“And 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, even all their sins; and he shall put them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of an appointed man into the wilderness (Leviticus 16:21).”
“And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory forever. Amen (Matthew 6:13).”
The Back Story
Israel is in transit from Egypt to Canaan, but there is a huge culture shift in play. The Lord was intent on establishing His ways for His people. Yahweh started giving instructions to Moses for how the priests needed to relate to Him and to the people. The House of Aaron was to carry the atonement of the people…with very specific instructions. The people were gathered before the tent of meeting to stand before the Lord. Yahweh gave Moses instructions of procedures that Aaron and his sons must perform on behalf of the people so that the glory of the Lord might appear to the people (Leviticus 9:5-6). After the sacrifice animals were prepared on the altar, Moses and Aaron went into the tent, then came out and blessed the people”…and the glory of the Lord appeared unto all the people (Leviticus 9:23-24).” Holy fire came from the Lord and consumed the sacrifice. The people all saw this, shouted and fell on their faces.” Following this, two of Aaron’s sons offered strange fire. Once again holy fire came from the Lord, but this time, the fire consumed and killed these two sons of Aaron.
Jesus taught His disciples to pray certain requests of His Father of which one was, deliver us from evil. Philosophers and apologists, all, wrangle with the issue of evil. As the atheists’ argument goes – why would a (supposedly) good God that Christians and Jews proclaim allow evil? While that question is beyond the scope of my understanding, it does not seem to bring me as much consternation as is discussed by the learned among us. However, there are observations that I have made that usually generate more questions than answers…but I love pondering them before the Lord.
What seems to be a remedy to our own bouts with evil is perpetrated by the teaching of Jesus, telling His disciples to ask the Father to deliver them from evil. Let me get this straight. Our father Adam took action to gain the knowledge of evil – this same evil that we cannot tame nor effectively dismiss its destruction on mankind. Adam ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He had no clue that the impact of such a choice would open up floodgates that he would be unable to shut – even after his eldest son killed his younger brother. What motivated Adam to seek to know evil? Didn’t he know that he (mankind) had the special designation of being made in the image of God? Why was that not enough? No other creation entity had that designation. Was it because Adam was an imager of God that led to his investigation of evil (and good)? Just as we cannot read the hearts of those around us, we probably cannot say for certain what was the full motivation for this choice. Somehow, being an imager of God must have given him the freedom to choose disobedience. Such is that choice familiar to all of us. We like to blame it on Adam and Eve, but some make a case for other forces at work.
Prior to Jesus’ instructed prayer request for a deliverance from evil, He instructed His followers to demand “…lead us not into temptation.” Was not the celestial tempter residing in the Garden, whispering his wiles of deception? Perhaps Adam could have used the resource of such a prayer. It seems that evil was an already available choice that this celestial serpent (nachash) was offering Adam. Thus, evil was already in existence before Adam. Rebellion in heaven had already been perpetrated. With the prayer request about not leading us into temptation, I am always reminded of Jesus traipsing into the wilderness following his water baptism. That wilderness was the region ripe with temptation…and the scripture says that the Holy Spirit led Him into the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11). The victory of the second Adam over the spirit of temptation stands in contrast to the outcome of the first Adam’s temptation.
I wonder if there is any significant connection of the wilderness where Israel sent the goat laden with sin AND the wilderness where Jesus was burdened with the temptations of the satan. That goat was sent to Azazel (Leviticus 16:7-10) who resided in the wilderness…outside the camp. The Dead Sea scrolls regarded Azazel as a demon whose realm was somewhere in the desert, associated with supernatural evil. This whole ritual of Aaron placing Israel’s sins on the goat and sending it to Azazel’s realm was an act of giving back to the demon that which belonged to him: sin (Heiser p.176-178). Sin had to be transported away from the holy ground of Yahweh’s presence and the people had to be cleansed from the impact of a year’s worth of sin via the purification rites of Aaron and his sons. Two of Aaron’s sons chose to offer sacrifices that the Lord did not require of the priests. Either these sacrifices were of their own design or they were reminiscent of other cultures. The Lord was intent on His culture being distinct from that of the Egyptians (Israel’s past residence) and the Canaanites (Israel’s future residence) (Leviticus 18:2-5). This goal of Yahweh-only worship meant having to deal with other worship patterns of which the Israelites needed to abandon. Some were evidently making sacrifices to goat demons. “And they (Israel) shall no more sacrifice their sacrifices to satyrs (goat demons), after whom they go astray (Leviticus 17:7)”. The similarities between sending a sin-laden goat into the wilderness and the sacrificial worship of a goat-demon (satyr) is too much to ignore. The competition of other lesser gods for the attention of God’s people has been from the beginning. Messiah was led into temptation so that we could pray, “deliver US from evil.” What love!
In Israel’s Sinai covenant we see Yahweh setting ordinances and statutes that most of we (contemporary Christians) find befuddling, archaic and sometimes, brutal. In fact, the faithless today bring charges against our God because of their own heightened estimation of their value of their modern ethic (which they, themselves cannot keep.) Especially those of us who have very limited understanding of Hebrew orthodoxy find it difficult to see any of the “whys” in all the regulations and laws. As I studied these scriptures, it became apparent to me that the Lord was establishing a different culture from the nations of the world. It had to be distinctive, and not blended with those other cultures. [For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory forever.] Yet, the forces of evil and sin had to be dealt with in the Sinai covenant as well as in the new covenant of Jesus blood. While I do not have any revelation regarding the first inception of evil, I do see that it was present before the creation of mankind. I do see that evil was sought after by Adam, though it may have been out of ignorance and deception. I do know that we have a God who is willing to deal with our pursuits of evil. It seems that we must ask to not be lead into temptation, strengthened to not be drawn away by our own lusts, and trusting in the Lord’s deliverance from those things which delight us but not Him. In any other relationship, such might be called presumption. For us, it is a call for the righteous to live by faith.
Heiser, Michael. The Unseen Realm. Billingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2015. Print.
Leviticus. The Holy Scriptures – Masoretic Text. Philadelphia, PA: The Jewish Publication Society, 1955.
Matthew. The Holy Bible – NKJV. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc., 2010. Print.