The Red Heifer's Ashes (Part 5)
(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? Let us return to the following portion of Numbers 19, that chapter in Moses' Law which commanded a Water of Separation infused with the ashes of a pure red heifer for cleansing ceremonial defilement by a dead body, etc. (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. A man's dead body, bone or grave ceremonially defiled one who contacted it. Based upon Paul's line of reasoning in HEB 9:13-14 about the superior power of Christ's blood to cleanse one inwardly from dead works, we had noted that, as one could contact a grave unawares (LUK 11:44) and be defiled, so there are sins we may unwittingly commit and be defiled. The Law even spoke of sins of ignorance to which there was guilt attached: (Lev 5:17) And if a soul sin, and commit any of these things which are forbidden to be done by the commandments of the LORD; though he wist it not, yet is he guilty, and shall bear his iniquity. The phrase, “wist it not” means “knew it not.” Such a sin stood in contrast to presumptuous (bold, forward) sin: (Num 15:28) And the priest shall make an atonement for the soul that sinneth ignorantly, when he sinneth by ignorance before the LORD, to make an atonement for him; and it shall be forgiven him. (Num 15:29) Ye shall have one law for him that sinneth through ignorance, both for him that is born among the children of Israel, and for the stranger that sojourneth among them. (Num 15:30) But the soul that doeth ought presumptuously, whether he be born in the land, or a stranger, the same reproacheth the LORD; and that soul shall be cut off from among his people. There was greater accountability attached to presumptuous sin. The Lord Jesus Christ said: (Luk 12:47) And that servant, which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. (Luk 12:48) But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more. Chastening is attached to both types of disobedience (knowing or not knowing). So, that prayer of David is very appropriate: (Psa 19:12) Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults. (Psa 19:13) Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression. There is another facet of that matter in NUM 19:16 of being defiled by a grave which deserves our attention. Jesus Christ referred to Pharisees as sepulchres (tombs) and graves: (Mat 23:27) Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. (Luk 11:44) Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are as graves which appear not, and the men that walk over them are not aware of them. Both analogies spoke of their hypocrisy: they had only the outward form of godliness but not the power thereof (c/w 2TI 3:5). The second analogy emphasizes their ability to mask their inward corruption and their self-benefiting agenda so efficiently that others are defiled by them unawares. The spirit of Pharisaism works by stealth, even infiltrating churches under false pretenses (ACT 15:5 c/w GAL 2:4). It talks about grace when it really means works. It talks about liberty but it promotes bondage. It preaches righteousness but doesn't live it. It presents itself as a spiritual helper when it is really helping itself. It is essentially the opposite of what it appears to be on every front but because it has such an appeal to the old nature which loves carnal pleasures and control of one's destiny, it is very persuasive. This is what happened to the churches of Galatia. After Paul had converted the Galatians with the gospel of grace, false teachers had passed themselves off on the Galatians as duly authorized ministers with a gospel that was superior to Paul's, a gospel that added works to grace for justification before God. They were so effective that the transformation of the Galatian churches was rapid. Paul said, “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel” (GAL 1:6). Had those false teachers fully disclosed what they were all about, the Galatian saints might not have been so easily bewitched (GAL 3:1). Had those false teachers declared that they had no authority from the apostles at Jerusalem (c/w ACT 15:24), had they declared that they were really just trying to reduce their own persecution and preserve their tradition rather than “help” the Galatians (GAL 6:12), had they not misrepresented Paul and his gospel (GAL 1:10 c/w GAL 5:11), they might not have had such success there. But those details were kept hidden, for Pharisaism only prospers by dishonesty. Paul, once a hard-core Pharisee (PHIL 3:4-6), “...renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully...” (2CO 4:2). Paul didn't simply denounce dishonesty as a tool of religion, he renounced it (gave it up, repudiated it), which means that was the way he had formerly conducted himself. As a result of those false teachers' efforts, the Galatian saints had been defiled by dead works; they were turning again to the weak and beggarly elements of bondage to vain religion (GAL 4:8-10; GAL 5:1). Sadly, many churches to this day, just like the Galatians, are under the sway of the spirit of Pharisaism which through dishonesty promotes a system more than a Savior. It tells sinners that they are dead in trespasses and sins but it really means that they are only sick---they can help God save themselves. It tells sinners that that there is nothing they can do to save themselves but then instructs them what they must do to save themselves. It tells men about the glorious New Testament but binds them with Old Testament holydays, sabbaths, etc., and “do and live” righteousness (ROM 10:5). It tells men that pagan religion is evil but it blends paganism's elements with the service of Christ. It tells men that it is preaching Paul's gospel but it is actually another gospel, a non-gospel (c/w GAL 1:6-7). The whole package looks so good and feels so good that to question it is to paint a bulls-eye on oneself. And this is not even taking into consideration the fact that many Christians believe in a coming messianic golden-age on earth for Israel---the same thing the Pharisees sought. Defiling graves come in many forms and the most dangerous are the ones that masquerade as fountains of life. Matthew Henry noted, “The colour of the greatest good is often the cover of the greatest evil.” These kinds of graves men walk over unawares (LUK 11:44), unawares largely because of what Scripture calls willing ignorance (2PE 3:5). The system is so precious to its promoters and participants that they prefer its dishonest positions and contradictions to truth. This contamination is so widespread that a veritable herd of pure red heifers could not provide enough ashes for the water of separation to cleanse it away. The blood of Christ, though, can through confession and heartfelt repentance purge away the defilement, per our text (HEB 9:13-14). But first, men must be honest with themselves and what they promote.