Numbers 19:1-22 (Part 3) – Cows, Red Heifers and Jesus Christ

Posted: September 26, 2016 in Book of Numbers
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Numbers 19:1-22 (Part 3 of 3)
The Water of Purification

Cows are not the brightest animals in the world. Bless their hearts! They can be led and herded easily. They are just innocent animals who do not have the capacity to realize they are in danger. In that, there is this wonderful innocence about them. They are easily led to their own slaughter. However, in their slaughter, the world is fed. Every part of a cow, with maybe a few exceptions, can be used to feed people. Cows provide meat and milk that can sustain whole communities. So, they give their lives to sustain us. They are innocent animals sacrificed so others might live. Let’s keep that in mind as we read this passage. A red heifer is sacrificed. Its blood is shed. The ashes from its burnt body are then made holy for use in purifying those that are deemed uncleaned by God’s law.

Let’s read through this passage for a final time today, Numbers 19:1-22, thinking of the sacrifices of life, the shedding of blood of a cow is how much of our society is sustained through that sacrifice:

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? The takeaway would be that there is a similarity of the red heifer in this passage to Jesus Christ. His blood was shed for us on the cross. His body was sacrificed for us. It was a necessary sacrifice so that God could pour out His wrath on His Son against sin. It is a wrath that each of us deserves individually. It a penalty that we should be paying. However, the sacrifice that Jesus made for us was necessary to sustain us, to give us life giving sustenance, to spare us from the eternal damnation that we deserve. Jesus was innocent and pure. He had to sin in Him. He was spotless as the red heifer and with same innocence of heart. The red heifer in this passage was a way for the person who had been defiled to be reconciled to the body of the nation of Israel. Jesus Christ’s sacrifice reconciles with a holy and perfect God. We are made clean through Jesus Christ so that we can be reconciled. Without Jesus’ sacrifice, we cannot cleanse ourselves from our sins. Just one sin disqualifies us from his presence. Just like dropping a droplet of ink into a glass of water forever changes the water even though it was just one drop, our first sin removes us from the possibility of existing in God’s presence in eternity. Then, add on to that, the whole host of sins that we commit in a lifetime, we are clearly unable to be in His presence. No amount of good deeds can change the taint that our sins cast on us before God.

We must have the innocence of Jesus Christ sacrificed on our behalf. We must have His perfection imputed upon us through his death on the cross. His death pays the penalty for our sins. Our slate is wiped clean. He makes us pure in God’s eyes and it is only through Jesus that we are made pure. No good deeds. No other way of transcending our innate sinful nature. Nothing but the blood of Jesus Christ can make us clean before God and reconcile us to Him. Without Him we are caste out, like the defiled person in this passage is cast out of the community. Without Him, there is nothing that we can do ourselves to reconcile ourselves to God. We have nothing that we can offer to a holy and perfect God who needs nothing from us. We need supernatural intervention on our behalf. It comes in the name and blood of Jesus Christ. We are reconciled. We are made clean. We are set upon solid ground. We have our eternity in the presence of God secured through His innocence and His sacrifice.
Amen and Amen.

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