Thursday, May 7, 2015

God of the Fallen

Yesterday, we talked about how God has made provision for the poor in prescribing second sacrifices for those who cannot afford the first. But what about the God who provides for...the fallen?

This is where it gets interesting.

We know that Satan is a fallen angel, and we're fairly familiar with the few scenes in the Bible where God and Satan go at it. There's Job, of course, where God hands His faithful servant over to Satan, with some limitations, to show that this is, indeed, a righteous man. And then, in the Gospel, there is the scene where Satan is allowed to tempt Jesus. Satan is accursed, but he's not forgotten. God keeps giving him these opportunities. 

But I'm not talking about Satan. I'm talking about a lesser-known character: Azazel. 

We see Azazel in Leviticus 16, where Moses is giving instructions for making peace with the Lord. This peace requires the sacrifice of a bull and a goat, each of which has its portions set aside for the Lord and its portions set aside for the priests. There's a second goat, though, too. This is the "scapegoat" (which is actually a real thing). The priest is to put his hands on the head of this scapegoat and thereby transfer the sins of the people onto the animal. Then, a designated man will lead this goat into the desert and release it, allowing the sins of the people to wander away from them.

In Leviticus 16, this goat is released not only into the desert, but "in the desert to Azazel." (v. 10) A few verses earlier, we see that this is no accident or afterthought: God has ordained this goat to be "chosen" for Azazel.

Because apparently, even fallen angels need to eat.

It's just amazing to me. We think about this God who, sure, is the stuff dreams are made of. Heaven, streets of gold, redemption, mercy, grace. But this has also been the God of our nightmares. Hell, fire, brimstone, weeping, gnashing of teeth, eternal damnation. He's not a God whose bad side you want to get on. Not to hear the preachers tell it. 

Yet here we have this angel, this fallen angel, who for everything we've read about condemnation ought to be the furthest thing from God's mind. He ought to be completely cut off. He ought to be in the bottomless pit. He ought to be long ago mourned and forgotten. Forsaken, even. And God's giving him a goat. Not just once, but once a year. On a continuing basis. For as long as the people are sacrificing to God, they are commanded to give also one goat to Azazel. 

Now, I'm not sure you can live really on one goat per year, but it's something, right?

And what an incredible encouragement it is to those of us who spend so much of our lives fallen. Not on purpose, I don't think, but it happens to the best of us. We're down and out sinners. No two ways about it. And it's easy to feel sometimes like we're cut off, trapped in a pit, long ago mourned and forgotten. Forsaken, even. 

But God, in His infinite grace, is still making provision for us, the fallen. We see it here in Azazel; it is no less true in us. 

God takes care of His angels. Even the fallen ones. 

God takes care of His saints. Even the fallen ones. 

God takes care of His people. 

Even the fallen ones.

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