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Communion Meditations (2016)


Leviticus 16:7-10

Originally scheduled for July 10

Mention the word “scapegoat” today, and you conjure up a picture of some unfortunate bureaucrat who is taking the blame for some senior official’s wrongdoing. The person is usually an underling that you’ve never heard of, just as high up in the hierarchy as is needed for blame, but as low as possible — after all, this person is expendable. Usually this scapegoat has some complicity in whatever was going on, and for all practical purposes knew that this might happen to him. If the scandal is high enough, and the scapegoat is also high enough, he might escape with just being fired. Otherwise, there is usually some jail time involved. But the defining point is this: even if he was complicit in whatever the scandal might be, he’s not really the person at fault. He’s just the fall guy.

The word “scapegoat” comes to us by way of the King James version of the Bible. On the Day of Atonement, the high priest would obtain two goats. These goats each had a role to play; they got that role by random chance — we would say, the role of the dice.

·         The first goat was sacrificed as an atonement. In the Old Testament system, shedding the blood of animals was presumed to atone for the sins of the people. This is only one of many such sacrifices prescribed in the Old Testament. But it was done on that most sacred day, the Day of Atonement, which came around only once a year.

·         The second goat became the scapegoat. The priest symbolically laid all the sins of the people on the head of the scapegoat. Apparently it was not sufficient to have an atonement sacrifice, you had to haul those sins away from the view of God. The scapegoat, therefore, was taken out into the wilderness a sufficient distance where it would lose its way and never return.

Somehow, both of these goats were necessary.

These goats foreshadow the role of Christ in the New Testament. The fact that this happened only once a year is a foreshadowing of the one time atonement of Christ on the Cross. Christ takes upon himself both functions of those goats:

·         He is, of course, our atonement sacrifice.

·         But he is also the one who takes away our sins, removing them from the sight of God so that they may be seen no more.

As the psalmist put it,

As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.  (Psalms 103:12 NASB)


In communion we see the picture of this: we see the atonement, and we see Christ carrying away our sins. As you partake this morning, give thought to how he has removed your sins. If you are in faithful communion with him he will help you keep them out in the wilderness.

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