Weekly Pastoral Message prepared by Rev. Murray Adamthwaite
for Sunday 9th August 1998
From the Pastor: Animal Lessons VIII
"The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to a solitary land; and he shall release the goat in the wilderness." Leviticus 16:22|
When we look at domesticated animals the focus is not so much on their
habits, but their uses for the benifit of man. A horse is a beast of
burden, and is also used for military purposes, even up until quite
recently. A cow is for producing milk, and a sheep for wool. where then
does a goat fit in, especially in antiquity? Like a cow, it produces a
good quality milk, the hair can be shorn for making clothing, and the skin
for making wine-skins. In eastern lands, especially those in the
Syria-Palestine region, the goats usually graze with the sheep, and are
often indistinguishable from the latter, the goat's upturned tail
constituting the only difference.
There is in the Old Testament one overriding use above all these domestic
benefits: the goat's role in the sacrificial system. They were regularly
sacrificed as sin offerings or burnt offerings, always as a substitute for
the worshipper to indicate the principle by which Christ Himself would bear
away our sins, "the just for the unjust" (1 Peter 3:18). One procedure in
particular, however, illustrated this principle more than any other. That
was on the great Day of Atonement, when two goats were brought, one for a
sin offering, while the other one remained alive. The latter had all sins
confessed over it and lain on the head of this goat. Then this "scapegoat"
was led away into the wilderness.
A scapegoat! In popular parlance this has come to mean a blame figure,
someone else on whom to pin the blame for our own folly or misdemeanour.
However, the Israelite scapegoat pointed to Christ as its fulfilment, which
means in turn that there is only one genuine scapegoat: The Lord Jesus
Christ. But to own Him as such entails that we first face our sins as
our own, not someone else's; then and only then may we lay our sins
on Him as our substitute. That is the gospel message of the goat.