Back in January of 2015, I started a series on Genesis. My original intention was to go through the laws, then it expanded into the history. That series lasted all of 2015. Since, I’ve just kept going, preaching each Sunday through the Bible. My wife (who is really typing this right now), suggested I put my sermons up for those that may want to dig a bit deeper, or who maybe missed Sunday service. Please join us next week as we continue on, and please know this is never a substitute for meeting with fellow believers. Please find a local church, and if you need help with that, email, I can help! So, here goes… click on the highlighted link to get the scripture if your Bible is not handy.
*Keep in mind, these are my notes, the sermon will always be better in person, visit us at Crossroads Church, 721 Weston Ave St. James, MN.
January 15, 2017
This meme, it’s funny, but it’s a bit tongue in cheek of explaining where society is kind of at today. With the internet, there’s information galore, and there is a ton of things you can know about. What’s crazy about it, is when people treat you like garbage for not knowing something. How could you not have known that? Were you born under a rock? The attitude comes out like this meme. You’re selfish, you’re dumb, etc. The truth is that piece of information probably just wasn’t important to that person probably for a whole gob of reasons. There are other things that a person needs to concentrate on to make it through life.
That’s what we’re kind of talking about today. There’s a subject out there that is vitally important for everyone to understand, but there’s so much other stuff that pulls us away from this subject, that we’ve almost made it an afterthought, and it is possibly affecting every area of your life. As we get further away from the Old Testament laws and the death of Jesus Christ, we tend to minimize this subject more and more and more. That subject is sin and death.
Today we’ll look at Numbers chapter 19, and it’s very possible that it’s a chapter we would easily brush aside with the thought, “I’m sure glad we don’t have to do that anymore.” However, if we stopped at these chapters more often, we would start to view the world from the perspective of God, which is better than your perspective. Viewing the world from the perspective of God will draw out humility and compassion from us.
In a nutshell on the surface, this chapter is basically how to purify a person after they’ve touched a dead body. This sounds like a ton of fun, doesn’t it? Hence the reason we would probably overlook this chapter during our reading time. But let’s gain some perspective.
Everything in this chapter did happen, it’s not metaphorical, but it is a foreshadowing of Christ, especially the first ten verses. So read this with me, Numbers 19:1-10.
In short, you have a perfect red heifer (a cow who has not born any calves) who is to be killed and burned and have cedar wood, hyssop and scarlet yarn thrown into the fire (these three items deal with purification, specifically these were needed to be cleansed from leprosy according to Leviticus 14:6-7). The ashes are then taken to a clean place and sit there to be mixed with water for the water of impurity. They are to have this pile of ashes ready at all times. Here’s the crazy thing as a side note, according to Jewish tradition, the ashes of this initial sacrifice lasted until the Babylonian captivity…roughly 1,000 years later. The next one to be burned didn’t happen until Ezra was priest and they rebuilt the temple after captivity. However, according to Jewish records, there were eight burned between the time of Ezra and the destruction of the second temple in 70 A.D., roughly 500 years.
Let’s take a quick look here at the foreshadowing to Christ.
- The red heifer without blemish is Christ himself. There’s significance in the heifer needing to be red as they are very rare. This heifer was extremely special. The fact that it was without blemish is the same as Christ, who knew no sin according to 2 Corinthians 5:21.
- He was perfect and special. Christ, of course, would also be covered in red from His own blood at the time of His death.
- Note how in verse 3, Eleazar is to take the heifer outside the camp to slaughter it. The Bible is very clear that Christ carried His cross outside Jerusalem,and was crucified at Golgotha. The death took place outside of the camp. Burning the heifer completely foreshadowed the extreme suffering of Christ both physically and spiritually.
- Verse 9 tells us that this is a sin offering, however, this is not how a sin offering was typically done. It was to be burned on the bronze altar at the entrance of the tabernacle with blood being splashed on the side of the altar. Instead, God has Eleazar take blood from the bull that is slaughtered outside of the camp and sprinkle it on the tent of meeting seven times. Remember, there can be no forgiveness of sins without the shedding of blood (Hebrews 9:22). Jesus blood shed of course cleanses of sins as is mentioned numerous times in the Bible, but another aspect here is that Jesus trial was unlike other trials and how they were “supposed to be done”.
