THE RED HEIFER
"Tell the Israelites to bring you a red heifer without defect or blemish and that has never been under a yoke." Numbers 19:2
Contact with death is the occasion of this type.
DEATH! The very sound falls heavily. What mind can lightly think of it? What eye unmoved can see it? The limbs, once full of vigor, stir no more. Sinews, once elastic in activity, become rigid. The form, so wondrous in its mechanism, becomes an inert mass. The features, once the reflecting mirror of ten thousand thoughts, are marble-monotony. The vessel, once so proudly merry, lies a deserted wreck. The fabric, once so sparkling in beauty, is a deserted ruin.
Death! It is more than animation fled. Decay draws near, with a polluting touch. Corruption fastens on its prey. The friends, most dotingly attached, cannot but turn loathingly away. A stern necessity requires, that offensive remains be buried out of sight.
Reader, here pause and meditate. This death is pressing at your heels. It soon will lay you low. Your weeping friends will hide you in the dust. A forgetting world will go on merrily, as though you had not been. Say, do you joyfully await its touch? Can you feel, Death comes as with friendly hand to open the cage-door, that my freed spirit may fly to its high home? Remember, you cannot escape. This tyrant wields a universal sway.
But in what cradle is it born? Whence is it armed with that destroying scythe? It is transgression's child. Sin is the womb which bore it. A sinless world would have been deathless bloom. But the world is sinful, and therefore is an open tomb.
In Eden sin was foreseen, and therefore death was fore-announced. Obey and live—but disobey, and "you shall surely die." Gen. 2:17. The miserable sequel is well known. The tempter came. The bold lie triumphed. And from that day our fallen earth has been one charnel-house.
Hence death is no ingredient in creation's primal law. It is a shadow cast by a blighted ruin. In its features we read wrath—displeasure—curse. Its voice is sternly one—God is offended. Its scourge vindicates eternal majesty and truth.
Death, then, is perpetual evidence, that rebellion has worked extensively. It follows, because sin has preceded. Now God, in love, desires to set this truth conspicuously before each eye. Hence He writes a clear decree in Israel's code. "Whoever touches a dead body, is unclean seven days." Numb. 19:11. The man, thus soiled, is outcast from the tabernacle-service. He is exiled from social fellowships. The rule is universal. "This is the ritual law that applies when someone dies in a tent: Those who enter that tent, and those who were inside when the death occurred, will be ceremonially unclean for seven days. Any container in the tent that was not covered with a lid is also defiled. And if someone outdoors touches the corpse of someone who was killed with a sword or who died a natural death, or if someone touches a human bone or a grave, that person will be unclean for seven days." Numbers 19:14-16
This is a rigid law. But it speaks clearly. How awfully it shows God's sense of sin! Whoever is brought near to death—sin's symbol—is symbolically vile. Proximity to lifelessness—sin's work—is counted, as proximity to sin itself. The contact with the sign, is branded, as contact with the thing signified.
But pollution may thus occur, which no forethought could flee. Without intent the foot might touch a grave. In ignorance a tent might be entered, where death sat. The decent offices of love might require, that lifeless relatives be carried out. Care must hide those, who cannot hide themselves. Be it so. It matters not what be the cause—if death is touched, legal uncleanness is incurred.
We hence are taught, how sin surrounds us, and how suddenly it soils. It is the very atmosphere of earth. Man cannot move, but some contamination meets him. His casual walk is along miry paths. In the discharge of pious duties some stain may soon defile. Thus each day's course may render us impure.
This is a humbling truth. But in this very darkness there is light. We are not left bereft of remedy. The unclean may be cleansed. All stains may vanish. There is a fountain opened for all soul-filth. There is full help for foulest need. Where sin abounds, sin's cure exceeds. Where pollution spreads its wide pall, the Savior brings His wider covering. This is the Gospel-message. And this stands prominently forth in the provision for removing the defilement of death's touch.
Reader, come view now the ordinance of the Red Heifer. And while you view, bless God for the great antitype—Christ Jesus.
God, who sentences the unclean, appears now to relieve. No remedy could be devised by man. None could be credited, unless it brings heaven's seal. Faith cannot rest, but on a God-erected rock. But He provides, and He reveals. "Tell the Israelites to bring you a red heifer without defect or blemish and that has never been under a yoke." Numbers 19:2.
In the first place THE VICTIM IS SPECIFIED. But still the people must present it. Thus Christ, God's sacrifice for sin, is taken from earth's sons. That it may be so, He puts on our nature. He clothes Himself with humanity, as the Woman's Seed. So our race is enabled to give from its fold, the sin-removing offering. The pitying angels could not find this help. Their nature is distinct from ours. Their glittering hosts hold not a substitute for man. The children of Israel must bring a Red Heifer.
The HEIFER'S COLOR is precisely fixed. It must be red throughout, without one spot. Faith learns most precious lessons from this rule. What is Adam, but red earth? Hence, then, the ruddy type manifests our Lord, as Adam's offering. Yes, He is truly man, that He may take man's place, and bear man's guilt—and pay man's curse—and suffer in man's stead. The Heifer—RED—proclaims, that in nature Christ is verily what Adam was—sin always excepted—and verily what Adam's children are. Believer, rejoice. As man, you sinned—as man, you merit hell—but Christ has lived, and worked, and died, a God-man in your stead.
