What do you think of when I use the word ‘scapegoat’? If you’re like me you think of a fall guy, someone who takes blame, or even a ‘whipping boy’. If you’ve stayed with me for these six weeks then you’re ready for one more type or shadow of Christ from the Old Testament. If Nehushtan wasn’t enough, let’s try Azazel.
Here’s the story (Lev. 16). The LORD told Moses that on the Day of Atonement he was to have two goats ready for a sin offering. One was to be slaughtered and its blood sprinkled on the Mercy Seat for the sins of the people. It’s spiritual designation was ‘for Yahweh‘. However, the other goat, it’s meaning a little more hidden, was designated ‘for Azazel‘.
Here’s the mystery of that scapegoat. Azazel became the personification of impurity and wickedness as the priest transferred the sin of the people to him. This goat was then led into the wilderness and released. After the Temple was built the priest took the goat to a mountaintop and shoved him over the edge to descend into death. Get the picture? Jesus fulfilled this foreshadow as He became sin and descended into the wilderness of hell. This sent goat, Azazel, had a scarlet thread fastened onto his horns to symbolize the imputation or charge of sin.
Jesus fulfilled this juxtaposition, this comparison seen in the two goats. He was the goat who was sacrificed for sin and He was also the goat who was sent away carrying the sin of the people. I find this analogy fascinating. It’s beautifully pictured in Is. 53:4-6, 8 as the Messiah is prophesied to bear our griefs, carry our sorrow, the LORD laid on Him the iniquity of us all, and He was cut off from the land of the living. That’s the picture of ‘for Azazel‘. Yes, He was the One Who was pierced and crushed, led to the slaughter, and poured out His soul to death (vs. 10-12) ‘for Yahweh‘ but this comparison of the two goats shows us that He was both.
Read what King Hezekiah had to say after he was healed:
Behold, it was for my welfare that I had great bitterness; but in love you have delivered my life from the pit of destruction, for you have cast all my sins behind your back. (Isaiah 38:17 ESV)
King Hezekiah had a revelation of the truth of the scapegoat. His sin was taken away and left behind God’s back, never to remembered again. May we all remember that truth; God has placed our sin behind His back, out of His sight. We are washed clean when we come to Christ with our sin.
Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love. He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. (Micah 7:18, 19 ESV)