Grace Words

A Daily Bible Reader's Blog

Presented by Mike Tune, Pulpit Minister for the Church of Christ in Falls Church and Amazing Grace International

Azazel

And Aaron shall cast lots over the two goats, one lot for the Lord and the other lot for Azazel (Leviticus 16:8).

The tenth day of the seventh month of Israel’s year was the “Day of Atonement.” On that day, and that day alone, the High Priest of Israel would sacrifice a bull for his own sins and a goat for the sins of the people. The blood of both sacrifices would be brought into the Most Holy Place of the Tabernacle and sprinkled before the Lord. Then, he would take another goat (the one for “Azazel”), place his hands on it and confess the sins of the people. That goat would then be let go into the wilderness. This was the imagery: one goat paid the price for sin. The other took the sins away when he was let loose..

Most modern translations call this latter goat the one for “Azazel.” The problem is, we don’t know what “Azazel” was. Since we don’t really know the meaning of the word, modern translators leave it alone – you have a Hebrew word expressed in English letters. But if you look in older translations, you’ll see it translated “scapegoat.”

A scapegoat is one who bears another’s blame. Regardless of the meaning of “Azazel,” that’s really what the goat was.

When you come to the New Testament, Jesus is both goats. It is his own blood that paid the price for our sins (the atonement – Hebrews 2:17) and it is he who bears our sins outside the camp (Hebrews 13:11-14). He is our Azazel. He is our “scapegoat.”
Bearing shame and scoffing rude
In my place condemned he stood.
Sealed my pardon with His blood
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Reading Through the Bible, Saturday, February 5. Leviticus 16-19

Anyone committing sin is guilty before God – whether they know they are committing sin or not.  God still holds them accountable.  There is a responsibility for knowing the will of the Lord, and for following it, and for being reflective and contemplative of your personal life, and for being honest when you choose the wrong road.  Recognizing sin, the responsible person might bring a sacrifice to the Lord and find forgiveness (atonement).

But God was unwilling to leave it up to individual responsibility.  He certainly knew not everyone was going to be responsible.  Perhaps also, he wanted to be sure to remind Israel of sin’s seriousness.

Sin’s infection, in the mind of God, was pervasive.  It affected not only people, but things.  So, once a year, the High Priest would make special sacrifices.  With one sacrifice, he and his family would find forgiveness.  With another sacrifice, he would cleanse the Most Holy Place, the Tabernacle, and the Altar of the sins associated with being among sinful people.  With a final sacrifice, he would secure atonement for the sins of Israel.

This “Day of Atonement” was a special day.  No one could work on that day but the priests, and with the day off, Israel could contemplate the enormity of her sin, and the high cost of grace.

Sin is, today, no less pervasive, and no less serious.  But today, that seriousness is underscored by a regular reminder in the Lord’s Supper of the price God paid for our atonement: no less than the life of His son, Jesus.