Numbers 19

How Much More the Blood of Christ?

“But the man who is unclean and does not purify himself from uncleanness, that person shall be cut off from the midst of the assembly, because he has defiled the sanctuary of the LORD; the water for impurity has not been sprinkled on him, he is unclean. – Numbers 19:20 NASB

I am always amazed at the level of detail and intricacy found in the laws given to the Israelites by God. It can become confusing and a bit overwhelming at times as you read about the various sacrifices outlined by God in order for the people to maintain their purity before Him. It had to be intimidating for the people of Moses’ day. Just trying to remember and keep all these rules and regulations would have been a daunting task. And there were different sacrifices for different situations. Chapter 19 outlines the sacrifice necessary to cleanse someone who finds himself defiled by having touched or been in the vicinity of a dead body. There was an elaborate and very specific right or ritual to be followed in order for that person to be cleansed. If they didn’t follow it, they would remain defiled and cut off from the camp. Not only would they be removed from fellowship, they would be cut off from the Tabernacle and any ability to offer sacrifices for their sins. So this was serious stuff.

So God tells them to sacrifice a red heifer – one without defect and that had never worn a yoke. It was to be slaughtered outside the camp, then some of its blood was to be sprinkled on the Tabernacle in order to cleanse it from defilement. The body of the heifer was to be burned completely, along with some cedar wood, hyssop, scarlet yarn. The ashes were to be gathered and stored in a clean place outside the camp. Those ashes would play a critical role in the cleansing of anyone defiled from having touched or been in close proximity to a dead body. The ashes were placed in clean water, then sprinkled on the defiled person on the third and seventh days of his uncleanness. Then on the seventh day he was to bath and wash his clothes. That same water was to be sprinkled on the Tabernacle and all its furnishing, because when one of the Israelites became defiled, it defiled the Tabernacle itself. And if you think about it, with people dying on a regular basis because of disease, old age, and other natural causes, it would have been easy to find yourself defiled. So this regulation was one that was probably put into use quite frequently. Through no fault of your own, you could find yourself defiled and in danger of being cut off from the people of God. But fortunately, God provided a way to receive cleansing. And it involved the shedding of blood. The life of an unblemished animal had to be sacrificed so that the defiled person could receive cleansing.

There is a lot of obvious symbolism here. The unblemished red heifer represents Christ. He was the unblemished sacrifice for our sins. The hyssop, cedar wood, and scarlet yarn were all used in the cleansing of a leper. They may also represent the hyssop branch that was use to offer wine to Christ on the cross (John 19:29), the wood of the cross on which He was hung, and the scarlet robe which was placed on Him at His trial (Matthew 27:28). The blood speaks of Christ’s blood shed for us. But all this symbolic imagery was but a shadow of what was to come. While the mixture of water and ashed could cleanse a man on the outside, it did nothing about the inside. He would be outwardly clean, but inside, he could still be full of sin and corruption. Such was the inadequacy of this system. It was incomplete. It could not completely wipe away sin and guilt. Additional sacrifices would have to be made. More blood would have to be shed. More ashes and water would need to be sprinkled. At no point could the people of God know that their sins were completely and permanently forgiven. You could be cleansed from defilement and accidently stumble upon a dead body minutes after your purification. And so you would have to start the process all over again. Because these sacrifices were but a type of what was to come. The book of Hebrews tells us that these regulations were a picture of what was to come in Christ. They were an imperfect glimpse into the perfect cleansing that Christ would offer. “The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” (Hebrews 9:13-14 NIV). The Message paraphrases those verses this way: “If that animal blood and the other rituals of purification were effective in cleaning up certain matters of our religion and behavior, think how much more the blood of Christ cleans up our whole lives, inside and out” (Hebrews 9:13-14 MSG). Inside and out. That’s difference. That’s the key. Christ came to provide cleansing that goes to the core of who we are. He came to purify our hearts, not just our actions. He came to cleanse us from the sin that permeates our very being. We aren’t just defiled by sin, we are sinners. Our very nature is sinful. We have a sin nature and it separates us from God. Jesus Christ came to give us a new nature. He didn’t just sprinkle us, He transformed us. And we are daily being transformed into His likeness as the old vestiges of our sin nature are slowly but surely removed. He is cleansing us inside and out.

Father, thank You for reminding me that Your Son’s sacrifice for me was permanent. It never has to be repeated. And He has provided a way for me to be cleansed inside and out. His blood covers me. I have a new nature. I don’t have to sin. I do not have to be defiled by exposure to the death that surrounds me daily. He is removing my sin nature from me each and every day. And He has cleansed me not just externally, but internally. What a wonderful thought. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

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