God has a special claim among his people of the first born. Then in Numbers 3 he makes an arrangement that I’m sure the tribes were happy about. Instead of having to give over their own firstborns, all the tribes will be represented by the Levites. They will consecrated to the Lord in the place of the children of the rest of Israel.
But this is not the only stand in we see in God’s story. Jesus is arrested and accused of crimes he did not commit. He alone in history is the true innocent one. Yet, in Luke 23, when the people call for someone to be pardoned they cry out for Barabbas. They cry out, “Crucify” to the innocent, and demand release for the guilty.
We can see ourselves in this story, taking the place of Barabbas. We are the guilty ones who deserve the punishment standing beside the innocent Jesus. But we receive the pardon because of Christ’s sacrifice. It is as though God says, “Take my own firstborn instead of these people who deserve the consequences of their sin.” Christ suffers the punishment that we deserve and stands in on behalf of God’s people. Because of this substitution sinners are forgiven and are reconciled to God.
Having completed such a work in Christ, we now press on to read in Acts, and we will see what God will do to care for and grow his church once Jesus has left the people. It is a church made possible only because of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, who stands in on our behalf.