Thursday, February 15, 2024

          Forgiveness.  That word is powerful.  Most of us recognize our need for forgive-ness from God.  Most of us want that forgiveness and the assurance of it.  We yearn for it.  We can be thankful that God’s forgiveness is available in and through the work of Christ at the cross.  Paul wrote, “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32).  And forgiveness is one of those things that God grants to us.  There is an early foreshadowing or glimpse of Jesus’ work on our behalf at the cross.  Leviticus gives us a preview of Christ serving as our sin-bearer and the One who is able to deal decisively with our disobedience.  You might have heard the expression “scapegoat.”  Inappropriately, a scapegoat, today, is one who is routinely blamed or accused of being responsible for whatever may be wrong.  A scapegoat is singled out for the faults, flaws and mistakes of others.  It simply becomes expedient and easy to place the blame on one individual or source.  Some families struggle with scapegoating as do some harmful and destructive relationships.
            But, in the Bible, we find the idea of a scapegoat too.  Here, however, the context and message are much different.  We read, “When Aaron has finished making atonement for the Most Holy Place, the tent of meeting and the altar, he shall bring forward the live goat. He is to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all 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 wilderness in the care of someone appointed for the task. The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a remote place; and the man shall release it in the wilderness” (Leviticus 16:20-22).  Upon this goat were placed the sins of the people and the goat was subsequently released into the wilderness to carry away the sins of the people.  This image of the goat carrying the weight of the people’s sins is an unmistakable image of Christ and His work at the cross.  At the cross, the wrath of God and justice of God were satisfied by the sacrificial work of Christ.  Isaiah 53 is often called “the Calvary of the Old Testament” because of the image it offers of Christ suffering and dying for the weight of the world’s sin.  Isaiah wrote, “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). 
              Christ bore the weight of your sins and mine so we might know the freedom and full assurance of forgiveness, grace and new life.  Psalm 103:12 encourages us, “as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.”  Christ carried our sins out of sight, mind and proximity.  We can escape sin’s penalty and the wrath of God because of what Christ did for us.  Leviticus repeatedly instructed ancient Israel about the importance of cleansing, purity, sacrifice and forgiveness.  All of this instruction would point us forward to one afternoon at a place called Calvary where Christ atoned for all human sins. 
              How do we respond to what God has done and offers?  First, we are thankful that forgiveness is available in and through Christ.  It is free to us.  It is the pearl of great price.  But the forgiveness we enjoy was not without cost to the Father or the Son.  They satisfied the ledger of sin that we had accumulated.  Second, we receive this gift by faith.  We place our full trust in Christ alone for salvation and forgiveness alone.  We add nothing to what was done for us.  The last verse of “When I Survey The Wondrous Cross” reminds us, “Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were a present far too small.  Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.”  Third, we rest our full weight and trust on Christ and Him alone.  We plead no merits or righteousness of our own.  We give thanks fully and exclusively for Him and what He has done.  And fourth, we share the good news of forgiveness with others.  The gospel of Jesus Christ is not to remain a secret.  We are not to stay silent about the hope and peace that we find in and through Him.  We rejoice in that great reality. 
               Consistently throughout Leviticus 19, we find the expression “I am the LORD your God” (see 19:2, 4, 10 and 25 as examples).  Because God is the great I AM, we trust what He has done for us and the forgiveness He offers.  We do not allow ourselves to be misled or deceived into thinking that we must work for our salvation or that we can earn it or that we may never truly know whether we have been forgiven and redeemed.  The great I AM has spoken and acted to grant us the great gift of forgiveness.  And we rejoice.  Have a great Thursday!  Join us for Bible study at 9:45, worship at 10:55 and SNL at 5:00pm this coming Sunday!

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