Deuteronomy 21, Isaiah 48

Read Deuteronomy 21 and Isaiah 48.

This devotional is about Deuteronomy 21.

A few chapters ago, in Deuteronomy 17, we read about capital punishment and the very high standards that had to be met before it could be used. Today’s chapter touches again on the death penalty in a couple of different ways:

  • An animal was to be executed as a substitute for the unknown murderer in an unsolved murder according to verses 1-9. The purpose of this law was to uphold the value of human life by making sure that there was some kind of life-for-life exchange if the killer could not be found.
  • A rebellious son could be executed if his parents charged him with rebellion in the presence of the elders of the town (see vv. 18-21).
  • Verses 22-23 regulated the public display of someone who was executed. God’s law required burial for anyone who was displayed in this way “because anyone who is hung on a pole is under God’s curse.”

Let’s consider that last instruction in verses 22-23 today. In each of the death penalty cases we’ve come across so far, God’s word commanded the method by which the death penalty must be… um… executed. In every case that I can remember, God’s law required the method of execution to be stoning. Verse 21 of this very chapter, for example, commands, “…all the men of his town are to stone him to death.”

Stoning someone to death required binding that person’s hands and feet so that he couldn’t run away. Once bound, the person was thrown into a pit and the witnesses or the elders would throw large rocks at him until he died. Usually the first stone thrown would be a very large rock that would be dropped on the person’s head so that he lost consciousness immediately and possibly would even die from that strike. It is not the most humane way to die, but it was the only way available in their society that multiple people–representing the entire community–could take part together in the execution.

Now, because God’s word prescribed the use of stoning as the method of execution, why did God include these verses about someone who is executed and hung on a pole? This law did not require that the dead body be hung on a pole this way; it only regulated such a pole-hanging if it ever were to occur.

Also, why would the law say, “anyone who is hung on a pole is under God’s curse” but not anyone “guilty of a capital offense” (v. 22a) is under God’s curse? In other words, why does the curse apply only to the one executed if he is hung on a pole?

One reason that the Israelites might hang someone on a pole is to publicly display the dead body. The purpose here would be to display God’s curse on the man who was executed and hopefully to deter others who might be tempted to commit the same offense. We don’t know enough about daily life in Israel to know if this was ever used but there is certainly no instance of it in the Old Testament historical books that I can think of.

The New Testament, of course, does provide an example that would fit this description which is our Lord Jesus himself. Although he was not “guilty of a capital offense” (v. 22) personally, he came to serve as a substitute for our capital offenses against God. As our substitute, he was cursed by God (Isa 53:4c-d, Gal 3:13) so that we could be blessed with eternal life.

These two simple verses in Moses’s law, verses that may never have been relevant to any situation that Israel ever faced before Jesus’s death, remind us of the blessing of forgiveness we have in Christ. But they also show us how God foreshadowed the atonement of Christ for us in his word, thousands of years before Jesus was even born. This is one of many reasons why we can believe the Bible and know that it is God’s word.

Numbers 19, Isaiah 8:1-9:7, Psalm 124

Read Numbers 19, Isaiah 8:1-9:7, Psalm 124.

This devotional is about Numbers 19.

Some of God’s commands in the OT law are easy to understand. “Do make any graven images, do not kill, and do not covet” are a few examples.

Some others make sense if you understand their purpose. The sin offering, for example, taught people that (1) every sin was worthy of death (as Romans 6:23a says) (2) they could be forgiven if a substitute died for them. When Jesus died on the cross, he came as the true, final sin offering so we now understand the symbolism of the animal sacrifice known as the sin offering.

Other commands of God are harder to grasp and Numbers 19 is one of those. Verses 1-6 describe the recipe for making the “water of cleansing” from the ashes of a red heifer. Verses 7-22 describe the regulations and uses of this water of cleansing. But what good did it do anyone to be sprinkled with this water?

The “water of cleansing” did nothing. It didn’t make anyone physically clean, it didn’t remove sins, nor did it have magic spiritual powers that removed demons or something else bad from someone’s life. It was truly and only a ritual, a ceremony with no tangible benefit. So why did God command it?

