Week 29: Why There is No More Need for a Scapegoat

Today’s Text: Leviticus 16-18

Key Text: Leviticus 16:7-10

“And he shall take the two goats and present them before the LORD at the doorway of the tent of meeting. And Aaron shall cast lots for the two goats, one lot for the LORD and the other lot for the scapegoat. Then Aaron shall offer the goat on which the lot for the LORD fell, and make a sin offering. But the goat on which the lot for the scapegoat fell, shall be presented alive before the LORD, to make atonement upon it, to send it into the wilderness as the scapegoat.”

Most of us have heard the expression: “Oh, he’s just the scapegoat in that situation.”

But do you know where that expression came from? It’s here – in an ancient ritual – which allowed the people of Israel, via their religion, to atone for their sins.

It took place on the “Day of Atonement” when the two goats represented the two ways God was dealing with the Israelites’ sin: forgiving their sin through the first goat, which was sacrificed, and removing their guilt through the second goat, the scapegoat, which was sent into the desert. The ritual had to be repeated each year. That is why, many years later, early believers in Christ understood and celebrated the fact that the ritual was no longer necessary – Christ’s sacrifice had once and for all done away with the need.

It’s sadly ironic that thousands of years after Christ, people are still used as scapegoats. They are used not in some religious sense, but in the sense of that typical expression I mentioned above. The blame for something has to go somewhere – and some unlikely person is picked to get blamed. It’s the way of the world – always has been – always will be.

But, as Christ said, his kingdom is “not of this world.”

In the kingdom, although all have sinned, all are loved and forgiven as well. No more need to die for our sins, great or small. No more need for scapegoats to take away our guilt.

We are free.

There is still cost. There is still sacrifice. That may make some uncomfortable.

But there is amazing grace as well, where atonement is made for all who will receive that gift.

So, no more blame. No more breaking under the weight of unbearable guilt. No more death, just life.

No more scapegoats, either.

Amazing grace, indeed.


By Paul Simrell

The Reverend Paul W. Simrell has served for over thirty years in a variety of congregational and institutional settings. He is a recognized minister with standing in the Virginia region of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada and is nationally endorsed by the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) for specialized ministry in both pastoral counseling and chaplaincy. Ordained in 1982, he has served congregations in Kentucky, Texas, Florida, and Virginia. He currently serves as the pastor of Elpis Christian Church, a small, historic congregation located just a few miles west of Richmond, Virginia. Elpis is the Greek word meaning “expectant hope.” He also serves on the associate clinical staff of the Virginia Institute of Pastoral Care, Richmond, Virginia, both as a pastoral counselor and a ministerial assessment specialist, specializing in executive, clergy and relationship coaching. He is a graduate of the University of Florida and Lexington Theological Seminary and has done advanced clinical training in chaplaincy and pastoral counseling at the University of Kentucky Medical Center in Lexington, Kentucky, Children’s Medical Center and Parkland Hospital in Dallas, Texas and the Virginia Institute of Pastoral Care in Richmond, Virginia. He is a Certified Pastoral Counselor, an ACPE Practitioner, and a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors. He is a Certified Facilitator of the Prepare-Enrich relationship assessment and skills-building program and served as a volunteer chaplain for over twenty years with the CJW Medical Center campuses in Richmond, Virginia. His avocational interests include playing the piano and drawing. He is very happily married to his wife Elizabeth Yeamans Simrell, a free-lance writer, who is also a Certified Facilitator for the Prepare-Enrich program. Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

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