The Great Exchange
Perhaps you are still asking yourself: Is what Jesus did on the cross 2000 years ago really pertinent to me today? Many professing Christians evidence little excitement or appreciation for the work of Christ on the cross. If you could place a hidden camcorder in most churches, you would see lots of yawns on most Sundays!
It is impossible to have a strong foundation as a Christian unless we have a clear revelation of the passion of Christ and how it can transform our lives today. Without that understanding, we will be apathetic believers at best. I like the question the late Leonard Ravenhill used to put on all of his notes and cards: “Are the things you are living for worth Christ dying for?” This is still a watershed issue that should challenge our values today.
Brother Ravenhill lived what he preached. I remember a time when my left leg was in severe pain from sciatica. I could barely walk, and I was also feeling a lot of emotional pressure at that time in my life. My nerves were increasingly becoming frayed as I tossed and turned at night, unable to sleep. During this stressful period, I got a little handwritten letter from Brother Ravenhill:
“If God wills, we will come to Houston one day. Presently, dear Martha and I are recovering from a tough attack of flu. Then the sciatic nerve in my left leg struck a painful blow. Now I have a limp, but so had Jacob, and it does not seem I shall travel much this year. But with the Psalmist we say, ‘My times are in Thy hands,’ ready to stay ready for my place to fill, ready for service, lowly or great, ready to do His will.”
At that time, Brother Ravenhill was not only battling the flu and sciatica, he was also in his 80s and had suffered four major heart attacks. And here I was, in my mid-30s at the time, complaining about my health and having an old-fashioned pity party.
Upon reading Brother Ravenhill’s letter, I couldn’t help but think, Listen to this guy! If this sciatic thing is bugging me, it must be terrible for him. But all he can think about is serving God! His letter ended with this: “He is no fool who exchanges his burden of sin for the burden of the Lord.”
Brother Ravenhill had all kinds of phrases that seemed to leap right up and hit me square between the eyes. This one was certainly no exception. As I began to meditate upon his attitude during a stressful time in his life, I was convicted of my own self-centered murmuring. But I was also greatly encouraged in handing my own “burden” before the Lord, despite the way I was feeling.
As I continued to meditate on Brother Ravenhill’s concluding statement about the exchange of the burden of sin for the burden of the Lord, I began to see how Jesus exchanged our filthy rags for His robes of righteousness. We studied earlier the old hymn that says, “We owed a debt we could not pay; He paid the debt He did not owe.” Yes, He exchanged His own life and holiness for the debt of sin which we could not pay. He willingly experienced our sin, our hell, and our separation so we could be brought into loving fellowship with the Father.
The Exchange of Burdens
The first exchange Jesus made on our behalf was to give us eternal life in exchange for our sentence of hell and eternal death. But the exchange doesn’t end there. We should be willing, as Brother Ravenhill said, to exchange our burden of sin for the burden of the Lord. By that I mean we should cultivate a burden to do the will of God, whatever the cost.
Although this could be manifested in a variety of ways, in many cases it will mean reaching out to hurting, broken, and lost people. But whatever the Lord’s burden is for our lives, that is what we should be willing to embrace in exchange for our sins. If our sins have been cleansed yet we have no passion to follow the Lord’s heart for our lives, something is seriously wrong!
When we exchanged our filthy rags for His perfect righteousness, we made a commitment to the Lord. In that commitment we said, “Not my will, but your will be done. I no longer belong to myself. You have bought me with a price, and that price was your very own blood.” Paul challenged the Corinthians on this very matter:
Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
Paul seemed to be wondering if the Corinthians had forgotten this foundation stone of a fruitful Christian life. Christianity is not living any way you want, with a quick call to Jesus for help whenever you get yourself in trouble. The life of faith is not a “pick and choose” game where we keep what we like and discard what we don’t. Christianity is not making the Word of God fit what we want so we can continue to satisfy our own fleshly desires and greed. Our quest should be to fit into God’s plans rather than trying to squeeze Him into ours.
When we die to ourselves and commit ourselves to the full lordship of Jesus, our hearts become less likely to be drawn into deception. As Jesus promises in John 7:17, “If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak of My own authority.” Thus, a firm commitment to do the will of God will keep us from falling into error by entertaining what is not His will for our lives. When we are not focused on God’s covenant for our lives, it is so easy to become deceived through vain imaginations, the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life.
