A scapegoat takes someone else’s blame and resulting consequences. My older brother, Tim, who is now an author and apostolic leader in Ohio, was an expert at diverting blame to me when we were kids. I was always perfectly innocent never doing anything wrong. He was always the troublemaker.
Mom and Dad were forever taking his side – it seems they could never see through his manipulation and recognize my total innocence. My entire childhood was one of enduring those false accusations – being Tim’s scapegoat. I’ve spent the last 40 years as an adult seeking inner healing for this injustice.
Of course, you know this isn’t entirely true – I was only almost perfect! But it does allow me to take a shot at Tim, of which he is well deserving. And it also illustrates my subject.
In the Old Testament, two animals were used on the Day of Atonement. One was sacrificed; the other was used for the scapegoat. The high priest placed his hands on the scapegoat’s head, confessed the sins of the nation, then the animal was released into the wilderness never to be seen again. It symbolized Christ, our scapegoat, crucified outside the city, carrying away our curse.
Christ, our scapegoat, bearing away our curse, is well illustrated by a story in the book What It Will Take to Change the World by S.D. Gordon. The following is my paraphrase of this story about a couple who discovered that their 14-year-old son had lied to them. The young boy, whom we’ll refer to as Steven, had skipped school three consecutive days. He was found out when his teacher called his parents to inquire about his well-being.
The parents were more upset by Steven’s lies than his missing school. After praying with him about what he had done, they decided on a very unusual and severe form of punishment. I’m not endorsing their decision, but the story is powerful. Their conversation with him went something like this:
“Steven, do you know how important it is that we be able to trust one another?”
“How can we ever trust each other if we don’t always tell the truth? That’s why lying is such a terrible thing. Not only is it sin, but it also destroys our ability to trust one another. Do you understand that?”
“Your mother and I must make you understand the seriousness, not so much of skipping school, but of the lies you told. Your discipline will be that for the next three days, one for each day of your sin, you must go to the attic and stay there by yourself. You will even eat and sleep there.”
So young Steven headed off to the attic and the bed prepared for him there. It was a long evening for Steven and perhaps longer for Mom and Dad. Neither could eat, and for some reason when Dad tried to read the paper, the words seemed blurry. Mom tried to sew, but couldn’t see to thread the needle. Finally, it was bedtime. About midnight, as the father lay in bed thinking about how lonely and afraid Steven must be, he finally spoke to his wife.
“Are you awake?”
“Yes, I can’t sleep for thinking about Steven.”
“Neither can I,” answered Dad.
An hour later he queried again, “Are you asleep yet?”
“No,” answered Mom, “I just can’t sleep for thinking about Steven all alone up in the attic.”
Another hour passed. It was now 2:00 A.M. “I can’t stand this any longer!” murmured Dad as he climbed out of bed grabbing his pillow and a blanket. “I’m going to the attic.”
He found Steven much as he expected: wide awake with tears in his eyes.
“Steven,” said his father, “I can’t take away the punishment for your lies because you must be shown the seriousness of what you’ve done. You must realize that sin, especially lying, has severe consequences. But your mother and I can’t bear the thought of you being all alone here in the attic, so I’m going to share your punishment with you.”
Father lay down next to his son and the two put their arms around each other’s necks. The tears on their cheeks mingled as they shared the same pillow and the same punishment . . . for three nights.
What a picture! Two thousand years ago God crawled out of bed with His blanket and pillow – actually three spikes and a cross of crucifixion – placed His tear-stained cheek next to ours and bore our punishment for sin. His attic was a tomb, His bed a slab of rock and the cheek next to His was yours – yours and mine.
That’s right. Christ was not alone on the Cross – we were with Him. He was actually there to join us in our sentence of death. We weren’t there physically, of course, but we were spiritually (see Romans 6:4-6), as He bore our sin, shame, and punishment.
That’s why I’m so confident God hears our prayers for America’s cleansing and restoration. The blood of Christ, His identification with us, and His substitutionary sacrifice are still speaking in Heaven – and they are louder than our sin. God loves America. He loves ALL sinners, everywhere. That’s who He was, is, and will always be: the Great Lover!
Pray with me:
Father, we thank You for sending Christ to identify with our human condition, ultimately to the point of embracing our guilt and shame. He became our Scapegoat. Thank You for allowing our sin to be put on Him in order that we might receive forgiveness, cleansing, and Your righteousness. Such a merciful and compassionate plan is beyond kind, it is truly immeasurable love.
We ask You now for this abundant and unfathomable love to be poured out once again in our land. We ask You for an enlightenment to people regarding their need of salvation, and for a revelation of who You are. May the light of the gospel penetrate the darkness covering our nation. It is not Your will that any should perish. We come into agreement with Your desires and release Your power into America to bring these things to pass. We ask for this in other nations, as well.
We ask You for powerful signs, wonders and miracles to begin across this land. Extraordinary miracles. We need these signposts that can point people to You. We need wonderment to be created in people, causing them to realize You are real – and You care about them. Heal the sick, deliver those who are bound and, yes, even raise the dead. Let history write that the greatest awakening in world history broke out in 2021. We ask for these things in the authority of Christ. Amen.
We declare that the mercies of the Lord endure forever!