Verse 9 said this water was “for purification from sin” but the only instances where God commanded it to be used were when someone touched a dead body (vv. 11-13, 16-21). So “purification from sin” must mean from the purification from the consequence of sin, namely, death. Death was not God’s original plan for humanity; it was his curse on us for our sins. Since God is life and death is a curse, God gave them this ritual to set them apart from the consequences of sin. If someone were to touch a dead body without this ritual, they would “defile the Lord’s tabernacle” (v. 13b, see also verse 20c).

The point of the red heifer purification water, then, was to teach Israel about the holiness of God. God was not to be approached and worshipped by someone who had been in contact with death. Instead, they were considered defiled and unacceptable to approach the Lord until they went through this ritual. The ritual was a teaching tool to show God’s people, and us, that God is completely separate from sin and death and one must not approach him to worship without being set apart.

In Jesus we have been set apart. There is no need for this kind of ceremony any longer because God has credited to us the perfections of Christ. When we come to God in worship–prayer, singing, whatever–we know that we will be accepted because Christ’s death has been applied to us and we are declared clean, worthy, set apart, washed, sanctified, holy, and perfect in him.

Have you ever considered how a passage like this one shows how utterly holy God is? As you think about this offering, do you get a greater appreciation for all that God has given to us in Christ? He not only cleansed our sins; he has removed every unacceptable trace of sin, death and defilement from us, not because of anything we did but because Jesus did it all for us. That is something to praise the Lord about!

Exodus 32, Proverbs 8, Psalm 80

Read Exodus 32, Proverbs 8, and Psalm 80.

This devotional is about Exodus 32.

The people of Israel had been slaves for 400 years. They knew how to follow orders, make bricks out of straw, and that’s about it. In the recent past, they rode a roller coaster of emotions as God liberated his people from Egypt but then allowed them to be chased by the Egyptians as well as struggle with hunger and thirst. These were all traumatic events. Without God, they were helpless against armies. Without Moses, they had no direction, no leadership.

This is why they freaked out when Moses stayed with God on Mount Sinai for so long (v. 1). They were fearful that the powerful, awe-inspiring God that liberated them from Egypt had killed Moses for insufficient holiness, leaving them on their own. Without any ability to provide for themselves or defend themselves, they were fearful, vulnerable, and directionless. This is why they insisted that Aaron create a god for them (v. 1); it was an attempt to tranquilize their fear and give them a new hope for the future.

It was also an opportunity to forget God’s law that they’d received in the preceding chapters of Exodus. God’s law prescribed duties and penalties, but also promised blessings, including built-in blessings such as Sabbath and feast days. By contrast, the new golden calf god gave them no laws to follow and threatened no penalties for disobedience. This god, made by men, conformed to and appealed to human desires. It let them have a festival without any moral constraints; the word translated “revelry” has sexual overtones. It sure seems like they broke the first, second, sixth, and tenth commandments as they worshipped their false god.

This is how idolatry works. It promises power by taking credit for things that the true God did in the past, v. 4b. It liberates the sinful nature within with lawlessness. Israel may have felt better for a while during their festival, but they paid dearly because of God’s justice. The same thing happens to us when we worship an idol. It offers us relief from fear and momentary pleasure but it cannot protect us from the consequences of our sin.

Although Moses was angry with his Hebrew brothers and sisters for their sins, verses 30-34 show us his tender love and compassion for these difficult, sinful people. Moses pleaded with God for his forgiveness for them (vv. 31-32a). He went so far as to insist that God remove him from his elect (v. 32b). This is a powerful statement, asking for God to send him to hell if He would not forgive the Israelites. In this way Moses foreshadowed our advocate, the Lord Jesus Christ. Although Jesus could not be blotted out of the book of life because he IS life, he identified with us sinners by taking God’s wrath on himself. When God poured out his justice on Jesus for our sins, Jesus took the punishment due to those who have sinned against him . Then he rose from the dead to restore us sinners to eternal life.

A sinner like Moses could never substitute for anyone else’s sin, much less the idolatry of a whole nation. Yet Moses’s statement in verse 32b shows the depth of his love for the people of Israel. Christ DID die for our sins. By doing that, Jesus demonstrated how great his love for us is.