We need to orientate our minds toward identifying with our new life in Christ instead of our old man, who was dead in trespasses and sins. When we identify with our pasts, it is impossible to break the strongholds of sin in our lives. This “identification” problem stands at the core of most struggling Christians.
Despite the fact that Jesus died to give us new life through His resurrection, we are busy thinking about and doing things which amount to resurrecting the “old man”! So it becomes very easy to get off into error when we don’t totally die at the cross with Christ.
The ‘Leprosy’ of Sin
Leviticus 14:1-4 describes the “great exchange” in a truly wonderful way:
Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “This shall be the law of the leper for the day of his cleansing: He shall be brought to the priest. And the priest shall go out of the camp, and the priest shall examine him; and indeed, if the leprosy is healed in the leper, then the priest shall command to take for him who is to be cleansed two living and clean birds, cedar wood, scarlet, and hyssop.”
Leprosy, in the Bible, is symbolic of the uncleanness of sin and especially the result of sin: death. Aside from a miracle, there was no cure for leprosy. (Yet, God provided instructions for those who would be cured! Proof that He wants to do miracles!) Because it was highly contagious, those who were infected had to live in separate colonies. If you were a leper and someone approached you on the road, by law you had to raise your arms and shout, “Unclean, unclean!” so people would know to avoid you for fear of being infected.
God uses leprosy in Leviticus 14 to illustrate how our sins were cleansed in Jesus 2000 years ago on the cross. This is the same chapter Jesus referred to in Matthew 8:1-4 after He healed a leper. When the leper was “cleansed” or healed, Jesus told him to follow the prescription in Leviticus 14. A healed leper would undergo a specific ritual designed to teach about the Messiah and His redemptive work.
Leviticus 14 is loaded with symbolic references that are easy to miss. “Cedar wood” is representative of the wood of the cross, and thus becomes a symbol of the crucifixion. “Scarlet” is a type of the blood of Christ which was shed on that cross for our sakes. “Hyssop” is symbolic of the purging Jesus experienced on our behalf (Psalm 51:7, Hebrews 1:3), cleansing away the sins of the world by His blood.
The chapter continues:
“And the priest shall command that one of the birds be killed in an earthen vessel over running water. And for the living bird, he shall take it, the cedar wood and the scarlet and the hyssop, and dip them and the living bird in the blood of the bird that was killed over the running water. And he shall sprinkle it seven times on him who is to be cleansed from the leprosy, and shall pronounce him clean, and shall let the living bird loose in the open field” (Leviticus 14:5-7).
What is the significance of the two birds? Actually, they represent the same person, but with a slightly different twist. The first bird is killed in an earthen vessel over running water. The first bird typifies God manifested in the “earthen vessel” of flesh—Jesus of Nazareth. “Running water” (sometimes referred to as living water) is figurative of the Holy Spirit. Jesus was “killed…over running water” in the sense that, from beginning to end, He was anointed by and saturated with the Holy Spirit “without measure” (see John 1:32, Matthew 26:6-13, John 4:7-14).
The second (living) bird is taken together with the cedar wood, the scarlet, and the hyssop, and dipped in the blood of the bird that was killed over running water. The leper is sprinkled with this blood seven times, then the living bird is loosed into the open field.
Many commentators believe the second bird is figurative of us as we are cleansed of our sins, but I believe this is only partially true. In this passage, the sinner is mainly portrayed by the leper who is being cleansed. The second bird, then, must be figurative of Jesus, yet in His resurrected form.
Think about it! The “living” bird is taken together with the elements representative of the crucifixion. It is dipped in the “sinless” blood of the bird which was killed over running water, then let loose into the open field after the leper is sprinkled with blood seven times.
Jesus overcame the world “by water and blood” (1 John 5:5-6). Although He was crucified, death could not hold Him because of His sinless blood. He was resurrected from the dead by the living water of the Holy Spirit. Then He sprinkled His blood before the temple in heaven, once and for all, so that He could forever cleanse all those who would come to Him (John 20:17, Hebrews 9:12).
So the second (living) bird is first and foremost the resurrected Christ. Second, it represents all of those who place themselves in Him through faith. In turn, we are set free from sin into the open field of His love. The second and living bird, figurative of the resurrection life of Jesus, is what actually cleanses the “leper” (you and me) from sin!
