppressive sense of shortcoming, a sense that in not accomplishing what I should be doing, I am failing as being the best child or sibling or parent or friend or whatever it may be. As time goes by, it can even transform into an almost subconscious sense of self-loathing as if one possesses no feeling of self-worth at all. And the older we get, the more we tend to subconsciously berate ourselves.
Have you ever seen an accident-prone child? I think we all have. Not a child who is clumsy but a normal child with normal reflexes and dexterity who constantly hurts himself. In most cases our parenting years and our observation over time has shown that the genuine accident-prone child is a child who is spoiled by overindulgent parents who never summoned up enough parental courage to discipline. Who never tell their child no. These parents do not understand that the proper role of parents is sometimes to punish appropriately. The accident-prone child will subconsciously and destructively punish himself if the parent does not make clear what his child's limits are. The child is much happier; all children are when they know their limits.
In other words, most children know when they are stepping out of line and they yearn for the reassuring call of a loving parent who says, "That's far enough." When disciplined, children may appear on the outside to be complying sullenly and almost mutinously. But inside their hearts sing saying, "I have parents who know what's right and wrong and who care enough about me to stop me from doing wrong." The child, who is sadly deprived of such parents, is burdened with parents who confuse their roles, thinking they are not parents but friends, will inevitably go ahead and finds ways to punish himself.
Again, we see how a spiritual deficiency, much like a vitamin or mineral or exercise deficiency, can bring about physical pain. For us, that internal feeling of moral failure can add up to and compound itself, week after week, month after month, and year after year, until we are walking around trying to function under this growing painful feeling of self-loathing. At that point we do not like ourselves very much and deep down we wonder why anyone else would like us and we do not even feel that we are worthy of success and happiness, and worst of all, like the accident-prone child, we find ways to punish ourselves. We find subtle ways of sabotaging our happiness and success.
Now, I am describing the world as it is now and as it will be until Christ returns.
If you recognize what I am describing, pause a moment and ask yourself, would you not give almost anything to be cleansed, absolved, and freed of the burden of internal moral failure? Imagine what it would feel like to feel good, morally worthy, wonderful, utterly deserving of love, respect, and success. Do you not feel that if you felt that way you would easily attract love, respect, and success, instead of subconsciously driving them all away? Do you not wish there was a way to feel that way? Well, there is.
Almost everyone on some level or another knows that God has certain other expectations of us and deep down most of us know when we are doing something despicable and that is why there is so much energy expended by so many people in this world to try to validate atheism. They reason, if we could just banish God out of reality and to the realm of fantasy, we would not feel any pain for what we do or any remorse for what we failed to do. But we do know when we are falling short. He created us all and we are aware of His expectations of us. And even if we have God's Spirit working in us, our human nature still tends toward negativism.
So, God has provided us with simple strategies to turn over a new leaf. And this process, known as atonement, is vital for our health and our well being even more than exercise and diet.
Why is the Day of Atonement so important? What will it provide for the world? Atoning, look at that for a moment, atoning and atonement. Atoning is the instrument or means of atonement. Atoning is an action, atonement is a noun. It is what is produced as a result of atoning and in general the suffix "ment" at the end of atonement, indicates a state or condition resulting from a specific action. And what about the root of the word atonement? The root "atone." It is two words that are written and pronounced today as one. It originated as at-one, consequently indicating unity, harmony, balance, and resulting in peace, and therefore atonement means "the state or condition resulting from the specific action of at-on-ment."
At-one-ment is used in two different ways in the Bible. It indicates either and sometimes both ways. First, it indicates the means by which harmony and balance is achieved, and that is by punishment falling on a substitute. In other words, payment is made for our sins when our sins are punished, not in ourselves, but in another who consents to stand in for us. So Jesus redeemed us by standing in for us, by taking the place in the penalty box, so to speak, that we deserve to stand in.
Second, it indicates a state or condition that harmony and balance are achieved. The Day of Atonement is the day of harmony. It is the day of unity. It is a day of oneness. And it is observed by fasting and paying attention to the means by which this is achieved, and that is by expiation or payment. It is by this means then that the harmony, the state of being at-one, is achieved. It memorializes the time when the entire world is going to be at harmony and balance within itself and at harmony and conformity with God.
