The Water of Purification

Numbers 19  •  15 min. read  •  grade level: 9
How rare it is to find the child of God walking in the consciousness of his true position before Him! Numbers there are (we bless God for the numbers) whose souls have felt the sting of sin, and who are trusting in Jesus, but who have not yet realized the full results of the work of Christ in their souls; and thereby fail to walk in the consciousness of sonship before the Father — fail to walk so as to please God, through the world; as those who have been separated and redeemed for a higher and better scene. Such souls have doubtless felt more or less deeply the fact of indwelling sin. Like the Jews of old, who when he committed a sin, brought a sacrifice — again and again a sin and a sacrifice — they have daily recourse to the blood of Jesus for cleansing from the workings of sin in their members. They do not see that sin has been once and forever, effectually and completely, put away from before God. Such is not the Christian state. It lowers the whole tone of practical Christianity, reduces the apprehension of the value of the blood of Jesus almost to the level of the oft-repeated sacrifices of the Levitical ceremonial, and weakens the apprehension of the character of purity and holiness of the place into which the believer has been brought, the unsullied presence of God, there to walk before Him. Jesus “died the just for the unjust to bring us to God.” The believer has been called into fellowship with His Son Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 1:88Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 1:8)). “Truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:33That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. (1 John 1:3)). God has “called us from darkness into His marvelous light.” He has “made us meet for the inheritance of the saints in light.” And He has set us to “walk in the light as He is in the light.” He has done all this in such a way that He can have us there without lowering the unsullied holiness of His presence in light.
When the believer has realized, even in some measure, that God has thus brought him to Himself, and accepted him in the Beloved, and has apprehended somewhat of the holiness of walk conformable to the place, it is then that he can estimate the provision that God has made in the work of Jesus, as typified in Num. 19, that the believer may thus enjoy unclouded fellowship with the Father and the Son. We can see in it the great fact that it is God’s thought that the worshiper once purged should have no more conscience of sin (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)); and yet, such being the case, that when he is conscious of the workings of indwelling sin in his members, he has no need to go back to be re-washed in the blood, and, more than all, be learns in the precious type before us the jealous boldness of God, who will not go on with even a thought of sin in His child; and that in this type the provision He has made for all these exigencies stands in marked and precious precision before the renewed mind.
Let us now look at its varied and beauteous features. We read, “This is the ordinance of the law which the Lord hath commanded, saying, speak to the children of Israel, that they bring thee a red heifer without spot, wherein is no blemish, and upon which never came yoke.” In this the person of our Lord Jesus Christ is brought before us. One wherein is no blemish and on whom never came yoke of sin. In His own person, free from every stain or taint of sin, take Him when you will, and where you will, and as you will, from the womb of the virgin to the cross, and you will find One who, while surrounded by evil on every side, in the midst of evil, and in contact with it, notwithstanding never was defiled, beauteous in the perfection of personal purity as man in the midst of a defiled world; One who, ever above the evil, adapted His heart to the need around, never in fellowship with evil, but morally above it; perfect in the holy calmness and evenness of divine goodness and love in His perfect pathway through the world. Paul, while such a wondrous instrument in the hands of God, had to say, “I wist not, brethren, that he was the high priest.” And again, be “had no rest in his spirit because he found not Titus.” Moses too “spake unadvisedly with his lips.” As one has beautifully said in words that I deeply enjoy, vessels “such as Paul are chords on which God strikes, and on which He produces a wondrous music, but Christ is the music itself.” Compare them both in Matthew 16. Christ could be on the mount in glory with Moses and Elias, and be owned as Son by the Father Himself, and He can be on the plain in the presence of the multitude and Satan; but although the scenes are different, He is alike perfect in each. In 2 Corinthians 3, Paul could glory as a man in Christ, one who had been in the third heavens; but when he comes down into ordinary life he must have a thorn in the flesh to keep him humble, lest he should be exalted above measure.
Thus was Jesus, and thus He walked — never equaled. The Lamb for God’s altar must be without spot and blemish, and such was He!