In the picture of these two birds, we see the great exchange that took place 2000 years ago on Calvary. Through His shed blood, Jesus exchanged His eternal life for our sins. He was the “bird” killed on our behalf that, in Him, we might fly away in perfect freedom. And in Him we become the living bird—alive because we were “dipped” (and washed) in His blood. Our filthy rags were exchanged for His robes of righteousness. Not only did He buy us with a price, He also came to live within us as the Holy Spirit.
In light of such awesome redemptive love, how can we not give ourselves totally and irrevocably to Him? Our foremost desire should be to honor God and gladly identify with Jesus instead of being ashamed of Him. For this reason, Hebrews 10:29 teaches us that we trample on the blood of Christ when we choose to identify with our old man of sin rather than with our new man who was created in righteousness, in Him.
Leviticus 14:8-11 provides a beautiful picture of a sinner (leper), who is cleansed and presented blameless before the Lord and the entire congregation. Then, in verses 12-14, we see a teaching that instructs us how to walk in our “cleanness” and live out the new life we have been given:
“And the priest shall take one male lamb and offer it as a trespass offering, and the log of oil, and wave them as a wave offering before the Lord. Then he shall kill the lamb in the place where he kills the sin offering and the burnt offering, in a holy place; for as the sin offering is the priest’s, so is the trespass offering. It is most holy. The priest shall take some of the blood of the trespass offering, and the priest shall put it on the tip of the right ear of him who is to be cleansed, on the thumb of his right hand, and on the big toe of his right foot.”
The heart of the teaching here lies in verse 14. The blood of the trespass offering is placed upon the tip of the right ear, the right thumb, and the big toe of the right foot. Now what does this possibly mean to us? The bottom line is that, through Jesus, God has provided the way for us to live a life of consecration and holiness. The blood applied to these three specific areas of the body depicts the sanctifying element of the blood of Jesus.
“Sanctify” means “to set apart for a specific use” or “to make holy.” Therefore, the blood applied to the tip of the right ear teaches that our ears are to be set apart for His use. They are consecrated to be supernaturally “tuned in” to the voice of Jesus, our Good Shepherd: “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (John 10:27).
As vessels set apart in honor of the King, we have a responsibility to guard what enters our hearts and minds. If we allow our temples to be defiled by the filth of the world—which is so prevalent in television, magazines, and music today—we dishonor our Father and inhibit the work He desires to do through our lives. May our ears and eyes be sanctified for His purposes!
The “right hand” or “right arm” in Scripture is figurative of action. It speaks of doing something or accomplishing some type of work (Psalm 90:17, Acts 13:17). Our “works” have the potential to be good or bad, righteous or unrighteous, meaningful or meaningless. Applying the blood of our trespass offering to the right hand is a further act of consecration. God is consecrating our deeds, all that we do in His name.
If we sin and seek forgiveness through our trespass offering, God desires that we consecrate our future deeds in that area of our lives. Anything we set our hands to do—whether in business, ministry, or other areas of life—should glorify God! “…whatever you do,” Paul told the Corinthians, “do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).
Last of all, the big toe is mentioned because of its unique role as part of the entire foot. The spiritual parallel is obvious. We walk with our foot. The big toe has the primary role of bringing balance to each and every step that we take. Without a big toe, it is nearly impossible to maintain an even keel. In fact, if you were to cut off your big toes, you would probably have trouble standing up straight, much less trying to walk without falling over. We trip ourselves up spiritually when we choose to go places and do things that are not godly.
The blood of the trespass offering applied to the “great toe of the right foot” is a message from the Lord that our steps should be led by Him. Setting apart our steps to walk in God’s purposes, we are called to “keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25 NIV). Everywhere we set our feet should be considered holy ground for the King (Joshua 1:3).
Let us commit ourselves to walk courageously and unashamedly in this fallen world, bringing the love and presence of God with us! As Paul reminded the Corinthians, we are called to diffuse “the fragrance of His knowledge in every place” (2 Corinthians 2:14).
The picture is clear: Through the blood of Jesus, our entire lives—whatever we hear, speak, think, or do—should be consecrated to the glory of God. This is not just a matter of human effort to attain holiness. Rather, it is the Holy Spirit who sanctifies us, setting us apart for His use (2 Thessalonians 2:13, Philippians 2:13, Romans 15:16). This is exactly what is happening in Leviticus 14:15-17, where the “oil” represents the anointing of the Holy Spirit:
“And the priest shall take some of the log of oil, and pour it into the palm of his own left hand. Then the priest shall dip his right finger in the oil that is in his left hand, and shall sprinkle some of the oil with his finger seven times before the Lord. And the rest of the oil in his hand, the priest shall put some on the tip of the right ear of him who is to be cleansed, on the thumb of his right hand, and on the big toe of his right foot, on the blood of the trespass offering.”
