And Aaron shall cast lots over the two goats, one lot for the LORD and the other lot for Azazel. And Aaron shall present the goat on which the lot fell for the LORD and use it as a sin offering…Then he shall kill the goat of the sin offering that is for the people and bring its blood inside the veil and do with its blood as he did with the blood of the bull, sprinkling it over the mercy seat and in front of the mercy seat. Thus he shall make atonement for the Holy Place, because of the uncleannesses of the people of Israel and because of their transgressions, all their sins. And so he shall do for the tent of meeting, which dwells with them in the midst of their uncleannesses…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 16:8-10, 15-16, 21-22).

One theme is Scripture is quite evident – God demands the shedding of blood for the forgiveness of sin (atonement means the covering of our sin). This scene in Leviticus is a clear portrayal of Christ’s work as the spotless Lamb of God and our ultimate high priest, whose sacrifice cleansed His people once and for all. The writer of Hebrews explains:

“For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins…then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second…And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins” (Hebrews 10:1-4, 10-11).

As priceless and precious as this is, we often forget about the 2nd offering, the scapegoat depicted in Leviticus 16. They needed forgiveness, the removal of the penalty for their transgressions, but they (we) also needed the guilt of sin displaced. Many people have received God’s gracious forgiveness found only in Christ but have failed to embrace the removal of guilt that includes. We are forgiven! Completely! I know this is hard to accept, but it is true. And when Jesus said, “it is finished” while hanging on that grace-filled yet cursed tree, it was a God-breathed fact. So the Lord directed the Israelites to demonstrate this with the scapegoat. Sending it far away and leaving it there (there is a Hebrew tradition to actually follow the goats into the wilderness and push them off a cliff to make sure they did not come back).

What a picture! Off goes the goat and off goes our sin (on to the bleeding back of Jesus) – removed as far as the East is from the West (Psalm 103:12), buried in the sea of God’s forgetfulness (Isaiah 43:25; Hebrews 8:12), to be remembered no more (Yes, I know, sovereign God hasn’t forgotten anything but it is as if He has blocked out the vision of our rebellious transgressions as He gazes on the glory of Calvary and adores His Son’s payment for His chosen – “I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake;  and I will not remember your sins”).

We need to claim this. Not to live in license and unrestrained sin; that’s not the way of one who has surrendered to and follows this beautiful Savior and Lord. But it is freedom (see John 8:32 and Galatians 5). Nothing can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:38-39). And there is no accuser whose claims against us will be upheld in the courtroom of an infinitely merciful and just God (Revelation 12:7-12).  We can thank the shed blood of Christ for that.

We would do well to remember and savor the words of Hebrews; as the writer continues:

“But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified…then he adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin” (Hebrews 10:12-14, 17-18).

And now the lyrics from Nothing but the Blood, written in 1876 by Robert Lowry:

What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

For my pardon, this I see,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
For my cleansing this my plea,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Nothing can for sin atone,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
Naught of good that I have done,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

This is all my hope and peace,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
This is all my righteousness,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Now by this I’ll overcome—
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
Now by this I’ll reach my home—
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Glory! Glory! This I sing—
Nothing but the blood of Jesus,
All my praise for this I bring—
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

    • Refrain:
      Oh! precious is the flow
      That makes me white as snow;
      No other fount I know,
      Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
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