He Restoreth My Soul

Numbers 19  •  11 min. read  •  grade level: 9
In the leading paper we spoke of atonement and reconciliation to God as the starting point of the believer’s course; giving him eternal redemption—an eternally purged conscience—an eternal standing before God. How seldom this is realized! Ordinances, forms, and ceremonies abound; all assuming that a position is to be gained, a relationship to be formed between the soul and God. Christianity (truly as such) teaches this as a starting point; and every Christian duty and responsibility flows from the position in which the Christian is. Just as the responsibility of the wife, or the child, or the servant, flows from the position and relationship in which the person is found, and which cannot possibly exist before the relationship exists-so does that of the Christian. His responsibilities and duties and service are never exercised (according to God) to bring him into a relationship, but are the natural fruit and proper result of being in it. Dear reader, pause and ask yourself, Is this so with me? I do not question mere sincerity—we find that in the Dervish of India, perhaps, in greater measure, too—but I press the question upon you, What are the works of your hands? Are they the servile works of bondage, or the outflow of a new nature; the goings forth of a realized position in grace Think of how needful it is to have the conscience purged from “dead works,” as well as from sins.
But some have realized it—accepted it by faith as God’s gift to sinners, “without money and without price; “and then a natural difficulty often springs up in the mind; “surely I am still in a body of sin, and I find, that much as I abhor sin, its evil root is within, and it shows itself, sad to tell, in the shape of sins. Must I not then go back to have my conscience purged again and again every time I feel the stain? Such a thought shows that we have never understood the full value of the sacrifice and work of Christ, in which we stand (who could realize this?) but we have never realized it for our settled peace of soul. The Jew of old committed a sin, and brought a sacrifice; and again a sin and a sacrifice,—and the Lord’s own people often lower the sacrifice of Jesus, unintentionally perhaps, to the level of that of the bulls and goats of old. And every time they feel the stain of sin (indeed often in a general way without feeling it at all—a practice so deadening to the conscience), they have recourse, like the Jew with his offering, to the blood, over and over again for cleansing. Now we remember how we said, that in figure of old, and in fact in Christ, the holy place was filled with the cloud of incense when the blood was sprinkled on the mercy-seat by the high priest, on the day of atonement. This beautiful figure informing us how precious beyond all thought or conception was the sacrifice of Jesus to God; filling heaven itself, the antitype of the holy place, with its fragrance; so much has the glory, and honor, and majesty, truth, righteousness, holiness, mercy and love of God been magnified and honored by the sacrifice of Jesus dying to put sin away. The blood has spoken on the mercy seat, its fragrance has filled the holy place. God has, Himself, dealt on the ground of its value in his eyes in justifying the believer. But His child has sinned, and feels it too, blessed that he should do so; and he feels that as long as the sin is resting upon his conscience, he cannot lift up his head in unclouded confidence, and enjoy the light of God’s presence as he ought. How then is his soul to be restored? How is he to learn the preciousness of that beautiful word, “He restoreth my soul?” Must not the blood still be applied to cleanse away the stain.
In the nineteenth chapter of the book of Numbers we find a precious figure of God’s provision to meet this need-that His people may not go on with uncleanness—defilement—and that his jealousy about the smallest stair of sin in His people should be manifested. It has a precious meaning voice, too, in the place we find it in the book which tells of the wilderness journey of the people of Israel. We find it there alone. The things which happened to them were for examples or types to us, upon whom the ends of the world are come (see 1 Cor. 10:1111Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. (1 Corinthians 10:11)). The believer is one who has been redeemed, and is passing through a wilderness world to his Canaan in the heavens—his rest; and Num. 19 gives a figure of God’s gracious provision for the defilement of the way which he may contract through carelessness, and which would naturally hinder his fellowship with the Father and His Son.
We spoke before of the spotlessness of Jesus, God’s spotless Lamb. The spirit of God delights to glorify Him thus. “He shall glorify Me,” said the Lord when about to depart to His Father. We have His estimate of the person of Jesus here in this chapter, too, in ver. 2, under the figure of an unblemished heifer, “wherein is no blemish, and whereon never came yoke” of sin. And then we have the perfection of His work on the cross in ver. 4—the meeting place between God and the sinner; as the Tabernacle of the congregation was between Jehovah and Israel, where the brazen altar stood, “There will I meet with the children of Israel,” said He to Moses in Ex. 29:4343And there I will meet with the children of Israel, and the tabernacle shall be sanctified by my glory. (Exodus 29:43). The blood of the heifer was sprinkled there seven times. Seven is the number used in Scripture to show the perfection of anything in a spiritual sense. Like as the fragment incense filling the holy place on the day of atonement speaks to our hearts of the perfection of Christ’s work, so does the mystic “seven times “tell us of perfection here. And the whole body of the sacrifice was then burned to ashes without the camp; even so Jesus suffered without the gate (Heb. 13:1212Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. (Hebrews 13:12)) The heap of ashes, dear reader, has a voice for the renewed mind; it tells us of our loved Lord and Saviour, as it were consumed to ashes for sin under the fire of the judgment of God. When we ponder such words as these, “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax, it is melted in the midst of my bowels; my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death” (Psa. 22:14,1514I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels. 15My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death. (Psalm 22:14‑15)), as coming from the soul of Jesus on the cross, we can understand, in some small measure the sinless sufferings of the Son of God—sufferings for the lightest thought—the thought of foolishness—which is sin (Prov. 24:99The thought of foolishness is sin: and the scorner is an abomination to men. (Proverbs 24:9)) which we have committed; and we can gaze in adoring love on Him who alone could exhaust the righteous wrath of God, and satisfy the claims of His holiness. But how truly blessed to know, too, dear reader, what the ashes proved. They proved that the sins which he bore are gone, consumed to ashes, never to be recalled. The fire could do no more with the victim than to reduce it to ashes, it had exhausted its strength in doing this, and it could do no more; and the fire of judgment could do no more with Jesus, He satisfied all its demands forever.
