What does God do with our past sins?
In Sunday school we used to sing a song: “Gone, gone, gone, gone! Yes my sins are gone!”
But where have those sins gone to?
John the Baptist saw Jesus, and burst out with joy: “Behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world!”
The Sunday school song said that those sins were “Buried in the deepest sea – yes that’s good enough for me!”
This echoes the words of Micah the Prophet: “He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.” (Micah 7:19).
So where are my sins today? Well, we know that those past sins are a long way away! “For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalms 103:11-12).
This week I have been much blessed by the narrative about the Scapegoat.
“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.” (Leviticus 16:7-8 ESV).
Can you imagine the joy in the Hebrew camp every Atonement Day? The people would see their sins symbolically transferred from themselves to that goat, through the laying on of Aaron’s hands. They would rejoice as they saw that scapegoat led far away into the wilderness. Those sins of a whole year were a heavy burden on their souls because there is no burden harder to bear than the burden of sin. But now it was “Gone! Gone! Gone! Gone!”
Sadly, almost immediately they would start to rack up again sin on top of sin, ready for the next Day of Atonement.
That word “atonement” is a powerful word. Put a couple of hyphens in and you can see the strength of the concept here: “AT-ONE-MENT!”
When sin is forgiven the sinner is justified, and so the sinner is now AT-ONE- with God, the Heavenly Father!
But this is goes even further, and this is very important: This goat was for “Azazel!”
Look it up and you will see that “Azazel” seems to be a demonic entity. The scapegoat is a message to the demonic world that sins have been atoned for.
The enemy of our souls is the Accuser of the Brethren. He goes about as a roaring lion seeking those he may devour.
One goat is for the Lord: sacrificed as a sin offering – and the blood was sprinkled on the mercy seat to cleanse the temple and its furnishings from the past year’s sins.
The other goat was for “Azazel.”
Satan is eager to condemn. He told God that Job only served the Lord, because of his riches. And when everything Job had was taken from him, and still he did not curse God, Satan came back with graver accusations: “Touch his health” and you will see him fail!
And the accusations still ring out from the wilderness against the People of God. The best hold the enemy can get on us is our past failures!
Remember: a type is something in the Old Testament that foreshadows something to come in the New Testament. And this scapegoat is a type of Jesus Christ Himself.
See Him bearing the sins of the world just like the scapegoat, as the Spirit drives Him into the wilderness to meet with Satan – in the wilderness comes the testing.
So in the first place this is a message to the enemy of souls. Our sins have been placed on Jesus the Messiah
Then, the scapegoat is a reminder to the Church of her message and mission. The Church is not just gatherings of people , singing and praying. The Church is a pillar, the rock, the ground of truth! “The household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth. Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.” (1 Timothy 3:15-16 ESV).
We need to be continually reminded of who we are and what our mission is. And right at the top of the list is that we are a lesson to the principalities and powers of the air of the wisdom of God.
Those demonic principalities tried to kill Jesus. If they had known how Jesus’ blood would set the prisoner free, they certainly would not have tried to shed His blood.
“But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” (1 Corinthians 2:7-8).
And so now the Church is a lesson to them of God’s wisdom!
Colossians tells us that Jesus made an open spectacle of them, nailing the accusations against us to His cross!
That scapegoat pointed forward to Christ the Lamb of God on the cross – Who took away the sins of the world.
“Now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God…” (Ephesians 3:10).
The third lesson here is that this is a blow to SELF!
By self I mean the old nature.
Jesus, our Scapegoat, carried our sins and our sorrows.
But where did He take them?
Job gives us an insight into where they are!
“My transgression is sealed up in a bag, and thou sealed up mine iniquity. “ Job 14:17
God hides our sin away! And it is sealed. Our sins are forgiven and hidden, BUT they are archived – and from time to time we get access to those archives.
“How many are my iniquities and sins? Make me to know my transgression and my sin.” Job 13:23
This is not the advice we would get from most counsellors. “Leave your past sins well alone,” they would advise.
They are removed from us – and of course they are from God’s perspective.
But a person’s worst enemy is themself!
So that is why we need to “humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, so that in due time He can lift us up!”
“Hearken to me, ye that follow after righteousness, ye that seek the LORD: look unto the rock whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged. “ — (Isaiah 51:1).
When the flesh begins to tell us what great chaps we are, it is time to take the keys to the archives, and go and see the bags of sin hanging on pegs that bear our name!
We need to learn lessons from failures! Make something positive out of our foolish past!