Leviticus 16:10 "The Scapegoat shall be presented live before the Lord, to make atonement upon it..."
Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is next week, beginning September 4th. If you are not Jewish, you’re probably thinking ‘so what’. But this beginning of the Jewish season of repentance is one of the clearest pictures of God’s personal engagement in our lives, as He provides forgiveness for sin through the voluntary sacrifice of His scapegoat, Jesus Christ.
On "Rosh Hashanah", the rabbis teach that God decides whether or not a person’s name is written in the Book of Life (Exodus 32:32-33). Jews greet each other by saying "May you be inscribed in the Book of Life". Then, from "Rosh Hashanah" to "Yom Kippur", called the "10 Days of Penitence", each person is called to repentance.
On Yom Kippur, also known as "The Day of Atonement" (this year, on September 14), God’s judgment on each person for the coming year is sealed. Jews greet each other on this day by saying "May you be sealed in the Book of Life".
God’s original intent for all Jews on Yom Kippur was to humble themselves (Leviticus 16:29 = "inflict their souls"), recognizing their sinfulness and spiritual bankruptcy, acknowledging their total dependency on God and their need for a substitutionary ‘scapegoat’, a sacrifice to atone for their sins.
Webster’s Dictionary defines ‘scapegoat’ as ‘the one who takes the blame for another’. The Hebrew word means "the scapegoat for complete sending away". God provided a visible picture of what Jesus Christ accomplished on the Cross through this Hebrew practice of sin atonement during Yom Kippur.
On Yom Kippur, the high priest presents two goats before God, the first being the goat "for Jehovah", shedding its blood as a sign for the remission of sin. The second goat, the ‘scapegoat’, has all the sins of the nation of Israel placed on its head by the high priest, and then a man is chosen to lead the scapegoat into the wilderness and let it loose, to signify the one-time removal of sin from the nation of Israel.
Sound familiar? Compare this ceremonial practice in Leviticus 16 (1200 BC) with Isaiah 53’s prophecy of the Suffering Servant (730 BC), where God says He will "lay on Him the sins of us all". Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of this historical picture of God’s provision for our sin: our final, 1-time atoning sacrifice for permanent forgiveness. He is our scapegoat, sent away into the wilderness as a picture of our justification before a holy God (our sins have been completely removed from us).
Whether you are Jewish or not does not matter in God’s eyes. God’s provision to remove your sins is available to you through Jesus Christ, your personal scapegoat. You only have to ask Him.
Ed Croteau is a resident of Lee’s Summit and hosts a weekly study in Lees Summit called "Faith: Substance and Evidence." He can be reached with your questions through the Lee’s Summit Tribune at Editor@lstribune.net.