Types of Cleansing (7 of 15)
Series: Scarlet Thread
To several I made the observation that out of all of the many lectures I have prepared through so many years, there has never been one that meant more to me than the one that I have prepared for tonight. In our study, going through the Bible following the “scarlet line,” the trail of blood, there is in our lesson tonight the whole summation of what God has purposed and revealed and finally achieved for us in the atonement of Christ. And I pray that it shall mean likewise a full, overflowing, spiritual meaning to you as it has to me in its preparation.
We are looking at types of our suffering Lord in the Pentateuch, in the writings of Moses. And last Wednesday night, we spoke of things crushed and bruised and beaten, making the observation that in the types, in the pictures and symbols of our Lord found back there in the Old Testament, that we have some of the most glorious presentations of the mind and purpose of God to be found anywhere in the Holy Scriptures.
And speaking of the types we were observing last Wednesday night, that the type is something that God created and God put into it the design and the purpose, though it took maybe thousands of years for us to see it and to know it, but God saw it and God knew it. And the purpose was not finally known to us. Its significance and meaning were not revealed to us until maybe uncounted centuries later. But God saw it, and He placed it back here, and the design was His design, and the revelation that God purposed in it was born in His heart.
Looking back on it we can see it, when doubtless the people who observed it, and maybe themselves were types of it, did not realize it at all, but it is a part of the infinite mind and purpose of God. So these things that we’re looking at following this trail of blood, this scarlet line through the Bible, these are things that God placed in the substance, in the furniture, in the ritual, in the worship, that when we came ultimately to know what it meant, it came to mean the glorious salvation we have in our Lord.
So looking at those types back there in the Pentateuch, in the law of Moses last Wednesday night, we were discussing things crushed and bruised and beaten. Like all of the gold used in the belongings of the tabernacle was pure beaten gold, all of it; never was it cast. What they did was, they took a vast weight of gold and beat it into the seven-branched lampstand; they took all of the furniture, covering over with gold. It was all beaten into shape – all of the oil that was used, whether for the meal offering or for the lampstand or for the ointment, all of it was beaten oil.
If spices were used for incense, or frankincense, or for holy ointment, or for the sacrifices, all of it was beaten; all of it was beaten. Even the manna had to be ground and beaten in a mortar before it could be used for bread. All of the grain of the meal offering, the flour offering, was fine flour; and it will use that word “fine” over and over again; it is fine. The showbread placed, you know, on the golden table there in the Holy Place – the cereal offering; all of it was fine flour. It was crushed and beaten and ground.
Now all of that, God had in His mind a purpose; it is a type. It refers to the crushing of Christ; He was made perfect through suffering. And as the bread was even, the flour was even, so there are no inequalities in our Lord. And we are told that we also, through much tribulation, enter into the kingdom of God. The crushing and the beatings of life are in God’s purpose for us, that He might refine us.
That old song that the – that our forefathers used to sing:
When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace all sufficient shall be thy supply.
The flame shall not hurt thee, I only design
Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.
[“How Firm a Foundation”; John Keene, 1787]
This is the purpose of God in us as it was in Christ. Now that was our lesson last Wednesday night.
Tonight we’re going to look at three amazing types. Two of them are in Leviticus; I mean one of the remaining is in Leviticus, the cleansing of the leper. And the other two – the ashes of a red heifer, which is an astonishing type, and the brazen serpent – are in the Book of Numbers.
First, the cleansing of the leper: you will find that in Leviticus chapter 13 and Leviticus chapter 14. It starts off in Leviticus chapter 13, verses 2, 4, 23, 28, 35, 39 and other places. It starts off with a bright spot. Who would ever have thought that the little bright spot appearing on the person of a member of the congregation would be a matter of such great concern and consequence? But oh, the energy of evil! Just a little thing, just a little tiny thing, just a little bright spot; why pay any attention to it? But that little bright spot is the beginning of the dissolution of the life. And may I pause here to speak of it in the lives of our families, to bring to us the emphasis of the necessity for teaching children about sin and the judgment of God upon it?
