Leviticus 16:21-22 (from The Message)
“He (Aaron) will put all the sins on the goat’s head and send it off into the wilderness, led out by a man standing by and ready. The goat will carry all their iniquities to an empty wasteland; the man will let him loose out there in the wilderness.”
What do we do when we’re sorry? Often, we try to atone for it. We apologize, we work harder, we’re more considerate, and we’re careful lest we do it again. Usually when I’m really, really nice to Rachel, she looks at me warily and says “What have you done?” Then I tell her. Of course, sometimes I’m really, really nice to her just to mess with her mind. But in her defense, usually I’ve done something I’m not supposed to do.
The Levitical Law is quite strange and it always makes me wonder why these were developed. From what other Rabbis have told me, it’s all about order and restraint. When the nation was being formed in their wilderness wanderings, it became apparent that without restraint there would be chaos. We see children (yes, children) going back to college and going to large parties without masks or any other restraint and now many colleges are being forced to close. We just can’t help ourselves. I understand that at some colleges, students are signing pledges and if they break the rules, they are facing expulsion from the University forever. That’s right; forever.
In the wilderness, the sins of the people were conferred to a goat who was led out to the wilderness to wander away. This was the scapegoat. It was guided off into the wilderness in a way so it wouldn’t return. Oh if it only that easy. In all the COVID stuff around us, there are many who blame one person. However, we’re all to blame. But the truth is that failure to restrain our desires can be more deadly now than ever before. Sometimes we color that failure with wanting to be with family and friends. Sometimes we color it with denial. Sometimes we color it with economy. Proverbs 29:18 says (in the KJV) that where there is no vision the people perish. I love this verse. However the better translation is “Where there is no prophecy the people cast off restraint.”
So it is. Restraint now means good things later. We don’t have a goat to carry our sins into the wilderness. We have a savior who carries them to God…and then tells us to try again. So be careful (and restrained) out there.
Breathe on me breath of God, until my heart is pure, until with thee I will one will to do and to endure. Amen.
Pastor Rick Moser