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Was there only one red heifer ever slain, or was this provision to be made continually? Was it slain after Israel entered Canaan, or was it only for the wilderness?

The type of the offering of the red heifer in Numbers 19 approaches more closely to the once-for-all character of the sacrifice of Christ at Calvary than any other Levitical offering. According to Jewish tradition, only six have been required during the whole of the Jewish history. Such a tradition of course cannot be established as a fact. As far as the record of Scripture is concerned there is no reference to a red heifer being slain and its ashes used after the wilderness journey was over. The very fact that the ordinance of the red heifer is only found in Numbers - the book of the wilderness journeys of Israel - may indicate that the red heifer was only used as a provision for defilement during the wilderness period. If so, the smallest quantity of the ashes would avail to impart cleansing virtue to the sacred water. At what stage in the journeys of Israel this law was communicated to both Moses and Aaron is not given. Some believe it belongs to the early days of Israel’s wanderings. Others think it was instituted towards the end of the forty years.

A word on this great chapter in Numbers 19 will not be amiss. The chapter, with its details of the offering of the red heifer, is thoroughly in keeping with the character of the book of Numbers. It teaches God’s provision for wilderness defilement and gives an answer in type of how to deal with sins after conversion. There is surely a divine design in the red heifer being only found in Numbers. It might have been expected that this sacrifice would be found with others in the book of Leviticus, but this is not so. The Holy Spirit has put it into the book of Numbers because it presents the people of God journeying through the wilderness. The message of the red heifer is clear - sin is a most defiling thing. God is absolute in His holiness and will not allow sin in His presence. Sin, unless dealt with in the life and cleansed, robs the child of God of happiness, and if ignored can only lead to more sin. As the believer moves through this corrupt world, the death of Christ must be remembered and the Holy Spirit’s power for cleansing through the Word constantly applied.

John J Stubbs

If all the saints in an assembly go together for a trip that covers a weekend, and there is no assembly in the area to which they have gone, is it permissible to break bread because all members of the assembly are present although away from home?

Local churches are composed of baptised believers, gathered to the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them" (Mt 18.20). Such companies meet regularly: "And they continued stedfastly" (Acts 2.42), "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together" (Heb 10.25); in a particular locality, e.g. "the church of God which is at Corinth" (1 Cor 1.2), according to the New Testament pattern.

The "breaking of bread" or the Lord’s Supper stands connected with the local assembly gathering; thus, in the key passage dealing with this subject (1 Cor 11.17-34), we read such expressions as, "when ye come together in the church" (v.18), and, "When ye come together therefore into one place" (v.20). It should, however, be pointed out in passing, that our place of worship is not the local Gospel Hall but rather the heavenly sanctuary.

There are certain issues that should be addressed in the light of the question posed. First, let it be assumed that several members of an assembly decide to go away together for a period embracing a weekend; in such a case would it be wise to go to a location where there is no local assembly within easy reach? Second, would it be right for all the saints in a particular assembly to go away together for an extended period of time covering a weekend? The point that the present writer wishes to stress is that the testimony in the home locality must be constantly maintained. If all of the believers were absent, e.g. on a particular Lord’s Day, visitors could come expecting to have fellowship with the local assembly only to find the doors of the Gospel Hall closed!

The situation mentioned in the question may be largely hypothetical but it does give rise to some interesting issues.

David E West


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