The Red Heifer

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, "Here is another ritual law required by the Lord: Tell the people of Israel to bring you a red heifer without spot or blemish and has never been yoked to a plow. Give it to Eleazar the priest, and it will be taken outside the camp and slaughtered in his presence. Eleazar will take some of its blood on his finger and sprinkle it seven times toward the front of the Tabernacle. As Eleazar watches, the heifer must be burned—its hide, flesh, blood, and offal. Eleazar the priest must then take cedar-wood, a hyssop branch, and scarlet thread and throw them into the fire where the heifer is burning." Numbers 19:1-6

"Under the old system, the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer could cleanse people's bodies from ritual defilement. Just think how much more the blood of Christ will purify our hearts from deeds that lead to death so that we can worship the living God. For by the power of the eternal Spirit, Christ offered himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins." Hebrews 9:13-14

Among these Old Testament "Memories of Olivet," it is refreshing again to come on one, which seems so impressively to anticipate the words and teachings, and, above all, the priceless Sacrifice of Him, who was afterwards to sanctify that Mount with His Presence. It is a Gospel memory throughout. We shall almost seem to hear, as we proceed, the Litany of coming years sounding across the dark gorge of the Kedron, and echoed from the valley to the mountain summit--"By Your agony and bloody sweat; by Your cross and passion; by Your precious death and burial; by Your glorious resurrection; and by the coming of the Holy Spirit!"

The sacrifice of the Red Heifer has its earlier associations with the Tabernacle in the wilderness; but it is of its later celebration we are now to speak, after the conquest of Jerusalem by David.

Across a lofty bridge, leading directly from the eastern gate of the Temple--the gate Shushan--and spanning the Kedron a valley--(but no trace of which is now visible,)--there was seen moving, ever and anon, a strange and unusual procession. It was headed by the elders and the Jewish High Priest, followed by the Levites and subordinate officers of the Holy Place. Along this sacred viaduct was conducted to the grassy altar on the Mount of Olives, one solitary victim. So far as we are informed, no pomp of circumstance heralded it; no sprigs of myrtle and olive, as at the Feast of Tabernacles, wreathed its devoted head; no sound of trumpets, as at the bringing of the water from the Siloam pool, announced its approach. Crowds, we may well suppose, were gathered on the green slopes, to witness a rite, unique of its kind, in the Hebrew ceremonial--all the denser would the gathering be, as the immolation of the Red Heifer was not, like the other great sacrificial convocations, an anniversary, but one which apparently occurred only at wide intervals. When the solemn procession paused, the victim was first slain, then consumed to ashes on one of the ridges; or, as some say, on the summit of the Mount.

When we think of this place of sacrifice as within view--perhaps within little more than a stone's-cast of the Garden of Gethsemane, it has, in connection with the later place of celebration, even a more touching and suggestive interest, as the type of Him who "suffered outside the gate."

It is Death, the curse and result of sin, which forms the foreground of the typical picture. The sacrifice of the Heifer was to provide a method of purification for those who had touched the dead. If a Hebrew, of necessity or by accident, came in contact with death in any form, he was considered ceremonially unclean. Were he, in entering his tent in the wilderness, or his home in Palestine, to behold the dead body of a friend or relative, or were he to perform the last sad offices of affection towards him--no more, if by accident he were to pass over the grave of the dead--touch the green sod or rocky tomb where their ashes reposed--if walking over the battle-field, his feet were to stumble on the unburied slain--or were he even to tread on a bone or fragment of the human skeleton--that moment the brand of ceremonial uncleanness is put upon him--he is debarred from any approach to the services of tabernacle or Temple.

What an affecting symbol is Death here of Sin! From the very minuteness of the directions given--extending, as we have just noted, even to the earth scattered on the grave's mouth, and the fragmentary bone of the buried skeleton which accident left beside the tomb--the defiling nature of sin in every shape and form is emphatically proclaimed, disqualifying the transgressor from holding fellowship either with God or with His people.

But, in the case of the Hebrew, there was a strange yet gracious provision for purging away his ceremonial defilement; and in the olden type, we behold a striking representation of God's method of a nobler Redemption, both from the curse and the pollution of sin--for the procuring alike of pardon and holiness, Justification and Sanctification. Let us briefly enumerate (and it can be little more than an outline) the various features of this Gospel Remedy, as these are consecutively unfolded in the narrative of this remarkable chapter of Numbers.

