I’m reading the book of Leviticus in my devotions. In the past I would speed read my way through all those regulations about clean and unclean animals, ritual washings and whatever. Not any more. Did you know that more direct words of the Lord are recorded in Leviticus than any other book of the Bible? I didn’t know that. Now I do.
Let’s focus on a couple of verses in chapter 16. The section about the scapegoat. You remember–two goats were involved. I’ll portray one of them, the old goat!! One goat was sacrificed, signifying God’s covering of our sins through shed blood. The other goat would be released and sent into the wilderness( Hebrew ‘Azazel’), signifying that our sins have been released. Free of them, and free to flee their dire consequences. This is the scapegoat.
That’s what I’ve always heard, and always taught. However, both my Bible translation(ESV) and a new commentary indicate that a slightly different meaning may be in the offing. It has to do with that Hebrew word ‘Azazel'(verses 8 and 10). Most Bible scholars would honestly say that there is no definitive translation of that word into English. Traditionally, it’s meant ‘scapegoat’. This goat symbolically carries the sins of God’s people away from them into the wilderness. Some feel that the word ‘Azazel’ has more to do with a location where garbage would be deposited or possibly even the owner of the dump. In other words, the first goat would sacrifice its blood to cover sins. But the second would take them to where they originally came from, the pit of hell, to Satan himself.
‘Azazel’ –dumping them off like a garbage truck would do at a smelly, rotten garbage pit. Sin would return to its roost. Like a boomerang, sin comes back to its dank and decaying haunt. Interesting. God forgives our sins and marks them ‘return to sender’. A few years back we ordered a nice set of dinnerware from a large internet retailer. They arrived by delivery truck, where the driver opened our back screen door and tossed the box in onto the floor of our utility room. I heard this from a couple of rooms away. Lifted that box of dishes only to hear shards and pieces hitting each other. Broken dishes! Large platters in pieces! Calling to the driver, I handed him back the box, and told him that I heard what he had done. He was one ‘unhappy camper’. Like I was accusing him of mishandling that box. Well, he did! So, back it went. Broken dishes… returned to sender.
God forgives our sins…and sends them back to where they came from. In the words of His Son from the cross…’It is finished’.
Prayer: Dear Lord, for your forgiveness we are so grateful. You cover us and cast our sins aside. In Jesus’ name. Amen.