Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Way of the Cross (7)

Yesterday we looked at the Day of Atonement from Leviticus 16, and thought about the goat who was used as a sin offering. We watched how Aaron disappeared into the tabernacle, to the Holy Place, God's presence, and the blood of the goat (and bull) were sprinkled on the mercy seat, God's throne, the ark of the covenant. If the wages of sin are death, then the blood shed by the goat signifies that a death has occurred, and the sins have been dealt with. But the blood of bulls and goats can't forgive sins - they point to the one perfect sacrifice of Jesus for our sins.

All that happened behind closed doors, within the tabernacle, in the Holy Place, where only the high priest could enter one day of the year. The ordinary member of the people of Israel had to take for granted that it had happened, but they couldn't see what had happened. God, in his mercy and grace, arranged that the second goat was a much more public demonstration of God's forgiveness - and when Tyndale translated the Bible into English, granted us a new word: the scapegoat.

And when he has made an end of atoning for the Holy Place and the tent of meeting and the altar, he shall present the live goat. And Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions, all their sins. And he shall put them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who is in readiness. The goat shall bear all their iniquities on itself to a remote area, and he shall let the goat go free in the wilderness. (Leviticus 16:20-22)

It's a vivid picture of the removal of our sins - Aaron, the priest, representing the people, confesses their sins. The sins are transferred to the goat, who is then taken out of the camp, out of the land, into the wilderness. Your sin is taken far away, and you'll never see the goat again. The scapegoat bears your sins, carries them away, and you bear them no longer.

Truly Jesus is our scapegoat as well as our sin offering. In dying for our sins, he bore them, removing them from us, so that we no longer bear our own sins. Hallelujah! What a Saviour!

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