One of the most prevalent prayers on Yom kippur is called Midot Rachamim or the “attributes of Mercy.” It is said at variety of times during the Yom Kippur services, invoking the mercy of God so that he will forgive our sins. It comes from the book of Exodus in the Torah when Moses pleads with God to know his ways and to see his glory. The text says that God reveals his “goodness” to Moses. This is a dramatic moment in the history of Israel. The context is the aftermath of the great debacle when the Jewish people built a golden calf. God relents from killing off the whole nation and he also changes his mind in deciding not to abandon them in the wilderness. But in neither narrative do we read that God actually forgives the people. Perhaps we can infer forgiveness from his favor in not destroying the people and in not abandoning them. But it is not until this moment when God reveals himself to Moses that we read that God forgives the people….and not only forgives…but is merciful…slow to anger and full and overflowing with loyal love and faithfulness…. It is only after this sure word of forgiveness that we see a reinstatement of the Ten Commandments and a renewed covenant relationship focusing on the complete devotion of the people to God. How appropriate for Yom Kippur! As Messiah followers we know that God has indeed made atonement for our sins, but the fact of the matter is that we still need to seek forgiveness knowing that the provision has been made. I like to view our services on Shabbat and on holidays as opportunities for covenant renewal. We come together as a community with one voice. This gives us the opportunity to renew the covenant as a community. A covenant renewal is not a brand new covenant being made but rather reiterating the promise that has already been made. Yom Kippur is a moment when we can say again to God “thank you again for your continued forgiveness and love toward us…” As a result we can move forward as a community into a deeper relationship with God. This allows us to make a greater difference in each other’s life and demonstrate to the world around us that the forgiveness of God makes a real difference in our lives. With the empowerment of the Ruach HaKodesh we are able to reflect the image of likeness of God – in these attributes of mercy.
For our ancient ancestors to be able to fulfill their calling and to move forward to the promised land they needed to know that they were forgiven. It was not enough for them to know that God would show them grace and mercy by letting the live and that he would be with them – they needed to clearly know that they were forgiven and that God did indeed love them. They needed to know that they were loved to move forward. We also need to know that we are loved if we are going to move forward. On Yom Kippur we are reminded that we are forgiven. We are reminded that we are loved. In this experience of covenant renewal we are invigorated to show this love to others. Then end result is that we are better people living better lives. If we are going to be successful as a congregation we must start with the core belief and knowledge that we are loved by God. May this core belief centered in Yeshua the Messiah cause us to be devoted to God and to one another.