The Red Heifer's Ashes (Part 4)
(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? Part 3 of this series of meditations was mainly drawn from Numbers 19:11-22, wherein we had noted the implications of the infectious nature of ceremonial defilement by a dead man's body, bone or grave, the implications of being an “open vessel,” the need for double cleansing with the ash-infused water of separation and the severity of punishment for the defiled person who would not cleanse himself. Consider again this portion of that law: (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. There are two seeming enigmas here. First, only a clean person could purify the unclean but in so doing he was himself defiled and had to wash his clothes even as the cleansed person had to wash his clothes (vs. 19, 21). At the very least, this should remind us that: 1) Christ was made sin for us in order to cleanse us (2CO 5:21), 2) our works of righteousness are so many filthy rags (ISA 64:6), all good that we do is attended by sin (ROM 7:21), 3) “For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God” (HEB 7:19). We may apply the blood of Christ for cleansing ourselves (1JO 1:7-9) and be assured that we are not defiled by that but rather made pure and fit for communion with our God. “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy...” (HEB 4:16). This message being juxtaposed against the Law's message of defilement even for obedient efforts of cleansing would have been a powerful incentive for the Hebrew Christians to see the superior relief in Christ that Moses' Law could never give. Christ's blood of sprinkling speaks better things than Abel's blood (HEB 12:24) or a red heifer's sprinkled ashes. Second, the same water of separation which cleansed the defiled person defiled the clean person who touched it (v. 21). A limited parallel may be drawn between this and the temporal cleansing or forgiveness that depends on teaching or reproving the errant, as when James instructed brethren: (James 5:19) Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; (James 5:20) Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins. Reproving sin and instructing others in righteousness facilitates cleansing by repentance and by forgiveness (JAM 4:8; 2CO 7:1; 1JO 1:9). This is conversion (ACT 3:19) and the instrument of conversion is God's word: “The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul...” (PSA 19:7 c/w 2TI 3:16). Those who would convert others with it put themselves under condemnation if they are not themselves subdued by it: (Mat 7:1) Judge not, that ye be not judged. (Mat 7:2) For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. (Mat 7:3) And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? (Mat 7:4) Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? (Mat 7:5) Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye. (Rom 2:1) Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things. This condemnation of hypocrisy is a constant burden especially to the minister of Christ who must teach and reprove others to convert them, and this more closely answers to that enigma of the clean man being defiled by the very thing which cleanses another. Christ's minister is obliged to preach the whole counsel of God (ACT 20:27), esteeming all His precepts concerning all things to be right (PSA 119:128), to avoid being partial in the law (MAL 2:9; 1TI 5:21). He dare not avoid reproving someone for a fault out of fear that he himself will be condemned because he has faults of his own. If he does so selfishly avoid that duty, he is then liable to that judgment which God lays upon the disobedient watchman: (Eze 3:18) When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Such a delinquent minister cannot say with Paul, “...I am pure from the blood of all men...” (ACT 20:26-27). It is one thing for a minister to consider his own infirmity and acknowledge as Jacob did, “I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which thou hast shewed unto thy servant...” (GEN 32:10). But unworthiness will no more excuse Christ's minister from his duty than Moses' lack of eloquence excused him from his duty (EXO 4:10-12). Paul said, “...necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel” (1CO 9:16)! The minister of Jesus Christ is above all others a hypocrite. God forces him to be one since he is required to preach a perfect standard of righteousness to which he can never fully measure up. The Lord may bless a minister's efforts to bring about cleansing in another by the same words which condemn himself. Thereafter, the best thing he can do is, as the “clean man” of NUM 19:21 did, wash himself, going boldly to the throne of grace for a refreshing application of the blood of Christ. Of ministering the gospel, James said: (James 3:1) My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.