There has been a school of theology and a school of psychology and a school of sociology in these years past, that if you would not teach children that they are sinners, they would not be sinners. Wouldn’t that be a wonderful thing if you could just take the child and teach the child something good, something nice, something sweet, something of spice, and the child just grow up just to be lovely and perfect? But that’s not the way it works. These little children are born with a black drop in them; you can call that original sin, inherited sin, total depravity. That is an old-time expression: not for that they’re as evil as they could be, but that all of them are fallen; their faculties are fallen, their emotions are fallen. That little bright spot is a little tiny thing, but it represents the ultimate energy of evil.
I remember Dr. L. R. Scarborough who was the head of the “Chair of Fire” in the seminary at Southwestern and president of the school. I remember Dr. Scarborough one time describing a service in a revival meeting. And there came down a little boy who wanted to be saved. So Dr. Scarborough said he took his place by the side of the little boy and began to talk to the little boy about being a sinner and about being lost. Well, the Sunday school teacher, seeing the little boy come, came and sat down with the little fellow on the other side of him, and Dr. Scarborough on this side of the little fellow and the Sunday school teacher on this side.
So when Dr. Scarborough began teaching, talking to the little boy about being lost and about being a sinner and about needing a Savior and needing to be saved, the teacher broke in and said, “Dr. Scarborough, you’re new in the community and I realize you don’t know who this little boy is, but he is the best little boy in this town. He’s the best little boy in the church, in the class.” Well, Dr. Scarborough ignored her and just kept talking to the little boy about being a sinner, and about being lost, and about needing to be saved. And the teacher kept breaking in and saying, “But Dr. Scarborough, you don’t realize. This is the best little boy in this town, and he’s the best, finest little boy in my class.” So, Dr. Scarborough took the little boy and moved him over and sat between the Sunday school teacher and the little boy, and then turning to the little boy, he began to talk to the little boy about being a sinner and about being lost and about needing a Savior. And Dr. Scarborough said it was not long until he had led the little boy into the kingdom of God, into the repentance of sin and the acceptance of Christ as his Savior.
Now all of us have some of that in us, “You know, I’m not real bad. Why, I haven’t killed anybody or at least not two or certainly not five. I haven’t robbed any banks – that is, at least not a big bank, or I haven’t robbed five banks,” and on and on and on. You know, no matter what, we have a tendency to belittle the tragedy and the significance of sin. That’s why these things are in the Bible, to teach us the energy and the tragedy of evil. It is starting with a little bright spot.
Naaman, the Bible says, was a tremendous man, a great man, a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper; and you can just apply that to every great man who ever lives. No matter who he is, no matter how fine and mighty, he is a lost sinner-man and needs God. So, it starts off with a little black spot.
Now, in the fourteenth chapter of the Book of Leviticus, you have the cleansing of the leper. First, in verse 3, “The priest shall go forth out of the camp.” The leper is outside of the camp. And oh, what a tragedy! Look at this as I read it from the thirteenth chapter of the Book of Leviticus. The reason I don’t take time to read these passages is, we will never move anywhere if I take time to do it. I just can cite them, but this one I’m going to take time to read. Look at the tragedy of the leper in Leviticus 13: 45-46:
And the leper in whom the plague is, his clothes shall be rent, and his head bare, and he shall put a covering upon his upper lip, and shall cry, Unclean, unclean. All the days wherein the plague shall be in him he shall be defiled; he is unclean: he shall dwell alone; without the camp shall his habitation be.
Without the camp, without the congregation, on the outside; and he, wherever he goes, he is to cry with his hand over his lip, “Unclean, unclean.”
