Summary: Sixth in a series taken from Ephesians 1, this series delves into the riches that we know through our relationship with Christ.
The ritual was a familiar one to the people of Israel—once a year, the High Priest would select one bull and two goats—innocent animals. The bull he would sacrifice as atonement for his own sins and the sins of his household. Then he would slaughter one of the two goats, take its blood inside the veil of the tabernacle, and sprinkle it on the mercy seat as an offering for sins of the people.
Finishing this task, he would leave the tabernacle and go to the other goat. According to Leviticus 16:21, he would “lay both of his hands on the goat’s head and confess over it all the sins and rebellion of the Israelites. In this way, he will lay the people’s sins on the head of the goat.” Then this goat—called the “scapegoat”—would be led away by a man previously appointed to the task to a distant area of the wilderness, there to be released, to live and die and never again to be seen by the people of Israel. Why was this done? Again according to Leviticus 16, “the goat will carry all the people’s sins upon itself into a desolate land.”
What does a billy goat in the wild have to do with me? Well, more than you might think! This scenario, which took place yearly on the Day of Atonement, illustrates the twin truths of Ephesians 1:7, where we find “redemption” equated with “the forgiveness of sins”. Last week, we talked about the fact that redemption means that we are released from the bondage of sin by the means of a payment of a ransom price. Whereas the goat had to be sacrificed yearly, Christ once-and-for-all paid the price for our sin when He died on Calvary (Hebrews 10:1-10).
Let’s look at the other billy goat, for he shows us what happens to all of the sins that we commit (Hebrews 10:17-18). In the second goat, God was saying by visual example, ‘all your sins are forgiven, and I will remember them no more!” But this raises an immediate question of those of us who are paying close attention: how can an all-knowing God not remember my sins? I mean, I sure do, and you do too, right? Is His memory faulty? Is He blind to our sin? Unaware? Unconcerned about my sin?
• Can I tell my neighbor off, and God won’t care?
• Can I pitch in the towel on my marriage and have God treat that with flippancy?
• Does God’s forgiveness give me a license to cheat on my taxes, sleep around, cuss out the kids, surf the ‘Net for porn, kick the dog, or go into debt to buy things I don’t need with money I don’t have to impress people I don’t like?
Paul answers this for us in Romans 6:2, when he says, simply, “God forbid!” Taking a laissez-faire attitude toward sin in my own life is contrary to the work of the indwelling Holy Spirit, and if a person can treat sin with blissful unconcern, rationalizing that “well, God has forgiven me”, it’s time for some serious inventory! A Christian growing in grace has a desire to please God—but all will stumble, fall, fail, sin. Yet, the Bible says that God no more remembers our sins. How is this so?
• Not that He “forgets”
• Not that He’s unaware
• Rather, He sees me, as it were, thru “Rose Colored Glasses”, stained red by the blood of Jesus
He removes from Himself the memory of our sin in the sense that He does not in any way, shape, or form hold our sin against us; it is as if it had never been committed. In this sense, He forgives and forgets, if you will. Romans 8:1 tells us that “there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Forgiveness has been purchased with the blood of Jesus Christ; it only remains for the sinner to in faith appropriate that purchase for himself.
Stop there for a moment: do you believe that that is true? Do you believe that the forgiveness of your sins is complete through the work of Jesus Christ on the cross? Or do you beat yourself up because of the memory that you have of the sin that God the Father says He will not hold against you? Every now and again you’ll hear someone say, “I just can’t forgive myself”. ‘Scuse me, but who told you that you had to? Where did you ever get the idea that you need to, or even can, “forgive yourself”? Well, I know, of course: that’s what you’ll hear from Dr. Phil and Oprah and many preachers. Go to a site called “allaboutgod.com”, and you’ll find these words: “forgiving yourself is essential”; then, in the next paragraph, come these words: “forgiving yourself is not specifically addressed in the Bible.” Get that? It’s “essential”, and yet the Bible somehow neglects to mention it! Maybe because it’s not only not essential to “forgive yourself”, but because it’s not even possible!