Genesis 49, Job 15, Psalm 47

Read Genesis 49, Job 15, Psalm 47.

This devotional is about Genesis 49.

The leadership power in Jacob’s family was about to pass from Jacob himself to his descendants in this chapter.

Remember that Jacob was selected to be the covenant heir of his father Isaac while Jacob’s twin brother, Esau, was rejected for that role. In this case, by contrast, all of Jacob’s sons would receive the covenant blessing. Each would become the leader of one of Israel’s tribes. In this chapter, Isaac conferred that blessing of tribal leadership on them and made prophecies about each one.

Although it was customary for the eldest son to to receive the greatest blessing, God had bypassed that custom with Jacob. That was based on God’s free choice alone. Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn, forfeited his covenant blessing as the firstborn by having sex with one of Jacob’s wives (v. 4, cf. Gen 35:22). This was not the last time a man’s immorality caused him to lose political power.

The next two guys in line, Simeon and Levi, disqualified themselves with cruel vengeance far beyond what was justly warranted (vv. 5-7; cf. Gen 34:25). Although Reuben, Simeon, and Levi got to be tribal heads in Israel, they did not get to have a descendent become the king of Israel.

That honor fell to Judah. He had his moral problems, too (see Gen 38), but he was chosen to be the leader of the tribe that would bring Israel her king (v. 10). And, what a king he would be! Verse 10 says that, “he obedience of the nations shall be his.” This, of course, is a reference to Christ. Jesus came to be the Messiah, the king of Israel, but he has not fully assumed that role yet. When he reigns on earth in his Millennial kingdom, this prophecy will finally be fulfilled.

Verses 11-12 describe a time of massive prosperity. Vines and branches (v. 11) are fruit bearing objects; they have value. You wouldn’t tether a donkey or a colt to them because you don’t want those animals eating such valuable fruits. Unless, of course, there is so much fruit available that even the animals can enjoy it without it costing too much financially. Likewise, wine is valuable; you wouldn’t wash clothes with it unless it was so abundant that you didn’t fear “wasting” it. This is what life in the kingdom will be like when Jesus reigns. There will be no poverty, no lack. The world will be at peace under its true, perfect king and there will be prosperity like mankind has never enjoyed.

Isn’t it amazing to read such a detailed prophecy of Christ so many thousands of years ago? This prophecy has not been fulfilled, yet, but God has identified Jesus who will fulfill it and he has repeated the prophecy and given us even more information about life in his kingdom. Passages like this are one of many reasons why we know that the Bible is not just any book; it is God’s word. In it, God has told us what the future holds. The places where his prophesies have been fulfilled already give us greater confidence in one like this which we are still waiting to come to pass.

Trust the Bible; it is God’s word and he has proven it true over and over again.

Genesis 43, Job 9, Psalm 41

Read Genesis 43, Job 9, and Psalm 41.

This devotional is about Job 9.

Because of the strange supernatural ways in which Job’s life had collapsed, there were no easy answers for what happened to him. If a tornado levels a family’s house, leaving only one survivor and a stock market crash on the same day wipes out their life’s savings, that’s bad. But in that case the tornado probably destroyed and damaged other homes in the area and other people for sure would have lost money in the market. Those people might think God is out to get them but the reality is that God allowed some painful tragedies to happen to many people.

By contrast, Job’s life was surgically detonated–like a skillfully imploded skyscraper that levels the target building while leaving the others around it unaffected. His friends came to show their support but they couldn’t empathize with him because they hadn’t experienced even part of Job’s traumas. The strategic nature of his calamity, and the thoroughness of it, would cause anyone to think that God was out to get them. It was designed to strip Job of every blessing. Then his theology–his understanding of God–would be exposed, like tearing the bricks and siding off a house so that you can see the framing beneath it.