Do you remember my preaching? Of course, you can’t remember it all, but do you remember in my preaching about the leper coming up to Jesus after the Sermon on the Mount? The Lord is thronged on every side, just – I don’t know how many people, thousands I would think, way over there on the other side of the sea in a desert place. There were five thousand men who were crowding Him; must have been twenty-five thousand way out there in the desert where there was no town, no village, no anything to eat. Well, He is on this side – can you imagine the thousands of people? All right, when I was preaching about the healing of the leper, they used the word “cleansing” always, the cleansing of the leper; the Bible says, “And, behold, a leper came up to Jesus” [Matthew 8:2].
Well, how did he get to the Lord Jesus? “And behold, a leper came,” just walked right up to Him. Well, if you know the times of these things you read in the Bible, it was very simple for the leper just to walk right up to the Lord, no matter how thronged He was or how pressed He was. Wherever the leper went, there was a falling away. He walked in the midst of a cold and icy circle. And with his hands above his lips crying, “Unclean, unclean, unclean!” the people fell away and he could just walk anywhere. There was always that circle around, always.
And do you remember my preaching it? And the Lord touched him and said, well, why didn’t the Lord move away? Everybody else did. They all, “Look, look!” He didn’t. He just stood there, and the leper walked right up to Him. And the Bible says, “And the Lord touched him” [Matthew 8:3]. The Lord put His hand upon him. And in my preaching about it, I said I think that that was half of the cure. He had forgotten how the warm, soft hand of somebody who loved and cared, he forgot what it felt like. The Lord touching him, ah! You could imagine what it meant to him – his head shaved, his clothes rent, living outside the camp, and wherever he went with his hand over his lips crying, “Unclean, unclean!”
So, in the healing of the leper in [Leviticus 14] verse 3: starts off, “And the priest shall go forth out of the camp.” The leper is outside the camp, he’s outside the congregation of the Lord, all he touched was defiled. The priest must go out to the leper; the leper could not come into the assembly, into the congregation of the Lord. The lost sinner is outside of the camp. He’s in the place of moral distance from a Holy God; nothing can he do for himself, all he touched was defiled. All had to be done for him, he could not make his way to God; God had to make His way to him. And that’s exactly what God has done for us.
In I John 4:10 it says, “Herein is His love, not that we love God, but that God loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” We are a dying people, lost, and everything we touch has in it an element of failure and fault. But God, in His pity and mercy, left heaven to come down where we are, that He might teach us and save us and die for us. When He made the world, He id it by fiat [Genesis 1]; He just spoke them into existence. But when He saved us, He had to come outside the camp where we are, and die and suffer for us.
Now the type: “Then shall the priest command,” this is the fourteenth chapter of Leviticus, “Then shall the priest command to take for him that is to be cleansed two birds alive and clean, and cedar wood, and scarlet,” a scarlet line, “and hyssop: and the priest shall command that one of the birds be killed in an earthen vessel over running water” [Leviticus 14:4-5].
Now to us, running water would be, you know, he killed it over a stream. No, we have a misconception there. It means a basin of water that is taken out of a running stream. That is, not stagnant water, not still water, but it is to be a basin filled with water out of a running stream, representing life:
And as for the living bird, he shall take it, and the cedar wood, and the scarlet, and the hyssop, and shall dip them and the living bird in the blood of the bird that was killed over the running water; And he shall sprinkle upon him that is to be cleansed from the leprosy seven times, and so pronounce him clean, and shall let the living bird loose into the open field.[Leviticus 14:6-7]
That is a powerful and marvelous type of our Lord: one of the birds killed and the blood poured – caught in a basin of living water, not stagnant, but water taken out of a running stream. And then the living bird is bound with a scarlet line to cedar and hyssop and dipped in the blood mixed with living water. And then that bird, with the blood on its wings, it is let loose and ascends into the sky, into heaven, and the blood is sprinkled upon the leper, and he is clean.
Now let’s look at that just for a moment: all of the rites of purification are intended to teach the Israelite that he belongs to a fallen race and he needs redemption, he needs purification, he needs atonement!