There are parallels between Atonement and Passover, but a major difference exists in that Passover pertains to an individual's reconciliation with God, and in contrast, with Atonement's universal reconciliation with God. Passover is personal; the Day of Atonement is more universal. So Passover pertains to you repenting and accepting Jesus Christ as your personal Savior and receiving God's Spirit, and that makes you at-one. A singular individual at one with Jesus Christ and with the Father.
So, Christ's atonement is about the giving of a unique life of supreme quality lived perfectly. But the Day of Atonement is the entire world qualified to be at one with God and in reality at one with Him. So in its scope, the Day of Atonement is greater than the day of Passover, and in how broad the coverage it is.
There is another significant difference between Passover and the Day of Atonement of which you are aware. Let us look at time for a moment. Are you aware that certain biological processes, physical processes, agricultural processes, and so on, all work best when they take place at the appropriate times? For instance, farmers must plant seeds at the proper time so the roots can grow under the right conditions—not too cold, not too dry, enough hours of sunlight. The timing is crucial for the farmer's success.
Now, imagine a young child enjoying a happy youth, but never knowing that there was an older sibling who died before he was born. All he does know is, that he grows a little older—he becomes seven and then 8, 9, and 10 years old—but there is one mysterious day in the year when his parents seem unusually somber. He even catches a glimpse of tears in the mother's eyes and he knows instinctively that this is not the day to ask to go to the beach. He does not yet know why, but he has sensed that in his family the day has a certain sad quality. Conversely, some families have anniversaries of happy times that infuse the entire home with joy. Again, that sets the mood for that specific time.
Events in the nation's history also impart qualities to different times of the year. Simply because millions of people have observed those dates over many years and over many generations, those times acquire spiritual weight and they become appropriate times for certain activities and inappropriate for others. In a similar way, there are certain times during the year that possess certain qualities for all of mankind. Not once, not twice, but three times we are told how important it is to exercise an annual atonement in the seventh month: In Leviticus 16:29-31; Leviticus 23:26-28; and Numbers 29:7-11. Those three places are the only places in the five books of Moses where it mentions specifically the Day of Atonement. There are others that mention Atonement and the descriptions of the sacrifices. But those are the only three that mentioned specifically that we are going to keep that day, giving the date as well.
So on the tenth day of the seventh month, we are to receive an atonement from God. An annual program that allows us to humbly see ourselves as good, worthy people of God. An annual program that represents the future resetting of the world's moral compass. There is much more to Atonement than just Satan being put away and mankind becoming at-one with God. There is much more involved in it.
Through the wonderful gift of Atonement, we can see ourselves as worthy of the friendship of our friends, worthy of the love of our families. We are told about it three times. And why is that? Because three times means three separate important messages. There are three specific exercises we must perform in order to receive balanced benefit from the Day of Atonement because it is a process. Atonement is an actual act, yes it is. But it also is a process that happens.
There is a similar program in physical health. In a gym exercise program, you may be given three different exercises to work three different muscle groups. But only when you have performed all three is your exercise regimen done. You may now go home sweaty and tired, but happy. It is the same with our life and our minds. Leviticus 16, Leviticus 23, and Numbers 29 hint at the three different exercises we need to do, and they all have something to do with the balance we want to achieve between the gloomy picture we sometimes secretly have of ourselves and the bright possibilities of who we really could be, and what the world will be after the second coming of Christ.
This amazing atonement process restores balance in three areas of our lives. First, we must struggle for balance between the ideals for which we strive and the imperfect reality with which we often must settle. Second, we must struggle for the balance between the needs of others and our own individual needs. Third, we must struggle for balance between our life and our minds. These three mentions of the Day of Atonement indicate these three things. The first mention of the Day of Atonement is in Leviticus 16.
Leviticus 16:29-31 "This shall be a statute forever for you: In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, whether a native of your own country or a stranger who dwells among you. For on that day the priest shall make atonement for you, to cleanse you, that you may be clean from all your sins before the Lord. It is a sabbath of solemn rest for you, and you shall afflict your souls. It is a statute forever."