We see that theology–the infrastructure of Job’s faith–here in Job 9. In verses 2-13, he lauded the Lord’s wisdom and power as unparalleled in the universe. As I read those verses, my heart was moved to awe at the majestic massiveness of God, particularly in verses 4-10. Then, in verse 11, Job points out that God is invisible so we are unaware of his presence even as he goes about blessing or wrecking our lives. Job’s theology revolves around the greatness of God and it is rock-solidly biblical. Because he understood God so well, he was painfully aware of the futility of challenging God. Consider:

  • “How can mere mortals prove their innocence before God? Though they wished to dispute with him, they could not answer him one time out of a thousand” (vv. 2b-3).
  • “If he snatches away, who can stop him? Who can say to him, ‘What are you doing?’” (v. 12).
  • “How then can I dispute with him? How can I find words to argue with him? Though I were innocent, I could not answer him; I could only plead with my Judge for mercy. Even if I summoned him and he responded, I do not believe he would give me a hearing” (vv. 14-16).

Job was right and, as a result, we’re all in big trouble. Although he was a very righteous man, he was not perfect in his righteousness. If Job knew that he could not stand before God, then none of us has even a ghost of a chance.

His good theology and his terrible circumstances, however, led Job to an important conclusion: “If only there were someone to mediate between us, someone to bring us together, someone to remove God’s rod from me, so that his terror would frighten me no more. Then I would speak up without fear of him, but as it now stands with me, I cannot” (vv. 33-35).

This is where Jesus comes in. He came to do what Job knew that he needed someone to do. He came to “mediate between us.” And he did more than Job could have expected. If Jesus came to mediate for us based on our own righteousness and good behavior, he would have nothing to argue. By becoming our righteousness, however, Jesus could make peace with God for us and he did. This is our hope. This is the core of our faith. This causes us to worship God thankfully, not fearfully. Although we are guilty, our advocate made peace with God for us.

2 Chronicles 26 and Psalms 144-147

Read 2 Chronicles 26 and Psalms 144-147.

This devotional is about Psalm 144.

Psalm 144 is a wartime Psalm. In verse 5 David wrote, “Part your heavens, Lord, and come down.” This is not a reference to the coming of Christ because verses 5b-6 say, “touch the mountains, so that they smoke. Send forth lightning and scatter the enemy; shoot your arrows and rout them.” The visitation David wanted from God was not the incarnation of Christ but the direct military defeat of Israel’s immediate enemies.

Israel’s enemies were God’s enemies because of the covenants God had made with Abraham, Moses, and David. Asking God to defeat Israel’s foes was in keeping with the promises he made to his people.

So was asking for God’s deliverance as David did in verses 7-8: “Reach down your hand from on high; deliver me and rescue me from the mighty waters, from the hands of foreigners whose mouths are full of lies, whose right hands are deceitful.” Ultimately, Christ will return and defeat all of God’s enemies, so the requests in this song will finally be realized when Christ’s kingdom is finally established.

Jesus’s birth was the beginning of that kingdom; it was an invitation to believe that he was the promised king and that faith in him would cause someone to be included in that kingdom. So, just as David said in verse 9, “I will sing a new song to you, my God; on the ten-stringed lyre I will make music to you,” so we can rejoice and sing today that Christ will deliver us from this present evil age, will judge his enemies with justice, and will bless us with eternal life in his kingdom.

At Christmas, we remember the inauguration of these promises and we give thanks for God’s grace which extended these promises to us in Christ. We are his people, now, so as verse 15 put it, “Blessed is the people of whom this is true; blessed is the people whose God is the Lord.”

1 Chronicles 17, Zechariah 10, 1 John 2

Read 1 Chronicles 17, Zechariah 10, and 1 John 2.

This devotional is about 1 Chronicles 17.

David intended to build God a permanent home in Israel, a temple that would replace the tent that Israel had used in worship for centuries. Although God was pleased with David’s desire (see 1 Ki 8:18), he decreed that Solomon, not David, would build the temple (vv. 11-12).

Instead of letting David build him a literal house, God decreed that he would build a “house” (aka, a dynasty) for David (v. 10). This is the Davidic Covenant, God’s promise that a descendant of David would rule over Israel forever (v. 14) which will ultimately be fulfilled by Christ in his kingdom.

