Substitution: Leviticus 16:16-27

Leviticus 16:16‑27  •  4 min. read  •  grade level: 9
Leviticus 16:16-2716And he shall make an atonement for the holy place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions in all their sins: and so shall he do for the tabernacle of the congregation, that remaineth among them in the midst of their uncleanness. 17And there shall be no man in the tabernacle of the congregation when he goeth in to make an atonement in the holy place, until he come out, and have made an atonement for himself, and for his household, and for all the congregation of Israel. 18And he shall go out unto the altar that is before the Lord, and make an atonement for it; and shall take of the blood of the bullock, and of the blood of the goat, and put it upon the horns of the altar round about. 19And he shall sprinkle of the blood upon it with his finger seven times, and cleanse it, and hallow it from the uncleanness of the children of Israel. 20And when he hath made an end of reconciling the holy place, and the tabernacle of the congregation, and the altar, he shall bring the live goat: 21And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness: 22And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited: and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness. 23And Aaron shall come into the tabernacle of the congregation, and shall put off the linen garments, which he put on when he went into the holy place, and shall leave them there: 24And he shall wash his flesh with water in the holy place, and put on his garments, and come forth, and offer his burnt offering, and the burnt offering of the people, and make an atonement for himself, and for the people. 25And the fat of the sin offering shall he burn upon the altar. 26And he that let go the goat for the scapegoat shall wash his clothes, and bathe his flesh in water, and afterward come into the camp. 27And the bullock for the sin offering, and the goat for the sin offering, whose blood was brought in to make atonement in the holy place, shall one carry forth without the camp; and they shall burn in the fire their skins, and their flesh, and their dung. (Leviticus 16:16‑27)
After sprinkling the blood on the mercy seat and before it, Aaron then cleansed the holy place. In virtue of Christ’s finished work, God can now go on with His people even though the flesh is still in us, for we are not now in the flesh, but accepted in Him. The veil has now been rent, and we draw near as worshippers. Israel, however, has not entered into the good of all this, for the veil is still upon their hearts. It is not until they own Christ as their true Messiah, and the work He has finished as the ground of blessing, that blessing will come to them nationally. This will be when He comes to set up His kingdom in righteousness, and then, like Thomas, they will see and believe.
We now come to the scapegoat, which speaks to us of substitution. The first goat, as we remarked, was for the Lord’s lot, and opened up the way of blessing in meeting God’s claims against sin. There is, however, our personal need as sinners and our actual sins which must be put away. This we see in the scapegoat. The Lord Jesus died for all, but the Scripture never says that He bore the sins of all, but of many (Isaiah 53:1212Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53:12)). And so here in our chapter the actual sins of the children of Israel were confessed over the head of the scapegoat by the high priest, and then the goat was let go by the hand of a fit man to carry them to a land not inhabited. Their sins were, as it were, carried away and forgotten. Surely this is just what the Lord Jesus has done for all those who believe in Him. He who is both our Great High Priest and our Scapegoat, has confessed and borne our sins in Calvary’s dark hours. They are now gone forever from the very memory of God, and the Holy Spirit is now a witness to us saying, “Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more” (Hebrews 10:1717And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. (Hebrews 10:17)).
We have been noticing that all this which took place on the day of atonement in Israel was just a type and shadow of the work of the Lord Jesus on Calvary. How our hearts are bowed in worship as we think of it. God’s claims have been fully met, and a place of nearness for us as worshippers secured, while we rejoice in the fact that all our personal guilt has been fully met, so that our sins are gone, never to be charged against us again. The notable contrast between the type and the reality is, however, that here in the type it had to be repeated again every year, but now the perfect work of the Lord Jesus has been done “once for all” (Hebrews 10:1010By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (Hebrews 10:10)). It is gloriously and forever complete, as is the perfect standing of every believer, even the feeblest.
The Burnt Offering
After all this Aaron came out and offered his burnt offering and the burnt offering for the people. We, the church, as now in the holy of holies, have entered into the good of all this, but Israel, as we have remarked, will not be in the good of it until they see Him coming as their Deliverer. Then they will know that His work has been accepted, and blessing will come to them in that day when they have truly afflicted their souls in repentance.
The bodies of the bullock and the goat, whose blood had been brought into the sanctuary, were then taken out and burned outside the camp. The camp was the place of earthly religious ceremony, but blessing must come through the despised One who suffered outside the gate (Hebrews 13:1212Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. (Hebrews 13:12)).
For Further Meditation
1. What part of Christ’s work does the scapegoat represent?
2. There are many different ways that Christ’s work at Calvary is presented in Scripture. We are told about substitution, propitiation, atonement and sanctification, among others. Can you distinguish between each of these?
3. You can find great, brief definitions of each of these terms in the Concise Bible Dictionary by G. Morrish or in the online version of the dictionary found at