And Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and 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. The goat shall bear all their iniquities on itself to a remote area, and he shall let the goat go free in the wilderness. Leviticus 16:21-22
Much is required to approach a holy God. It is not to be taken lightly. There are restrictions in place to approach the Ark and offer the sacrifices. A thick curtain separates the Ark from the tabernacle. Only the high priest can enter this space, called the holy of hollies, and only once a year. On the Day of Atonement (or “Yom Kippur”), the high priest brings two young goats and a bull to make a sacrifice offering on behalf of all the people. Blood is shed for the forgiveness of sins. Fitting that it is shed over the Ark of the Covenant, the place where the law is kept. The law that shows us what holiness looks like, but also that we can’t keep it on our own.
At God’s direction, one goat is sacrificed with the bull, and the other one is set free. The blood from the sacrificed goat and bull is sprinkled on God’s mercy seat on the Ark of the Covenant. The priest then puts his hands on the other goat and confesses the sins of the nation, transferring them onto the goat. The goat is brought deep into the wilderness and released with the sins of the people.
Two goats – payment for sin and removal of sin. Death and freedom.
For the Israelites, it becomes part of their customs and rituals. But it is temporary forgiveness and cleansing. It is a shadow of the sacrifice Jesus will come to offer. Not only does Jesus come to die on the cross to shed blood in payment for our sins, but He also transfers His righteousness to us. He takes our punishment AND sets us free. Free from guilt and condemnation. Free to approach a holy God.
Question: How do you see the work of Jesus in each goat – the sacrificed goat and the scapegoat set free?