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Ashes of the Red Heifer (3)

T Ratcliffe, Wimborne



Verses 17-19. "And for an unclean person they shall take of the ashes…and running water shall be put thereto in a vessel." There are two sprinklings for the cleansing process: on the third and seventh days. It was mentioned earlier that it was for the defiled person to take the first step to being cleansed from defilement. It has to be said that today there are many Christian believers who have been defiled in one way or another and yet are quite indifferent about the effect their defilement has on the assembly of God’s people. But make no mistake about it; such a person could be the cause of devastating consequences, even to the closing down of assemblies.


For two days the defiled person would be conscious of their condition, contrite before God, humble in their disposition, and in isolation experiencing deep soul exercise about how they came to be defiled. Thus it should be with us today; when we realise that our behaviour or association has occasioned defilement, there should be a period of soul searching and confession. Then, on the third day, the unclean person would go to a clean person for the first stage of his cleansing. A clean person would take a bunch of hyssop and dip it into the water containing the ashes of the heifer and sprinkle it on the tent, vessels and person(s) to be cleansed and so conclude the first stage of the defiled person’s cleansing. The significance of the hyssop used in the act of sprinkling is important. Earlier, when the hyssop along with cedar wood and scarlet was cast into the burning of the heifer, we said that all spoke of man after the flesh, and that is right. However, the hyssop here speaks, in type, of the lowliness, meekness, and humility of the Lord Jesus being exercised by the person carrying out the sprinkling. Today, if one is overtaken with a fault (become defiled), Paul says by the Spirit of God "…ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness, considering thyself, less thou also be tempted" (Gal 6.1). Mark you, the apostle does not say "an elder", or "a deacon", but "ye that are spiritual restore such an one".

The third day is significant in Scripture; albeit one would not necessarily adhere strictly to the time periods today, for such would greatly depend on the gravity of the defilement of the Christian believer. The time might well be shorter or longer than that prescribed for Israel. Certainly, however many the days, it would be a period for reflection and deep soul exercise. When Joseph’s brothers went to Egypt to buy corn, they had no idea that the ruler of all Egypt was their brother Joseph whom they disposed of twenty-one years earlier. Joseph put them in prison for three days knowing they would have time to reflect on the heinous crime and the grievous wounds they inflicted on both him and their father. This was confirmed on the third day when, before Joseph, they frankly admitted their guilt among themselves; not knowing that Joseph understood every thing they were saying (Gen 42.21). The apostle Paul, as Saul of Tarsus, was blind for three days following his conversion on the Damascus road. During this time, Saul would have reflected on the cruel persecutions he had inflicted on the Christian believers. His soul would have been ransacked by the Spirit of God to occasion deep repentance and confession in prayer to God through his Lord and Saviour. After three days, Ananias was sent by the Lord to restore Saul’s sight by laying his hands upon him and addressing him as, "Brother Saul" (Acts 9.17). Saul’s experience would parallel the initial cleansing process for the Israelite.


Then there was a lapse of four days, after which the individual would receive a final sprinkling of the "water of separation" on the seventh day. For the Israelite, this allowed for the consequences of their defilement to be completely cleared from the camp. They would then wash themselves and their clothes signifying that both their consciences and their testimony were now cleansed, and their movement in the congregation of the people, and communion with Jehovah, restored. Today, once a member of an assembly has confessed to failure and its cause, and the matter judged by spiritual brethren in the fear of the Lord (figuratively the third day), there should be a further period of time for reflection on the consequences of their failure and its effect on the assembly and its testimony. Again, the time period may be shorter or longer than that prescribed for Israel, but in any event it should be commensurate with the degree of seriousness of the failure. During the waiting period, the person would not play an active role in the assembly, but be happy to wait until the saints of the affected assembly had regained their confidence in the individual, in figure on the seventh day. The person would then be fully restored to active fellowship with the saints.

The apostle Paul, speaking about separation and cleansing in 2 Corinthians 6.11-18, goes on to say, "Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God" (2 Cor 7.1).


Verse 20. A defiled person in Israel who refused to purify himself was cut off from the congregation of Israel because he had defiled the sanctuary of the Lord. Any person in the assemblies of God’s people, who has become defiled and refuses to acknowledge guilt or be subject to the spiritual cleansing process, should be withdrawn from. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians saying, "Now we command you brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother (person) that walketh disorderly" (2 Thess 3.6). Writing to Timothy, Paul said, "…men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth...from such withdraw thyself" (1Tim 6.5).

In conclusion, may our gracious Lord help us to take to heart what the Spirit of God says in the epistle to the Hebrews. "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: 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?" (Heb 9.13-14).



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