A scapegoat often describes a person who is being used (so-to-speak) to take the guilt away from the party who actually committed the offence. In the Bible, the purpose of the scapegoat was to remove the sins of Israel from the people … never to return again. Departing forever were last year’s compilation of the likes of bitterness, anger, and unforgiveness as the goat, with the remains of the sin sacrifice in tow, walked the sins of Israel into the wilderness. But even after everyone’s sins were cleansed, the process had to be repeated annually. Consequentially, as the days passed, God’s people were once again carrying the weight of guilt and shame of their sin. Under this system, the people of Israel were never truly free from their sin.
In all actuality, the scapegoat system resembles the structure that most Christians still adhere too. We consistently visit an “alter” to confess our sin to a man, God, or both trusting that they will be forgiven and once again be taken away. Afterward we feel better knowing that we are operating with a clean slate. The feeling of freedom lasts until the next sin, the next Sunday, the next month or the next year when we will once again repeat the process. The truth is that God’s plan for the scapegoat was to expose the real issue – man has a birth defect. Man was born into sin and his nature kept him sinning. Since Adam, the seed of sin has been passed down from generation to generation. (Romans 5:12) The REAL purpose of the scapegoat was to teach the Israelites that what they needed was a scapegoat that could “once-and-for-all” take away ALL the sins of the whole world. I give you Jesus – the last scapegoat. Jesus, unlike the sacrifices of old, took ALL the past, present, and future sins away – once and for all. (Hebrews 10:10-12)
For most Christians it is not difficult to adopt the idea that by one man’s act of disobedience, sin and its penalty entered the world. But it is virtually impossible for many of us to grasp that by a single act of obedience by Jesus, sin and its penalty have been carried away. (Romans 5-17-21). Jesus one-and-for all time free us from the guilt and shame of sin. Yet, we still have a way of treating ourselves and others as if the goat left our house then returned with the same guilt he toted away. Even with the scapegoat, the people never held on to things for no more than a year. But I counsel people all the time that reminisce for years over their sins and the sins of others. We must learn to accept that Jesus did all the work necessary to settle the sin issue. Receive His forgiveness. In turn, you will be free to forgive their faults. (Colossians3:13/Ephesians 4:32)