Yesterday, I had a woman come to see me. They are preparing an hour-long presentation here, in the city of Dallas, on television about the modern church. And before I shared in the program, she wanted to talk to me extensively. She had a little cassette tape there and notes, notebook. And she said, “Since the church is no longer dominating the state and since so many of the altruistic, philanthropic ministers of the church are taken over by the state – you know, tax supported welfare and all of that – what do you think the need for, and the assignment, and the good of the church in modern society?” And that’s the way she started it off.
Well, I said to her, “I presume that back there, in that long ago day when the state was dominated by the church, I suppose that they had a place in it, and I suppose that in the philanthropies of our people, taking care of all of these illegitimate children and all the other things they talk about in welfare, I suppose that the church at one time was assigned that.” But I said, “There never has been a time when the great, main, fundamental assignment of the church was to be that it dominated the state or that it was an instrument of altruistic charity.” I said to her, “To me, yesterday, today and forever, the great purpose of the church is to bring the message of redemption and salvation to fallen men. Are you saved, Mr. President, Mr. Governor, Mr. Justice on the Court, Mr. Sheriff, Mr. Policeman, Mr. Councilman, Mr. Senator, Mr. Legislator, are you saved? Have you been washed in the blood of the Lamb? And to me, the great ministry of the church is to bring hope and salvation to dying people who, though they may be well today, will be sick tomorrow; who, though they may be living today, will be dead tomorrow. Is there any life; is there any light beyond the grave? Is there any hope? Does God live? That is the great mission of the church.”
Now, that is in everything that the Lord sought to teach ancient Israel: they belonged to a fallen race, they were sinners, and they need redemption and purification and atonement. So, this type that we’ve just read is one of the most powerful, in that the living bird dipped in the blood of the slain bird – that is, identified with it. The blood of the dead bird is on the wings of the living bird; they are one. And the bird is bound with scarlet and with hyssop and with cedar; and we’re going to look at that in the next one, and I won’t take time to speak of it. Then the living bird is let loose in heaven and is free; this is a picture of Christ and of our salvation. He was slain, and He was raised triumphant, and He passed into the heavens, bearing on His sacred person the marks of an accomplished redemption.
When the Lord entered into heaven after He was raised from the dead and after His suffering on the cross, the Book of Hebrews said that He bore into the sanctuary in heaven – and I presume, Dr. Draper, that’s going to be your sermon Sunday night, because I see the security of the blood out there. The Lord offered His blood, an atonement for our sins, and bore it into the sanctuary. And the type of these two birds – one slain and the other dipped in its blood and let loose in the field, and it soars up into the heavens – is a type and a picture of our Lord who died for us and who entered into heaven bearing blood of atonement.
Now we’re going to look at that more perfectly and fully into what to me is the most amazing, astonishing type in all of the Bible: the ashes of the red heifer. The story is told in Numbers 19:1-22, the entire chapter, and it is referred to in the chapter that Dr. Draper is preaching on. The ashes of the red heifer are referred to in Hebrews 9:13. The purpose of the ashes of the red heifer was for the cleansing for defilement caused by contact with death. Our contact with death is a necessary work, to bury the dead, but whoever comes in contact with death is defiled by it. Therefore, what do you do?
Now, the ashes of the red heifer is the provision God made for cleansing in the defilement of death. And now we’re going to look at it. As I say, this is the most astonishing and amazing of all of the types to be found in the Bible. Notice that it is not in the Book of Leviticus. We have passed, following this scarlet line through the Bible, we have gone beyond Leviticus now. We’re in the Book of Numbers. It is not a regular sacrifice; it is unique, it is alone, it is apart. And the sacrifice of the red heifer made a profound impression upon Israel, both in the days of the tabernacle and in the days of the temple. Now I want you to look at that just for a moment.
As you know, the temple was built on Mount Moriah. Then there’s the deep Kidron Valley right here and then the Mount of Olives just there. Now the red heifer was slain over there on the Mount of Olives. So there was a bridge they constructed from the temple mount to the Olivet mount, and that bridge, spanning the Kidron Valley, was called the Red Heifer Bridge. Over this bridge, the procession of priests and Levites and officers of the Holy Place followed the high priest as he led the solitary victim, a red heifer, across that bridge over on the Mount of Olives.