I’ve written about the Davidic Covenant before (here, here, and here), so let’s focus on David’s response to God’s promise to him which we read in verses 16-27.

First, David gave thanks for all God had done for him in verse 16. Verse 7 reminded David that God had elevated him from the lowly job of shepherd to the exalted status of Israel’s king. David hadn’t forgotten any of that and praised the Lord for it.

Second, David gave thanks for what God had promised him in the future in the rest of this chapter, verses 17-27. David knew that God alone had honored him. David said it was “…according to your will…” (v. 19) which acknowledged that this promise was God’s gracious choice, not something that David deserved. But in verses 20-22, David widened the scope of his thanks to all that God had done and promised for Israel. Like God’s promise to David, all that God had done for Israel was a work of his grace. He redeemed Israel “for himself, and to make a name for yourself…” (v. 21). In other words, God did what he did for Israel for his own glory. Likewise, he promised what he promised to David “…so that… your name will be great forever.”

God extends grace to people because he is gracious by nature. But, the result of his grace, and his purpose for doing it, is to bring glory to himself. God shows his power, redeems his people, and makes promises so that people will know that He is God (v. 26).

The same is true in your life and mine. God saved us so that we would praise, glorify, and worship his name. He did it so that we would tell others what he has graciously done for us and call them to submit to him accordingly. But he also saves us and answers our prayers so that we will thank him and worship him directly and so that we will find “courage to pray” (v. 25) in the future.

It is easy for us to forget that God owes us nothing but punishment for our sins, yet he graciously gives us every good thing according to his will in Christ. Do we remember to speak words that glorify him to others? Do we remember to pray prayers of worship and thanks for what he has done, is doing, and promised to do in Christ?

Spend a few minutes now remembering what God has done for you and considering what he’s promised to you in Christ. Then, speak a few words of thankful prayer to him in worship.

1 Chronicles 5-6, Zechariah 3, John 18

Read 1 Chronicles 5-6, Zechariah 3, and John 18.

This devotional is about 1 Chronicles 5.

As you’ve already noticed, the book of 1 Chronicles begins with a massive genealogy that goes from Adam (1:1) through Saul, the first king of Israel (9:44). Here in chapter 5:1-2, the author of 1 Chronicles reminds us of Genesis 49 where we learned that Israel (Jacob)’s first born son, Reuben, lost his birthright because he had sex with Bilhah, one of his father’s wives (35:22). Israel used that incident to justify giving the right of firstborn to Joseph’s sons (v. 2b). 

Reuben’s sin was costly to himself but that cost was carried forward and passed on to the generations that followed him. Did Reuben think he would get away it? Did he think at all or just follow his impulses?

I don’t know the answer but I can’t help but wonder if he would have sinned with his stepmother if he knew what the price would be. 

That’s how sin works, isn’t it? It never tells us the price up front and, because we all find our fallen nature so persuasive, we seldom think about what the cost of sin might be for us. Sin deludes us into thinking that we’ll never be discovered. It is only after the pleasure is gone and the consequences are revealed that we see how foolish our sinful decisions were. 

I wonder how many other generations, besides Reuben’s, throughout human history have been altered by the sin of one man like Reuben. I wonder how many of us are leaving a legacy of damage to our children and their children for sins that we commit.

Thankfully, one of Judah’s descendants would come along and make peace with God for all our sins. That descendant, of course, is Jesus. Through his loving sacrifice we have forgiveness by faith which keeps us from the ultimate consequences of our sin–the wrath of God.

But even though God has removed the ultimate penalty for sin, sin damages us in this life and, at times, can have ripple effects throughout generations that follow us.

God has graciously given us in his word examples of how people sinned throughout history and how much that sin cost them. Do we believe God’s word and prepare ourselves to say no to sin when temptation comes? Are you moving toward a course of sinful actions in your life that could affect generations after you? Learn from Reuben’s folly and repent before the damage is done.

2 Kings 11-12, Micah 5, John 6

Read 2 Kings 11-12, Micah 5, and John 6.

This devotional is about Micah 5.

Like many of the other prophets we’ve read, Micah prophesied doom in the short-term and hope in the future.

