Focal Passage: Leviticus 16:3-10, 29-30
Substitution is an idea that most people are familiar with. If the teacher is unable to fulfill her duties, she enlists a substitute to act for her on her behalf.
In baseball, the coach might call for a pinch hitter to bat in the place of another.
This summer, I played church league softball with a sister congregation, and for various reasons certain players would call for a “runner” to take their place as they advanced toward home plate.
Whatever the circumstance, the idea behind any form of substitute is that something is lacking (ability, availability and so on) and requires something or someone more capable to complete the task.
God established the Day of Atonement on which a sacrifice would be offered to atone for all of the sins of Israel.
As the passage in Leviticus relates, two goats would be involved in the ceremony, one to be offered as a propitiation thereby appeasing God’s wrath and the other to serve as a scapegoat to bear the sins of the people away.
These animals would serve as substitutes for the people who because of sin justly deserved the outpouring of God’s righteous judgment.
Yet, Hebrews 10:1-4 says, “For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, because the worshippers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have had consciousness of sins? But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year by year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.”
The Day of Atonement served to point God’s people to their need for a better sacrifice, a sacrifice that would be offered by Jesus Christ on the cross. He is the sin offering, the one who appeases God’s wrath, and the scapegoat, the one who bears our sins away. By grace through faith in Him, there is now no condemnation.