Let us start with the first mention of the area of our lives that restores balance between the ideals for which we strive, an imperfect reality with which we often must struggle. For the word balance we could also use the word harmony here, but I have chosen to use the word balance. Now, this means that on the tenth day of the seventh month of Tishri, the Day of Atonement, we have literally a heaven-sent opportunity to come to terms with the perfection or completion we yearn for. In the real world, we must often choose, not always between good and evil, but between tough and tougher. Because we live in a real world with conflicting needs, in some ways it is impossible not to fail.
Now, imperfect human beings in the real world cannot help doing things that have negative consequences. If you are anything like me at all, you know that many times each week you are confronted with a decision where both alternatives produce pain. So welcome to the human life, the human reality, because that happens to every one of us.
Therefore, on the Day of Atonement the part of Scripture that is selected in connection with Atonement is the book of Jonah. On each special occasion of the year, on each holy day, there are specific chosen readings from the five books of Moses and from the Old Testament prophets. Now let me pose three questions to you from the book of Jonah. The story starts with Jonah fleeing from Tarshish rather than following God's will that he go to Nineveh.
Jonah 1:2 "Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me."
Of course this is God speaking to Jonah. So Jonah boards a ship which finds itself in a dreadful storm. The terrified sailors know that they will soon drown. Meanwhile, where was Jonah during all the panic? Well, just think for a moment where it says he went. What do you do if you are on a ship in danger of sinking? Normally you would go up to the highest deck you can find and you would look for a lifeboat, or something that was on the deck that you could hold onto. Now, what is the absolute worst place to be? Down below decks. And the further down, the less chance you have to survive. So where does Jonah go?
Jonah 1:5 Then the mariners were afraid; and every man cried out to his god, and threw the cargo that was in the ship into the sea, to lighten the load. But Jonah had gone down into the lowest parts of the ship, had lain down, and was fast asleep.
He went down to the lowest point on the ship and what does he do then? Does he fret? Does he pray to God? Like a baby without a care in the world, Jonah decides it is time for a nap. That is beyond understanding, in some ways. This is completely inexplicable. And it is the first question I want you to think about: What was Jonah thinking?
Jonah 1:6-7 So the captain came to him, and said to him, "What do you mean, sleeper? Arise, call on your God; perhaps your God will consider us, so that we may not perish." And they said to one another, "Come, let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this trouble has come upon us." So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah.
The second question is, and this is a long lead up to it: The captain goes down below deck, the sailors are fighting, the storm is raging. Realizing there is something strange about this guy who seems fearless, the sailors ask him exactly the kind of question that, if you got to just casually talking with somebody, you might ask.
Jonah 1:8 Then they said to him, "Please tell us! For whose cause is this trouble upon us? What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? And of what people are you?"
This question seems strange as well because they are panicking for their lives and they are going through this list of seemingly simple questions. Once again, Jonah acts strangely. He ignores all their questions except one.
Jonah 1:9 So he said to them, "I am a Hebrew; and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land."
Astonishingly, the sailors seem satisfied, and they even deduce from Jonas' short answer that he is fleeing from God. Eventually Jonah tells them to throw him overboard, which they do, and then the storm suddenly ceases and all is quiet onboard and the sailors' part in the story is over.
The second question to consider is: How does Jonas' statement of his religion tell the sailors all they wanted to know? We are going to skip down some scriptures very quickly here.
Jonah 2:1 Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the fish's belly.
Jonah 2:10 So the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.
The story continues with God once again sending Jonah on his way to Nineveh. However, this time Jonah immediately obeyed, and he preaches to the evil city, which instantly atones and repents.
Jonah 3:5-7 So the people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them. Then the word came to the king of Nineveh; and he arose from his throne and laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth and sat in ashes. And he caused it to be proclaimed and published throughout Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, "Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything; do not let them eat, or drink water."
I do not know for sure, but it may very well be that this was the Day of Atonement that this happened on. Anyway, the whole nation, including the king, humbled himself, fasted, and asked forgiveness. But instead of being pleased about his successful mission, Jonah gets grumpy and angry.
Jonah 4:2-3 So he prayed to the Lord, and said, "Ah, Lord, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore, I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that you are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm."
So he is trying to throw it back on God here and get himself out from under this judgment that he received by being put in the fish. And this is the third question: Why is Jonah so angry about something that seems so good?