Now the gate on that side that led into the temple area was called the Gate Shushan. And on the eastern side of the temple at the end of the Red Heifer Bridge was that gate. And it was built five cubits lower than any other gate in order that the priest, when sprinkling the blood of the red heifer towards the altar, could look over the gate through the beautiful Nicanor gate of the temple area, and get a view of the altar.
The whole architectural design of the temple area on that side, the eastern side, the Kidron side, was made to fit this sacrifice of the red heifer.
Now, the typology: death, the curse and the result of sin, forms the background and the foreground of the type here pictured. All who touched a dead body were unclean. All who came into the presence of a dead body were unclean. That meant if you went to a funeral service you were unclean. And all who accidentally touched a token of death – you walked close to a grave or you picked up a bone – were ceremonially unclean. Death is the symbol and the fruit of sin. Sin, like death, defaces the image of God and destroys the bloom of life. In God’s Book, death is a symbol and a type, and a fruit of sin. And death defaces the image of God and destroys the purpose by which God had in His mind and His heart when He created us.
You know, I don’t know a better way to illustrate that than this: in the British museum, there is a Babylonian brick. These archaeologists digging in ancient Babylon dug up this brick. As you know, the ancient Babylonian kings – such as Nebuchadnezzar, such as Nabonidus – when they made their bricks, they stamped it with their image. And this brick in the British museum has the image of the king stamped on it. But while it was moist and while it was soft, a dog stepped on it. And that brick has the image and the superscription and the seal of the Babylonian king, and over it is a dog’s track; that is exactly what has happened to the human race. The image of God has been defaced by a dog’s foot, the track of a dog.
We are defaced. We are not anymore full and perfect in the sight of God; and death is that defacement, however comely the corpse. You know, I should not be this crude and this crass, but every time I look at a corpse and somebody says, “Oh, oh! Don’t they look beautiful? Don’t they look natural?” I know what the embalmer does. Don’t ever try to find out. It will tear you apart, don’t ever do it. Just let it be that. Let it be that: “Oh, how lovely! Oh, how beautiful!”
There was a boy in our church who worked in a funeral home to make his way through school, and they put the beautiful body, the comely corpse there. Then they moved it into the waiting room for the family to come. And when they opened it, there was no corpse at all, it was, “Ah! The corpse had disappeared!” They quickly shut the casket, moved the family out, brought in the people. And the answer was very simple: the woman had died in some kind of a heavy, heavy accident, and from here down, they had cut off her body. She was just one half, from here up. So when they moved and had tilted the casket, she slid down into the bottom of the casket. So, they worked fast and pulled it back up and arranged it all, and the family came and said, “Oh, how beautiful and how comely.” I’m just telling you, don’t find out what the embalmer does because it’s horrible. It is horrible. Do you know what trocar is? Don’t find out. Don’t find out.
Death is an interloper; its visage is horrible. It is an enemy, God says so [1 Corinthians 15:26]. God never intended it, and it is a type of the awesomeness of sin. Our final judgment, if we’re lost, is even called the second death [Revelation 20:14-15]. All right, another thing about this thing of the ashes of a red heifer. It has to do with our contact with death, a type of sin. How frequent and how universal is the defilement, it’s like our shadow.
Sin besets us and follows us. When we would do good, evil is present. The Israelite became unclean even in the act of doing good; he was taught to bury the dead. It was a virtue of the Jew, and if I had time here, I would tell the story of Tobit, T-o- b-i-t, one of those apocryphal books. That’s one of the ways by which he commended himself to God, to bury the dead. Did you know back there in that ancient world they would just leave the corpses on the surface of the ground to rot? And the vultures would eat them, and the jackals would devour them, and it was a virtue of a Jew to bury the dead. But the man doing good, even though he did good, he became unclean. The man was defiled if even out of love and charity, he interred the poor, the slain, or buried a body that was exposed.
