And he shall take from the congregation of the people of Israel two male goats for a sin offering, and one ram for a burnt offering. … Then he shall take the two goats and set them before the Lord at the entrance of the tent of meeting. And Aaron shall cast lots over the two goats, one lot for the Lord and the other lot for Azazel. And Aaron shall present the goat on which the lot fell for the Lord and use it as a sin offering, but the goat on which the lot fell for Azazel shall be presented alive before the Lord to make atonement over it, that it may be sent away into the wilderness to Azazel.Lev 16:5-10
The day of atonement is the answer of the people to the call of God in the Feast of Trumpets. Both are part of the third season of feasts in the biblical feast cycle. The day of atonement is the sixth feast and the last step before Tabernacles.
There is so much just in those three characteristics – let’s tackle them separately.
The Feast of Trumpets is the call of God, the message of God to humanity. The message is the finished work. But only if we answer that call and accept the message we profit. Only then we enter rest and the presence of God, God in our midst in Tabernacles.
Do not fear: it is a process.
We had a short visit from Sri Lanka with us lately. One of the things said was: “God gets his way. If you accept it, it goes fast. If not, it hurts.”
And the bible tells us that educating a child punishment has to be quick, followed by repentance and forgiveness. Otherwise pain will be that much bigger later.
In our text Aaron takes two goats. In Revelation goats stand for rebellious nations fighting the will of God and the sheep nations. I feel on secure ground if I assume that the goats represent the old nature. This is also made clear by this being the sixth feast:
- Number five, the Feast of Trumpets, is God’s call of grace. 5 stands for grace.
- The Day of Atonement, that is where God deals with man. 6 is the number of man.
- Tabernacles is when God lives with his mature people. 7 stands for maturity and perfection. Time to wrap everything up.
Both goats die. Our old nature died. We might not have accepted that view, at least do not believe it yet. To get there is a process called the renewal of our mind. Piece by piece we learn the truth and unlearn what we have been presented as the facts. Just let me repeat the message of the trumpets:
Our flesh does not rule any longer. Our doubts have been extinct. Bitterness uprooted. The old covenant came to an end. We died as him. The religious systems of Babylon have been overcome. Jesus is King over everything.
Add the messages of Pessach and Pentecost: He died for our sins. He was beaten for our transgressions, sicknesses, shortcomings. And he lives, even lives in us – in Tabernacles we learn: he died as us and lives as us. I am a new creation, without sin.
But let’s have a look at the way the two goats die. The first, the one set apart for the Lord, dies fast, in the temple. Its blood – that is where the life is – goes to the holy of holies. The other dies a slow death in the desert.
When we hear the message of the trumpets, we can choose two ways to react. The goats had no choice, they served as symbols for us. But we do. God has decided to honor our free will.
I can decide to react fast to the urge of God. To do his will and subdue myself. I admit that the trumpet speaks the truth – at least in the aspect that God is dealing with me right now.
Or I can decide to learn the hard way. Just like Israel I will add another turn around the mountain in the desert. And eventually the time comes that this part of my old nature dies. And then another. Until all of the old generation is dead. Until I accepted, that my old nature is dead, died at the cross.
We all learn some things fast, some slow. What do we need to learn fast more often?
- a teachable heart
- people that can correct us, exhort, encourage, stand with us, someone we are accountable to – in short: fathers
- a community of friends, of family on track with us – a church
- a life relationship with God in prayer and reading the word
Both goats were necessary to delay punishment for Israel for another year. Both ways can serve as an example. The second one maybe serve more as a bad one, by its hardship encouraging others not to follow it. But I want others to be able to imitate me, just like Paul said.
There is a third way: refusal. What does the bible say to that?
Anyone who does not deny himself on that day is to be cut off from his people.Lev 23:29
Our old nature does not die easily, it seems. But it’s only pretending: it’s dead already! But the memory of it, the facts we believe to know hinder us to see that. But God gets his way. If you let him, it’s easier.
This is the day we are in. The message is sounded. Since the cross the trumpets are blown. Since Later Rain the message is clearer again. What is our answer?