In this chapter is contained, the law concerning purification in the water of separation, made with great preparation from the ashes of a red heifer burnt with cedar wood, and hyssop, and scarlet wood. The best comment on which, we have in the ninth chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews. The method of use, and the office of the priest, in the performance of it, are here also appointed.
In the entrance upon this chapter, I would call upon the Reader once more to bring to mind the motto, which I have so frequently before desired might be placed over every chapter of the five books of Moses; and which, in this chapter, I request the reader by no means to lose sight of: Moses wrote of CHRIST. For here I venture to believe, that in type and figure the LORD JESUS is wholly represented.
Do not overlook several leading circumstances here in the appointment of the LORD, which we find sweetly pointing to JESUS. First, the heifer was to be red. It is well known that the colour is rare and not common. Such was JESUS, one among a thousand. JESUS is called the second Adam; and the name of Adam signifies red earth. Hence to the manhood of JESUS this redness is peculiarly applicable, for the children being partakers of flesh and blood, he himself likewise took part of the same. The church sings, my beloved is white and ruddy; while in allusion to the spotless purity of his divine nature; and ruddy in allusion to the sufferings of his human nature; or in both, because of the innocency and immaculate holiness of his person. Hebrews 7:26. But, perhaps, the appointment of a red heifer, had a still further reference to the LORD JESUS, who, it is well known, was red in his apparel, when in his own blood he had stained all his raiment in redeeming his people and taking vengeance of his enemies. See Isaiah 63:2-4; Revelation 19:13; Rev_19:15; Deuteronomy 32:42. Secondly. This heifer was to be without spot, and wherein there was no blemish. Oh! how clearly did this prefigure the spotless LAMB of GOD. John 1:29. Thirdly, This heifer was never to have been yoked. See, Reader! how thy Redeemer was here again represented. In redemption work, none was yoked with JESUS. No arm but his could bring salvation; and of the people there was none with him. Isaiah 63:5. Neither was JESUS yoked to the service, for nothing but his own free love constrained him. I have power (saith he) to lay down my life, and I have power to take it again. John 10:17-18. Reader, do not hastily pass over those precious views of thy JESUS! And before we quit the verse let us consider another beauty in it, namely, That the provision of this heifer was to be made from the united expense of all the congregation. The precept saith, Speak to the children of Israel, that they bring thee a red heifer. Yes! JESUS is provided for all his people, all his children: He is the gift of the FATHER to all his seed. And therefore John sweetly speaks of the LORD JESUS under this character, as not only our propitiation, but for the sins of the whole world. 1 John 2:2.
Why is Eleazar chosen to this office and not Aaron? Is it not because that, as the ceremony to be performed in this service rendered the minister himself for a season ceremonially unclean, Aaron must not for a moment only, while acting officially in his high priest's department, be so. Our JESUS, though made sin for us, yet knew no sin: no shadow of uncleanness was in him. Reader! do not forget to remark, that this slaughter of the heifer was not at the sanctuary, but without the camp. And what saith an infallible expositor on this? "JESUS also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood suffered without the gate." Hebrews 13:12.
It is well worth the continual observation of every faithful believer, that the same authority which appoints the sacrifice, always accompanieth that appointment with the precept for sprinkling the blood of the sacrifice. And what doth this teach, but that the HOLY GHOST must apply what the SON of GOD hath accomplished of redemption to render it effectual to every individual believer: and this must be done, as it is here said, directly before the tabernacle; meaning, before the presence of GOD. Here, Reader, take notice how all the persons of the GODHEAD concur, and are engaged in the salvation of every poor sinner. The FATHER, before whom it is presented; the SON, who is the purchaser of the mercy; and the HOLY GHOST, who is the almighty agent, to make the whole effectual to the heart and conscience of every true believer. Reader, before you dismiss this part of the subject, ask your own heart, whether you are come to the blood of sprinkling? Hebrews 12:22; Heb_12:24.