We saw this immediately in today’s passage. Verse 1 said, “Marshal your troops now, city of troops, for a siege is laid against us. They will strike Israel’s ruler on the cheek with a rod.” That verse was about Jerusalem, the stronghold city that had David captured, fortified, and used as his capital many years before Micah’s time. When Micah wrote lived, however, the Babylonians were laying siege to Jerusalem, weakening it for its inevitable fall.

In contrast to Jerusalem, the city of David’s might, described in verse 1, verse 2 talked about the lowly place of David’s upbringing: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah….” Just as Bethlehem produced David, Israel’s greatest king to that point, the Lord promised his people through Micah that “out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel” (v. 2b). That was the hope in the future that I spoke of at the beginning of this devotional. Micah acknowledged that God’s judgment was coming upon his people, but he also relayed God’s promise of another ruler from David’s hometown.

The ruler described in verse 2 will be “ruler over Israel.” Note that he will not be the ruler over Judah (alone) but “over Israel.” That indicates a reuinification of the divided nation was coming. And what did the Lord have to say about this ruler? His “whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” That phrase connects this prophecy about Jesus, the Messiah, to the covenant God made with David (the Davidic covenant). The “ruler” that will come will trace his origin not just to David’s hometown but to David’s family.

Luke explained the story of the birth of Christ in Bethlehem because of this prophecy in Micah 5:2. This prophecy is also why the gospel writers traced Christ’s human origin through David. As we move toward Christmas, it is important to remember that God has only begun to keep these promises. Christ was born in Bethlehem and did trace his origin to David, but his promised victories in verses 7-15 still await us.

Until he returns, then, we pray “your kingdom come” just as Christ himself commanded us to do.

2 Kings 4, Jonah 2, John 1

Read 2 Kings 4, Jonah 2, and John 1.

This devotional is about John 1.

I have often puzzled over and even lamented John’s use of “Word” in John 1:1. It is clear to me that John 1:1 and 14 indicate that Jesus is the “Word” and therefore “was God” (v. 1). But some people do not see that connection clearly. I have talked with enough of those people that, at times, I wish John has written something else. I wish he’d written something like, “In the beginning was the Father, Son, and Spirit. The Son and Spirit were with God and each of them is God.” That phrasing would help us with the deity of Christ and the doctrine of the Trinity.

But, that’s not what John wrote. Instead he wrote, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Why did John use the title, “the Word” to refer to Jesus?

First of all, “Jesus” refers to the man–the human named Jesus. The Son of God was not called “Jesus” until he was born, so it would be incorrect and improper for John to say, “In the beginning was Jesus….”

Although John did want to establish the deity of Christ, that purpose–in this passage, at least–was secondary to describing the function Jesus performs in the Trinity. By calling him “the Word,” John taught us that Jesus’ role was communication. This is why he was the one who created (v. 3) and why he “became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (v. 14a). He did these things because his “job” in the Trinity is to communicate, to reveal God.

That’s a very important role because verse 18a says, “No one has ever seen God….” We know the Moses saw God and that Isaiah saw a vision of God. Jesus himself said, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (v. 9). So what did John mean in verse 18 when he wrote, “No one has ever seen God…?”

The answer is that no one has ever seen God in his essence, as he truly is, in his unobscured self. God is invisible (Col 1:15), so anyone who “sees” him has seen only a manifestation of God, a presentation that God has chosen to make, not the true essence of God. Nobody has seen that.

Except Jesus, for verse 18 goes on to say, “the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.”

It would be impossible for us to know God or understand a thing about him on our own. Unless God choses to reveal himself, all we can do is see the result of his existence–creation and his power–not God himself.

But God has chosen to reveal himself “at many times and in various ways” (Heb 1:1) and Jesus is the ultimate expression of that.

Want to know what God would say about anything? See what Jesus said about it.

Want to know what God would do in any situation? See what Jesus did in that situation.

Anything that is true about God is true about Jesus because Jesus is God and he came to reveal God to us. So, give thanks for God’s personal, powerful revelation of himself in our Lord Jesus. And, watch as we read through the Gospel of John to see what God reveals about himself through Christ.

