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 16:21-22)
Leviticus chapter 16 describes the Day of Atonement. This is the most important day on the Jewish Old Testament calendar. On the Day of Atonement, just once per year, the High Priest would enter the Holy of Holies within the temple, the inner most part of the temple. The Old Testament temple was constructed of three parts. The courtyard which contained the large laver for washing the sacrifices and the large alter for burning animal sacrifices, the Holy Place inside the temple building which contained the golden lampstand, the table of showbread, and the alter of incense, and then the Holy of Holies (aka, Most Holy Place) which contained the Ark of the Covenant, considered to be the throne of God. Once per year, the High Priest would take two perfect goats without blemish. One would be sacrificed and then its blood would be cast on the Ark of the Covenant as a way of making an atonement (a covering) for the sins of God’s people. With the other perfect animal, the High Priest would lay his hands on the animal’s head and confess all the sins of God’s people, essentially placing their sins upon the innocent animal and then releasing that animal to wander in the wilderness, essentially carrying the sins of God’s people from the presence of God. This goat is also called the Scapegoat.
The author of Hebrews tells us that “when Christ came as high priest of the good things that have come to be, passing through the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made by hands, that is, not belonging to this creation, he entered once for all into the sanctuary, not with the blood of goats and calves but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption” (9:11-12 NASB). Christ was born into the world to be the perfect and great High Priest for his people, to offer himself as the perfect sacrifice to atone for our sins and to be the Scapegoat we so desperately need. These blessings come to us by faith alone in Christ alone. Christ was born in Bethlehem not just to be king, not just to be our High Priest, but to be the once-for-all sacrifice for sin. Advent is a time to celebrate the birth of our great High Priest who offered himself as the perfect sacrifice for us.
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