Numbers 19:1-3,9,20,22 (NIV) The LORD said to Moses and Aaron: “This is a requirement of the law that the LORD has commanded: Tell the Israelites to bring you a red heifer without defect or blemish and that has never been under a yoke. Give it to Eleazar the priest; it is to be taken outside the camp and slaughtered in his presence"... “A man who is clean shall gather up the ashes of the heifer and put them in a ceremonially clean place outside the camp. They are to be kept by the Israelite community for use in the water of cleansing; it is for purification from sin"... "But if those who are unclean do not purify themselves, they must be cut off from the community, because they have defiled the sanctuary of the LORD. The water of cleansing has not been sprinkled on them, and they are unclean"... Anything that an unclean person touches becomes unclean, and anyone who touches it becomes unclean till evening.”
Another beautiful animal destroyed for a hard-hearted nation it seems and what is the relevance of all of this in our lives today?
The better way for us to understand this ceremony is to look at it through the life and death of Jesus because He was the fulfillment of the much awaited messiah.
The heifer without blemish represents Jesus Christ and its color made it a rarity to represent the uniqueness of the person of Christ who though born in the form of man was truly the Son of God.
Next was the calling of Eleazar to sacrifice the animal and not Aaron because Aaron was not to be unclean as he was the high priest of the Israelites.
For any sin offering to be complete according to the law then, it had to be done in the tent but this sin offering was performed outside the camp facing the tent making it insufficient but Christ made it sufficient because His death was also done in much the same way.
The total burning of the heifer was to signify the extreme sufferings of our Lord Jesus, both in soul and body. It should be noted that the ashes of this heifer was enough to meet the needs of the people of Israel for many years and some Jews say that it served till the captivity, nearly 1000 years, and that there was never another heifer burnt till Ezra's time, after their return to Israel!
Then we note that everyone involved in this ceremony were deemed unclean. Everyone involved was guilty of it just as Jesus' betrayer, his prosecutors, the judge, executioner and mockers and their actions were from their selfish motivations.
All of us similarly are found guilty of Christ's death by the burden of our sins and the sinful nature in us that we condemned the one sent from God to save us.
We as humans are all passengers bound on a common journey to death because we the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23a).
The law could not conquer death or destroy it and only the gospel breaks the yoke of sin by giving us life and immortality in Christ who is the only hope of humanity.
The ashes of the heifer resemble the merit of Christ and the running water signifies the power and grace of the Holy Spirit, who is compared to rivers of living water. It is by his working that the righteousness of Christ is applied to us for our cleansing.
We can consider Jesus a great teacher and use His morals to determine our lives but that is not enough to save us. Only by submitting to Him as our Lord and Savior can we be filled with His Holy Spirit who will conform us to Christ and use us for His glory.
Faith is comparable to the hyssop whereby our conscience is sprinkled and our hearts purified by its application.
Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Hebrews 10:22 (NIV)
The repeated sprinkling over the 7 days to cleanse the unclean is to teach us that we need to often renew the act of repentance and faith just as Jesus taught us in the Lord's prayer...
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. Matthew 6:12 (NIV)
Our uncleanness separates us from God, but it is our being unclean and not purifying ourselves that will separate us forever from him.
Have you been cleaned by the classing blood of Jesus Christ? If not, click here to know more. If yes, I do hope you are reminded to renew your repentance by faith and are able to appreciate how Christ came to fulfill the old covenant by bringing us a new and glorious one?
In His Loving Service,