We have first to observe that it was One Heifer which the children of Israel were commanded to bring. Not as on sundry, other noted solemn convocations, when each person, or each family, or even each city, had to provide their offering for the altar. At present, one animal was deemed sufficient for the whole congregation--one sacrifice for the whole land; and when the significant rite was finished, we have every reason to believe that the ashes of the one victim were carefully partitioned for distribution in every town in Palestine. That one offering was enough for all. Even the strangers in Israel were specially allowed to participate in the benefits secured. It was, in this respect, in significant keeping with most of the other Old Testament types--one Ark--one Ladder--one smiting of the Rock--one bronze Serpent--one Scapegoat--all impressively pointing to the "One offering for sin" by which Christ "has perfected forever those who are sanctified," and which enabled Him to proclaim with triumphant voice on the cross, "It is finished." "But now once in the end of the world has He appeared to take away sin by the sacrifice of Himself," (Heb. 9:26.) "Neither is there salvation in any other," (Acts 4:12.) "Therefore also He is able to save unto the uttermost those who come unto God by him," (Heb. 7:25.) "But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right hand of God," (Heb. 10:12.)

Yes, and as He is the one offering on earth, so is He the one Intercessor in Heaven. As on the great day of Atonement, no voice was allowed to be heard within the veil, but that of the High Priest--as unaccompanied by human footstep, alone he pled--alone he sprinkled the blood--alone he waved the censer--so Christ has entered alone into the Holy Place, "having obtained eternal Redemption for us."

The next qualification of the appointed victim was, that it be a Heifer, spotless and red. "Tell the Israelites to bring you a red heifer without spot." Among the flocks that were scattered far and wide in the glens or valleys of the desert, or afterwards, amid the herds gathered for sacrifice in the pens or folds of Olivet, it was no ordinary animal that would suffice. It must be a heifer of reddish hue, and all red throughout--no mottled spots must be seen on her hide; these would disqualify her for being a fitting oblation.

There is a danger in straining too far the typical interpretation, and in extracting evangelical and gospel meaning from what is merely accidental and arbitrary. But we are only following the oldest interpreters--no, we are only according with Scripture authority--when we take "Red" here, as elsewhere, in a figurative sense, as the expressive symbol or token of blood; with special significancy pointing to Him whose vesture was "dipped in blood"--the Warrior of Edom, "with dyed garments from Bozrah"--"The man" in Zechariah's vision "among the myrtle trees in the valley," riding on "the Red horse."

May not the expressive and peculiar symbolism also suggest, the legal transference of sin from the person of the transgressor to that of his divine Substitute--those sins of a guilty world which are spoken of as red--"red as scarlet and red as crimson," and which have been imputed to the immaculate Surety? "Surely He has borne our griefs." "He was made sin for us." "The Lord laid on Him the iniquities" (these red and scarlet iniquities) "of us all." Himself personally spotless, He stands before the congregation of His redeemed, as the sin-burdened and sin-stained Surety; and if we inquire with the wondering Prophet, "Why are you red in your apparel, and your garments as him that treads in the wine-vat?" He can answer, "I have trodden the wine press alone."

Nor is this red symbol (of blood and suffering) confined to the Church on earth. "What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they?" "These are they…who have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." And what is their song? It is this--as they surround the throne of the adorable Redeemer, still wearing on His glorified Person the memorials of His bleeding sacrifice--"Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood."

The next qualification in the selected heifer was, that it be unblemished--"wherein is no blemish." Not only was it to be red, without spot, its hide without diversity of color--but no scar--no wound--no bruise--no imperfection of any kind was to mark or maim its body. It was to be a perfect animal of its kind--the best and choicest of the herd.

So also, in a far nobler, loftier sense, with the Great Sacrifice. As one blemish on horn, or shoulder, or neck, or leg, or hoof, would have nullified the Hebrew victim, and rendered the memorable procession along the Kedron bridge a mockery--so, if one speck or stain of sin had blemished the Person of an Incarnate Savior, His sacrifice would have been unavailing, salvation unsecured, the world unsaved.

But He was "holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners." There are spots on the disc of the sun. Approach the snow-white Alp--glowing in the distance, a vast Pyramid of stainless marble--and you find its giant brow and virgin bosom rent and dislocated with scars--torn and disjointed with the fury of tempest and avalanche, and 'Time's corroding hand'. But approach that divine Redeemer--gaze upwards on that Sun of Righteousness--lift up your eyes to the Everlasting hills from whence comes your help--no spot, no scar, from sin's mutilating, contaminating touch, will you find there. From the first hour He drew an infant's breath in the manger of Bethlehem, until the last, when He closed His eyes in their deep sleep on the bitter Tree, He could utter the challenge to men and devils, "Which of you convinces me of sin!" His feet, as He trod the earth, as well as when He appeared in apocalyptic vision in Patmos, were "like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace." "He offered himself WITHOUT SPOT to God!"