Now, that is a lesson of God for us, there is sin even in our holy deeds. When we pray, we don’t pray perfectly. When we worship, we do not worship perfectly. When we repent, we do not repent perfectly. When we believe, we do not believe perfectly. There is carnality and the drag of the human flesh in everything that we do. Evil nature clings to us forever. As long as you live in this body of death, you’re going to feel the drag of carnality and the curse of imperfection and sin.
Now, the symbolic cleansing: it was like this, and I’m summarizing now in these several things. This beautiful, tremendous symbol in the Book of Numbers: first, there was one sacrifice, a red heifer, a red heifer. There was one sacrifice for the whole nation. It was not as Passover, one lamb for each family. There was one sacrifice for the whole nation, and the ashes were carefully partitioned for distribution in every town. There was one offering that was sufficient for all, and that is exactly what your next chapter in Hebrews is going to present. In Hebrews 10:12: “Christ, after He had offered one sacrifice for sin forever, sat down on the right hand of God.” His work was completed. There was one ark, there was one door into the ark. There was one brazen serpent, there was one scapegoat: there is one great, final, forever sacrifice for sin, and that is typified in the sacrifice of the red heifer. There was one sacrifice for the whole nation.
Second: it had to be a red heifer [Numbers 19:2-17], only time you’ll find anything like this, that is, it is a type of tenderness and affection, a red heifer. In Hebrews 4:15, speaking about our Lord, it says “He can be touched, moved with the feeling of our infirmity.” He understands us and knows all about it. It had to be red. There was no other color upon it. Red represents and is a sign of and a depiction of the crimson of sin. “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” [Isaiah 1:18], when God cleanses us. And sin is washed out in blood; Revelation 1:5: “Unto Him who loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood,” and in Revelations 7:13-14: “These are they who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” It is a red heifer that is sacrificed.
Third: the heifer has to be without spot and without blemish [Numbers 19:2]. If there’s one stain, if there’s one sin in Christ, He could not deliver us. He must die for His own sin. The red heifer had to be without spot and without stain. Fourth: the red heifer had to be one that had never known a yoke, under no yoke ever. It had never plowed, had never been used, never been worked. Our Lord is free; He never felt the yoke and the bondage and the slavery of sin. There was no obligation to the justice and judgment of God. He was absolutely free: “I lay down my life of Myself. No man takes it from Me” [John 10:17-18]. It was a voluntary gift.
Five: the red heifer was slain without the camp [Numbers 9:3], and here again, is another one of the strange exceptions to the rule of worship. The altar was the place of sacrifice always. All of those sacrifices were made upon the altar. But this offering was brought without the camp as a polluted thing, though spotless and though it had never borne the yoke. The red heifer was taken outside the gate and outside the wall and outside the camp as a polluted thing and offered there. In Hebrews 13:12, it spoke of our Lord and our going to Him outside the camp. Christ was numbered with the transgressions [Isaiah 53:12; Luke 22:37], not with the righteous. He died with a thief on one side of Him and a felon on the other side outside the camp [Luke 23:39-42].
Number six: there was blood of remission in the sacrifice. The blood was caught and sprinkled seven times toward the holy sanctuary [Numbers 19:4]. That was the reason for the low gate and the reason for the opening of the Nicanor gate so that they could see the holy sanctuary. And it was sprinkled seven times, seven being the word of perfection in the story of the Passover: “When I see the blood, I will pass over you” [Exodus 12:13]. And in I John 1:7: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins, and the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses us from all sin” [1 John 1:7-9].
