The Ultimate Scapegoat

In modern parlance, we’re very familiar with the idea of the scapegoat. In general, the scapegoat is a person or thing that is blamed for something bad that someone else has done. 

Did you know the idea originates in the Word of God?

“The scapegoat,” also known as “Azazel,” is mentioned in Leviticus 16 as part of God’s instructions to the Israelites and specifically the high priest on the Day of Atonement. On this day, the high priest first would offer a sacrifice for his sins and those of his household, and then he would perform sacrifices for the nation. “And he shall take from the congregation of the children of Israel two kids of the goats as a sin offering, and one ram as a burnt offering” (Leviticus 16:5). The priest brought the animals before the Lord and cast lots between the two goats – one to be a sacrifice and the other to be the scapegoat. The first goat was slaughtered for the sins of the people and its blood used to cleanse the Most Holy Place, the tent of meeting and the altar (v. 20). After the cleansing, the live goat was brought to the high priest. It is here we see a powerful object lesson the Lord provides that foreshadows the sacrifice of “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29),

 “And when he has made an end of atoning for the Holy Place, the tabernacle of meeting, and the altar, he shall bring the live goat. Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, confess over it all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions, concerning all their sins, putting them on the head of the goat, and shall send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a suitable man. The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to an uninhabited land; and he shall release the goat in the wilderness” (Leviticus 16:20-22).

Symbolically, the scapegoat took on the sins of the Israelites and removed them. For the believer, this is for us a foreshadowing of Christ, our scapegoat and powerful picture of one foundation of the gospel message – substitutionary atonement.

As the 2 Corinthians 5:21 declares, “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” 

Seven centuries before Christ walked this earth as a man, the prophet Isaiah prophesied of Messiah’s sacrifice for mankind:

“We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).

After the sins were laid on the scapegoat, it was considered unclean and driven into the wilderness. Simply, the goat was cast out. The same happened to Jesus. He was crucified outside of the city. 

You see, Golgotha was a skull-shaped hill in ancient Jerusalem, the site of Jesus’ crucifixion. It is referred to in all four Gospels (Matthew 27:33, Mark 15:22, Luke 23:33, & John 19:17). The hill of execution was outside the city walls of Jerusalem, apparently near a road and not far from the sepulchre where Jesus was buried. 

He was despised and rejected by men; He poured out His life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:3a, 12). Jesus embodied what the scapegoat represented – the removal of sins from those actually guilty of sins – namely you and I and all who call on the name of the Lord!

But there’s more! “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29) – Jesus, our “Scapegoat” – has also not only conquered the power of sin, He’s conquered the grave! “For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,  and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

With Easter recently past and as we look ahead to Passover, which takes place on April 22, may we continually revel and rejoice in the risen Lamb of God, Jesus our Lord – who has blessed us beyond measure! Amen!

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3).

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