Scapegoat and Some BBW’s:


I’ve been getting a double dose of Leviticus lately, both in my yearly Bible read as well as in my OT class this semester. Yes…some of it is tough sledding, but then you have those moments when you break free and see the sun, and connections start being made.

My professor was lecturing on the Day of Atonement yesterday, we had to read Leviticus 16 as part of our class reading, and today it was on the list for my daily Bible read.

The Day of Atonement (Aka. “Yom Kippur”) is the holiest day on the Jewish calendar and is described in Leviticus 16 in great detail.  This is the one day of the year when the High Priest (and only the High Priest), after ceremonially cleansing himself and atoning for his own sins and others, enters the Most Holy Place of the tabernacle and among other animal sacrifices, there are 2 goats.  One is killed and offered as a sin sacrifice, the other is the scapegoat – he gets to live, but has a very important job.   The High Priest lays his hands on the head of the live goat, sprinkles the blood of the sacrificed goat on it as well, confesses the sins of the people and sends it away into the wilderness.   This goat bears the sins of the people.  (Hence the “scapegoat” term as someone who takes the blame)

So…for Christians – who now understand that Jesus came as the Messiah there are incredible parallels and fulfillment in Jesus.   The sacrificial system of the OT is a foreshadowing of what will be ultimately and perfectly fulfilled in Jesus.  Stand by for some BBW’s:

  • Substitutionary Atonement – yes, I know…big words, but important words.  Jesus perfectly, completely, and permanently atones for our sins in our place.  This doesn’t have to be done year after year, he did it once. (Heb 10:1-4) Not only that, but he doesn’t have to atone for his own sins first like the human High Priests because, um…well…he doesn’t have any.
  • Propitiation:   the sacrificed goat is the wrath-bearing sacrifice. The blood that was shed satisfies the just wrath God has for sin.  However, this needed to be done yearly, that is until Jesus.  He perfectly, completely, and permanently satisfied the wrath of God. (Heb 10:11-14)
  • Expiation:  the live goat is the removal of sin.  Jesus perfectly, completely, and permanently removes sin – sends it away.  Scripture tells us as far as the East is from the West (that’s really far).

All of this is obtained by us through faith in Jesus as God in the flesh, doing all of these things on our behalf.  We receive them by faith and then live them out, always growing, by his grace. He secured it for us perfectly, completely, and permanently as only he could, being God and man.

But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.

(Hebrews 9:11-12 ESV)

…the priest shall make atonement before the LORD

in reading Leviticus this is a line that is repeated. (5:13; 9:7; 12:8; 14:31; 15:15; 15:30)

God was laying down the rules for society and holiness for Israel to obey, for them to be set apart from the other nations for Him. If you’ve ever read Leviticus, you know how many rules there are. TONS. The role of the priest is very important, as he was the mediator between the people and God, in observing all the rules of the various offering, they made atonement for the people’s sins before the LORD God by the sacrifices. They did not have the Messiah yet, Jesus had not yet come. So again, we see the Old Testament pointing to something that will ultimately be fulfilled in Jesus. Jesus came as our high priest, our Mediator, our atonement.  The priests did it with the blood of animals, Jesus atoned for our sin with his precious eternal divine blood.  Only one takes away sins perfectly forever – the blood of Jesus. (Heb 10:4; Heb 9:24-27)

Atonement is a big theological term, so naturally I’m fascinated by it. 🙂 My friend Wayne Grudem in Systematic Theology says that we may define atonement as “the work Christ did in his life and death to earn our salvation.” He then goes into the question “What was the ultimate cause that lead to Christ’s coming to earth and dying for our sins?” Scripture points to 2 things: the love and justice of God.

God loves you. Yes, it may sound trite, but it is true. He loves you so much that his plan included the coming of Jesus to live a perfect life and die a horrific sacrificial death in your place for your (and my) voluminous sins so that you can be reconciled to God. Here the thing: we needed to be reconciled because we all sin. We have to realize that. Telling people that Jesus just “died for your sins” is true, but it really is only half of the story. He did die for our sins, but he did so because we absolutely and totally are in a bad way with God – sin, our sin, has broken the relationship that we were created to have with God and if it’s not repaired the only result is that we then are forced to spend an eternity…an ETERNITY away from the presence of the most holy God.  Do we understand our need for a savior and the hopeless position we are in before God without one?

Also important to understand is that God didn’t have to send Jesus to reconcile the relationship. He existed perfectly in and of himself.  He didn’t even have to create us at all, but he did.  He is not some egomaniac who needs people to worship him to make him feel good.  We totally lose track of this! Another evidence of his great love for us is that while he didn’t have to reconcile the relationship, he did so anyway.  (John 3:16; Eph 2:4-10).

So, God loves us greatly and was the initiator of the reconciliation, he also is just.  He will forever treat sin, rebellion against how he created us and told us to live, in a just and fair way.  The old saying here is true – if a judge doesn’t punish someone for a crime that was actually committed is he a fair judge?  Of course not.  God is fair and just, he punishes sin – he poured out all his wrath and punishment on his son Jesus on the cross.   Jesus took the full blast of God’s punishment for our sin, absorbed all of our sorrow and shame so that we can be reconciled to God.

Will we see that?  Pray that the Holy Spirit will open our eyes for a fresh wonder at this!  The power of the cross of Jesus, our great high priest who makes atonement for us before the LORD God.


PS:  Piper hit on many of these topics during his WorshipGod09 message, which I summarized here: