As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us. – Psalm 103:12

Text: Leviticus 16:8, 21-22; Isaiah 53:6

Summary: The scapegoat is explained as a picture of Jesus removing our sins.

Prop: a picture of a scapegoat.

I want to tell you a story to explain what the word “scapegoat” means.

One day all the children in the kindergarten were crowding around the cookie bowl trying to get a cookie. Someone knocked over the cookie bowl. The children scrambled to get away as it crashed to the floor. The teacher heard the loud noise and came over to see scattered cookie pieces and broken glass on the floor. “Who did this?” she asked. No one said a word. They all felt guilty because each of them had been near the bowl when it fell. But no one knew whom to blame. “Woof!” barked Spot, the school mascot. “Oh, so you know who did this?” the teacher asked the dog. “Well, since no one wants to take the blame I suppose you will be the scapegoat and take the blame for them all,” she explained. “Now you will be sent out into the school yard and you can’t come back inside!”

The Scapegoat by William Holman Hunt, 1854, provided courtesy of CGFA.
The Scapegoat by William Holman Hunt, 1854, provided courtesy of CGFA.

So from the story we know that a scapegoat is someone that takes the blame for others. While the children of Israel were wandering in the wilderness God told them to have one special day each year called the Day of Atonement. On that day the priest would make a special sacrifice for all the people’s sins. As part of that sacrifice he would take two goats, one that would be killed for the Lord, and one that would be kept alive for the scapegoat.*

(Read Leviticus 16:8, 21-22.)

The priest would lay both hands on the scapegoat and say a prayer. The prayer was a confession of sins for all the people’s wrongdoings the past year. When he said that prayer he was asking God to put all the blame for their sin on the goat. Then the goat was led out into the wilderness and let go and never allowed to return to the camp of the Israelites again. That was God’s way of saying he would not hold them responsible for those things they had done wrong ever again. They could see that their sins, now on the head of the goat, were being removed from them.

Look how far I’m stretching my hands apart. (Hold your arms wide apart.) I want you to pretend that my arms could stretch all the way out the windows and so far that you couldn’t see my hands anymore. The Bible says that God has removed our sins from us as far as the east is from the west. That is a long, long way. Jesus took away all our sins (or badness) when he died on the cross for us. The Bible says in Isaiah 53:6, All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. Jesus took the blame for us. He takes away the sins of everyone who turns to him by faith and trusts him as Savior.

Let us pray: Dear Lord Jesus, I’m sorry I do bad things sometimes. Thank you for taking away my sins. Help me to be your child. Amen.

* For Azazel (pronounced az-aw-ZALE) meaning goat of departure. The goat offered as a sin offering is a picture of Christ yet to come. It was slain as a sin offering and then burned outside the camp; Jesus was crucified for the sins of the world outside the gates of Jerusalem. Likewise, the scapegoat is a picture of Jesus removing our sins.

©2001 by Jim Kerlin. All rights reserved.

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