The Red Heifer's Ashes (Part 7)
(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? By way of short review, we have seen that the Numbers 19 details about the ashes of a pure red heifer mingled with running water was for the ceremonial purification of someone who had been defiled by a dead body, bone or grave. It was part of that Mosaic Law which was only to last until Christ (GAL 3:19; GAL 3:24-25; HEB 9:10), Whose sacrificial death fulfilled the Law's righteousness, types and shadows (ROM 10:4: HEB 10:1; COL 2:16-17) and replaced it (the Law) with a New Testament, forever abolishing the sacrificial system of the Law. Paul's reasoning in Hebrews time and again (as in our text) shows the superiority of Christ's sacrifice, priesthood and power to benefit the inward man whereas the Old Testament system could only benefit the flesh. Today's meditation is somewhat of an appendix to this study which has an interesting current relevance. I have a number of recently published articles which excitedly present the details of a project to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. There is even a Temple Institute that is overseeing this. The articles declare that a modern Jewish Sanhedrin has selected an individual to serve as temple high priest if the political situation in Jerusalem changes (the temple mount has been occupied by a Muslim mosque and shrine for about 1300 years). Most of the once sacred vessels and other necessities have been recreated, including the high priest's crown and a massive sacrificial altar. Bible-believers may bless God that “We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle” (HEB 13:10). Our altar is Jesus Christ upon Whom all our sins were laid for fiery consumption: God “...laid on him the iniquity of us all” (ISA 53:6). He certainly does not need animal sacrifices or Levitical priests to help Him perfect men: “For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified” (HEB 10:14). I am constantly amazed at professing Christians who think that the restoration of animal sacrifices will please God when Scripture expressly says, “In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure” (HEB 10:6). Relative to the hopes of many errant Christians and Jews that a God-blessed temple will be rebuilt in Jerusalem, there is great interest in the breeding of a pure red heifer as a critical part of the program. One article states, “'In truth, the fate of the entire world depends on the red heifer,' the institute says. 'For G-d has ordained that its ashes alone are the single missing ingredient for the reinstatement of biblical purity – and thereafter, the rebuilding of the Holy Temple.'” Really? I trust that I have made a biblical case for Jesus Christ having done all that was necessary for purity in that He “...gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people...” (TIT 2:14). Another article states, “Before the temple can rise, builders must secure a red heifer...that is supposed to be able to restore a state of 'purity' after ritual slaughter.” The article later states, “The importance of the effort [to breed the red heifers] is critical as it is necessary for acquiring the purification necessary for the priests to work within the temple.” Stop here and think. The Levites were consecrated with a sprinkling of water of purifying (NUM 8:6-7) but that did not refer to the priests of Aaron's line. Why would it seem so important to have a red heifer (and obviously its ashes) to facilitate temple building or temple service? The red heifer's ashes were not for the priests' benefit for temple work: they were for the purifying of anyone who was defiled by a dead body, bone or grave (NUM 19:11-19). At this point, I will do a little projection and speculation. Many people believe that the prophet Ezekiel had to be speaking only of an end-time temple-rebuilding in the last few chapters of his prophecy and this is the temple of God in which sits the man of sin that Paul referred to in 2TH 2:3-4. They interpret other aspects of Ezekiel's prophecy likewise with end-times, including EZE 38 and EZE 39 which speak of a multi-national force that comes against Israel and is destroyed by God. (Sidenote: There is a very arguable case for those two chapters having had a historical fulfillment in the years between Ezekiel and Christ rather than in the days just before the Second Coming). My point is that many Jews and Christians are preconditioned by their belief system about a coming kingdom of God on earth to: 1) assume that God wants the temple rebuilt, 2) expect that it will be rebuilt, 3) expect a great war on Israel (a common scenario is of a combined Russian and Arab attack). Inasmuch as the temple cannot now be built because the temple mount is under Arab control, a devastating defeat of Israel's enemies would likely allow them to build their temple. Mind that there would be a lot of death in such a battle. If one assumes that EZE 38-39 must be referring to an end-time battle, consider that EZE 39:11-16 says that Israel would be seven months burying the dead. That's a lot of dead bodies, body parts and graves. This may well be why those with ambitions to rebuild a temple and resume Levitical sacrifices are so emphatic about the need for a pure red heifer. If the sanctuary of God could not be approached without cleansing the defilement by the ash-infused water of separation (NUM 19:13-20), then it certainly couldn't be built or served in the aftermath of a bloody war without it. One article I have states that the pure red heifer has already been born and is awaiting its moment. Suffice it to say that spiritual and political implications of all these things are great. Never forget that the New Testament explains and takes precedence over the Old Testament. If one ignores this, the red heifer of Numbers 19 is only a stumblingblock. One article says, “The divine ordinance of the heifer, beyond the grasp of man's frail intellect...It's not for humankind to know...The knowledge the red heifer represents is way, way beyond our spiritual capacities...” That may be true, not because it is not explained in the N.T., but because of this: (1Co 2:14) But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.