The anointing oil, representative of the Holy Spirit, is applied on the right ear, right thumb, and great toe of the right foot. What is God saying here? When we allow Jesus to apply His blood to our lives, washing away our sins, we also consent to consecrate our lives to Him. At this point, the Holy Spirit comes into our hearts and seals the work of the cross in our hearts and lives (Ephesians 1:3-14, especially verse 13). That is why the oil is placed on top of the blood of the trespass offering in these three special places. The blood is the foundation of our anointing by the Holy Spirit.
Sealed, Sanctified, and Empowered
After sealing the work of salvation in our lives, the Holy Spirit then sets out to sanctify our lives as we determine to walk with Him. Day by day, the sanctifying presence of the Spirit convicts us of sin and leads us to repentance. He is continually speaking to our hearts, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”
Another profound truth is contained in Leviticus 14:18:
“The rest of the oil that is in the priest’s hand he shall put on the head of him who is to be cleansed. So the priest shall make atonement the Lord.”
What is God teaching in this verse? What is represented by pouring the “rest” (remnant) of the oil on the head of the person who was to be cleansed? The Holy Spirit has not only come to seal and sanctify us, but He also came to empower us for the work God has called us to do (Micah 3:8, Acts 1:8, Acts 2:1-4).
Without His power, we can do nothing (John 15:5, Zechariah 4:6). The Holy Spirit has come to bear witness to the words and life of Jesus in great and mighty ways (Acts 4:31-33). This is an Old Testament foreshadow of the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Just as the “remnant” of the log of oil was poured upon the leper who was cleansed, so is the Holy Spirit poured out on all of those who determine to obey and follow Him. In the book of Acts, the Holy Spirit is described as coming upon the believers in their baptism, or as filling them to overflowing. This can be the only explanation for the further use of God’s anointing oil in Leviticus 14:18, subsequent to its use in sealing and sanctifying. *
Observing the progression of the leper’s healing, we can learn a lot about the process of salvation in our lives. The leper first had to be cleansed and sealed, as do we. He then was sanctified, set apart for God’s purposes. Finally, the leper needed to be empowered by the anointing oil of the Spirit. When we receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit, we are committing ourselves to receiving all of God’s plan and commission for our lives. God makes provision for all of this in Leviticus 14!
This must be more than a doctrine or theory! We need to receive power to serve Him. This includes power to go out with supernatural signs, wonders, and miracles, bearing witness to the living reality of Jesus. Our Savior is alive, and this is the central difference between our God and the “gods” of other faiths.
It is said that “with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 4:33). The core message of the early church was the resurrection of Jesus, not just His crucifixion. Today, as then, this message must be preached in the power of the Spirit.
How do we receive this power? Acts 5:32 states quite simply that the Holy Spirit is given to those who obey Him. We can simply follow Jesus and let Him worry about the manifestation of His power in our lives. All things are possible to those who believe (Mark 9:23). The old hymn sums it up very well, “Trust [i.e., believe] and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.” As we set our hearts to believe and obey the Lord, His power and blessing will be released in our lives.
So what about you? Is your life surrendered and set apart to God? Or do you still carry around the guilt and shame of your past? Are you walking around in defeat and fear, ashamed of what your life has come to? It’s time for us to lay our lives down before the Lord! We need to truly make Him Lord of our lives, exchanging our “filthy rags” for His beautiful robes of righteousness.
We need to let Him speak to us clearly as to the direction our lives should go. Let’s kneel and say to Him, “Not my will, Lord, but Your will be done. Transform my life and help me be disciplined as to what I allow into my mind and my heart. Let me honor You in all my ways, so I can hold my head high and say, ‘I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ!’”
Be assured, this is a prayer the Lord will honor if it is prayed with a sincere heart. Jesus died to make this great exchange, and He rose again to give it life. How can anyone refuse an offer like this? Jesus beckons us to follow Him into a life of expectancy and joy!
(Taken from the book, “Born To DIe..that we may live” by Doug Stringer)
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