Restoring Grace

 •  6 min. read  •  grade level: 8
Perhaps at no other time is the grace of God more evident than in cleansing us from defilements in the path of faith or restoring us if we fail. It is indeed a sad thing when we fail in faithfulness to our blessed Master, for we have no excuse, after receiving the grace that has been shown to us in saving us from our sins. But if we are susceptible to defilement and sin, His grace is able to meet us and restore us to fellowship with Him.
We have a beautiful illustration of restoring grace in the red heifer of Numbers 19 — a provision distinctly for the defilements which are met with as we journey through this world. On the one hand, it is impossible to exaggerate the value of the shedding of Christ’s blood for our sins. Through it we have “no more conscience of sins” (Heb. 10:22For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. (Hebrews 10:2)). On the other hand, such grace is the strongest motive why we cannot tamper with what is defiled. If we are already cleansed perfectly before God, we must not allow a blot on our lives before men.
The red heifer was to be “without spot, wherein is no blemish, and upon which never came yoke” (Num. 19:22This is the ordinance of the law which the Lord hath commanded, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring thee a red heifer without spot, wherein is no blemish, and upon which never came yoke: (Numbers 19:2)). Surely this is a striking picture of Christ, for the requirement was not only perfection in the absence of any blemish, but also it must never have known the yoke, that is, the pressure of sin. How this speaks of Christ as always perfectly acceptable to God!
Restoring Communion
The blood was to be taken and sprinkled seven times before the tabernacle, for the grand truth of atonement by blood must be maintained. Whenever the thought of sin occurs, the blood vindicates God. It is important to notice that this sprinkling of blood was never repeated. Then the heifer was to be taken and totally burned, along with cedar wood, scarlet and hyssop. The cedar wood and hyssop would perhaps refer to the whole extent of man in his nature, whether in greatness or weakness, while scarlet brings before us the pride of the world. These, no doubt, speak of the means or source of the defilement. The ashes of all these, together with those of the heifer, were to be laid up in a clean place without the camp. They were to be kept for a “water of separation: it is a purification for sin” (Num. 19:99And a man that is clean shall gather up the ashes of the heifer, and lay them up without the camp in a clean place, and it shall be kept for the congregation of the children of Israel for a water of separation: it is a purification for sin. (Numbers 19:9)). Here it is not a question of establishing relationships (that was already done), but it is on the ground of the relationship that already existed that the Israelite must allow nothing to spoil the holiness that suited the sanctuary of the Lord. So it is for the believer today. Such purification for sin is clearly with a sense of restoring communion when broken.
The Magnitude of Sin and Grace
Touching a dead body is brought in here as typifying defilement in its various forms and degrees. If one touched the dead body of a man, he was to be unclean seven days. God provided for cleansing, but several points must be noted.
First of all, God does not make light of sin. He gives the soul the profit of being exercised about it. There must be purifying on both the third day and the seventh day. The one who was defiled could not say, “I am already sprinkled with the blood — I am clean: Why should I trouble more about the sin?” Likewise, he could not begin to purify himself on the first day — he must wait until the third day. When there is defilement in our lives and communion with God is interrupted, it is important that we thoroughly realize our offense. For the Israelite there was no sudden restoration, but rather the pain of remaining for two days under the sense of his sin. There must be the realization and sense of sin in the presence of grace that provides against it. Thus, the third day is the realization of the magnitude of sin in the presence of grace. In Christianity it is not a question of days, but rather of the necessary time needed to gain a real sense of the sin in the sight of God. A hasty expression of sorrow does not prove genuine repentance of sin. Rather, the fact that we are already sprinkled with Christ’s blood is the strongest motive for shame and humiliation.
On the third day there is the sprinkling of the water of purification — water that had been mixed with the ashes of the heifer. What did they represent? The power of the Spirit of God (the water) bringing before me the memory of the sufferings of Christ (the ashes). The ashes are the full proof of judgment and the memory of the cost involved. The effect of all this is that we acquire a deeper knowledge of God’s grace than we had before and a practical acquaintance with the deceitfulness of sin and of our own hearts. The sense of sin is connected not only with the bitterness of lost communion, but with the grace that had put it away. This gives a deeper sense of sin in connection with grace.
The Magnitude of Grace and Sin
But all this, necessary though it may be, is not full restoration. The conscience must be brought into exercise and the evil judged, but this is not full communion with God. There must be a further period of time until the seventh day, when once again the man is sprinkled with the water of purification. When the full work is done and the purifying is complete, grace in respect of sin is fully entered into, and thoughts of sin are left behind. The seventh day brings before us the magnitude of grace in the presence of sin. Thus the two sprinklings are the converse of each other. If sin allowed in our lives has brought shame on grace, now we see that grace has triumphed over sin. God never occupies me with sin except to bring me to the point of judging it. Then He occupies me with Himself and His grace. The grace that has purified us, in making us judge sin according to grace, makes us now enjoy grace without any more thinking of sin — in a word, we enjoy God. Communion is fully restored, and in the full acceptance of the offering of Christ, understood and enjoyed. Sin as an object of my thoughts is left behind. This is the seventh day. How completely grace restores the soul!
Adapted from W. Kelly, The Red Heifer