Numbers 19:1-22 (Part 2) – Two Boys from TR, A Car, and A Giant Mud Puddle

Posted: September 23, 2016 in 04-Numbers
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Numbers 19:1-22 (Part 2 of 3)

The Water of Purification


It was the night before Johnny and Kathy Thompson’s wedding back in 1982. It was summertime in the South. Even though Johnny was 5 years older than me, I was the one who was already married so it was up to me to show him a good time the night before his wedding the following evening. It was no big deal. We just hung out with our mutual friends, went to a couple of bars, whistled at girls, talked big about life (which was certainly aided by the alcoholic lubricants that we imbibed). Just your typical guys-night-out. Nothing to write home about. Nothing illegal and nothing particularly to be ashamed about. However, on the way home to Johnny’s place, things got a little wild. Being Southern boys, we loved cars. We loved driving fast. We loved doing donuts in parking lots. We were typical early 80’s 20-somethings in the South. It had rained a lot that summer and particularly a lot that week before Johnny and Kathy’s wedding. So, there was a lot of mud puddles around. To quote Zazu, from Lion King, there were “big ones, small ones, some as big as ya head!” So, I guess you’ve already figured out where this is headed. Southern boys, cars, mud puddles.


Being boys from what was then rural Travelers Rest, SC (now an up and coming chic suburb of Greenville right at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains), or TR as it is known to us locals here in Upstate, SC, we were driving home on Rutherford Road which had train tracks running beside it so there was this blank area between the road and the railroad tracks all along the route of Rutherford Road between Wade Hampton Blvd. and Pleasantburg Drive. In this blank space, no development could be done because there was just no room. The rails were pretty close to the road. But there was enough room during this week for a huge mud puddle to develop in an area of the road’s circuit where there was not a lot of traffic. And of course it was pretty late at night, probably 2am. You see what’s going to happen here. Boys will be boys. We saw the huge puddle. It was a miniature lake almost. You could put 15 cars, five rows of three cars side by side, in this puddle. We know the ground so there was no real fear of what was underneath the shallow waters of this giganitor puddle. Yep. It was donut time! We must have spent an hour doing donuts through the puddle. Slamming on brakes in the middle of it too see how far it would take to stop. The more we did the donuts and the slides and the slamming on of brakes, the bigger the soupy mess the puddle became. The more muddy it became. With each pass through the puddle mud was being thrown up and onto Johnny’s car. Layers and layers of mud. I mean we had to turn on the windshield wipers to get the mud off the windshield we were churning up so much mud. Finally, we decide we have had enough and we head home to Johnny’s. Having had a few that night and having had the mudding adventure of a lifetime, we were pretty tired when we got back TR and it was sooo late. We parked the car in the yard so the mud would not drip all over Johnny’s driveway. And we went in and crashed and slept like babies until the girls got there the next morning.


You could hear Kathy screaming from the yard when they got there about 10am that morning. Kathy and my wife at the time, Lisa, were already all decked out for the bridesmaids’ luncheon. So, you could imagine their horror at seeing a car that was now covered, and I mean covered, with what was now dried mud. Remember, summer in the South. It stays in the 80 degree range even at night so it did not take long for the mud all over that car to dry. Kathy threatened to call off the wedding if Johnny did not get that car spotless before the wedding. Of course, Lisa gave me the evil eye for, being a married man, and having participated in this childishness. The rants of Kathy and Lisa were darts to just waking up brains after a night of partying.


But thank God for self-service car washes and lots of quarters. You know those self-service ones with the jet sprayers where if you don’t have the wand firmly in your hand that it will take off and do a dance all around the stall when the pressured water stream is turned on! Man, we must have spent $20 in quarters that morning til lunchtime. There was mud in every crevice of that car. There was inches of mud everywhere. We must have rinsed that car at least 10 times before we could even consider washing it. But after several hours of hard work and laughing the whole time about how muddy the car had gotten and the laughing about what the girls thought when they first saw the car in the yard for the first time. But through the power of pressurized water and soapy suds and a lot of hard scrubbing, we got the car clean. It looked goooood! Water is a magical agent for cleaning. No more has it ever been true than on that particular morning.


Oh the cleansing power of water. That transformation of Johnny’s car from a muddy mess to a car ready to be a show piece as Johnny and Kathy drove away on their honeymoon was what I thought of this morning when thinking again on this passage.


Let’s read through this passage for a second time today, Numbers 19:1-22, thinking of the cleansing power of water and how the water of purification here is similar to what baptism symbolizes for us Christians:


19 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron: 2 “This is a requirement of the law that the Lord has commanded: Tell the Israelites to bring you a red heifer without defect or blemish and that has never been under a yoke. 3 Give it to Eleazar the priest; it is to be taken outside the camp and slaughtered in his presence. 4 Then Eleazar the priest is to take some of its blood on his finger and sprinkle it seven times toward the front of the tent of meeting. 5 While he watches, the heifer is to be burned—its hide, flesh, blood and intestines. 6 The priest is to take some cedar wood, hyssop and scarlet wool and throw them onto the burning heifer. 7 After that, the priest must wash his clothes and bathe himself with water. He may then come into the camp, but he will be ceremonially unclean till evening. 8 The man who burns it must also wash his clothes and bathe with water, and he too will be unclean till evening.