Another requisite in the selection of the Red heifer was, that no yoke had been put upon it. This is the next point in the divine injunction--"that has never been placed under a yoke," (ver. 2.) Jesus, our adorable Savior, the Infinite, the Independent, the Omnipotent, was beyond and above all law--all the requirements of creatureship--He was "a law unto Himself." Of the highest created angels it could not be said, "that has never been placed under a yoke." They have the yoke of dependence laid upon them--the yoke of duty common to all God's family. They are the servants--the delegated messengers of Him before whom they cast their crowns; and as such, even had they been willing for the self-sacrifice, and had that sacrifice been in other respects adequate and admissible, they could, by no personal act, have surrendered their lives as a ransom for the guilty. By attempting to do so, though the expression is a strong one, they would virtually have been suicides--they would have been guilty of forfeiting that which was not their own, and for which they were responsible to another.

On Christ--the Eternal, self-existent Son, alone, had there come no yoke. He alone was free to undertake the Suretyship of the fallen. When the question was propounded amid the heavenly hierarchies, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" He alone of the myriad throng was warranted to reply, "Here am I, send me." He alone could assert, (what neither angel nor seraph could do,) "I have power over my own life--I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again," (John 10:18.)

And then, add to this, the perfect voluntariness of His sacrifice. In this, the type failed. The Heifer was driven reluctantly from its herd--sent lowing to the place of offering. Not so with the great Antitype. It was no unwilling yoke to which He stooped, when, "though in the form of God, and thinking it no robbery to be equal with God, He made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant." "Lo, I come," was His joyful assent--"I delight to do your will, O my God." His only impelling motive was love. He "loved the Church," and consequently "He gave Himself for it." "Therefore," He says, "does my Father love me, because I lay down my life that I might take it again."

The reverse of the taunt hurled at Him during the crucifixion-agonies, was the true exponent of that Great oblation, 'He will save others; Himself He will not save.' He, the true "grain of wheat," according to His own simple and beautiful illustration, "fell into the ground and died:" but had He seen fit, He might have "abode alone"--abode at His Father's right hand, never unrobed nor uncrowned of His divine glory. The tears of Olivet--the agonies of Gethsemane--the death-pangs of Calvary--all that baptism of blood and suffering, was His own voluntary undertaking. "Upon Him has never been placed a yoke!"

The next point to which our attention is drawn, is the conducting of the Heifer outside the camp. "Give it to Eleazar the priest; it is to be taken outside the camp." This was a strange exception to the general rule. The appointed place of sacrifice was within the camp, or within the Temple-courts. But in the present instance, when, after searching among the flocks in the wilderness, or in the folds by the Kedron, or in the sheep-market, the required animal was found--forthwith it was led, not to the Altar of the Tabernacle or Temple, but away, four miles from the Holy place into the desert, or to some grassy knoll on the slopes of Olivet. It is brought "outside the camp."

"Christ also suffered outside the gate." Calvary's Mount as well as Gethsemane's Garden, were purposely outside the city wall--thus literally fulfilling the type. More than this. There was a deeper spiritual meaning in the Redeemer being thus denied the sanctity of the Temple-altar for His own divine Sacrifice, and being compelled to carry that ignominious Cross on His shoulders--going forth "outside the camp bearing His reproach." This exclusion impressively and emphatically denoted the dreadful nature of that accursed thing, which banished, as it were, the Surety-substitute of sinners from holy ground, sent Him outside that city, (within whose palaces Jehovah was known as a refuge,) to the place of common execution for felons and murderers--there, as if God-deserted and forsaken, to rend the air with His bitter Eloi-cry!

It was a typical comment on the strong--the mysterious words of the Apostle--"Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a CURSE for us." Further, may not the fact of His suffering "outside the camp"--outside the precincts of the Holy place --have been intended to foreshadow and proclaim, that His propitiatory sacrifice was not for Israel only, but for the world. His cross is set up, outside the gates of the Hebrew city, that upon it the inscription may be written in Greek and Latin, as well as in Hebrew--"This Is the King of the Jews"--This is the Savior of MANKIND!

