Most of us are familiar with the rabbinical tradition that says that in the ten days between Yom T’ruah (Rosh HaShanah) and Yom Kippur God inscribes each person either for life or for death in the coming year; and that the decision depends on the quality of each person’s repentance. We at Shema look to the Word of God, not tradition. The Scriptures make abundantly clear that it isn’t our acts of contrition that get us written into the Book of Life. As a matter of fact, the only way any human being can be inscribed in that book is by putting their complete trust in the atoning death and the resurrection of Yeshua the Messiah and to embrace His teaching. The complete name of that book is The Lamb’s Book of Life (Rev. 21:27).
None of us knows the day or time of our death, and few of us give much thought to our mortality. We presume we have the rest of the day today, and tomorrow, and next week and next month, and we roughly estimate the number of our years. But everything can, and sometimes does, change in a moment. The last words of the great novelist, H. G. Wells were, “Go away. I’m all right.” Bing Crosby’s last words were, “That was a great game of golf, fellas!” Nobody knows when they will die, and yet everyone has a pending appointment with the Judge. That is why it is so critical that you not put this decision off. Far too much is at stake, and we don’t even know that we have tomorrow. There’s a saying, “Some people who were waiting till the 11th hour to repent died at 10:30.”
Here we are at Yom Kippur – The most solemn, introspective day of the year for Jewish people worldwide. Yet how many will coast through this day without having given any serious consideration to the state of their soul? How many people are on the spiritual equivalent of cruise control or auto-pilot? How many are just going through the motions of yet one more Yom Tov? Indifference about our pending appointment with eternity is a luxury we cannot afford.
The Prophet Malachi warned us about the coming Day of the Lord; the Day of God’s Judgment. Let me read to you from the prophet Malachi, chapter 4. The name ‘Malachi’ means, ‘My Messenger’ and it has special meaning in this book of prophecy.
“For behold, the day is coming, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and every evildoer will be chaff; and the day that is coming will set them ablaze,” says the LORD of hosts, “so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall.”
It is a particular Day that is coming. But in this one Day there will be two outcomes – diametrically opposed outcomes. There will be one outcome for the arrogant and perpetrators of evil, and a very different outcome for those who revere the name of Adonai. The coming of the Day of the Lord is not in question. It is inevitable. The question is: which outcome will it be for you?
Yeshua said, “Blessed are the meek.” He didn’t mean weakness, but rather those who are gentle, self-controlled, and thoughtful toward others. We may infer the opposite, then, that cursed are the arrogant – those who are aggressive, selfishly ambitious, boastful, and disdainful of others.
Malachi says that day will burn like a furnace and it will bring about the destruction of the arrogant, along with those who commit evil acts.
Evildoers are generally easier to identify than arrogant people, because deeds of evil are usually obvious. And we tend to associate evildoing with things like murder, drug dealing, robbery, terrorism, assault and adultery. You might be saying to yourself, “I’ve never murdered anybody or dealt drugs or committed terrorist acts. I’m a good person!” Watch out! You might not be an evildoer, but you might be arrogant. The humble person acknowledges what the Scriptures say about him. He has no illusions of being good. Not having murdered or committed terrorism doesn’t make you good. Goodness isn’t merely the absence of evil.
Arrogance can take the form of self-reliance. Some of you may be under the illusion that because you don’t do bad things (at least nothing really bad) you don’t need Yeshua. Maybe you consider yourself a ‘good person’ and don’t see any need for a ‘middleman’ to bring you to God. Be careful, my friend. The Scriptures tell us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” All includes you. Furthermore, Yeshua declared “No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
So if you think you are good enough to come to God on your own merit, you are calling the writers of Scripture liars, and you are making Yeshua out to be a liar. To dismiss His righteous, atoning sacrifice as unnecessary would put you squarely within that condemned group called ‘arrogant’. To say “No” to Yeshua is more than just dismissing some great religious figure or great philosopher. It is turning down God’s gracious offer of forgiveness.
Your dilemma is the equivalent of you being hundreds of miles out on the open sea, and your boat has capsized and you are hopelessly treading water, and yet rejecting the life vest that has been thrown to you, and hurling insults at those who came to rescue you. It is rejecting eternal life itself. It gives new meaning to the expression, “Is that your final answer?” God forbid that saying “No” to Jesus the Messiah ends up being your final answer.
Maybe some of you here merely have yet to say “Yes.” Let today be that day. Imagine the joy of being able to point back to Yom Kippur 5784 and to say, “That’s the day I was redeemed! That’s the day Messiah took up residence in my heart and life!”
The one Day has two outcomes. There is no third way. You must be willing to surrender your will to God’s. And make no mistake about it, in this New Covenant dispensation, to “fear the name of the Lord” means embracing Yeshua of Nazareth as your Lord and King and Messiah, and adopting His teaching as the source of truth and authority in your life.
And here’s the good promise. Those who fear His name, who show Him reverence and love, will experience salvation and reconciliation. The sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. That righteousness is Messiah’s perfect righteousness, and through faith in Him we are healed from this (100% lethal) disease of sin. Beyond that, we will be filled with joy. Malachi wrote, and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall. Our experience of salvation will cause us to want to jump for joy – almost a giddiness. At the risk of making a crude comparison, we will be overjoyed like dogs when we let them out into the yard to chase squirrels and play with each other.
If you’ve already made that decision, you have incredible joy ahead of you. If you haven’t made that decision, you have a question mark ahead of you. What you don’t have is a guarantee that you’ll be able to get around to it later. So please let today, Yom Kippur 5784, be your day of salvation.