9 “A man who is clean shall gather up the ashes of the heifer and put them in a ceremonially clean place outside the camp. They are to be kept by the Israelite community for use in the water of cleansing; it is for purification from sin. 10 The man who gathers up the ashes of the heifer must also wash his clothes, and he too will be unclean till evening. This will be a lasting ordinance both for the Israelites and for the foreigners residing among them.


11 “Whoever touches a human corpse will be unclean for seven days. 12 They must purify themselves with the water on the third day and on the seventh day; then they will be clean. But if they do not purify themselves on the third and seventh days, they will not be clean. 13 If they fail to purify themselves after touching a human corpse, they defile the Lord’s tabernacle. They must be cut off from Israel. Because the water of cleansing has not been sprinkled on them, they are unclean; their uncleanness remains on them.


14 “This is the law that applies when a person dies in a tent: Anyone who enters the tent and anyone who is in it will be unclean for seven days, 15 and every open container without a lid fastened on it will be unclean.


16 “Anyone out in the open who touches someone who has been killed with a sword or someone who has died a natural death, or anyone who touches a human bone or a grave, will be unclean for seven days.


17 “For the unclean person, put some ashes from the burned purification offering into a jar and pour fresh water over them. 18 Then a man who is ceremonially clean is to take some hyssop, dip it in the water and sprinkle the tent and all the furnishings and the people who were there. He must also sprinkle anyone who has touched a human bone or a grave or anyone who has been killed or anyone who has died a natural death. 19 The man who is clean is to sprinkle those who are unclean on the third and seventh days, and on the seventh day he is to purify them. Those who are being cleansed must wash their clothes and bathe with water, and that evening they will be clean. 20 But if those who are unclean do not purify themselves, they must be cut off from the community, because they have defiled the sanctuary of the Lord. The water of cleansing has not been sprinkled on them, and they are unclean. 21 This is a lasting ordinance for them.


“The man who sprinkles the water of cleansing must also wash his clothes, and anyone who touches the water of cleansing will be unclean till evening. 22 Anything that an unclean person touches becomes unclean, and anyone who touches it becomes unclean till evening.”



What’s my takeaway this morning? It is that transformative power of salvation in our lives that makes us clean before God that is symbolized in baptism. Just as Johnny’s car went into the car wash stall a muddy mess, it was transformed by the water and comes out the other side of the stall completely clean and spotless. Our salvation does the same thing for us. Our salvation is symbolically played out in the baptism ceremony. We come to the baptismal pool dirty in our sins. The water represents our salvation in Jesus Christ in that we join Him in the water and he covers us in his purity. We are enveloped by the water of Christ’s righteousness and He takes away or dirtiness upon Himself. Our sins are drowned in His righteousness. We arise in newness of life. We are cleansed by the water. The water stays with as we come out of the water dripping water. We are coated in the water of Christ’s righteousness. It is symbolic of his sending the Holy Spirit upon us at salvation and the clinging wetness of the water on our bodies represents the sanctifying nature of the Holy Spirit, how the Holy Spirit continues to change us and mold us into Christ’s likeness during the remainder of our days until we are made finally perfect and holy in heaven.


The water of purification here in this passage is a foreshadowing of baptism’s symbolic representative nature of salvation. The water of purification mixed with the ashes of the slain heifer enabled the person involved to be made clean in the eyes of God. Our salvation through believing on Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior who gave His life to pay the penalty of our sins is similar to what the heifer does for the water of purification. Without the heifer’s ashes in this scene, the water is just water. With it, the water becomes holy for the purposes of purification. Without Jesus’ death on the cross, our sins are not paid for and we stand before God with all our filthiness of sin still in place. For those sins, we are to be judged by a perfect and holy God. We cannot be in the presence of God in our sin state and must be condemned to be separated from Him in hell. With Jesus, we are covered by the cleansing waters of His holiness, His righteousness, and His purity. We can rejoin the presence of God. We can be presented to Him perfect and spotless through Christ. We are covered in his perfect nature though we still sin. We no longer take glory from our sins because Christ has sent us the Holy Spirit who spends the rest of our lives with us perfecting us from our sins, making us revolted by our own sin nature and seeking to become more and more like him. We ain’t perfect and we do not delight in our sins, the Holy Spirit makes sure of that.


But when you think of what Christ does for us, what the water of purification did for the Israelites, think about Johnny’s car. It was so freaking filthy. Covered in mud and I mean covered every inch of that vehicle. Through the cleansing waters of the car wash, it was made pristine and ready to be carriage for a bride as they left on their honeymoon. We are made ready to be in the presence of God, to be a wholly clean person in the presence of God through the cleansing waters of Jesus Christ. He makes us clean. He makes us wedding worthy as the bride of Christ.


Amen and Amen.

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