READING: Leviticus 15-16, Matthew 27:1-26
“He is to put them [sins] on the goat’s head and send it away into the wilderness by the man appointed for the task.”
I love biblical pictures that help us to understand what God wants us to know. Pictures often grab the heart at a deep level, especially for a world where much of the population learns more through stories and images than by lectures and points. For example, it’s simple enough to say that a Samaritan ministered to a hurting man in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37); it’s even more poignant to paint the picture of a Samaritan feeling compassion, bandaging wounds, transporting the wounded, and paying for care. The details of the picture pull the reader in.
Sometimes those pictures are simply story, but other times they are actual events that point toward a bigger picture – like the giving of two goats on the day of atonement in Leviticus 16. One goat was to be slain for the sins of the people, and the other was to be the “scapegoat” that carried the sins away into the wilderness: “Aaron will lay both his hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the Israelites’ wrongdoings and rebellious acts—all their sins. He is to put them on the goat’s head and send it away into the wilderness by the man appointed for the task” (Lev. 16:21). Though scholars differ on the understanding of the scapegoat, the bottom line is that it portrayed the removal of sin. Perhaps the people could “see” their sins being carried away as God granted forgiveness.
This combined picture of the slain goat and the scapegoat points to Jesus, the sacrificial Lamb who bore the sin of the world (John 1:29, 1 Pet. 2:24). Whereas the priests had to regularly offer sacrifices for themselves and their people, Jesus offered Himself “once for all” (Heb. 7:27). The people of Jesus’ day may well have cried out recurrently, “Crucify him” (Matt. 27:22), and Pilate may have turned Him over to be crucified, but neither ultimately determined what Jesus would do. He truly was a righteous man who chose to lay His life down for His sheep.
Through Him, we find forgiveness and freedom from controlling sin. He is the better sacrifice (Heb. 9:11-26) who has carried our sins away.
- Read Leviticus 16 again, and focus on the pictures of this chapter.
- Give thanks to God for a plan that includes His removing our sin and guilt.
PRAYER: “Thank You, Lord, for taking away my sin.”
TOMORROW'S READING: Leviticus 17-18, Matthew 27:27-50