What are the three questions now? 1) Why does Jonah go down to the lowest part of the boat and fall asleep? Does he not care about survival at all? 2) How does Jonas' statement of his Hebrew religion tell the sailors all they wanted to know? 3) Why is Jonah miserable that his mission brought about atonement to the people of Nineveh?
From Jonah's behavior on the boat, we see that he does not understand, Jonah does not get it. Living as God's children in this world, we do not always get to pick the perfect answer. But Jonah does not get it. He thinks the choice is always a simple one between good and evil or right and wrong. Well, ever since Adam and Eve ate of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, the knowledge of good and evil, that confusing combination, has caused life to be tough in this world. Once they knew of both good and evil, they were too confused to make the right decision, more than not.
Jonah wanted assurances, first, that the Ninevites would really atone if he goes. He would rather run to Tarshish, and if he perished on the way, all the better. No more confusing decisions to make, instead of God's world of ultimate truth awaiting him. The sailors recognized that Jonah is not average. They barrage him with questions. He answers them, "I am a Hebrew." Ah, the sailors get it. One thing everyone knew about Hebrews was that God was especially strict with them. Other nations do all kinds of things in the lands that God gave them and they remained there comfortably, seemingly left alone by God century after century. However, each time that the Israelites have fallen short of their God-given ideals, they get punished and they get punished doubly so.
"Oh, a Hebrew," say the sailors. A big, frightening, terrible storm in a place where we do not expect storms and the Hebrew here ignores the storm. Jonah must have gotten God angry. So Jonah advises them to throw him overboard because that is the conclusion they arrived at, and he still was refusing to make any decisions. And there are other problems he had as well. Rebelliousness is another.
Again, he does not care. Death is preferable to the agony of decisions. But God teaches him, "No Jonah, you will die when I'm good and ready to bring you back to your home. But for now you will fulfill the mission I have for you."
Finally, realizing there is no escape, Jonah goes to Nineveh, but rebelliously. He just knows that no good will come of this. If Nineveh comes to repent, then he, Jonah, has failed. And even if it does repent, in his mind their repentance will be superficial and meaningless, merely a fake repentance to escape God's retribution. So again, he would have failed, he would have prevented the Nineveh villains from being punished. So either way, Jonah's excursion to Nineveh is doomed to be a disaster. He just cannot see any good choices and he is tormented. Again, He just does not get it.
It is the same way we are when we think that anybody in the world is not worth speaking about God's Word to or about setting a good example to. It is Jonah's job to do God's will, not to figure out all the angles of its ultimate reality. So Jonah preaches to Nineveh and they immediately repent far too quickly for Jonah's liking. The incredible speed of the repentance surely shows their insincerity, at least that is what he thinks.
Now, God does not punish them as Jonah thinks would be appropriate and Jonah is very angry.
Jonah 4:4 Then the Lord said, "Is it right for you to be angry?"
Or paraphrasing it, God asked Jonah, "Are you good and angry now?" That should terrify him in itself. If God said that to any of us, we would be flat on our faces and already have torn our clothing and so on (to use an old word.)
The book ends with Jonah understanding that God wants us to be engaged rather than be paralyzed into indecisiveness because we cannot find a perfect solution. The goal is not to avoid anything that has a speck of imperfection. In this life that would be impossible. The goal is to live life to the fullest, do as much good as we possibly can, and when it is also embodies some flaw, well that is what Atonement is for. Notice the way wise King Solomon puts it in Ecclesiastic 7.
Ecclesiastes 7:20 For there is not a just man on earth who does good and does not sin.
It means because we are human beings and we have human nature, we are going to sin even when we are trying to do good. And that is why we need Atonement and that is why the world needs Atonement. We must take note of that very carefully. Here is what Solomon inferred: The only people who do not sin are also people who never do any good either, which means they really are sinners because they are guilty of the sin of omission—not doing what they should or what is good.
As soon as you accept God's mission, you actively accomplish good on earth and the possibility, even likelihood, of sin is inevitable. Even as hard as we try not to sin, there are lesser sins and there are greater sins. We do not want to do any. Sometimes they sneak up on us. Let me illustrate it in this way. Is it wrong in God's eyes to totally blow your stack and lose your temper with other people? Well, yes, of course it is. But it would be even more wrong to have no human relationships out of fear that you will sin in this way. Do I sometimes have to stand up for what I believe is right and true? We have to do that, even though it ends up hurting a friend who sees things the other way. Sure. God would not want me to back down for fear of inflicting pain on a friend.
That is why Jonah is read on the Day of Atonement. It means that we cannot run from the mission God has set before us. Escape is not an option. But once we have done wrong, as we will, if we are actively trying to follow God's plan for us to reverence Him and submit to Him, we have the gift of Atonement that allows us to live even with our human imperfections.
There are three mentions of the Day of Atonement in the five books of Moses, as I mentioned. The first referred to what we just covered—the balance between the perfection I would like and the reality of life here on earth.
The second mention of the Day of Atonement in the five books of Moses refers to achieving balance between my needs or wants and of the larger group of people among whom I live: My family, my friends, my community, my county, my town, my state, my country, and so on.
Leviticus 23:26-28 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: "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. 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."
This tells me that once a year my atonement, so to speak, program for me personally, and by extension the world, requires me to sit and reflect on my past year's failures in balancing individual and shared priorities. You should think back about the past year and think about what our shortcomings were, what we have done wrong, so to speak, but realize that God has provided that atonement on Passover for us. And so when we repent of those sins and actively work to overcome them, that we have received forgiveness, and by extension, the Day of Atonement will mean that for the world. So it is a very happy day in one sense, a very solemn and sobering day in another.
For instance, maybe I gave time to my job that my own children needed from me, or the other way around, I gave to myself and family resources that should have gone to the church or others in need. Did I withdraw from interaction with others, disconnected from others, acting independently, even arrogant, autonomously, without consulting others in my life, failing to recognize that I was part of a group, and failing to nourish my relationship with others in the church? What we need is always a balance between me as an individual and me as part of something bigger. Neither extreme is God's will, but instead, that delicate tension that keeps me in balance between the two opposites is the goal.
That is what we are shooting for. That balance, that goal can only be reached when we are completely changed over into spirit beings and then we are incorruptible. So in the meantime, we have to make the best of it, do what God says, repent when we sin, and be genuine about it, but not beat ourselves up day in and day out about the sins that we have committed. Because if we have repented correctly and are overcoming them, God has forgiven them and He is not thinking about them as far as toward a punishment or anything like that. But we continue to think about them and beat ourselves up and that is what the world is doing. The world is unbalanced and they are not at harmony with one another or themselves or with God.
This is why, by the way, that the English language recognizes the connection between the words moral and morale. By being immoral myself, I am also lowering public morale. Our sins always have an impact on others. Always. You know how we all are, how we are all impacted by what we see others doing.
Let us imagine you were never raised to appear in public other than modestly and properly dressed. Now let us say you moved to a new country or city where everyone walks around in outfits that would have had them arrested for lewd behavior a few decades ago, or still would in our country. Well, not anymore, sadly. Your parents back home would be horrified, but little by little you see everyone dressing like this. It becomes easier and easier for you to imagine yourself walking around in public like that also. Eventually you take the first step and guess what? Lightning does not strike, then you find yourself dressing like everyone else or maybe you were the influencer yourself, not the influenced. Maybe you used foul language and soon those around you had adopted your vulgar speech patterns.
This is the way society influences us. It is the reason companies spend millions and millions of dollars on advertising. Almost every advertisement screams at you, "Look, everyone is drinking this drink" or "everybody is driving this car, you should do the same," and on and on. That is why they repeat the commercials and advertisements over and over and over and over and over and over again, because you and I are being programmed to think that way. And it is the same on our telephones with all of the robocalls and it is also the same on our computers. How many advertisements pop up on the screen of your smartphone—which is really a dumb phone, but you know they named it a smartphone—or your computer or whatever it might be. It does not make those instruments wrong. It means man is going to misuse and abuse everything he gets his hands on or develops.
On the Day of Atonement, the plural is emphasized. These are the things we have done wrong this past year and this is what the Father and Jesus Christ are going to do for the world. They are going to make humanity at-one with Them. So the second category of our actions is to consider about our morality over this past year is balance between me as an individual and me as part of the many different groups of people whom I share life on earth with.