But Scripture-types have many phases. PURE RED recalls the thought of blood. And can faith look to Jesus and not mark His streaming wounds? He stands in vesture dipped in blood. He shed it, and thus satisfies for sin. He shows it by the Spirit to the soul, and thus infuses peace. He pleads it before God, and thus obtains the blessings, which His Cross bought.
"WITHOUT DEFECT OR BLEMISH." The Heifer must be perfect. This is a general requisition. Completeness must adorn each victim on God's altar. The slightest blemish was exclusion. This always shows our Jesus—spotless in perfection's brightest luster. Truly He was man, but truly He was man immeasurably far from sin. From the first breath, until His return in triumph to His throne, He was as clean from evil, as Jehovah in the highest. No sunbeam is more clear from darkness, than Jesus from sin's shadow. If it could have been otherwise, how could He have atoned for us? Sin's touch would have made Him subservient to justice. Death would have been due for His own faults. But now He gives His soul—His body—without one blemish, a pure—fit—all-sufficient sacrifice for all the sins of His most sinful flock. Such is the lesson from the Heifer without blemish.
THE NECK ALSO MUST BE UNMARKED BY YOKE. It never may have yielded to compulsion's lash. It must be unused to imposed work. Thus Jesus bounds with willing step to Calvary, "Lo I come." Constraint compelled Him not. No force reluctantly dragged Him. His moving impulse was pure love—love for His Father's name—love for immortal souls—love springing fresh from the deep fountains of His heart—love, as free as the air.
Christ is all willingness. Who can be tardy, when He calls? Christ flies on rapid wings to save. Who will not fly on rapid wing towards Him?
The Heifer is then dragged outside the camp. As a vile thing it is cast out. The dwelling place of man rejects it. The type is answered, when Jesus, reviled—despised—spit on—mangled—scorned, is led beyond the city's gates. Ignominy's cup then over flows. He is reproached, as vilest refuse.
Believer, do not expect favor with the world. They, who scorned Jesus, will not honor you. Submit with His most lamb-like patience. Follow Him amid all sneers. Endure the cross. It raises to a crown.
Next it is SLAIN. And did not Jesus die? He did, for death was our desert. Therefore, He drank that cup. What grace what love! what glorious rescue! what complete redemption! what full atonement! In very deed the God-man dies. Believer, clasp the truth—exult—adore. When sins reproach—when conscience stings—when Satan rages—when the white throne is set, shout, "Christ died!" This answers every charge—silences each adversary's voice—breaks Satan's chains—quenches hell's flames—tears out the worm's sting—annihilates destruction—brings in salvation. The truth, that Jesus died, is glory to God—glory for man—glory forever!
The Priest then turns towards the Mercy-seat, and seven times SPRINKLES THE BLOOD. The Gospel-story is replete with blood. We here again are taught its triumphs. It opens the door to the pure sanctuary above. It clears the way. None enter, but along this consecrated path. This sprinkling is the only key.
FIRE IS THEN APPLIED, and the whole Heifer is consumed. The unsparing element devours all, and soon reduces it to ashes. We see in this, how vengeance deals relentlessly with our sin-laden Surety. It only checks its hand, when no more can be taken. Sweet are the tidings, that no wrath remains for those, who die in Christ. Their agony is past—their punishment is paid—all now before them is eternity of love.
Finally, THE ASHES ARE COLLECTED. Mingled with water from a running stream, they form a purifying store. This is laid up for those polluted by the touch of death. Through seven days such must be counted, as unclean. Upon the third and seventh, they are sprinkled by a hyssop-rod dipped in this fluid. And then impurity departs. Then the excluding taint is cleansed away.
Thus ends the rite. But Gospel truth still lives in the eternal record. A fundamental truth is prominent. As these ashes purify the ceremonially impure—so virtue from the dying cross takes moral guilt away.
But we learn more. The ashes are not used alone. They are commingled with PURE WATER. This sparkling produce of the spring portrays the Spirit's grace. Hence, though Christ's death obliterates condemnatory stains, the Spirit must come in with further aid, to wash the heart, and fit it for heavenly home. This hallowed fluid is applied by a hyssop-bunch. This rod is emblem of the faith, which ventures near, and claims the merit of redemption's store, and then applies it to the soul. Ashes unsprinkled availed not. The Gospel-hope ungrasped is worth nothing. Faith's hand must clasp and use it.
Reader, is there not here most large instruction for your soul? Each day sees you unclean. Say, is your faith each day most closely dealing with the Savior's death, and with the Spirit's love? In the Red Heifer you are taught the remedy prepared by God. He hates, indeed, the filth of sin, But He provides—proclaims—extends full expiation. All is now ready to make you whiter than the whitest snow. Come, then, draw near in faith. Be clean—be sanctified—be saved.