The Scapegoat

Bible Reading:
The Special Feasts Exodus 23:14-17; 34:24; Deuteronomy 16:1-12, 16-17; Numbers 9:13-14; 28:18-31; 29:1-38; Leviticus 16; 23:4-21, 26-44

We get the term, "scapegoat," from this Old Testament ceremony. Every year, on the Day of Atonement, two goats were presented to the Lord on behalf of the people. The first goat was sacrificed as a sin offering, to obtain God's forgiveness. The second was used as a "scapegoat," to remove their sins far from their presence, symbolizing freedom from guilt. Laying his hands on the head of the scapegoat, the priest confessed over it "all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites--all their sins--and put them on the goat's head." The goat was then led far away and released in the desert, carrying "on itself all their sins to a solitary place." (Lev. 16:6-10, 20-22)

We no longer need to look for a scapegoat to bear the shame of our sin. Jesus offered his own body, "once for all," to be our sacrificial lamb and our scapegoat (1 Peter 3:18). "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree" (1 Peter 2:24). We don't need to wander around the remainder of our lives, like the scapegoat, living in a barren wasteland, carrying the weight of our guilt and shame. We can stop trying to place the blame on anyone else - our parents, our spouses, our past acquaintances - making them the scapegoat for our own failures. We can even stop blaming God for allowing the circumstances that led to our sin.

If we will come to Jesus with a humble, repentant spirit, and confess to him our sin, he will not only forgive us, through the blood of his sacrifice, but he will lay our sin on his own head, as our scapegoat, where it is forgiven and forgotten, no longer held against us (Heb. 8:12; 1 Jn. 1:9; Js. 4:6-10). If we will lay our failures and regrets at the feet of our sacrificial lamb ...and leave them there ...he will "tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea" (Micah 7:19). Having accepted his forgiveness, if we will then trust him to be our scapegoat, he will lift from our own heads the sting of sin that torments our minds, and remove it far from our presence... "as far as the east is from the west" (Ps. 103:12). "And friends, once that's taken care of and we're no longer accusing or condemning ourselves, we're bold and free before God!" (1 Jn. 3:21 Msg)

King David was a man who experienced the depravity of sin, the brokenness of repentance, and the forgiveness and freedom from guilt that can only come from God. May we come to know and love God as David did:

"The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him" (Ps. 103:8-13).