I’ve always lived in a city. I’ve never been a “country boy.” But I remember going to my grandparents’ house when I was younger. They lived on the edge of town, and until the town got bigger and basically engulfed their little homestead, one of the unique features of their home (at least to my elementary-aged brain at the time) was that they burned their trash. They didn’t put it out on the curb and wait for someone to come pick it up. They had a burn pile and a burn barrel – whatever junk they had they set fire to. There might be remnants left over afterwards, and it wasn’t the safest process in the world, but it was what they were used to. See, it was different at my house. We lived in the city, so whenever the trashcan got full, we emptied it into the bigger trashcan outside. Once a week, someone in our family would lug our trash out to the curb and leave it for the trashmen to pick up and take away. When it was my turn to take the trash out, I didn’t give it much thought. All that junk that had been accumulating got picked up by someone else and taken away, and I didn’t have to worry about it anymore.
When you read through the Bible, the book of Leviticus can become one of the tedious books to read through. Some people skip it altogether; others just skim the highlights. Leviticus contains many of the laws and rules and regulations God had for His people, and quite honestly, it can be a fairly boring read. However, in the middle of the list of rules about court cases, bodily fluids, skin conditions, sexual behaviors, and priestly wardrobes, God “commands” His people to participate in a powerful demonstration of His love and grace. Once a year, the high priest of the nation of Israel was required to confess the sins of God’s people and to make atonement (make amends) for them. There were a couple of animals that had to be slaughtered and sacrificed in a certain way, and there were some places where the high priest had to sprinkle animals’ blood. But there was one particular animal that wasn’t slaughtered; its carcass wasn’t barbecued. And yet, it was a vital part of the process of God forgiving and forgetting the sins of His people.
“He [the high priest] is 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. He shall send the goat away into the wilderness in the care of someone appointed for the task. The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a remote place; and the man shall release it in the wilderness.” – Leviticus 16:21-22
The goat “carried” the sins of the people away. All the mistakes, all the failures, all the shortcomings, all the guilt – gone. They dumped their “trash” – they dumped their sin – on the goat, and the goat took it away…and they didn’t have to carry that junk around anymore. They didn’t have to worry about it ever again. That is what grace is all about. And you know what? That is what Jesus did on the cross. That is what He continues to do for those of us who have given our lives to Him. He takes all of our mistakes, all of our failures, all of our shortcomings, all of our guilt and gets rid of it. And we don’t have to think about it or worry about it anymore – we just get to live in the freedom of forgiveness and grace.
I don’t think much about my trash. I put it on the curb and someone else takes it away. I should probably be more grateful about the local trash collection service than I have been. They get rid of a lot of my junk on a regular basis. But when it comes to the “trash” of my past mistakes, when it comes to the “trash” of my bad choices, when it comes to the “trash” of my sin, I am so grateful that I get to give all that to Jesus. He takes it away through His blood and gets rid of it by His grace, and I don’t have to deal with it or think about it ever again…and that’s awesome!
“As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” – Psalm 103:12