Number seven: the red heifer was burned wholly with fire. It was wholly destroyed. It was an accursed, unclean thing that was wholly offered [Numbers 19:5]. Christ was made a curse for us. He became sin for us, 2 Corinthians 5:21: “For God made Him to be sin and a cursed thing for us, Him who knew no sin; that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
Now, look again, number eight: the red heifer was burned with cedar wood, with hyssop and with scarlet, a scarlet line [Numbers 19:6]. These things became part of the ashes of the sacrifice. Cedar wood, that represents the glory of our Lord; cedar was the glory of Lebanon, our Lord’s exaltation. Hyssop is the lowliest of the herbs, the lowly Lord Jesus. It was the lowly plant that was used to apply the blood of the Passover lamb to the lentil in the doorposts [Exodus 12:22]. Blood must be applied. One could watch, one could see, one could know, but that won’t do. It must be applied. The Lord must be accepted. In Psalm 51:7, David says, “Purge me with hyssop and I shall be clean.” So the red heifer is burned with cedar wood: the lordliness of our great Savior; burned with hyssop, the lowliness of our Savior and the application of His atoning blood to us. And the scarlet line that bound it – the thread, representing the crimson of life – all of it was burned together.
Now, number nine: the ashes were laid up and they were used in perpetuity for the cleansing of those who had come in contact with death [Numbers 19:9]. That represents the perpetual efficacy of the atonement of our Lord, which is laid up for us forever. The ashes were laid up accessible to the camp. Everyone knew where they were, and if unclean, they could go to the ash heap and become clean. The efficacy of our Lord is forever and forever. It is more and enough. It is adequate for all of us and is available for all time.
Now, the ashes were mixed with running water [Numbers 19:17]; and here’s that running again, that is, water fresh from a stream, a running stream. Ashes were the type of death, and the running water was the type of life. We are justified to the death of Christ. We are sanctified by the Holy Spirit [Romans 15:6], the running water. This is the conjoined work of Christ unto the Holy Spirit: Christ purges our sins, and the Holy Spirit regenerates our souls, the ashes mixed with running water.
Now, Number 11: the one who would come in contact with death is made clean through the unclean. Now you look at that: even the man who touched the ashes became unclean, Numbers 19, verses 10 and 21. The ancient Talmud, representing Jewish tradition, tells this story about Solomon: Solomon declared that he did not understand why the ashes of the red heifer made everybody unclean who touched them, except those upon whom it was sprinkled, who were unclean already through touching of death. The priest who officiated and prepared the ashes was unclean by touching them. The man who killed the red heifer was unclean, the man who swept up the ashes was unclean, the man who mixed the ashes with running water was unclean. All and everybody were unclean that had to do with those ashes, and yet those ashes purified the defiled. They made clean the unclean.
That is the same thing as the riddle of the brazen serpent. By the serpent the people were bitten and killed, but by the serpent of brass they were healed[Numbers 21:8-9]. That’s what you find in modern medicine. When you are vaccinated, when you are immunized, an antitoxin is put on the inside of you, it is injected into the blood; the ashes of the thing itself. If you have a smallpox vaccination, they put smallpox in you, the ashes of the smallpox. If you have a polio injection, they put the ashes of the polio inside you. If you have a scarlet fever injection, or if you have a rabies injection, they put the dead thing itself inside of you, it’s the way you are healed.
And so it is in Christ: by Christ being regarded as unclean, we become clean. “For God made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” [2 Corinthians 5:21]. The ashes both reveal uncleanness, and they remove it. Christ reveals our sin to us, that is conviction; and Christ removes our sin from us, that is salvation. Did you ever see anything like that in your life? Could you imagine God doing that back there? The people who killed that red heifer and did all those things in preparing those ashes and sprinkled them on those that did defile, they had no idea. But God did, he put that in there. And when finally we came to know what it meant, it’s our blessed Jesus who became sin for us, an accursed thing, death itself. Even God hid His face that we might be cleaned with His sacrifice, His blood. Sweet people, our time is gone, I have to stop. But we will take it from there and follow the scarlet thread through the Bible next Wednesday night at 7:30.
For more sermons by W.A Criswell, please visit www.wacriswell.com