The third mention of the Day of Atonement is in the book of Numbers.
Numbers 29:7-11 'On the tenth day of this seventh month you shall have a holy convocation. You shall afflict your souls; you shall not do any work. You shall present a burnt offering to the Lord as a sweet sweet aroma: one young bull, one ram, and seven lambs in their first year. Be sure they are without blemish. Their grain offering shall be a fine flour mixed with oil: three-tenths of an ephah for the bull, two-tenths for the one ram, and one-tenth for each of the seven lambs; also one kid of the goats as a sin offering, besides the sin offering for atonement, the regular burnt offering with its grain offering, and their drink offerings.'
There is something very important to understand about these three mentions of the day of Atonement. Passover and the Day of Atonement are intimately bound in that both of them involve reconciliation, and although the death of an animal is emphasized in connection with the sacrifices in Leviticus and Numbers, it is amazing that the emphasis of the sacrifices in Leviticus and Numbers is not on the death of a victim, but rather on the giving of a sinless life lived. Reconciliation is not affected merely because a death occurs, but because of the quality of the life that preceded the death that was given.
This distinction is a very significant reason why clean animals were always sacrificed. The quality of these animals had to be perfect, without blemish. Animals cannot sin and so they represent in those symbolic sacrifices the way we are supposed to be living our life without sin, and what Jesus Christ did. He was an acceptable sacrifice because He lived His life without sin and therefore it was acceptable to God because that was the only kind of life where sacrifice can truly pay for sin. So this sets Christ's sacrifice apart from all the other sacrifices that are mentioned in the Bible. His sacrifice is perfectly and totally unique. It was never done before Christ and it will never be done again. So every time you see animal sacrifices in the Old Testament, they are a sinless sacrifice representing Jesus Christ being sanctified.
For spiritual reconciliation to be possible, first there must be a unique, perfect, sinless sacrifice which has been provided willingly by the Father in Jesus Christ. It is similar with reconciliation in our human relationships with one another. The more sinless we are, the greater the possibility or even probability of reconciliation. We are to reflect God and be sinless, but we are not, and so our sins interrupt, interfere with our reconciliation with other people. So there is not perfect harmony between us when there needs to be.
Reconciliation is easier when the character of people is balanced or harmonious. It is a change from hostility to friendship. It is mutual. That is, it is a changed form in both parties who have been at odds. Their relationship has been unbalanced.
Colossians 1:21-23 (AMP) And although you at one time were estranged and alienated from Him [that is, Jesus Christ] and were of hostile attitude of mind in your wicked activities, yet now has [Christ, the Messiah] reconciled [you to God] in the body of His flesh through death, in order to present you holy and faultless and irreproachable in His [the Father's] presence. [And this He will do] provided that you continue to stay with and in the faith [in Christ], well-grounded and settled and steadfast, not shifting or moving away from the hope [which rests on and is inspired by] the glad tidings (the Gospel), which you heard and which has been preached [as being designed for and offered without restrictions] to every person under heaven, and of which [Gospel] I, Paul, became a minister.
In verse 22, the word reconciled refers to a change formed in the personal character of the sinner, who ceases to be hostile to God because of wicked works, and humbly submits his full confidence and love to God.
Now, what does this third mention in Numbers 29 infer regarding balance? This one is about seeking balance between body and mind. Obviously we know that each of the mentions of the Day of Atonement in Leviticus 16, Leviticus 23, and Number is 29, mentions afflicting your soul. Today is the Day of Atonement. Our minds are not at their sharpest. So let me give you a brief explanation of the meaning of the term soul. The English word soul is from the Hebrew nephesh, meaning "a creature or being that breathes." Leviticus 17:11 says, "For the life of the 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 for the soul." So the soul is the life force of a person, creature, or being. It is not just physical life.
In the Old Testament, the soul is a living being. The breath of the Almighty gives mankind a spirit of understanding that provides us with cognitive mental abilities. God gave mankind the ability to think, to reason, and to make choices by way of the spirit in man. And there is a difference between the spirit in man that God has given to everyone and God's Holy Spirit given to us at baptism. Paul writes about this in I Corinthians.