He, on whom "never came a yoke," would proclaim to an enslaved world, "Take MY yoke upon you, and learn of Me"--"My yoke is easy, and my burden is light." "Unto you, O men," (men of every nation, and kindred, and people, and tongue,) "I call, and my voice is to the children of men." "Look unto me, and be saved--all the ends of the earth." With a similar reference to another part of the type, to which we shall immediately advert, it was predicted of the coming Messiah--"He shall sprinkle many nations."

The next injunction given in the inspired narrative is, that the Red heifer was to be slaughtered. "Give it to Eleazar the priest; it is to be taken outside the camp and slaughtered in his presence. Then Eleazar the priest is to take some of its blood on his finger and sprinkle it seven times toward the front of the Tent of Meeting." (ver. 3-4.) An attendant priest plunged the knife into the neck of the victim; and as the blood gushed forth on the green turf, the High priest, attired in white robes, gathered up in his hand the purple stream, and cast it in the direction of the Tabernacle or Temple. This, also, it is specially mentioned, was done "seven times"--(seven being the old Hebrew symbol, or expression of perfection.)

Christ, the great Antitype, (Himself both High Priest and Victim,) and, as the High Priest, attired in the pure white vestments of His spotless Righteousness--after shedding His own precious blood, casts, so to speak, the crimson shower in the direction of the Holy place, reconciling us to God "through the blood of His cross."

With Him, also, was it a sevenfold sprinkling, for the Captain of our salvation has been "made perfect through suffering." It was not enough, on the Socinian theory, that the unblemished, spotless Heifer was brought into the midst of the congregation as a specimen of perfection--or that Christ came into the world merely to manifest the virtues of a holy, spotless, blameless life. Here, as elsewhere, throughout the whole Levitical economy, the predominant gospel principle is enunciated--"Without the shedding of blood is no remission of sin." It was the first and the last great truth set forth in Jewish history. It began with the besprinkled lintels and door-posts on the night of the Exodus, and the significant comment of the Jehovah-angel--"When I see the blood I will pass over you;" and when that Jewish dispensation was expiring, or rather had merged into a nobler economy, we hear it from the lips of an aged child of Abraham--the last survivor of the apostolic band, as he thus writes in his quiet home in Ephesus--"The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanses us from all sin."

Immediately following the slaying of the Heifer, was the burning and reducing it to ashes--"While Eleazar watches, the heifer is to be burned--its hide, flesh, blood and offal," (ver. 5.) It was to be a thorough committal to the flames--no portion was to remain unconsumed. Cedar and olive wood from the groves around were probably gathered to construct a fire. Further, according to an old Jewish writer, a covering of scarlet cloth (to carry out the expiatory significance) was thrown over both altar and victim--the torch was applied, and fresh fuel added, until all was reduced to a heap of white ashes.

What a dreadful testimony to the vileness of sin! what a significant representation of the uncompromising demands of that law which exacted from the spotless Surety payment to the uttermost farthing! HE was subjected to the devouring fire of wrath. The might of indwelling Deity prevented the bush--the "root out of the dry ground" being consumed; but, lo! "the bush burns with fire." The plowers plowed upon His back, and made long their furrows. "I gave," says He, "my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to those who plucked off the hair." "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 affections. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue cleaves to my jaws, and you have brought me unto the dust of death." It was no mere mythical scene of suffering that on Golgotha--no acted tragedy--these were no simulated pangs. He could use the plaintive appeal, with an emphasis unknown to any of His suffering people--"Have pity upon me--have pity upon me, O my friends, for the hand of God has touched me!"

The next sequence in this expressive type, suggests a truth of elevating comfort--we have now to note the gathering together of the ashes--"Then someone who is ceremonially clean will gather up the ashes of the heifer and place them in a ceremonial clean place outside the camp. They will be kept there for the people of Israel to use in the water for the purification ceremony. This ceremony is performed for the removal of sin," (ver. 9.) The ashes were not allowed to lie in that secluded spot, to be desecrated by the touch of the passer by, or to be scattered by the winds of heaven--but they were carefully collected, deposited in a vessel, and laid by themselves in a "clean place," as a means of purification from sin.

To what does this seem symbolically to point? but the perpetual efficacy of the Redeemer's atonement. He is no longer now in visible glory, as once He was, when He came as the Surety-mediator, to offer Himself as a whole, burnt-offering unto God. But in His divine Person and merits, and with a heart of unalterable love, He still sits on His Kingly throne above, dispensing the priceless covenant benefits He died to purchase. There, in that "separate place," on the true Olivet--the heavenly Mount--the virtue of His death and sacrifice continues undiminished. He appears there "a Lamb as it had been slain;" ever, in silent eloquence, pleading for the Church redeemed with His blood.