Numbers 19, Isaiah 42, Acts 17

Read Numbers 19, Isaiah 42, and Acts 17.

This devotional is about Isaiah 42.

Parts of this chapter in Isaiah are quoted and said to be fulfilled by Christ in the New Testament. The chapter describes Christ one who brings justice to the earth (v. 1, 3b-4) yet is gentle toward the weak (v. 3a: “a bruised reed… a smoldering wick”).

In the middle of the description of Christ’s work on earth is the passage that says, “I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.” This was a signal to Israel that they were not chosen by God to be the exclusive recipients of his saving grace; rather, through his chosen people Israel, God would bring the light of salvation to millions of people all over the world, meaning people like us who have not a drop of Jewish blood in our bodies.

Simeon may have alluded to this passage in Luke 2:32 as he held baby Jesus in his hands and gave thanks to God for him. Though thousands of years have passed since Christ walked this earth, God’s purpose for him continues to unfold as people all over the world see the light of Christ and come to him for salvation.

Take a moment today to pray for people we support in Thailand, England, Canada, here in the U.S. and areas where security is sensitive. They are bringing the light of Christ’s salvation to these areas in fulfillment of this passage. When that work is completed and the time has come, Christ will come to establish his kingdom for us.

Leviticus 16, Isaiah 11-12, Acts 4

Read Leviticus 16, Isaiah 11-12, and Acts 4.

This devotional is about Leviticus 16.

The Most Holy Place is the inner most room of the tabernacle (later, the temple). You may have heard it called the “Holy of Holies.” It is the place where the Ark of the Covenant was kept. Verse 2 described “the cloud over the atonement cover” which represented God’s holy presence, Therefore, when it came to entering the Most Holy Place:

  • only the high priest could enter there.
  • He could enter there only once a year (vv. 2, 34).
  • He could only enter after doing these things:
    • washing his body with water (v. 4b)
    • putting on the sacred garments (v. 4a).
    • making atonement for himself (vv. 6, 11).

The one day a year that the high priest could enter was Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement (vv. 29-34)). What the high priest offered to the Lord on that day consisted of two goats. One goat was sacrificed for a sin offering (v. 9) and the other was “presented alive before the Lord to be used for making atonement by sending it into the wilderness as a scapegoat” (v. 10).

The goat that was offered as a sin offering was a substitute for the people. God’s holy command was that sin leads to death, so goat number 1 died for the sins of the people. The high priest entered the Most Holy Place with an incense offering (v. 13) and some of the blood from goat number 1 to “sprinkle it on the atonement cover and in front of it. 16 In this way he will make atonement for the Most Holy Place because of the uncleanness and rebellion of the Israelites, whatever their sins have been.” (vv. 15-16).

The imagery of the atonement offering is very familiar to us Christians. The Bible teaches that Jesus died as a sin offering (Rom 8:3). Like goat number 1 here in Leviticus 16, Jesus was our substitute (1 Pet 3:18), taking the penalty of death and God’s wrath for us.

But remember that there were two goats here in Leviticus 16. One died as a sacrifice for sinners; the other goat was sent into the wilderness alive (v. 22). But before the live goat was sent away, the high priest was commanded “to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites—all their sins—and put them on the goat’s head.” Then the scapegoat was led away into the wilderness which symbolized the removal of those sins that have been confessed and atoned for. Verse 22 says, “The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a remote place….”

Jesus fulfilled this image, too. One goat could not both make atonement for sins and carry those sins away because the payment for those sins was the death of the goat as a sacrifice. Jesus, however, could both die as a substitute for sin (like goat #1) but also take those sins away like goat #2. How? By rising from the dead. Romans 4:25 says, “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” First Corinthians 15:17, 20 says, “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins…. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead….”

Two goats were needed to symbolize the death of Christ for us and how he took away our sins through his resurrection. Actually, more than two were needed because this ceremony had to be performed every year. Now that Christ has died for our sins and has risen again for our justification, we have no need to fear God’s wrath. Our sins are paid for and they are gone by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He is the one true sin offering and scapegoat and he performed his work perfectly for our salvation.