I Corinthians 2:11 For what man knows the things of a man except by the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except by the Spirit of God.
So the God-given spirit in man is the ability to understand physical things and some spiritual things, but we are limited in the spiritual things until we receive the Holy Spirit. The human spirit is our mind, not our physical brain. The human spirit is the immaterial thing that gives us the ability to think, to reason, to make choices. It is the seat of our emotions too. It is the spirit in man that gives us a point of contact with God. And so this is why mankind has a desire for contact with the spirit world.
The soul then is our life. So instead of saying one's soul, it is one's life, and our body is the physical part of us. So God has provided each of us with a mind, a life, and a body, rather than trying to differentiate the world's difficult combination of spirit and soul. The world confuses the spirit in man, his mind, and the soul, his life.
A great deal of human unhappiness, even much depression and certainly the misery that drives people to self-destructive acts, comes from not understanding that our loving Creator God built us as mind, life, and body. This has people in the world totally confused. Just as our bodies need food, water, oxygen, shelter, and so on, so similarly do our minds have needs. Our minds need a connection with God and a connection with other minds. Our minds need a sense of understanding and how the world really works. And our minds need a sense of freedom and opportunity.
For example, if you put a human being in a very large cage, maybe an acre or so, or even 100 acres, give him enough food, water, air, and clothing, he should be content, should he not? He would only be perfectly content if he was made up of only a body because in that cage you are taking care of all of his bodily needs. But we humans are minds, lives, and bodies, and minds even more so. That guy in the nice big cage is not having his mind's needs provided. So he has no freedom, even if he likes it fine there. He wants to know, his mind needs to know, that if he wanted he could travel away. And of course he cannot be content in that cage, no matter how big it is.
Of course, I am speaking of people in the world in this description.
In the same way, if I am living in a cage, but I am living in a nice house in a nice town, a wonderful country, and I have a nice job, I eat good food, I should be content. Right? You see the fallacy then. It does not matter how or where I am living. If I am not providing my mind with its needs, I cannot possibly experience complete contentment or harmony and tranquility and balance.
So why does not any healthy individual need to be told, "make sure you're eating enough" or "make sure you're breathing enough oxygen." Actually, our bodies send us very convenient signals, very loud and unambiguous signals about when we need food or water or warmth, and so we take care of ourselves. And if we next to neglect to breathe in air, our bodies quite conveniently tell our lungs to breathe. Try to ignore that signal from your body! How long before your body lets you know that it is not happy with your decision to stop breathing?
The trouble is our minds also try to signal us similar messages about neglecting our mind's needs. Our bodies constantly bombard us with powerful stimuli and we do not hear the subtle sounds of our minds. In other words, if you want to hear your mind calling for nourishment, you must shut off the noise from your body. And that is what the biblical term "afflict your souls" means. That is another meaning for afflict your souls.
"Afflict" is translated from the Hebrew word transliterated ve-initem, which also has a sense of humbly responding to or answering to. So we are to humbly respond to our souls, so to speak, or answer to its calling when we are eating and that type of thing for the right reason. Our bodies automatically do that. But when it comes to not eating and our minds being clear, then we have to respond to that afflicting our souls. People in the world do it without God's Holy Spirit and when they fast they can only come to a lower conclusion. Because we have God's Holy Spirit then we are able to, when we fast, reach a higher spiritual level of understanding and of a calmness and a peace of mind that the world cannot yet arrive at.
Even our jobs and our work are out of mind today, or they should be. Therefore all three of the biblical passages about the Day of Atonement emphasized doing no work on the Day of Atonement. Our lives are powerfully impacted by the state of our minds and our minds need to be cleansed. On the Day of Atonement God has provided a holy day in which, while recognizing and appreciating what Jesus' sacrifice has accomplished for the whole world, we are also made to see how well and how poorly we have handled balance this last year—between unreachable ideals and practical reality, between individual and shared, and between our life and our mind.
It is an ongoing battle because we both have God's Holy Spirit and we still have human nature, and those two battle, as we have read many times in Paul's writings. God's Word, meditation, and our bodies cries to be fed should work to focus our attention on our insufficiency when denied the generous and life-giving blessings of God. God is the only one who can supply what we truly desire and need in order to fulfill His purpose and our hope.