A man who becomes aware of the sinfulness of sin, and the wrath of God against sin, is a man who will feel the need of having that sin removed. This was the purpose of the scapegoat, who has had the sins of the people of Israel laid upon him on the Day of Atonement. In “The Temple: Its Ministry and Services” by Alfred Edersheim, we read the following about the scapegoat:
“Scripture tells us no more of the destiny of the goat that bore upon him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, than that they ‘shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness,’ and that ‘he shall let go the goat in the wilderness’ (Lev 16:22). But tradition supplements this information.
At last they reached the edge of the wilderness. Here they halted, viewing afar off, while the man led forward the goat, ….. leading the animal backwards, he pushed it over the projecting ledge of rock.
….though confessed guilt was removed from the people to the head of the goat, as the symbolical substitute, yet as the goat was not killed, only sent far away, into ‘a land not inhabited,’ so, under the Old Covenant, sin was not really blotted out, only put away from the people, and put aside till Christ came, not only to take upon Himself the burden of transgression, but to blot it out and to purge it away.”
Although the Scriptures clearly indicated that the goat was to be loosed in the wilderness, it was, in fact, killed. How could the conscience be soothed knowing that the scapegoat was still wandering around in the wilderness and could potentially find its way back? It seems that a living scapegoat would have left a feeling of an incomplete dealing with sin.
But this, I am certain, was God’s intention. Thus preparing the hearts of His people to joyfully receive the Messiah, Who would deal with sin once and for all.
For those who don’t know Jesus as Saviour, the guilt and weight of your sins remains on you. You carry it with you everywhere you go, daily increasing their number. In your quieter moments, you feel the weight of your sin. There is this unexplainable sense of guilt. And it makes you afraid.
But God has not only provided the scapegoat, He has killed the scapegoat. Jesus Christ, the sinless Son of God, accepted on Himself the punishment that was due to us, for our sins. Those who turn to Him for forgiveness will find that His payment on their behalf was sufficient to put away all sins for all time.
This is the message of the gospel.