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    Once and For All | Part 2: Priests, Bulls, & Goats

    April 14, 2021

April 14, 2021

Once and For All | Part 2: Priests, Bulls, & Goats

So here’s the situation:

1. God’s people are sinful and corrupt humans (like all of us) who are going to keep sinning.
2. God is holy and incorruptible, yet has promised to be with us.

So God’s people (sinful and corrupt) need God (holy and perfect) to purify and cleanse them so that God’s promise can be realized. They can’t do anything but keep on sinning. They need God to do something. And what God initiates through the Law was a ritual system that, through its symbolic actions, led God’s people to:

1. Turn them away from sin (expose the ugliness of sin and the holiness of God and the cost associated with it so that they would repent)
2. Provide just payment for the hard cost of the “debt.”
3. Provide a way to cleanse and purify the community from the infectious nature of sin.
4. Ensure God maintains his presence with his people.

This brings us to God’s alternative way of dealing with Israel’s sin and rebellion. It’s a symbolic ritual that takes up an existing practice among Israel’s neighbors (animal sacrifice) and transforms its meaning in order to accomplish those four things.

You can read about the details of what this actually looked like in Leviticus 16, but insofar as animal sacrifice is concerned:

1. The High Priest (Aaron in Leviticus 16) would present his own bull as a sin offering to purify himself and his family, “making them right” with the Lord. He would collect the animal’s blood (that is, its life) and dip his finger in it and walk into the center of the tabernacle where the Ark of the Covenant was. On its lid was a kind of “seat” called the Mercy Seat, and Aaron would sprinkle blood on the east side of the seat, as well as in front of it. This blood and this act were the payment for Aaron’s sin and his family’s sin.
2. Then he would go back out and sacrifice the male goat. Whereas the sacrifice of the bull was to represent payment for Aaron’s sin and his family’s sin, this sacrifice of a goat was to represent payment for the sin of all God’s people. Then Aaron would take blood from this sacrifice and do the same thing: sprinkling some on the east side of the Mercy Seat, and then some in front of it.
3. Then Aaron would come back out and get the second goat. With the second goat, he would place his hands on the goats head and would then confess the sins of all the people of God, symbolically transferring the people’s guilt from them onto the goat.
4. Then a designated person would walk out of the area into a desolate part of the wilderness with that goat as a symbolic demonstration of the people’s sin and guilt being carried away from them forever, never to come back.

Every. Year. The seventh month, the 10th day, every year.

Why?

1. Turn them away from sin (expose the ugliness of sin and the holiness of God and the cost associated with it so that they would repent).
2. Provide just payment for the hard cost of the “debt.”
3. Provide a way to cleanse and purify the community from the infectious nature of sin.
4. Ensure God maintains his presence with his people.

This substitute is not offered by humans hoping to appease a volatile and angry deity. It’s precisely the opposite! This substitute is provided by God himself. Ultimately, these sacrifices showed the Israelites how much God wanted to stay in his covenant relationship with them.

Next time, we’ll look at God’s perfect solution.

Rob Tims

Rob is Teaching Pastor at Blackman Baptist Church.