The Red Heifer's Ashes (Part 3)
(Hebrews 9:13) For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: (Hebrews 9:14) How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? For all the elements of ceremonial cleansing in the Law of Moses, our text makes clear that the blood of Christ has superior cleansing power which purifies the conscience. That is the great lesson Paul was here setting forth to the Hebrew Christians. The value of this is unique to believers: they only can enjoy the superior effects of Christ's blood, “...but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled” (TIT 1:15). Unbelief forbids a man from seeking the forgiveness and victorious power available in Christ's blood (1JO 1:7-9; REV 12:11), leaving him with a conscience defiled by the dead works of sin. Let us return, though, to the Law of the Water of Separation with the ashes of the red heifer and find more of Christ and Christian duty shadowed therein: (Num 19:11) He that toucheth the dead body of any man shall be unclean seven days. (Num 19:12) He shall purify himself with it on the third day, and on the seventh day he shall be clean: but if he purify not himself the third day, then the seventh day he shall not be clean. (Num 19:13) Whosoever toucheth the dead body of any man that is dead, and purifieth not himself, defileth the tabernacle of the LORD; and that soul shall be cut off from Israel: because the water of separation was not sprinkled upon him, he shall be unclean; his uncleanness is yet upon him. (Num 19:14) This is the law, when a man dieth in a tent: all that come into the tent, and all that is in the tent, shall be unclean seven days. (Num 19:15) And every open vessel, which hath no covering bound upon it, is unclean. (Num 19:16) And whosoever toucheth one that is slain with a sword in the open fields, or a dead body, or a bone of a man, or a grave, shall be unclean seven days. (Num 19:17) And for an unclean person they shall take of the ashes of the burnt heifer of purification for sin, and running water shall be put thereto in a vessel: (Num 19:18) And a clean person shall take hyssop, and dip it in the water, and sprinkle it upon the tent, and upon all the vessels, and upon the persons that were there, and upon him that touched a bone, or one slain, or one dead, or a grave: (Num 19:19) And the clean person shall sprinkle upon the unclean on the third day, and on the seventh day: and on the seventh day he shall purify himself, and wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and shall be clean at even. (Num 19:20) But the man that shall be unclean, and shall not purify himself, that soul shall be cut off from among the congregation, because he hath defiled the sanctuary of the LORD: the water of separation hath not been sprinkled upon him; he is unclean. (Num 19:21) And it shall be a perpetual statute unto them, that he that sprinkleth the water of separation shall wash his clothes; and he that toucheth the water of separation shall be unclean until even. (Num 19:22) And whatsoever the unclean person toucheth shall be unclean; and the soul that toucheth it shall be unclean until even. The purpose for this carnal ordinance (which only was to last until Christ, GAL 3:19; HEB 9:10) is here given: it was to purify someone who was defiled by contact with the dead body of a man, a dead man's bone or even a grave. This defilement by contact made a man unclean for seven days and he could only be cleansed by this special ordinance. By contrast, contact with the dead carcase of even the most unclean of animals only defiled a man until evening and required merely common water for cleansing (LEV 11:24-31). Further, the man defiled by a dead body, bone or grave had to purify himself twice: on the third day and on the seventh day (NUM 19:12 c/w NUM 19:19 c/w NUM 31:19), and he dare not approach the tabernacle until he was cleansed lest he defile it also and cause himself to be “...cut off from Israel...” (NUM 19:13), “...cut off from among the congregation...” (NUM 19:20). This all serves to remind us that although the whole creation labors under the bondage of corruption (ROM 8:21-22), it was the sin of man that brought in death (ROM 5:12). This defilement of death signifies the defilement of sin. As one could then be defiled ceremonially by a dead body, bone or grave, so one may be defiled spiritually by any sin: large (like the dead body), small (like the bone) or unseen (as there are graves that men walk over unawares, LUK 11:44, so there are secret faults from which we need cleansing): (Psa 19:12) Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults. Notice also in NUM 19:11-22 the contaminating property of this defilement by a dead body: all that came into a dwelling in which was a dead man were made unclean, any open vessel was unclean, and anything that such an unclean man touched was made unclean and that item would defile anyone else who touched it (NUM 19:22). Sin has this same infectious potential in the individual if not checked by repentance: it spreads from “...iniquity unto iniquity...” (ROM 6:19). One sin leads to another. Sin also has this same potential in the church if not checked by repentance: “Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled;” (HEB 12:15). Tolerated known sin in the church is particularly infectious, even as Paul warned Corinth concerning their retention of a known fornicator in their membership: “...Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?” (1CO 5:6). The defiling of an open vessel without a covering (NUM 19:15) is interesting. Saints are God's vessels into which the Spirit of Christ has been poured: earthen vessels (2CO 4:7), some honorable and some not (2TI 2:20). We must take conscious command of our vessel, “That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour” (1TH 4:4). The prudent saint strives to not be open to sin: “...he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not” (1JO 5:18). Unlike the open vessel which had no covering, he puts on Christ in practice and makes no provision for the flesh to fulfil its lusts (ROM 13:14); he is covered with spiritual armor (EPH 6:13-17). He is to Christ as Solomon's bride was to him: “A garden inclosed...a spring shut up, a fountain sealed” (SON 4:12). Blessed indeed is the saint who is thus shut up and even knows when to “Shut up!" since our depraved nature includes a defiled open sepulchre (tomb) of speech (ROM 3:13). Defiling contagion oft begins with ungoverned speech: “And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body...” (JAM 3:6). The blood of Christ, our superior “water and ashes,” is oft needed here for inward cleansing! The inward heart is the problem: “...out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh” (MAT 12:34).