Blessed thought!--no time, no years, no centuries, can alter or impair the all-sufficiency of that atoning work. The cloud is ascending, this day, laden with incense--fragrant as at the hour when He, the true Aaron, sprinkled the warm blood on the mercy-seat, and cast into the burning censer the sweet spices of His merits. Be it ours, in the midst of our own vileness, and weakness, and unworthiness--our daily defilement and sin, to remember that the ashes of Calvary's Sacrifice thus symbolically "laid up," and "kept for the congregation"--the ashes of this "Faithful and true Martyr"--form the perpetual life of His Church.

We can point to them as the blessed pledge and guarantee of our everlasting safety and security. "Fear not," is His own unchanging assurance, "I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold I am alive for evermore," "because I live, you shall live also." If the first part of this olden type, then, be consoling and comforting, (the blood of the spotless heifer sprinkled towards the Holy courts,) let us think, with no less consolation and joy, of its ashes being carried into "the separate place"--and say with our eye on the great antitype, "It is Christ that died, yes rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us."

But to proceed. The next point which claims our attention is the special mode or method of purifying the unclean--"For the unclean person, put some ashes from the burned purification offering into a jar and pour fresh water over them. Then a man who is ceremonially clean is to take some hyssop, dip it in the water and sprinkle the tent and all the furnishings and the people who were there. He must also sprinkle anyone who has touched a human bone or a grave or someone who has been killed or someone who has died a natural death. The man who is clean is to sprinkle the unclean person on the third and seventh days, and on the seventh day he is to purify him. The person being cleansed must wash his clothes and bathe with water, and that evening he will be clean." Numbers 19:17-19

The ashes of the heifer were enjoined to be placed in a vessel along with running (fresh) water, and a clean person (one himself uncontaminated by contact with the dead) was to take a cedar rod or stick, with scarlet cloth and a bunch of hyssop, and to sprinkle it, not only on the person ceremonially unclean, but upon his tent, and all the tent furniture. This was to be done twice, (on the third and on the seventh day,) and on that seventh day at evening, he was to be declared clean. This, also, is full of spiritual meaning.

Observe, the vessel of purification was to contain alike the ashes of the heifer and running water. What could more beautifully or significantly express the two great cardinal truths of the gospel--justification through the blood, and sanctification through the Spirit of Christ?--the conjoint work of the Son and the Holy Spirit in the salvation of the soul--Christ purging or purifying the dead conscience from guilt--the Holy Spirit purging and purifying it from pollution. That blessed Agent is often and again set forth in Scripture under the emblem of water. "I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean." When Jesus, in one of His Gospels, speaks of the "rivers of living" or "running waters," it is added expressly, "This spoke He of the Holy Spirit." It is the work of the same divine Person that is here represented under the same expressive emblem.

The unclean Israelite could not have the ashes sprinkled upon him without the water, or the water sprinkled on him without the ashes. In the new dispensation these are similarly combined--"We are washed, and, justified, and sanctified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God." While, on the one hand, it is the sprinkling of the blood which imparts a virtue to the ashes; on the other, it is by the power of the Holy Spirit that the blood of Christ is made effectual to cleanse from sin--"He shall glorify me," says Jesus, "for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you." How beautifully the Psalmist couples (and with evident reference to this very rite) these two great truths. In the same breath he says, "Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; yes, wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Take not your Holy Spirit from me--restore unto me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with your free spirit."

And as the priest employed the cedar, with its bunch of hyssop, to sprinkle the contents of the vessel--so have these been generally considered as symbolic of faith--that living principle, by which the merits of Christ's death and sacrifice are received and applied. The ashes, unsprinkled, were worthless. It was not sufficient for the unclean simply to come and gaze upon them--to see the spotless heifer led forth to die--to see the sacrificial weapon plunged into its side, or the smoke rising from its consuming carcass--he had to repair to the "clean place," and have the drops of the commingling stream put upon him.

So with us. Christ must be appropriated. The cedar-rod of faith must bring us in contact with the virtue of His sacrifice. Nor, for the pacifying of the conscience, is once only repairing to "the blood of sprinkling" sufficient. The Israelite of old had to be sprinkled, first on the third day, and afterwards on the seventh; denoting the need, even for the justified believer, of the continual application of the merits of the Redeemer's death--in the words of the old writers, traveling continually between his own emptiness and Christ's fullness; or, in the Savior's own beautiful simile, the need for the Pilgrim to have the soles of his feet, which are daily soiled with the dust of the way, ever washed anew.

