Leviticus 16:8-10 – “And Aaron shall cast lots over the two goats, one lot for the LORD and the other lot for Azazel. And Aaron shall present the goat on which the lot fell for the LORD and use it as a sin offering, but the goat on which the lot fell for Azazel shall be presented alive before the LORD to make atonement over it, that it may be sent away into the wilderness to Azazel.”
We here in 2016 United States really have no way to truly comprehend what it was like for the Israelites of the Old Testament to be diligently following the Old Testament sacrificial system. The amount of blood that was shed and animals that were sacrificed would truly leave us astounded. The detail God gives to the nation of Israel with respect to how an animal is to be sacrificed, and for what purpose, shows that God was particularly concerned with the detail of how his people worshipped him. Yet, with all that detail, and all that blood, Hebrews 10:4 simply says that it is “impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” What an incredible statement to make in light of all the gory details of sacrifices given in the Old Testament.
The most important sacrifice that was given in the Old Testament was the one offered on the Day of Atonement. On this day, the High Priest was to bathe, put on special garments, then sacrifice a bull as an offering for himself and his family. This blood was to be sprinkled on the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies. Then Aaron was to bring two goats, one of which was sacrificed because of the sin of the nation, the other was to be used as a scapegoat. These three animals all took on the sins of the people. According to Leviticus 16:21-22, the priest would lay his hands on the scapegoat, and he would “confess over it all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions, all their sins. And he shall put them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who is in readiness.” After taking on the sins of the nation, the scapegoat was cast out into the wilderness outside the camp.
During this Easter season, we celebrate the fact that Jesus is the perfect fulfillment of the entire sacrificial system. He is the great High Priest who is also the lamb that was slain who has taken on our sin like the scapegoat took on the sins of the nation. In the great exchange, those who are Christ’s give their sins to Jesus as Jesus gives them his righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). This is called double imputation, and is a part of the fulfillment of the scapegoat sacrifice. Jesus himself was sacrificed outside the camp after being “despised and rejected by men” (Isaiah 53:3).
It is “impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4), and so we rejoice this Easter season that Jesus became the once for all sacrifice, and is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God. The priests stand continually offering sacrifices, spilling the blood of hundreds of animals. Jesus shed his blood one time. Praise God for his perfect providence in instituting a sacrificial system that was imperfect and incomplete, so that the perfect and complete Son of God would fulfill all the demands of the law, and render us forgiven, not just for past sins but also for future sins! Praise God for his holiness and divine wisdom!