April 2, 2010

Jesus Is Our Scapegoat (2010)

Preacher: Randy Smith Series: Good Friday Scripture: Leviticus 16:7–10


Jesus Is Our Scapegoat

Leviticus 16:7-10
April 2, 2010 • Good Friday Service • First Baptist, Asbury Park
Pastor Randy Smith


Throughout its 27 chapters dealing with ritual purity and animal sacrifices and priestly practices, chapter 16 in Leviticus has been called a hinge for the entire the book. The holiness of God and the sinfulness of man compete for reconciliation and the embryonic answers to that dilemma are revealed in a book and chapter ignored by many in the church today.

As we begin chapter 16 there can be no doubt regarding God's utter hatred toward sin. Immediately in verse 1 we are reminded of Aaron's sons, Nadab and Abihu who were killed on the spot for offering "strange fire" on the God's altar (Lev. 10). The Lord made it clear that He is holy and it is a dangerous thing to approach Him in an unworthy manner.

Then in verses 2 and 3 we read not of the freedom, but rather the restrictions or even the high priest when he was to approach God in the Most Holy Place. Only at designated times. Only with the proper attire. Only after a ritual bath. And most importantly, only after a blood sacrifice. The result for violating these mandates is clear, verse 2: death.

So you can imagine the Israelites as they congregated around the Tabernacle on the yearly "Day of Atonement." Every nerve in overdrive. Will our spiritual leader even emerge alive?

God is holy. He will be treated as holy. He will not compromise who He is. He is the "Consuming Fire" (Heb. 12:29) that must punish sin. And we are sinful. Chapter 16 alone makes that truth unmistakable. All over the chapter we read about our "impurities" (verses 16, 19) and "sins" (verses 16, 21, 31, 34) and "transgressions" (verses 16, 21). So if sinful man has any hope of ever approaching holy God it must be with his sin somehow atoned for. But how? God will not change His character nor are we able to change ours.

This is where the blood sacrifices spoken of throughout the book of Leviticus come in. God in His love and mercy has decreed a way for sin to be atoned. There were a variety of animals used for a variety of occasions, but this afternoon I'd like to focus on the two goats spoken of in Leviticus 16.

Look with me as I begin reading in verse 7. "He shall take the two goats and present them before the LORD at the doorway of the tent of meeting. Aaron shall cast lots for the two goats, one lot for the LORD and the other lot for the scapegoat. Then Aaron shall offer the goat on which the lot for the LORD fell, and make it a sin offering. But the goat on which the lot for the scapegoat fell shall be presented alive before the LORD, to make atonement upon it, to send it into the wilderness as the scapegoat" (Lev. 16:7-10).

The symbolism behind these two goats is significant and provided a powerful visual aid.

The first goat, we could say the unfortunate one, was killed. The animal stood as a substitute for the sinner. Its blood was shed. Why? One chapter later we find the answer to that question. "The life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement" (Lev. 17:11). The blood was then brought into the Most Holy Place and sprinkled on and before the Ark of the Covenant.

That's significant because the glory of God in the cloud hovered above the Ark and the law of God was contained below in the Ark. The law below confirmed that we are lawbreakers and God above demanded justice. Yet in-between the two on the top of the Ark was a portion called, interesting enough, the "Mercy Seat." And interestingly enough, the blood was sprinkled on and before this Mercy Seat. As verse 16 of chapter 16 declares, "He shall make atonement…because of their transgressions in regard to all their sins." With sins removed, our merciful God had provided a way for sinful man to approach Him!

The second goat received a different fate. It was called the "scapegoat." We still use that term to refer to one who is made to bear the blame for the actions of another.

Beginning in verse 20 the process is described in detail. "When he finishes atoning for the holy place and the tent of meeting and the altar, he shall offer the live goat. Then Aaron shall lay both of his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the sons of Israel and all their transgressions in regard to all their sins; and he shall lay them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who stands in readiness. The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to a solitary land; and he shall release the goat in the wilderness" (Lev. 16:20-22).

