Understanding The Identity Exchange That Took Place At The Cross

Then he shall put his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him.

– Leviticus 1:4

When God’s people Israel were under the law, God made provision for them to sacrifice offerings at the altar to atone for their sins. This was necessary because the people could never keep God’s law perfectly and they would surely end up transgressing.

It might seem cruel that God required all those innocent animals to be killed. But this was the only way that the people themselves might be spared. Because only innocent blood – and not the blood of the sinner himself – can atone for the sin and satisfy the justice of God. That’s how holy God is. 

The 5 types of offering all point to the one perfect offering of Jesus at the cross. They speak of His Person (burnt offering), His perfect sinless life (meal offering), His work for all of us (peace offering), His representation of us (sin offering), and His 120% restoration to God (trespass offering). 

When the people brought their offering to the priest under the law, they were in essence offering to God a picture of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice that was to come. It reminded God of what His Son would do, of the perfect work that pleased and satisfied Him. 

Something really important happened each time the offerer brought the animal before the priest: the offerer had to place his hand on the head of his offering.

This wasn’t just a minor detail or part of the process. The act signified the transfer of identity between the offerer and his innocent offering – the offerer’s sin upon the innocent animal, and the offering’s innocence and righteousness to the sinner.

And it says that the offering “[would] be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him”. The Hebrew word for “accepted” is ratzon, which means ‘favour’ or delight’. The offerer walks away knowing that he now has the favour and delight of God upon him because of the sacrifice of his offering. 

That is exactly what happened at the cross. And that is what we need to see when we come to the Lord today.

See and identify with the divine exchange that has already taken place at the cross: that Jesus has already taken our sins and our sinner identity, and today we have His perfect righteousness upon us. Because Jesus’s one sacrifice is effective for all time, we cannot lose His righteousness once we accept it and identify with it.

Just as it was the offerer who killed the sacrifice, we present Jesus as our offering to God when we see that it’s our own sins that He bore and died for, and we make His work personal to us.

Today, you identify with and honour the divine exchange that took place at the cross when you confess and declare that “I am the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus”, because it acknowledges the perfection of His work and identity in you and agrees with how God sees you in Christ.

And be assured that because of Jesus your perfect offering, God’s unclouded favour and delight, and every blessing that Jesus deserves, are all over you wherever you go! 

Because when you encounter Jesus, you encounter grace.

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