Summary: Part of an Easter series this sermon looks at the OT foreshadows of the cross. In this sermon the scapegoat analogy is applied to Jesus.
THE GOAT THAT GOT AWAY
Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to blame all your troubles on someone else? You know, when you fail at some project, pass the blame off on someone who caused you to mess up. Maybe you do that anyways. The truth is we all do that at some point.
Some psychologists will counsel you to look into your past and pull out your old wounds. This is not a bad thing per se. It is only a real problem when the counselor, whom we assume is not a Christian, encourages you to blame your parents for the way you are. Part of who you are is in fact due to the way your parents raised you and influenced you in your formative years. But to blame them for your present problems is to deny any responsibility for who you are and the decisions you make.
To lay the blame for our actions on someone or something else is a very common reaction. Murderers will blame drugs, alcohol, abuse as a child, or violent TV or video games for their crimes. Employees will blame fellow employees for making them miss deadlines. Parents will blame their own parents for their inability to raise their children. In every walk of life we are prone to look for a scapegoat, as we call it, a person to lay the blame on.
Wayne Dyer challenges this propensity of ours saying “All blame is a waste of time. No matter how much fault you find with another, and regardless of how much you blame him, it will not change you. The only thing blame does is to keep the focus off you when you are looking for external reasons to explain your unhappiness or frustration. You may succeed in making another feel guilty of something by blaming him, but you won’t succeed in changing whatever it is about you that is making you unhappy.
There’s the problem: we feel inadequate, like failures, like we have fallen short of the standard others have set for us so we need to blame someone. And the truth is that in some cases someone has to pay the price for our mistakes and our failings.
The Israelites actually had a day set aside for laying all of their sins and failures on something else. In Leviticus 16 it is called the Day of Atonement, or Yom Kippur. As we study this passage we will learn that there is a scapegoat provided that bears all the blames of the world.
1. The Alienating Nature of Sin
Aaron’s two sons died before the Ark of the Covenant because they approached the LORD in an improper way. God is holy – He is pure and sinless. Moses is thus told that there is a right way to approach God and offer sacrifices for sin. Once a year, Aaron, the high priest, is to purify himself and offer a sacrifice for the nation to make them acceptable to God again. This year, Yom Kippur is in late September. Though Jews no longer are able to sacrifice (no temple) they still consider this the holiest day of the year. They fast for 25 hours and do not work on this special day.
The reason for this day is to deal with the sins of the past year. Because God is holy, sin separates us from God. We cannot have relationship with God since we are guilty of breaking his commands. So on this day, Jews confess their sins and plead for God’s mercy so that they can have relationship with him again.
Leviticus 16 confronts the all encompassing scope of sin. To use a baseball analogy, it covers all the bases. There are four descriptions of sin that leave nothing out:
a) Uncleanness – In v. 16 sin is called spiritual pollution; uncleanness. This refers to the dwelling place of God, the temple. We don’t know what it was that the Jews did, but they might have allowed some impure thing, like farmer sausage into the temple. Or they failed to offer a proper sacrifice. The dwelling of God has become unfit for his habitation of it. If the temple is polluted where do you go to meet with God?
b) Rebellion – Sin is called rebellion in v. 16 & 21. Uncleanness may have been unintentional; this sin is outright and willful disobedience. Men and women know they are doing wrong when they rebel. This is more than breaking a law, it is a relational sin. It is more suitable to think of it as our infidelity to God as a lover, our disloyalty to God as friend, and our ignoring God as a generous Father that places a barrier of conflict and anger between us. It is the anger that we as friends experience when a friend wrongs us and is quite right.