Aaron would lay His hands on this goat symbolically transferring the sins to it. He would then release the goat into the wilderness as the people watch their transgressions symbolically disappear out of sight never to be seen again.

To offer the scapegoat without the blood sacrifice goat would have been blasphemous. The only reason the people could rejoice that their sins were removed in the second goat was because they were removed by the blood sacrifice in the first goat. To use theological terms, the first goat propitiated sins (atoned for them) and the second goat expiated sins (removed them). The result was man's sins were removed from his presence but moreover God's presence.

This glorious concept of separation is celebrated throughout the Old Testament.

Isaiah 38:17, "For You have cast all my sins behind Your back." Without reluctance, God on His initiative made a deliberate decision to toss sins out of His sight.

Isaiah 43:25, "I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake, and I will not remember your sins." God has not only chosen to wipe the slate clean, He has also elected to throw away the slate altogether. It's not that He forgets them; rather He has chosen not to remember them.

Micah 7:19, "You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea." Removed from sight. Gone for good.

And my favorite, Psalm 103:12, "As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us." As the east and west never meet, God's removal of our sins from Himself is infinite.

Everything sounds great, that is until we read in the New Testament that "it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins" (Heb. 10:4). What?

So we ask, did God somehow later change His mind? Were all the blood sacrifices in the Old Testament meaningless? Or did God have a higher intention? Maybe all these blood sacrifices were in place to foreshadow or point to an ultimate blood sacrifice that would remove our sins completely once and for all? Christian, I believe you know the answer. As John the Baptist declared when he fixed his gaze upon Jesus Christ, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" (Jn. 1:29).

Hebrews 9, "For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" (Heb. 9:13-14).

The ultimate Day of Atonement happened on that first Good Friday. It was on that day when all the shadows and symbols of the Old Testament gave way to reality. The animals were insufficient because what we needed was a sinless human to take our place. Therefore Jesus, fully man and fully God, after living the perfect life offered Himself on the cross as our substitute. Our sin was placed upon Him and He was punished in our place by the Father. He received the wrath that we deserved. He experienced the hell we awaited.

Because of the shedding of His precious blood the Father in His mercy has made salvation available. Because of His completed work on the cross, sin has been removed. With the sin goes the wrath. And with the wrath completely taken away we are now the recipients of God's benevolent love. We are given grace upon grace.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

It is Well with My Soul - Horatio Spafford

In the Old Covenant we learned that only certain people could enter into God's immediate presence and only during certain times of the year. Those days have come to an end. When Jesus died on the cross, the great veil that separated man from God in the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom (Mk. 15:38). As the Bible teaches, we may "draw near with confidence to the throne of grace" (Heb. 4:16). Total access because of total pardon. And when we enter that throne room in heaven in the Spirit we find a loving Father and a faithful high priest serving as our advocate.

Now this glorious reality is not for all, but only those who call upon Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Just as Aaron laid hands on the goats to identify the transfer of sins, we too need to individually lay our hands (so to speak) on Jesus. We need to claim Him for our very own. We need to personally believe God's promises about salvation exclusively in Him as only He died and shed His blood to remove our sins. That is why the Christian faith is one of grace, salvation being a free gift of God that we receive on the basis of faith. Do you have faith in Jesus? Are you under the wrath of God or has He removed your sins?

So as we consider those two goats from Leviticus 16, let us see how they both pointed to Jesus. Like the first one, Jesus made atonement for our sins by shedding His blood and propitiating the wrath of God. And like the second, Jesus expiated our sins by removing them eternally from God's presence.

Understand the theological truth, Christian, that all your sins have been drowned in the blood of Christ. Like the first goat they have been killed. And then imagine them loaded on the back of that second goat never to be seen again.


other sermons in this series

Mar 29


Good Friday Devotional – 2024

Preacher: Sergio Fossa Scripture: John 6:37–40 Series: Good Friday

Apr 7


The Father's Love For The Son

Preacher: Sergio Fossa Scripture: Psalm 2:1–12 Series: Good Friday

Apr 15


Why The Son of Man Had to Die

Preacher: Sergio Fossa Scripture: Luke 9:18–22 Series: Good Friday