It was four years ago that I stumbled upon Yom Kippur. As a Christian growing up in the rural American South, I didn’t have Jewish friends or neighbors and never was exposed to any Jewish holidays or practices. Granted, my family name is largely a Jewish name. Several family members have a strong affinity for all things Jewish – I call it our cellular connection – but we have been estranged from that part of our heritage. Nevertheless, for reasons totally outside of myself, I was led to this annual practice of fasting, prayer and repentance.
The first time I did it, I was led to the decision to fast without even knowing that it was coinciding with Yom Kippur. While I was googling proper ways to fast, since I had never done it before, I literally stumbled upon the description of Yom Kippur and used it as my model for what I believed God was leading me to do.
Have you ever needed to hear from God so desperately that you physically ached to find His presence and hear a word from Him? That was my frame of mind when the Holy Spirit led me to this initiation into fasting. I had no idea what to expect, but I knew I had to seek Him with everything I had and to do something I had never done before . . . because what I had been doing simply was not enough any more. The experience was life-changing for me. I learned that God is just as eager to meet us where we are – and His desire is to give us the hope, strength, courage, comfort , or whatever else we so desperately need.
I may feel led to fast at various times throughout the year during times of seeking or despair or thanksgiving, but Yom Kippur holds a very special place in my heart. It isn’t because it’s a Jewish holiday. It is because God himself led me into that time of communion, prayer and repentance and I consider it to be an annual date! It is a bonus in my mind that He used a Jewish holy day to speak to me in such a powerful way.
Yom Kippur is known as the Day of Atonement. We think of atonement as it applies to what Jesus accomplished once and for all for humanity: at-one-ment with God. Being reconciled to God through Jesus Christ is our gift. This year, Yom Kippur begins at sundown on Friday night and ends at sundown on Saturday night. Perhaps you have been seeking God’s answers to your most puzzling problems. Perhaps you have a need to spend time confessing and repenting for your personal sins, or maybe the collective sins of your family, your church, or our nation. Maybe the Holy Spirit has nudged you toward the spiritual discipline of fasting but you have felt uncertain about how or why to even do it. I encourage you try it. You may be led into the most wonderful experience of your life!