But when we turn to look at His cross, we find something else, perfect in His person, as perfect in the act He came to accomplish, we find Him then. We read, “And Eleazar the priest shall take of her blood with his finger and sprinkle of her blood directly before the tabernacle of the congregation seven times.” Would that the trembling one, whose heart has not yet found peace, or the anxious one whose conscience is still unpurged, the weak one who desires to realize all the blessings of acceptance and forgiveness, — would that such would read aright the soul-emancipating truth conveyed in the verse before us! We read of a sevenfold sprinkling at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. This suggests to us two thoughts. First, the place where true sprinkling was accomplished; and secondly, the value of the act that was done there. In Exodus 29:42, 4342This shall be a continual burnt offering throughout your generations at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the Lord: where I will meet you, to speak there unto thee. 43And there I will meet with the children of Israel, and the tabernacle shall be sanctified by my glory. (Exodus 29:42‑43), we read about the place; and it was the place of fellowship or communion between God and Israel. “There will I meet with the children of Israel.” There was the blood of the unblemished heifer sprinkled seven times before God, at the place where He met His people.
Seven is the well-known number which conveys to us the thought of perfection in spiritual things. Every claim that a God of righteousness and truth and justice and boldness could righteously demand was answered there according to the divine standard of these things, in the sevenfold sprinkled blood His holy eye saw before Him that which responded to every claim as to sin and uncleanness, and proved Him a “just God” and yet “a Savior” — “Just and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus.” Sevenfold was the sprinkling of the blood of the unblemished heifer, and in its sevenfold perfection was the blood of Christ, once offered to answer every claim of God and need of the sinner. He “made peace by the blood of his cross.”
But in Num. 19:55And one shall burn the heifer in his sight; her skin, and her flesh, and her blood, with her dung, shall he burn: (Numbers 19:5) we learn something more, we read “And one shall burn the heifer in his sight, her skin, her flesh, and her blood with her dung, shall he burn.” Here we get another view of the cross of Jesus, that meeting place between God and the sinner. We learn here that Christ was entirely consumed by the fire of the judgment of God on account of sin. The accents of His soul at that moment were “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.” Entirely was He consumed by the fire of judgment on account of sin; the very levity of thought and sins we think so lightly of, wretched creatures that we are, — for these was He consumed to ashes, in exhausting the cup of wrath for His people!
Again, in Num. 19:66And the priest shall take cedar wood, and hyssop, and scarlet, and cast it into the midst of the burning of the heifer. (Numbers 19:6), another phase of the cross unfolds before us. We read, “And the priest shall take cedar-wood, and hyssop, and scarlet, and cast it into the midst of the burning of the heifer.” Another wondrous truth is here, one we may deeply ponder with subdued hearts before God. How many are the schemes around us to improve man, as he is, and to adorn the world which has departed from God. Here we find them all judged and set in their true light. Nature from its highest to its lowest is typified here; “From the cedar that is in Lebanon to the hyssop that springeth out of the wall.” This takes in the full range of the natural man. Let it be the moralist or the philosopher, the teetotaler or the drunkard the amiable or the churl, all are included here. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh,” and never can be anything else. No doubt many of the schemes of morality, and self-improvement, and reform, have done much for men; but this, while good in its place, never alters the great fact that “the carnal mind is enmity against God.” The cross has revealed this, has written death upon all its varied plans, for improvement and amelioration; and the word of God comes alike to it all, “it must be born again!” This is its sentence after 4,000 years of probation and trial, it had been “weighed in the balances and found wanting.” And again, every human glory of the world, and its attractions found its true measure in the cross. The “scarlet” was cast into the burning of the heifer. “Now is the judgment of this world.” “The world hath not known thee.” “All that is of the world ... is not of the Father.” “The world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” Thus we have seen in these verses, brought before us, the person of the Christ of God; the value of His cross before Him; and somewhat of the deep meaning of that cross, and how it puts everything in its right place — the flesh the natural man, and the world.
Now to apply this to the conscience of the believer who has been called to walk in fellowship with (the Lord) Jesus. Such an one has doubtless rested for acceptance more or less in the cross and blood-shedding of Jesus. He has been washed in the precious blood, it has been sprinkled on his conscience by faith, once and forever in its divine efficacy and sufficiency. Then has come his walk before God, in the light of His presence within the vail. Being there makes him feel the consciousness of indwelling sin, of sin in his members. Perhaps in an unguarded moment the evil fruit has come forth in the form of sins, which has clouded his perception of his place, and his communion with the Father and Son has been interrupted. How then is he to be restored? How has God provided in His jealous holiness against the least thought of sin in the practical walk of His people? The sevenfold sprinkled blood precludes the thought of the sin ever coming into His presence. He sees before Him that which has answered every claim according to the divine holiness of that presence. Nevertheless it has clouded the soul of His child, and He will not permit him to enjoy his place and fellowship with Him while the cloud remains.
