Leviticus 16:1-10, 20-22
We don’t like the word “scapegoat”. It sounds like bullying. A group picks on a weakling, identifies all its maladies with this one individual and punishes the scapegoat for the sins of the community.
But it’s horrible because of the power relationship. The strong sacrifice the weak.
The original scapegoat was modelling something quite different.
One day a year Israel held the day of atonement. It was a multi-media dramatisation of how the Ultimate High Priest – Christ – would get into God’s presence. The High Priest would enter into the inner sanctum on our behalf – carrying us on his heart. And he would do so on the basis of blood.
Here is the key blood sacrifice which opened the way:
And [the high priest] shall take the two goats, and present them before the LORD at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for the LORD, and the other lot for the scapegoat. And Aaron shall bring the goat upon which the LORD’S lot fell, and offer him for a sin offering. But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before the LORD, to make an atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness. (Leviticus 16:7-10)
One goat is treated as a scapegoat. The other goat is treated as the LORD! And it’s “the LORD” whose blood is shed. What a fearful dramatisation!
These two goats will tell us of the work of the LORD Christ on the cross. On the one hand Christ is the scapegoat, taking our sins upon Himself and carrying them away. On the other He is the LORD sacrificed in our place. But because He is your sacrifice, therefore He can be your scapegoat.
So if you want to understand the atoning work of the cross according to the day of atonement, imagine this:
From the Most Holy Place – the inner sanctum – you hear the LORD’s own voice. “Get out!”
The priests hitch up their robes and start running, they usher you quickly away from the altar where you were just about to sacrifice your lamb. As you all run to a safe distance, the LORD climbs down from His throne, walks through the Holy Place and out into the courtyard. He lays down on the altar and is slain for our sins. As His blood runs down, you know that your sins are well and truly dealt with – removed from you as far as the east is from the west.
When the LORD takes on the role of Scapegoat it’s not the oppression of the weak. It’s the willing sacrifice of the Strong. The LORD Almighty has chosen to become so meek. He stoops to identify with us on every level.
And when we identify with His sacrifice, we can know our sins to be cleansed, once and for all.
That was the experience of Charles Simeon. He became a wonderful preacher in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. But before this, he was wracked with guilt and weighed down by a heavy sense of sin. Where could he find relief for his soul and forgiveness with God? When he looked to Christ his Scapegoat he was born again!
“My distress of mind continued for about three months, and well might it have continued for years, since my sins were more in number than the hairs of my head. . . In Passion Week, as I was reading Bishop Wilson on the Lord’s Supper, I met with an expression to this effect—‘That the Jews knew what they did when they transferred their sin to the head of their offering’. The thought came into my mind, What, may I transfer all my guilt to another? Has God provided an offering for me, that I may lay my sins on His Head? Then, God willing, I will not bear them on my own soul one moment longer. Accordingly I sought to lay my sins upon the sacred head of Jesus.”
Have you laid your sins on the sacred head of Jesus? He died to bear them. Don’t carry them a moment longer. Call out to Jesus and give Him your sins. It is His glory to take them and to give you His righteousness in return.
For God hath made Jesus, who knew no sin, to be sin for us; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
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