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Ashes of the Red Heifer (2)

T Ratcliffe, Wimborne



Verse 4. Eleazar was to take some of the blood of the heifer and sprinkle it seven times before the tabernacle of the congregation, thereby signifying in type that God’s holy and righteous requirement to cancel sin was perfectly satisfied through the death and shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. The efficacy of the shed blood of Christ renders those born of God fit to appear before Him in the sanctuary and to enjoy precious communion through our Lord Jesus Christ. However, we must not ignore the fact that whenever we become defiled by the world, our communion with the Lord is interrupted. Restoration of communion occurs only when we apply the "water of the word" to our souls. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 Jn 1.9).


Verses 5-6. The heifer’s skin, flesh, blood, and dung were to be completely consumed by fire. This is the only occasion in Scripture where the blood was to be included in the burning of a sacrifice. In type, the act tells us that the intensity of God’s unmitigated judgment of sin burned out in the soul of His beloved Son. Our blessed Lord exhausted God’s judgment of sin; hence there can be no further sacrifice for sin (Heb 9.26; 10.18).

"And the priest shall take cedar wood, and hyssop, and scarlet, and cast it into the midst of the burning of the heifer." These three items tell us much about ourselves, the natural man. The cedar speaks of the pride and arrogance of man, lifting himself up above his station, the hyssop of man’s false humility and his subtlety, while the scarlet speaks of man’s vain achievements and feats of distinction that mark him out; all was to be cast into the burning of the heifer. Everything about the nature of man after the flesh was consumed in the fire. Thus the Christian believer acknowledges that his old nature and everything attached to it has been consumed in the fire of God’s judgment of sin through Christ on the Cross. Accordingly, the apostle Paul wrote, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me" (Gal 2.20). Nothing of our old nature has place in the service of God; if we allow features of the "old man" to come into prominence, then our communion with God will be interrupted.

Please note that in Leviticus 14 the cedar wood, hyssop, and scarlet are mentioned five times in connection with the cleansing procedure for the leper, but there they have their antitype in Christ as man on earth for the glory of God. The cedar spoke of the glory, majesty, dignity, grandeur, and strength of the Lord Jesus in Manhood, while the hyssop spoke of His humility, meekness, lowliness, obedience, and submissiveness. The scarlet on the other hand would have had reference to the distinctive glories and moral excellencies of His person as man. All three were dipped into the blood of the slain bird together with the bird kept alive. The individual was then sprinkled from the bowl containing running water and the blood of the slain bird; thus signifying in figure that Christ has been into death and answered to God for man both judicially (His shed blood) and morally (the water that flowed from His side). The apostle John wrote in his first epistle: "This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ, not by water only, but by water and blood" (1 Jn 5.6, and read Jn 13.10).


Verses 7-10. The priest would acknowledge that by his involvement in producing the "water of separation", he too had become unclean by unavoidable association. Furthermore, the priest would be aware of possible defilement in his own person and therefore experience loss of communion with Jehovah. Provided he washed as directed, he would only remain unclean until the evening. The lesson for us today is that whenever one becomes involved with a serious matter of defilement requiring prompt action, the spiritual person should conduct himself prayerfully in all humility recognising that they too have the same propensity for becoming defiled. When the problem is resolved, having been dealt with in the fear of the Lord, the servant would humbly hold back from active service for an appropriate period of time based on the seriousness and consequences arising from the initial defilement. The same procedure applied to the one who killed the heifer and to him who gathered up the ashes.

The sacrificing of the heifer to produce the ashes to be mixed with living water to become the "water of separation" was a figure of the death of Christ for "purification of sin". The ashes have reference to God’s unmitigated judgment of sin being eternally exhausted; nothing more can be gained from ashes. Paul says, "For he (God) hath made him (Christ) to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him (2 Cor 5.21).


Verses 11-16. "He that toucheth the dead body of any man shall be unclean seven days." When a person dies in Middle Eastern or in tropical countries, putrefaction of the body follows quickly and the risk of disease to people in the vicinity is very high. It is essential to bury the corpse as soon as possible. One can therefore understand the reason why Jehovah enforced such stringent rules of hygiene in the camp of Israel, for all were designed to preclude the risk of a disease epidemic among the people. However, there was more to it that just a case of hygiene; individuals who touched a dead body would not only be unclean for seven days, but would not be allowed in the camp of Israel nor participate in any service of the tabernacle until cleansed.

Although today one would not be physically infected by touching a dead body (contagious diseases excepted), bone, or grave, we should be aware that when we associate with corrupt persons or systems it is spiritually tantamount to touching a dead body; we have defiled ourselves. As a result we should be conscious of the fact that we need to be cleansed from such defilement before we can resume our service or enjoy communion with the Lord. It is important to see that it is the defiled person who must take the initiative in respect of the cleansing process (vv.12,20).

"This is the law, when a man dieth in a tent." A tent was a dwelling place and possibly a business centre. If a man died in the tent all that dwelt in the tent were deemed defiled, together with all who entered the tent and all open vessels. What this says to us today in the spiritual realm of divine things, is simply this: if in business and/or leisure we are partners with those outside the family of God (2 Cor 6.14) upon whom the sentence of death rests (Jn 3.18; 8.24), and if we use in our business affairs equipment and systems that are open to all forms of moral corruption, then we will be defiled by presence, use, and association. Furthermore, we would remain unclean until we have submitted ourselves to the cleansing procedure, a procedure that will be explained more fully later.

"Whosoever toucheth one that is slain with a sword in the open fields…shall be unclean seven days". This has to do with being involved with the violent behaviour of men. No Christian believer should ever be actively occupied in the warfare of men and nations. To do so, is to align oneself with the corrupt world that is already under sentence of death. Moreover, such involvement would be seen as declaring one’s citizenship as being of this world, whereas, as Paul says, "Our conversation (citizenship) is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ" (Phil 3.20). At one time the apostle Peter thought he was acting in the best interests of his heavenly calling when he took a sword to defend his Lord. The Lord Jesus said, "Put up thy sword into the sheath", and later on the Lord said to Pilate, "My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight" (Jn 18.11,36). So, being caught up in the violence of the ungodly has a defiling affect upon the soul. Such an individual cannot in any way be suited for the service of the Lord. For their own good and blessing they should take remedial steps, being conscious of their need to be cleansed by the Word.

To be continued.


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