A Telling Witness to the Conscience
By Fred O. Blakely
So essential is the requirement for a “good conscience before God,” if one is to worship and serve Him acceptably, that any genuine contribution to its establishment is both sorely needed, and exceedingly valuable. When the widespread lack among contemporary churchmen of an acute sense of purging from sin is considered, the necessity and preciousness of its supply is greatly enhanced. Whatever else the typical religious person of the day may have, it seems evident that he is pitifully destitute of this most important of all experienced spiritual blessings––keen awareness of his complete acceptance with God in Jesus Christ the Savior.
Its Occurrence in Type. The era of types and shadows provides an especially telling witness which can minister to this lack. It is the case of the scapegoat, ordained by God for sacrifice on the day of atonement (Lev. 16:7-10, 15-22). Together with the goat of the “sin offering,” whose blood was used to reconcile the holy place, the tabernacle of the congregation, and the altar, it was to “make an atonement” for the sins of the people. Over the head of the scapegoat, Aaron the high priest confessed “all the iniquities of the children of Israel and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat.” The animal was then sent away “by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness,” or sacrificed for the nation’s sins (for so the word “bring” of v. 20 indicates). And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited,” it was specified.
Its Implications Concerning Sin. The implications of this ritual are evident. By Aaron’s confession, he symbolically put the sins of the people upon the head of the scapegoat, or imputed them to it. That is, acting by faith in the divine appointment which constituted such a translation, “he transferred the punishment incurred from the sinners to the sacrifice, which would have been a jest––nay, an affront to God––if He Himself had not ordained it.” The goat was then sent away unto “a land not inhabited,” and God allowed His people “to make this construction of it, that the sending away of the goat was the sending away of their sins, by a free and full remission.” He “shall bear upon him all their iniquities,” was the stipulation.
“The slain goat had symbolized and ceremonially wrought full expiation or covering of sins. But in order to impress upon the mind of the nation a joyful sense of entire liberation from the burden of sin, the second symbol of the disappearing goat is used. Hence, not only sin, but the consciousness and the fear of the presence and taint of sin, might be taken away from the cleansed and delivered people. The goat is to bear the iniquities of the people ‘unto a land not inhabited.’ The latter words would be more correctly translated ‘a land cut off,’ that is, completely isolated from the surrounding country by some barrier of rock or torrent, which would make it impossible for the goat to come back again. Thus, the sins were utterly lost, as though they had never been, and they could not return to the sanctified people.” The striking similarity between the phraseology, “a land cut off,” and that used by Isaiah in setting forth the antitypical work of the Lord Jesus in His actual atonement for sin, should be noted. “He was cut off out of the land of the living for the transgression of My people to whom the stroke was due,” declared the Prophet (Isa. 53:8; ASV).
Its Ministry to the Conscience. It is easy for us who live in this age, when the conscience may be fully purged by the precious blood of Christ our Savior, to imagine something of the comfort which the sight of the disappearing scapegoat was calculated to bring to believing hearts in Israel. When they beheld the live goat, to which all of their sins had been symbolically transferred, being led away unto “a land cut off,” they had a vivid assurance made through their senses to their soul. That assurance was that their transgressions were forgiven, and their sins covered, and that God would not impute their sins to them (Ps. 32: 1-2). “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us,” they could exultingly sing with David (Ps. 103:12). Or, with Isaiah, they could exclaim, “Thou hast in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption: for Thou hast cast all my sins behind Thy back” (Isa. 38:17).
Its Stimulus to Our Realization. In this view of the consolation offered to Israel by the ordinance of the scapegoat, we have, by contrast, a strong stimulus to the fuller realization of our transcendently greater comfort in Christ, its counterpart. “For if the blood of bulls and of goats” and the symbol of the scapegoat, could have done so much for the the conscience of the people under the first covenant, “how much more,” indeed, can the precious blood of Christ, “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29), do for us who are under the second covenant (Heb. 9:11-14)! Now that our sins have been once for all purged––in reality, not just ceremonially––by the wholly efficacious sacrifice of the Lord Jesus (Heb. 1:3; 9:26), He having thereby “obtained eternal redemption for us” (Heb. 9:11-12; cf. 10:14), what a deep and abiding sense of cleanness before God through Him should settle upon our hearts! The scapegoat was to teach Israel, and us, that Our sins were borne away into oblivion by Christ the Savior. “Thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea,” is how the matter was contemplated by Micah (Mic. 7:19). “I will forgive their iniquity, and will remember their sin no more,” is its declaration by Jeremiah (Jer. 31:34; cf. Heb. 8:12; 10:17).
Jesus the Savior is our Scapegoat, the Father having “laid upon Him the iniquity of us all.” “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes––praise God!––we are healed” (Isa. 53:4-6). That is the message for us from the institution in the wilderness. Christ “carried our sins on His devoted head into that wilderness of desolation and loneliness, which compelled Him to cry, ‘My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?’ (Mt. 27:46; cf. Ps. 22:1).” So was He, in our stead, for a while cast into “outer darkness,” that we might not have to forever endure that awful banishment from “the Presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power” (Mt. 22:13; II Th. 1:9). “There did He fully atone for our sins, and secure their annihilation. As we meditate upon this portion of His mediation, we are enabled by the Spirit to realize that sin is ‘put away’ through Christ’s sacrifice of Himself (Heb. 9:26). That desolation of the Redeemer into which He entered for us interposes itself, so to speak, between us and our sins, and we feel a wholesome separation from them.”
Its Summons to Our Faith. In consideration of these circumstances, holy brethren, let us fully avail ourselves of the blessed “blood of sprinkling,” to which we are come in Christ––the blood “that speaketh better things than that of Abel” (Heb. 12:22-24; I Pet. 1:2). Let us have grace whereby we may have our hearts “sprinkled from an evil conscience” thereby (Heb. 10:22), and our conscience thus “purged from dead works to serve the living God” (Heb. 9:14). So shall we have “no more consciousness of sins,” knowing that they have been forever “put away” by the sacrifice of Him whom God sanctified and sent into the world to bear them (Heb. 10:1-2, ASV). Why should our “mind and conscience” be defiled, and we thereby be experimentally alienated from God, if we have truly fled for refuge to Jesus? The propitiation for sin has been made by Him. God has committed Himself to remember our sin no more forever.
Now, “the Spirit and the bride say, Come” (Rev. 22:17; cf. Heb. 4:14-18). “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters,” is the call from Heaven, “and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price” (Isa. 55:1-4). “Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” summons the Master Himself (Mt. 11:28-30). See, then, that “ye refuse not Him that speaketh” (Heb. 12:25). Rather, gladly accepting the word of invitation and exhortation, let us “draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water” (Heb. 10:12-22). So shall we sing with the spirit and the understanding–
“Wounded for me, wounded for me,
There on the Cross He was wounded for me.
Gone my transgressions, and now I am free;
All because Jesus was wounded for me.”