Once a year, on the Day of Atonement, the high priest enters the inner sanctuary of the temple to make a
sacrifice for the sins of the entire nation of Israel. The sacrificial ritual required two male goats that
were physically perfect in age and condition. Sacrificed as the sin offering, one goat's blood and
flesh were offered as a substitute payment of the nation’s sin. On the head of the surviving goat (scapegoat),
the high priest confessed all of the nation's sins and released to the wild to signify that sin left the Hebrew
nation (Lev 16:1-34).
The Old Testament sacrificial system clearly used animal sacrifices as a substitute for the
atonement of human beings (Lev 17:11). Implicit in this is
the recognition of God’s judicial penalty for sin is death.
In his prophecy of the Messiah, the Old Testament prophet Isaiah indicates the significance of the Messiah’s
sacrifice within the context of the Levitical sacrificial laws
The Servant’s sacrifice was for iniquity
(Isa 53:5, 6, 11), transgression
(Isa 53:5, 8) and sin
The Servant’s offering was a guilt offering
The death of the Servant was substitutionary in nature, and it was in substitute for human beings
(Isa 53:5, 11, 12).
This idea of substitution was based on God's prescribed method for restoring a relationship with Him that
was broken by intentional or unintentional sin. This symbolism of conferring sin on to the substitute finds its
basis in the Day of Atonement.
Note carefully that when the High Priest made this sacrifice for the whole nation of Israel, the payment was
being made to God regardless of whether individuals of the nation were Believers or not.
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