The Symbolism of Sacrifice
Think of the best book you’ve ever read. Why did you enjoy it so much? Likely because the authors used tools to draw you in with a strong plot so you could learn a significant lesson from the story. In the world of literature, many writers use a tool called foreshadowing to strengthen and add depth to their stories. To foreshadow is to hint at a future event early on in a piece of literature, hinting at concepts that will later return to the book in an important way.
God is the best author, and His Word is the most riveting story. Throughout scripture, He uses foreshadowing to point us to the ultimate reality He would introduce later on in Yeshua (Jesus). This Torah Portion, Acharei Mot (Leviticus 16-18) foreshadows the sacrifice of the Messiah through highlighting the sacrifices that took place on Yom Kippur.
During the holiday of Yom Kippur, the High Priest would offer special sacrifices to atone for the sins of the Israelites. Of the various sacrifices, the most central was that of the two he-goats, one of which would be sacrificed as a sin offering upon the altar to the Lord and while the other would be designated as the scapegoat “for Azazel” and thrown off a jagged cliff by the High Priest. According to halacha, or Jewish law, the scapegoat brought atonement for all of Israel’s sins both large and small, and the other goat atoned for the contamination of Sanctuary and its holies.
The scapegoat ritual was meant to remind us of the serious consequences of our sins and our immediate need for forgiveness. But the scapegoat was never meant to completely wipe out Israel’s sin; it only prevented the negative consequences of sin from being manifested against the people. Rather than wiping the sins of a nation clean, the he-goat sacrifices foreshadowed what was to come, adding depth and dimension to God’s story of redemption for Israel and all of mankind.
While the sacrifices and rituals of the Torah may seem irrelevant or outdated, they point us to the better story of our atonement in Messiah Yeshua. Not only did Messiah bear our sins; He also completely removes our sins and purifies us from them! Yeshua offered Himself as the ultimate sacrifice for sin, much greater than the he-goats offered by the High Priest on Yom Kippur. Our Messiah removes the debt of our sin completely, brings forgiveness, and purifies us for all time through His one-time self-sacrifice.
May we continually thank God that through Messiah Yeshua, we have been inscribed eternally in the Book of Life, and may Israel our people and all the Nations begin to experience the blessings that come as the result of His self-sacrifice!
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