Yet, again, let us note the thoroughness of the sprinkling. ALL the man possessed was sprinkled and made clean. Not only his own person; but his tent, with all its appendages and contents, (everything he owned,) was consecrated and purified. So is it--or rather, ought it to be--with the Christian. Not only all he is, but all he has, should be sprinkled and washed and dedicated to God. His own soul and person first--not, however, resting with this. On the door of his tent should be the inscription, "I am not my own"--"Lord, I am yours." The name of his house should be "Jehovah Shammah--The Lord is there." His family, his business, his domestic arrangements, his employments, his enjoyments, all that belong to him should become consecrated things. With his own conscience sprinkled, purged, and purified, he should be ready to say with the Psalmist, "I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way. Oh, when will you come unto me? I will walk within my house with a perfect heart."

In conclusion, let us rejoice in the fullness and freeness of this gracious provision--as typical of an equally free and gracious dispensation of gospel blessings. All--without exception--who had been polluted by the touch or contact of death, were freely admitted to partake of this appointed method of purification. So there is not one to whom we are not warranted to say, "There is salvation, through the merits of Christ and the grace of the Holy Spirit, for you!" If by reason of contact with sin, you may be among the vilest of the vile; "though you have laid among the pots, yet shall you be like doves, whose wings are covered with silver, and their feathers with yellow gold."

Complete justification you have all at once. Justified once, you are justified forever. Once within the Great Shepherd's fold, you are in the fold forever. You are "washed;" and, in accordance with our Lord's simple illustration, just referred to, "He that is washed needs not to wash, except his feet--he is clean every whit." But complete sanctification you cannot attain, until earth is exchanged for heaven. This, also, was prefigured in the olden type. The man was not made wholly clean until "the even of the seventh day"--the closing hour of the week. So believers are not 'made perfect in holiness,' until life's week ends, and the Sabbatic morning dawns. Meanwhile, be it ours to seek to become daily more and more fit for this glorious world, where the defiling touch of sin can be felt and feared no more.

Let the whole subject lead believers--God's own people--to beware of the contaminating presence and power of iniquity. The pious Israelite, of old, felt he never could walk too warily, if he would avoid the risk of legal defilement. The fragmental bone might be stumbled upon in the place he least dreamt of finding it. The husbandman might come upon it in his vineyard--the shepherd in crossing the mountain--the reaper when plying his sickle--the wayfarer might tread on it in the wayside. Oh, beware of sin! It has many defiling graves, which, like the homes of the dead in our own churchyards, belie the corruption beneath, by their covering of virgin snow, or the flowers which the hand of affection has planted.

Christ, the Undefiled One, could tread these graves without danger--He could come in contact with the flames without being burnt. But not so the best and holiest of His imperfectly sanctified people. Walk circumspectly. There are rocks and reefs often unseen in this treacherous sea. If we would avoid entering the haven with broken timbers and shattered rigging, be ours the daily, hourly prayer, "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil."

There is one other solemn statement added, ver. 20, "The man that shall be unclean, and shall not purify himself, that soul shall be cut off from among the congregation." This, like all the rest, has a solemn gospel and spiritual meaning. Reject Christ and you are lost! Neglect so great salvation--disdain this glorious offer (justification through the blood, and sanctification through the cleansing of the Spirit) and "there remains no more sacrifice for sins; but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation." If you are feeling now, the bitterness of exile and alienation from God--saying, "My iniquities have separated between me and my God"--there is (blessed be His name) a golden vessel of Salvation, filled with all you need for your guilty soul. Applying the contents of that vessel, you shall be no more "strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints and of the household of God."

Through this typical "Memory of Olivet," lay hold of the glorious reality it adumbrates. Your sins may be like that gloomy Kedron gorge, with the dark brook fretting and murmuring beneath. But fear not to cross the provided bridge--to gather around the provided Sacrifice, and from the bunch of cedar and hyssop, to receive the sprinkling of blood and water. "Come now, and let us reason together, says the Lord--though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool," (Isa. 1:18.)

"Under the old system, the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer could cleanse people's bodies from ritual defilement. Just think how much more the blood of Christ will purify our hearts from deeds that lead to death so that we can worship the living God. For by the power of the eternal Spirit, Christ offered himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins." Hebrews 9:13-14

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