Who doth not see here the shadowy representation of those extreme sufferings of our LORD, when in the day of expiation he made an offering by fire; when the wrath of GOD, taking vengeance of our sins in his sacred person, scorched and burnt, until in his agony he cried out, "My GOD, my GOD, why hast thou forsaken me!" Matthew 27:46.
Perhaps these things were shadowy representations of the incense of JESUS'S merits. See Leviticus 14:6-7.
Observe how uncleanness is attached to those who, even in religions services, were obeying the divine precepts. Yes, it must be so. Everything, even our most holy things, carry with them an impurity. None but he who is holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners, can be clean before GOD. Hebrews 7:26.
Was not this in the laying up the ashes a type of the everlasting efficacy of JESUS'S salvation? Is he not laid up in the everlasting council of peace, and for the daily, hourly, unceasing application, by the HOLY GHOST to the guilty consciences of his people. John 1:29.
Reader, do not forget to remark, how everyone that officiated in this service is rendered thereby unclean. Eleazar, verse 7, the Man that burned the heifer, verse 8, and he that gathered the ashes. And what doth this testify, but that all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; nothing but the blood of JESUS cleanseth from sin, 1 John 1:7.
We here behold in striking characters the awful effects sin hath wrought in our nature: the wages of sin is, and must be, death. And when at any time in our friends, and in our houses, that sentence is executed, uncleanness is attached to all. And this must have continued forever, had not JESUS interposed and abolished death by his glorious undertaking, and brought life and immortality to light by his gospel. See, Reader! in this ceremonial uncleanness made by death, to what a miserable state out of CHRIST, our nature is universally reduced!
See, Reader, in the typical representation of this law, what a gracious provision is made, for the removal of the uncleanness of our fallen nature. As the ashes of the heifer pointed to the atonement and righteousness of JESUS: so the running water represented the precious offices of the HOLY GHOST, in the washing of regeneration, and a renewing of our souls by his grace; that by his gracious application of the person and offices of the LORD JESUS, souls might be made clean in the sight of GOD, and our FATHER. Reader! do not overlook in this scripture, the essential offices of both. The ashes not mixed with the running water were not used, nor could be efficacious. Neither do the merits of JESUS operate on your heart or mine, unless applied by the HOLY GHOST. So vast and infinitely important is the work of GOD upon the soul, since it is he alone, which must take of the things of JESUS, and show them unto us. See the Redeemer's own account of his important office and ministry, in what he hath said of his person, and offices, and character. John 16:7-14.
ONCE more, my soul, contemplate the gracious condescension of thy GOD, in thus manifesting the infinite work of thy divine Redeemer, by shadowing forth the outlines of his great salvation in continued type and figure! everything I view in the Old Testament scripture, in relation to sacrifices and offerings, doth but the more point out the infinite love of the FATHER, in giving his SON and the infinite love of the SON, in coming as a propitiation for the sin of his people. And oh! thou ever-blessed, ever-precious JESUS, thou, who like the red heifer, wert offered without spot or blemish to GOD, for the sins of thy people, and didst suffer without the gate, as the heifer was appointed; oh, enable me by the influences of thy blessed SPIRIT, to go forth unto thee without the camp, bearing thy reproach. Thanks be to GOD, that his people are now brought under that mild dispensation that though we are all in ourselves polluted, both by the death of our friends, and the dying state of ourselves, yet in the LORD JESUS, we are washed, we are sanctified, we are justified, by the SPIRIT of our GOD. Lead me to see, O LORD, in consecrated ashes, the incorruptible and everlasting efficacy of the righteousness of GOD my Saviour; and in the running water, the preciousness of that all-cleansing grace of the HOLY GHOST, the streams of which river makes glad the city of our GOD. May it be my portion, thus, to be cleansed daily from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, that I may perfect holiness in the fear of GOD.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Numbers 19". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany