Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Final Scapegoat

In the 16th chapter of the book of Exodus, we find God given instructions for the observance of the Day of Atonement.  It was a ritual designed to handle the sins of the people.  Through it they would receive forgiveness for all their transgressions.  It required the death of three sacrificial animals.  A bull was slaughtered and offered as a sin sacrifice for Aaron.  Before he could make a sin offering for others, he had to make one for himself for he was a sinner.  After he had offered a sin offering for himself, he then slaughtered one of the two designated sacrificial goats as a sin offering for the people.  In both cases sacrificial blood was sprinkled on the mercy seat of the altar.
When this was done, the second sacrificial goat was brought before the tent of meeting.  It would not be slain, but spared.  Aaron, the priest, placed both his hands on the head of this live goat and then he confessed all the iniquities of the people of Israel.  Through his confession, he placed all the iniquities of the people of Israel on the head of the goat which was then led into the wilderness to be turned lose alive.  "The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to a barren region; and the goat shall be set free in the wilderness."  (Exodus 16:22)  Thus, the sacrificial animal was taken outside the camp of the Hebrews.
The writer of Hebrews surely must have remembered this attempt at handling sin as he wrote his letter to the church.  In the last chapter of that epistle we read about the final scapegoat: "Therefore, Jesus also suffered greatly outside the city gate in order to sanctify the people by His own blood."  (Hebrews 13:12)  Jesus did not die in the city of Jerusalem, but outside the city.  He, too, was sent out with the iniquity of all of us upon His sacred head.  No more goats need be sent in the wilderness.  One named Jesus has died once and for all for all of us.  No more sacrifice is needed.  His is sufficient.

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