We read then in verse 11, &c., “He that toucheth the dead body of a man shall be unclean seven days, he shall purify himself with it on the third day; and on the seventh day he shall be clean. But if he purify not himself the third day, then on the seventh day he shall not be clean... And for an unclean person they shall take of the ashes of the burnt heifer of purification for sin, and running water shall be put there in a vessel, and a clean person shall take hyssop, and dip it in the water, and sprinkle it upon... him that touched a bone, or one slain, or one dead, or a grave. And the clean person shall sprinkle upon the unclean on the third day, and on the seventh day he shall purify himself and wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water and shall be clean at even. But the man that shall be unclean and shall not purify himself, that soul shall be cut off from among the congregation, because he hath defiled the sanctuary of the Lord; the water of separation hath not been sprinkled upon him: he is unclean.” Here we learn first of all, that even contact with evil, or its smallest workings, defiles. Completely and perfectly has the soul lost the enjoyment of its communion with God: seven days was the Israelite unclean. As perfectly as had the sevenfold sprinkling answered the claims of God at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, as well as the need of the convicted conscience which approached there, so as perfectly had the soul lost its fellowship with God. And God would have one feel the loss, and feel it deeply too. The unclean person lay two days under his defilement; he must feel the privation of communion with God. There was no haste in bringing the water of purification till he had this adequate twofold testimony (as required under the law) that he had lost his communion, and that he was in the truth as to his state. Then, having lain two days under his uncleanness, the clean person was to take the ashes of the burnt heifer and running water, and with hyssop sprinkle it upon the unclean person the third day.
When we have fully felt the want of communion through having lost it, then we find these two things — the ashes and the water. To the Israelite, it was for purifying the flesh from ceremonial defilement; with us, it is spiritual purification. The ashes proved to the Israelite that the sacrifice was entirely consumed: it was the memorial of the perfect offering which had been consumed outside the camp, some of the blood of which had been sprinkled before God. To us, it is the remembrance of the sacrifice of Christ once offered in its perfection, brought to our minds by the Holy Spirit (typified in the running water; see Eph. 5:2020Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; (Ephesians 5:20)), proving to us that He was entirely consumed on account of sin, by the searching fire of judgment. The ashes testified that the sin was gone forever. When the soul has felt that it has lost communion with God through carelessness or sin, the sacrifice of Christ, in all its perfection, is applied to the conscience by the Holy Spirit. The first application on the third day did not restore the Israelite. Nor does the first apprehension of the sacrifice of Christ, as applied by the Holy Spirit to the conscience of the believer, restore the soul to communion. It is the sense of the sin having been put away by the sacrifice of Christ, and then the second application, is the full restoration of the soul to God, with the sense of His grace triumphing over the sin. The unclean Israelite purified himself the third day, but the result of the second sprinkling on the seventh day, was that “he shall be clean” — perfectly restored.
How perfect in all its divine precision is the figure before us! It shows the jealousy of God about the holiness of His house, and the care He has shown that there should be practical holiness in His people and truth in the inward parts; the type divinely provides for both. And then we find, verse 19, that after his full restoration to communion, he had one thing more to do — he had to wash his clothes and bathe himself in water. He was to cleanse himself, by the washing of water by the word, from every defiling circumstance which surrounded him; and to cleanse himself, as having been in those circumstances and having thus become defiled by them; to lay the edge of the word to them, so that they might not affect him again in his walk, and that he himself might not be found in them so as to become defiled.
Such are some of the wondrous beauties of the type of the red heifer. We find that not only as sinners has the grace of our Savior God given us a place before Him, the work of Christ having fitted us to be there, and the Holy Spirit having brought us into the understanding and enjoyment of our place, but that as believers, God (the Father, Son and Holy Spirit) is engaged in keeping us in the place, in practical holiness, and fitness to walk in fellowship in the power of the Holy Spirit with the Father and His Son Jesus Christ our Lord.
Bible Treasury 5:203-205.