Leviticus 16 - 27, Numbers 1 - 3
The second half of Leviticus begins with additional instructions from the Lord regarding the Day of Atonement. At the onset of Chapter 16, we are reminded of the loss of Aaron’s two sons, Nadab and Abihu, who violated prior instructions from the Lord as they presented “unauthorized fire”, counter to the prescribed methods of worship. As severe as this may seem, the text hearkens back to this event reminding us of God’s holy nature, whose presence will not coincide with the existence of sin. Consequently, God defines the instructions of the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) to Moses, a piece of which involved the selection of a scapegoat by lot.
Leviticus 16:21 says, “He is to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all of the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites — all their sins — and put them on the goat’s head. He shall send the goat away into the desert in the care of a man appointed for the task.”
The goat was to be physically removed from the presence of God and from the people, symbolizing the removal of their sins. During the temple period, the scapegoat was traditionally led out of the Eastern gate, toward the Mount of Olives, and into the wilderness — Psalms 103:12 says, “as far as the east is from the west, so he has removed our transgressions from us.” Again in Leviticus, we are unequivocally pointed ahead to God’s ultimate plan of restoration for humanity, Jesus’ final atoning work for us resulting in the removal of sin.
Leviticus concludes as several feasts are described by the Lord to be set on particular, recurring dates, several of which were to serve as reminders of the work God had already done to rescue the people from the captivity of the Egyptians (i.e. The Passover, The Feast of Tabernacles). As many of us have experienced, worry and doubt have an uncanny way of creeping into our lives, even if God has already revealed Himself or allowed us to experience His peace in the midst of similar events in our pasts. God calls us to set aside time regularly to remember all that He has done for us — if He has been our faithful advocate in the past, carrying us through times of trouble, why would we expect the eternal God to change in the future?
Help us to recall the ways you have been present in our story, your faithfulness, and all the ways you have rescued us, so that we may cast off the worry that often plagues our lives. Thank you for your rescue from our sins in order that we may experience your presence, that we can approach a holy God — Jesus, thank you for taking those sins on yourself, separating them from us ‘as far as the east is from the west.’