God’s Saving Word: Mercy and Forgiveness
Leviticus 16:20-34: Yesterday’s reading described the ritual of the high priest sacrificing a bull for his sins and those of his family, and a goat for the sins of the people. Today’s reading describes a ritual that involved sending into the desert a goat that will carry away the sins of the people. The priest was instructed to lay his hands on the goat’s head while confessing all the sins the people have committed, thereby transferring the people’s sins to the goat. The goat is chosen for Azazel, which means “fierce god,” and associated with the name of a demon believed to inhabit the desert. The name has been divided into two words in Hebrew, ‘ez’azel, (the goat that goes away) from which the term “scapegoat” is derived.
20 When Aaron has finished performing the ritual to purify the Most Holy Place, the rest of the Tent of the Lord’s presence, and the altar, he shall present to the Lord the live goat chosen for Azazel.[a] 21 He shall put both of his hands on the goat’s head and confess over it all the evils, sins, and rebellions of the people of Israel, and so transfer them to the goat’s head. Then the goat is to be driven off into the desert by someone appointed to do it. 22 The goat will carry all their sins away with him into some uninhabited land.
23 Then Aaron shall go into the Tent, take off the priestly garments that he had put on before entering the Most Holy Place, and leave them there. 24 He must take a bath in a holy place and put on his own clothes. After that, he shall go out and offer the burnt offering to remove his own sins and those of the people. 25 He shall burn on the altar the fat of the animal for the sin offering. 26 The man who drove the goat into the desert to Azazel must wash his clothes and take a bath before he comes back into camp. 27 The bull and the goat used for the sin offering, whose blood was brought into the Most Holy Place to take away sin, shall be carried outside the camp and burned. Skin, meat, and intestines shall all be burned. 28 The one who burns them must wash his clothes and take a bath before he returns to camp.
Observing the Day of Atonement
29 The following regulations are to be observed for all time to come. On the tenth day of the seventh month the Israelites and the foreigners living among them must fast and must not do any work. 30 On that day the ritual is to be performed to purify them from all their sins, so that they will be ritually clean. 31 That day is to be a very holy day, one on which they fast and do no work at all. These regulations are to be observed for all time to come. 32 The High Priest, properly ordained and consecrated to succeed his father, is to perform the ritual of purification. He shall put on the priestly garments 33 and perform the ritual to purify the Most Holy Place, the rest of the Tent of the Lord’s presence, the altar, the priests, and all the people of the community. 34 These regulations are to be observed for all time to come. This ritual must be performed once a year to purify the people of Israel from all their sins.
So Moses[b] did as the Lord had commanded.
Today’s Key Verse: Leviticus 16:31
That day is to be a very holy day, one on which they fast and do no work at all. These regulations are to be observed for all time to come.
The Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) is one of the holiest days in the Jewish calendar. According to today’s reading, how are the people to observe this holy day? In what ways are holy days observed within your community of faith?
Merciful and loving God, I come before your throne of grace with a repentant heart and lay my sins before you. Cleanse me of my sins and restore me to a right relationship with you. In your holy name, I pray. Amen.
2 Samuel 9:1-13: King David shows kindness to a member of Saul’s family.