- The last aspect of this section I want us to see here is this: notice who is slaughtering the heifer. Of course it’s a priest. This is what they were called to do. Fast forward to the time of Jesus death and who is at the helm of his trial and crucifixion? The priests of the day. More specifically, though, at the time this instruction, Aaron is the high priest. Eleazar, his son, is kind of second in command. At the time of Christ’s death the high priest is a man named Caiaphas. Here’s the interesting thing, though, Caiaphas is high priest because of a slight mixing of Roman and Jewish law. The high priest at the time of Jesus’ adulthood, before he was baptized, should have been John the Baptist, as his father, Zechariah, was the high priest. We’ve discussed it before, and we don’t have “time” to discuss it here, but when Jesus was baptized, it’s believed that the High Priesthood from John the Baptist was passed down to Christ. Hebrews shows the completion of the high priesthood in Christ, especially after his own sacrifice. So at the time of his trial and crucifixion, He’s technically the high priest, and Caiaphas would be “second in command” (though, we should not confuse the Eleazar and Caiaphas as being similar…Eleazar was a man of God and obedient, while Caiaphas was more of a pawn, prideful and greedy).
Now you’ve seen the words “clean” and “unclean” through this passage so far, and you’re going to see it a lot more as we continue to read. Just to give you an understanding of what this means, is that if you were unclean you could not worship the Lord properly because in a spiritual sense, you were dirty. And only through a passage of time and a ceremony (such as we are about to see), could you become clean to worship the Lord properly. For priests, they couldn’t enter the tabernacle and perform various duties. The “common” Israelite also could not enter the tabernacle, or do any worshipful services outside of the ceremony needing to be done to be clean.
So, you have the ashes of the heifer outside of the camp, what does God want to do with these? Here’s where we see how God purifies those who touch a dead person, or be within the tent/dwelling place of a dead person. Look at vv. 11-22.
So in short, if a person touched a dead person (i.e., maybe preparing the body for burial, grieving over the loss with a kiss or embrace, or even came across one in an open field etc.) they were unclean for seven days…if they were within the tent or entered the tent of where the dead person was, they were unclean for seven days. The ashes of the heifer were mixed with water, and sprinkled on the person on the third day (foreshadowing of the resurrection of Christ) and the seventh day (a common number of “completion” as God created the heavens and the earth in seven days). The same kind of thing went with inanimate objects according to v. 18. The tent and objects in the tent were to be sprinkled with this water for purification.
Before I get into the importance of us understanding this, we see that Christ, as he said, did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it, and Christ fulfills this.
Hebrews 9:13-14, “For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.”
So if Christ fulfills this, and we don’t do this anymore, what understanding can we get out of this?
The spiritual dirt of death is everywhere. It completely surrounds and contaminates. But why does God make this such a defiling thing? Simply put, the wages of sin is death. Until Adam and Eve ate of the fruit, there was no death on this planet! It was only life and life eternal.
Within the spiritual realm, seeing things from God’s perspective, what we will see is this is a sin-filled place with only death waiting. The only way to escape this is through the purification of God. Note how everyone involved in this became unclean…Eleazar who prepared the heifer and the sacrifice, the other priest who took the ashes where they needed to go, everyone who came in contact and into the presence of the dead person, the person who sprinkled the purification water on the objects and the people, anyone and anything the unclean person touched became unclean…though they may have had different requirements to become clean, they all still became unclean because that’s what sin and death does. It defiles and dirties everything up. And as I stated earlier, as we move further away from the Old Testament laws of purification and as we move further away from the death of Jesus Christ, we can become more unconcerned with this.
Though I thank God we no longer are bound to these laws of sacrifice, the one good thing that could come out of these sacrifices was a constant reminder of how defiling sin is for a person. To stop and read these chapters in the Old Testament with a prayerful heart gives us that Godly perspective and should cause us to humble ourselves daily and ask God for his grace and mercy upon our lives.
Not doing this only separates you from God. What was the consequence of the person who did not follow the purification ceremony (sprinkled with water on the third and seventh day) as God had established? They were cut off from the people.
Friends, do not underestimate the defiling power of sin. Do not be misled by the world. Sin separates you from God, and if you continue in it, you will miss out on heaven…it doesn’t matter what prayer or ceremony you’ve said or done in the past.
Praise be to God for Jesus Christ and what we saw in Hebrews 9:13-14 “For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.”, but just as the Jews of the Old Testament had to go through the seven-day purification process, you have to turn to the Lord, confess and believe. There is action on your part.
Tying this to the illustration I gave earlier about needing to know about a bunch of different stuff, this is the most important thing everyone needs to know! It’s your responsibility to receive the purification God is offering and to let everyone else know that this needs to be done!
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