But you will say, what has this to do with my case, when I have sinned through carelessness or the depravity of my nature? I feel sure the blood has spoken on the mercyseat, but I feel too, that the cloud is upon my heart; and I cannot enjoy the light of my Lord’s countenance and His perfect love. Surely you cannot, “He that touched the dead body of a man shall be unclean seven days” tells us that, as completely as the blood had with seven-fold perfection spoken before the tabernacle of the congregation; as completely had the Israelite of old become ceremonially unclean. And as completely, to use the figure in your case, have you lost your communion with God. Must I not therefore, return to the blood, you will say, to have the stain removed? No, dear reader, this is not God’s way to restore your soul. With the Israelite, the answer was plain. There was no need for a return to the blood; but a clean person took running water, and the ashes of the heifer, and sprinkled the unclean person the third and the seventh day, and he was completely restored. Now, the water is the word of God, applied by the power of the Holy Spirit to the conscience. “Ye are clean through the word I have spoken unto you” (John 15:22Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. (John 15:2)); “That he might sanctify and cleanse it by the washing of water by the word” (Eph. 5:2626That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, (Ephesians 5:26)), are Scriptures which explain this clearly to us. The word testifies, by the Spirit, of the fullness of the sacrifice of Christ; its efficacy to all who believe; of the eternal putting away of sin. The believer knows this; but his feet have become defiled, and his soul needs to be restored. The word of God discerns the thoughts and intents of his heart (Heb. 4:1212For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)); and the Spirit turns him in upon his own heart to take knowledge of the sin, and convicts his conscience; when conscious of this, and that he has lost his power of enjoying the presence of God in the light, the Holy spirit then applies the word of God, which speaks of the complete putting away of this very sin, as of all which Jesus bore on the cross, to his conscience; and grace tells its own triumphant story, bringing home to his heart, bound in the sense of the perfect grace of God, the consciousness of the sin being gone—the cloud which dimmed his sight removed; and his heart springs up, again into the full joy of his position, his communion perfectly restored by the hand of the good Shepherd; who while jealous at the least soil on His people’s consciences, in their practical ways ever charges Himself with restoring them. “If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous.” He who has been Himself the propitiation for our sins, and has put them away; and who lives to keep us in the bright consciousness that He has done so. “He that is washed needeth not some to wash his feet, but is clean every whit” (John 13). This washing is by the word. “The washing of water by the word,” bringing us back to the consciousness that the righteousness in which we stand is unchanged.
Now I ask you, dear reader, Will the thought that Jesus charges Himself thus to restore your soul or, would the thought that the heap of ashes was ever ready, laid up outside the camp for the Israelite—even make you careless about contracting a soil or stain? If ever you have known what it is to enjoy fellowship with the Father and His Son; to have the love of God flowing through your soul, you will acknowledge that it is utter misery to be without it. I am sure that many, many of His own people through unbelief or worldliness, have never enjoyed this. I know, too, that if they once tasted it they would thirst, and thirst for more. But this communion is marred by the smallest stain of sin—the light thought of vanity or folly. The Holy Spirit who dwells in them is grieved; and instead of filling their hearts with the love of God, He turns them in upon their own hearts, that they may feel the stain, but the moment the soul is bowed in confession of it to God, the same Holy Spirit brings to their remembrance the thought of Christ consumed to ashes, as it were, for this very stain; proving that the sin is gone—grace has told its own victorious tale, and the soul springs up again in the happy consciousness of restoration, and with an adoring heart to the grace of God that has triumphed thus. The faithfulness and justice of God are at stake. “If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:99If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)).
May my readers learn to walk in the light of His presence, enjoying their portion; communion with the Father and His Son; with consciences sensitive as to the least soil or stain that the light makes manifest. Not a morbid conscience, ever seeking to accuse itself—ever an unhappy companion. But a conscience sensitive of the least touch of evil, and thankful for the provision of His gracious love, that when the stain is felt, and the soul bowed in confession, it may enjoy the deep preciousness of that word, “He restoreth my soul.”
“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 though the Eternal Spirit, offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God,” (Heb. 9:13,1413For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: 14How 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? (Hebrews 9:13‑14)).