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03(Lev 16)The Scapegoat

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THE SCAPEGOAT  Leviticus 16:1-10

As Christians, we are but vessels of mercy whose sins have been cleansed away through the atoning blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 1:7, "In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace." Our sins have been forgiven and washed away through the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.

I read about a cemetery not far from New York, in which there is a grave, which has inscribed upon its headstone just one word-"Forgiven." There is no name, no date of birth or death. The stone is unembellished by the sculptor's art. There is no epitaph, no fulsome eulogy-just that one word, "Forgiven." But I submit unto you, that is the greatest thing that can be said of any man, or written upon his grave, "Forgiven."

I want to speak to you today about being forgiven of our sins. In so doing, I want to draw your attention to an Old Testament practice that occurred once a year on the Day of Atonement. It was a practice that involved two goats of which one was called the scapegoat. In that scapegoat we see illustrated what God did with our sins when He saved us.


The scene before in Leviticus 16 takes us back to the annual feast day known as the Day of Atonement. This annual feast occurred on the tenth day of the seventh month of the Jewish calendar. It was on this day that the High Priest entered into the Most Holy Place-the only time in the year that he could do so. To enter into the Holy Place at any other time brought instant death.

We read in Leviticus 16:4 of the ritual the High Priest observed before entering into the Holy Place. To enter the Holy Place the High Priest had to bathe, which was a symbol of being clean before God. He also had to be dressed in certain garments that served as a symbol of purity.

As well, he was required to offer a sacrifice for himself and his family as described in Leviticus 16:5-6.

Once the sacrifices had been offered for himself and his family, he would take two goats, of which one would be offered as a sin offering and the other would be released into the wilderness. All of this was according to God's command. Now, what did all this mean? What was the purpose of these actions and what did these rituals represent?

The purpose of these rituals was to make atonement. The Hebrew words translated "atonement" in our English Bible is the noun kippur and the verb kaphar. The word in one form or another is found about 150 times in the Old Testament and is immediately linked with two truths. First, atonement declared:

A.      Mans Need Of Reconciliation

§  At the very basis of atonement was the acknowledgement that there is a separation between man and God.

§  Isaiah 59:2 states, "But your iniquities have separated between you and your God." The division that exists is because man is sinful and God is holy.

§  Because man is sinful and God is holy, the relationship between God and man is broken. Man is out of fellowship with God. The atonement stated that man stood in need of being reconciled to God.

B.      Mans Need Of Redemption

Leviticus 16:16 Not only did man need to be reconciled, but he also had to be redeemed in order to be reconciled. If man was be reconciled to God and brought into a relationship with God, something had to be done about his sinfulness and the sins of which he was guilty.

Leviticus 16:16 uses three words to depict and define sin: uncleanness that depicts the filthiness of our sins. There is the word "transgressions" that depicts the rebelliousness of our sins. Lastly, there is the word "sins" that depicts the offensiveness of our sins.

If a filthy, rebellious sinner who is offensive to a holy God has any hope of being reconciled to God, he must be forgiven of his or her sin. This was what the Day of Atonement was all about. The word "atonement" means, "to cover" or "to conceal." The purpose of the sacrifices were to provide a means whereby the sinfulness of man was covered or concealed; thereby providing a way in which man could be reconciled to God.

The scapegoat, as well as all the sacrifices, acknowledged that man stood in need of reconciliation and redemption. The offering of these sacrifices acknowledged this need of all men.

That is what being saved is all about. To be saved is to be forgiven of one's sin and brought into a relationship with God. Unless a person has been saved they are lost. They have no relationship with God. They are separated from God. Yet, when we are saved, God forgives us of our sin and makes us His child. We are both reconciled and redeemed when we are saved.


A.      The Price For Sin

The Bible speaks of the "second death." The implication being there is a first death. The first death is when we die physically. The second death is a spiritual death. What is this second or spiritual death? We read in Revelation 20:14, "And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death." It is spending eternity in hell, forever separated from God. That is the ultimate penalty for sin! That was what was being represented in the goat being killed. In its death, symbolically, it was paying the penalty of sin.

If we stopped here, we would have no hope. We would all have to throw up our hands in despair, but thank God, there was something else represented in the death of the goat. Not only do we see the price for sin, but we also see:

B.      The Payment For Sin

As I said earlier, the word "atonement" means, "to cover" or "to conceal." All the Old Testament sacrifices did was cover sin. It did not remove sin. In reality, these sacrifices provided a yearly covering of sin until God's Lamb-the Lord Jesus Christ, came and died on Calvary's cross as the eternal sacrifice.

2 Corinthians 5:21, "For He hath made Him to be sin, for us, Who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him." The word "sin" in the statement, "For He hath made Him to be sin" is the same word that speaks of the sin offering. God made Jesus the sin offering.

Romans 5:10-11: "For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son...And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by Whom we have now received the atonement."  Jesus is our Atonement! Jesus paid the price for sin whereby we could be forgiven of our sin and reconciled to God.


1. As we have seen, one goat was chosen to die as a sin offering. When we look at the second goat that was called the scapegoat, we see that it was allowed to live? We read in verse 10, "But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before the Lord, to make an atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness."

2. We are told that the second goat was let go in the wilderness. In verses 21-22 we see what happened with this second goat. We read, "And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness: And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited: and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness."

3. All the time the High Priest was offering the bullock and first goat, the second goat had been standing at the door of the Tabernacle. When the High Priest had completed the procedures we have considered, he would come back to the second goat. He would place both his hands on the head of the goat, confess over the goat the sins of the people, then have someone take the goat into the wilderness and let the goat go. Now what did all this mean and what did it represent? Let me explain what it all meant in three simple statements. First, let me say a word about:

A.      What Was Done Over The Goat

1. Verse 21 tells us that Aaron laid both of his hands on the head of the goat and that over the goat he confessed "over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins."  There was an admission and confession of sin.

2. Once again we are reminded that our sins must be dealt with if we are to be reconciled to God. How well I remember the day when I came to God and confessed that I was a poor helpless sinner that needed forgiveness. Notice secondly,

B.      What Was Done To The Goat

1. Verse 21 tells us that Aaron not only confessed the sins of people over the goat, but when he placed his hands on the head of the goat he was, "putting them upon the head of the goat."  In that act, Aaron was symbolically placing upon the goat all the sins of the people.

2. When Christ died as our sin offering, God placed on Him the sins of the whole world. God placed on the Lord Jesus your sin and my sin. That's what the Bible means when it says He became sin for us. He was taking upon Himself our sins.

3. Finally, notice:

C.      What Was Done With The Goat

1. Verse 21 tells us that Aaron sent the goat away, "by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness." In other words, a man properly fit for this action was chosen to carry the goat out into the wilderness and turn him loose.

2. What was the meaning behind the taking of the goat out into the wilderness? We read in verse 22, "And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited." Aaron had symbolically put the sins of the people upon the goat. In that sense the goat was bearing the sins of the people.

3. The carrying of the goat out into the wilderness, a place not inhabited by people, a barren place, a place where it could be taken and not return, was saying that their sins had been removed and dismissed. The word "scapegoat" simply means, "to dismiss or remove." On that goat were their sins and as it was led away it was taking their sins away with it.

4. As believers we can say that our sins have been removed as far as the east is from the west. Our sins have been buried in the depths of the sea. Our sins have been blotted out and they will never be remembered against again. We can sing, "Gone, gone, my sins are gone."

5. Jesus is our Scapegoat. He has carried our sins away! Blessed be His name!

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