Leviticus 15:1-16:28; Mark 7:1-23;
Psalm 40:11-17; Proverbs 10:13-14
A good scapegoat is nearly as welcome as a solution to the problem.
Counselors of family dynamics will tell you that many dysfunctional families have roles that people play within the family. One child may be the hero, while the other child is the scapegoat. The scapegoat child is the family member who is blamed and shamed for all that is wrong within the family unit. That person serves as the target for abuse, ridicule, and bullying. The scapegoat is ostracized and isolated emotionally because that person carries the burden for the problems of the group.
Today we see where the term "scapegoat" originated. It was initially God's idea, and as you might have guessed, Jesus Christ is the scapegoat for our sins.
Before we deal with scapegoats, we will review chapter 15 that deals with instructions for sexually transmitted diseases. Having used leprosy as an image of the outward results of sin, God now uses sexually transmitted diseases as a picture of the corrosion of internal sins of the heart. Because sexual sins are for the most part hidden, the diseases associated with those sins represent the deep hidden attitudes that plague humanity. This is a vivid and appropriate picture of the depravity that afflicts our hearts. Here are some facts about sexually transmitted diseases:
- About 333 million new cases occur among young people around the world each year.
- One in five people in the US have an STD.
- One in four new STD infections occurs in teenagers.
- One in four people will have an STD at some point during his or her life.
Humans beings have a significant problem with sexual sin. What is supposed to be a sacred act that reflects a spiritual truth about intimacy has become a vehicle for lust, licentiousness, and disease. This physical reality is a picture of what is also occurring in the human heart.
The picture of the priest at the Tabernacle ceremonially cleansing the person with the STD is a picture of Christ cleansing the oozing, running, puss-filled corruption of our hearts. The sacrifice of an animal is once again the innocent death provided for the unclean person. The water is the purification needed for cleansing. Jesus and the Holy Spirit are the blood and water that cleanse us today.
After this graphic and repulsive chapter, we come to the ceremony which requires mourning and sorrow for sin. God gives Moses the instruction for observing the holiest day in the Jewish calendar- The Day of Atonement. No other ritual speaks more clearly of the wide gulf between God's holiness and man's sinfulness. This observance is the strongest picture of Christ's redemptive work on the cross. This is the only day of the year that the High Priest will enter the Holy of Holies and be in the presence of God.
First, the priest prepares himself by dressing in priestly garments that are like the regular priestly robes. He sets aside the glory of his High Priest outfit to identify with the regular servants. Christ shed his glory and took on human form to become our atonement for sin. The priest would sacrifice a bull to cover his sins and the sins of his family. The bull's blood would be sprinkled where the priest would be serving. The High Priest was to do this totally alone with no assistance. Like Christ, who faced death alone with the sins of the world cast upon him, the High Priest performs this solitary act.
The Tabernacle was prepared by the sacrifice of a goat. The goat's blood would be sprinkled on the mercy seat and before the mercy seat. Remember, this is the only time of the year that this is done in the Holy of Holies. This sin offering was for the sins of the whole community. The blood of the bull and the goat allow the priest to be in the Holy place with his and the communities' sins covered by a blood sacrifice. This is a picture of Christ's shed blood giving us access to a holy God through his death.
Next, the remaining live goat is positioned so that the High Priest can lay hands on its head and transfer the sins of the nation onto the animal. A long confession of sins is given during this part of the ceremony. Having just read the cleansing laws, this must have been a gruesome list! The animal is then sent into the wilderness as the scapegoat. The sins of the nation are cast away from the Holiness of God at the Tabernacle. This pictures Jesus who was our scapegoat. During his death and before his resurrection, Jesus endured separation from his Holy Father. Our sins caused his isolation and desolation. Jesus was cast into the spiritual wilderness of separation from the light of God's presence. The blame and shame of our sins was upon him. He was our family scapegoat.
The Day of Atonement fell on the tenth month on the seventh day. Remember, the seventh day represents a day of rest. After the ritual, the priest would burn the remains of the animals, wash himself, and rest from his labors. Jesus is our purification, our washing, and our rest. He alone gives us access to the Holy of Holies, not just for one day of the year, but forever!
As it says in Psalm 103:12, "As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us." And in Hebrews 4:16, "Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace in time of need."
Today, you and I have access to a Holy God because Jesus is our Day of Atonement. Have you confessed your sins today? Do you come into the presence of God with boldness and humility?
The religious leaders have created rituals that go beyond what Moses has recorded in the Law. Today they are upset that Jesus and his disciples do not practice the washing rituals they have devised. Jesus rebukes them for not keeping the actual Law that requires that you honor your father and mother, but instead, keep these man-made rituals.
Jesus reiterates that a person is defiled not by what they put in their mouths, but what comes out of the heart. Your thought-life is what defiles you. These attitudes that bring about murder, envy, strife, immorality, wickedness, deceit, lust, slander, and pride. This is what defiles a person.
Do you find yourself being legalistic about church attendance, clothing, the type of Bible people read, etc.? These have nothing to do with actual Scriptural principles. These are man-made rules that do not deal with the attitudes of the heart. Jesus is in the business of dying for our internal sins. He is also in the business of living for our sanctification!
Vs. 11...my only hope is in your unfailing love and faithfulness. Vs. 17 As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord is thinking about me right now.
Those verses are a summary of the Day of Atonement.
Wise people treasure knowledge.
What did you notice today?