Devotional: March 7, 2022
“When Aaron finishes making atonement for the Holy of Holies, the Tent of Meeting, and the Altar, he will bring up the live goat, lay both hands on the live goat’s head, and confess all the iniquities of the People of Israel, all their acts of rebellion, all their sins. He will put all the sins on the goat’s head and send it off into the wilderness, led out by a man standing by and ready. The goat will carry all their iniquities to an empty wasteland; the man will let him loose out there in the wilderness.
Leviticus 16: 20-22 The Message
This strange passage from the Book of Leviticus tells us the story of the scapegoat. While contemporary language uses the term “scapegoat” to refer to someone who is blamed for another’s mistakes, the original meaning of the word was religious.
As part of the Jewish day of Atonement, sacrifices of live animals were made by the priest. Yet there is also this curious episode where the sins of the people are put upon the head of a live goat. Then, that goat is taken out into the wilderness and released, taking all the sins with him.
This symbolism of the people’s sins being taken away to a wasteland resonated with people. It also illustrates God’s desire to remove our sins from us.
This episode from the ancient book of Leviticus pre-figures Christ’s sacrificial love for us. It shows us that God has always wanted us to remove sin from our life. When God sent His son Jesus, we no longer needed a “scapegoat” to take our sins out into the wilderness. We can now place them on the head of Jesus. He promises to take away all of our sins when we confess them to Him.
So many people in the world do not want to take responsibility for their sins. Apparently, they find it easier to blame others for their mistakes. Jesus offers us the ability to admit our sin, and then to be forgiven for it. We don’t need to lie to cover up something we have done, denying culpability for our own sin. The Lord wants to take away our sins. Sin is harmful, and hinders our relationships. Through Christ, we have been given the grace of forgiveness.
Part of the Jewish Day of Atonement was to repair the broken relationship between God and humanity. By atoning, the Jewish people could be made one again with the Lord. Thus, “At + one” = “Atonement”.
Let us celebrate the love of Christ. Jesus takes upon His head sin which He did not commit, in order to repair our broken relationship with Him. The good news is that even though sin fractures relationships, God’s love and forgiveness restores them. Praise the Lord!
Loving and Holy God,
I thank you for Your love. Even though I do not deserve it, Your son Jesus takes my sin upon Himself. What love! What sacrifice! What forgiveness! Help me to celebrate Your love always, for it is the most powerful force in all the world. I pray this prayer in the name of Your son, my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.