Introduction: Welcome to Expound our weekly worship and verse by verse study of the Bible. Our goal is to expand your knowledge of the truth of God as we explore the Word of God in a way that is interactive, enjoyable, and congregational.
We are people of the new covenant, but we are reading the Old Testament tonight, the book of Numbers. We're in chapter 18. We read the Old Testament because we believe that we need to know the foundation that we stand upon. The new covenant in Christ is based upon the old covenant promises that Messiah would come. And even tonight as we will close our time together, we're going to have the Lord's Supper, communion, even that is based upon the old covenant, the Old Testament practice of Passover, pesach. And as every year they would gather together, they would break bread, and they would take wine.
And the host would raise up the broken bread and say with the company of all those at the Passover meal, "Baruch atah Adonai Eloheinu Melekh ha olam, hamotzi lechem min ha'aretz." "Blessed are you Lord God, king of the universe, who has provided bread out of the earth." They would break it and say, "Amen" (amēn) or "Amen," "Yes, so be it," and they would take the bread together looking back to the Passover. Then the host would take the wine, the fourth cup of redemption, holding it up, "Baruch atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech ha-olam, borei p'ri hagafen."
"Blessed art thou, Lord God, King of the universe, who has given to us the fruit of the vine," and they would drink the cup. So Jesus took those elements that all of those Jewish disciples understood and he himself was raised with, and he made the utmost significance out of them, saying, "When you do this, do it in remembrances of me." So we take these new covenant elements based upon an old covenant practice. So we believe we need to know what the old covenant says, because so much of the New Testament is based upon the Old. So we as a church go through the Bible.
Not just a little bit of Matthew, and a little bit of the book of Acts, and throw in some Revelation, maybe a Psalm here and there, but all of the Bible. And we're in the Tanahk, we're in the Torah tonight, the book of Numbers; Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers. The book of Genesis is the book of beginnings. It's the start of it all: the beginning of the heavens and the earth, the creation of the universe, the beginning of mankind, the beginning of the sin of mankind, the beginning of God's plan to eradicate the sin of mankind, the beginning of a nation.
It's the book of beginnings. It's a book of wonder, the wonder that God created life. We come to the second book of the Torah, the book of Exodus. It's the book of witness as God redeems his people. It's a book of redemption. It's a book of revelation. And they witness God giving them the Law and they witness what it is to leave Egypt and come to the Promised Land or on the way to the Promised Land. It's a book of witness. We come to the third book in the Old Testament, the book of Leviticus. It's the book of worship. It's all about coming to God and worshiping the Lord based upon that sacrificial system.
And so it's sort of a two-fold book of worship: the way to God through sacrifice; the walk with God through sanctification. That's the book of Leviticus. So we have a book of wonder, a book of witness, and a book of worship. We come to the fourth book, the book of Numbers. It's the book of wandering. Some call it the book of journeyings. It's the book of the wayfarers on their way to the Promised Land, but it shouldn't have taken them that long. It's really the book of wanderings. From wonder to witness, to worship, to meandering, wandering. Because of their complaints, because of their unbelief they wandered through the wilderness almost forty years.
So, if you were to take the book of Numbers, the first census, the numbering of the people; the second census, the numbering of the people; the beginning and the end; there's thirty-eight years and ten months all together, almost forty years that are represented in this book. Another title for this book might be a longer title: How to Make a Two-Week Trip into a Forty-Year Trial. It should have taken them two weeks according to the fifth book of the Torah, the book of Deuteronomy. In chapter 1, verse 2, it says, "It is an eleven-day journey from Sinai by the way of Mount Seir to Kadesh Barnea."
It should have taken them eleven days by foot; it took them almost forty years. So you could title it: How to Take a Two-Week Trip and Turn It into a Forty-Year Trial. How do you do it? How do you slow down in your progress? How to you not make your goal? How do you drag your feet and have this kind of a wandering, meandering existence? Just don't believe God, just complain at every corner at every turn, words of unbelief rather than faith. Now, here's something interesting: almost forty years are in this book, and yet we do not have in the Bible a complete blow-by-blow, play-by-play chronological orientation of those forty years.
All we have are glimmers, highlights, a few incidents here and there---highlights? I should say lowlights in many ways. And so these incidents are spoken about and they occupy the book of Numbers largely, but we don't get a lot of the chronology. It's forty years and we're only getting snippets of time. And that's because, I'm sure, most of it was rather boring as they just sort of got up in the morning and waited for that cloud to move or that pillar of fire at night to move. And then they would move, and when it stopped, they would stop. And they just sort of, like, counted the days.
So we get these various incidents that are recorded in the book of Numbers, and chapter 16, 17, 18, and 19 is one such incident in a few different legs. It's all about the priesthood, God validating the priesthood. So think back. Chapter 16, the rebellion of Korah and his 250---Korah, Daythan, Abiram, On, 250 leaders---the earth swallows them up, 15,000 die in a plague. It's a pretty gruesome chapter. Chapter 17 is Aaron's rod that budded. Resurrection comes out of a dead stick that was placed in the tabernacle, God validating the priesthood of Aaron and his family.
Chapter 18, the Lord reestablishes the family of Aaron of the tribe of Levi, saying, "Yes, you can approach me." Because in the end of chapter 17 people are asking in verse 13, "Are we all going to die? Have we come this far just to die in the wilderness?" So God says, "No. You can approach me, but you can only approach me through the family that I have ordained to use, the family of Aaron of the tribe of Levi." Then chapter 19 is about the red heifer, which hopefully if we get into this we can get to.
Chapter 18, verse 21---and we don't have much to go in this chapter, and chapter 19 is short, so we will be able to do it. And it dovetails beautifully into the Lord's Supper tonight as we see God validating this family, the priesthood, and the sacrifices. Here's something to keep in mind as we go through this: God's validating the priesthood of Aaron, and there is a New Testament principle in Hebrews, chapter 5, that elucidates this, and then speaks of Christ at the same time. Speaking of the high priesthood the writer of Hebrews says, "No one takes this honor unto himself, but he that is called by God, as Aaron was."
That's a verse out of Hebrews, chapter 5: "No one takes this honor to himself, but those who are called by God, as Aaron was." And because Aaron was, God is validating that Aaron was, and so was Jesus Christ our Great High Priest. The book of Hebrews belabors that point. Go back a few verses we were looking at last week and we got cut off. Verse 21 of Numbers 18, "Behold, behold I have given the children of Levi all the tithes in Israel as an inheritance in return for the work which they perform, the work of the tabernacle of meeting. Hereafter the children of Israel shall not come near the tabernacle of meeting, lest they bear their sin and die."
"But the Levites shall perform the work of the tabernacle of meeting, and they shall bear their iniquity; it shall be a statute forever, throughout your generations, that among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance." Now I'm going to set the scene where we left off last time, and I want your minds to go back a few books to the very first book of the Bible, the book of Genesis. In chapter 34 there was a strange incident involving the tribe of Levi, an iniquity that they created for themselves that they would have to bear throughout their generations, hence they would get no land allotment.
Yes, they would get the priesthood, but they would have no land allotment, and they would become one of the smaller tribes in Israel. In chapter 34 is the story of one of Jacob's daughters. Her name is Dinah. Do you remember Dinah? I know you're thinking of "Dinah, won't you blow your horn," but it's a different Dinah. [laughter] When Jacob and his sons were encamped at the town of Shechem, Hamor the Hivite had a son named Shechem, and Shechem saw that Dinah was beautiful. He was sort of taken with her.
And instead of following protocol, he usurped all authority and he violated her. He raped her, essentially. But after he raped her and she was in disgrace, something strange happened in his mind where he thought, "I love this girl. I violated her, but I love her, and I want to marry her." So he says, "Dad, would you arrange this for me?" So Hamor goes to Jacob and says, "Look, you know, you gotta get over it. And my son loves your daughter. And, you know, what do we have to do so that our people could take your daughters and granddaughters and bring them as our wives, and you could have our women as your wives?
So the sons of Jacob conspired, leading them along, saying, "Well, you know, it's not our practice to do what you're suggesting, but if you and all of your sons become circumcised, then you can have our daughters and you can take Dinah as Shechem's wife." So, it was a painful negotiation, but they went through with it. And all of the adult males, adults males became circumcised to honor the commitment. All of this was a set up because Levi and Simeon, two of the sons of Jacob, had a conspiracy going on to pay them back for violating their sister.
So the Bible says in Genesis 34, "On the third day, when they were in pain," the males were in pain recovering from the adult circumcision, you can just imagine. "That the men of the tribe of Levi and the tribe of Simeon came into the city of Shechem and killed not one, but "all of the males" in that city. That was their payback. It was such a disgrace that Jacob said to his sons, "You guys are a trouble to me." Now, it's going to--- the cats out of the bag. Everybody in Canaan's going to know what a violent people we are." So, this is where we left off last week.
On his deathbed the old man Jacob, over a hundred years of age, gets his twelve sons and he prophesies over them. Deathbeds are interesting. Our first words aren't as significant as we think. You know, we think when a child is--- "Oh, look it, he said 'dada' or 'mama.' "You know, all the--- who knows what they said. Most of our first words are the same, "Ga, ga, agh, ga," some derivative of that. [laughter] It's not, like, profound or anything. We make a big deal out of it, but it's gibberish. But a person's last words, now those are significant.
Because usually a person's last words, if they know they're on their deathbed, they will often unburden their heart and become very honest; as does Jacob on his deathbed to his sons, including Levi and Simeon. So in Genesis 49, I'm reading out of verse 5, 6, and 7, Jacob the old man on his deathbed says to these two sons of his who will become tribal leaders, "Simeon and Levi are brothers; instruments of cruelty are their dwelling place. Let not my soul enter their council; let not my honor by united to their assembly; for in their anger they slew a man, and in their self-will they hamstrung an ox."
"Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce; and their wrath, for it is cruel! I will divide them in Jacob and scatter them in Israel." And subsequently the tribe of Simeon and the tribe of Levi became two of the smallest and least significant in terms of power of the entire nation. However, something happened to bring Levi back into favor, and he eventually did get the priesthood, though no land allotment. And that was after the whole golden calf incident. You remember, when Moses went up, came back with the Law, and the children of Israel were dancing around a golden calf in sort of a drunken orgy state.
And when Moses comes down and it's told what happened, Moses says, "Okay," sort of a drawing a line in the sand, "whoever is on the Lord's side, let him come over to me." Immediately the tribe of Levi came over to Moses' side. So now the tribe of Levi, though they have no land and they became a small tribe, yet God gives to them the representative role, the priesthood role. At that point they decided, "We need to be on the Lord's side." And it's as if the Lord saw that and he made them that priestly tribe as we see here, though they will "bear their iniquity" and they will "have no inheritance" as it says in verse 23.
Verse 24, "For the tithes," the tithes of Israel. This is a remuneration for the Levites. They would get the tithes, 10 percent of the offerings or of what Israel had. The tithe would be theirs. "For the tithes of the children of Israel, which they offer as a heave offering to the Lord, I have given to the Levites as an inheritance; therefore I have said to them, 'Among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance.' "You need to know that the idea of the tithe, though it is an Old Testament concept, did not originate with the Law, it predated the Law.
Before there was Moses, before there was a Law of Moses, before there was the law of the tithe, tithing was very common. And you may recall back in the book of Genesis, chapter 14, when Abram fights the coalition of five kings---do you remember the story? Chedorlaomer and the five kings, and Moses takes 318 of his trained servants and fights them and wins. And Melchizedek was the king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, comes out to meet Abraham with bread and wine. And it says Abram gave a tithe of what he possessed to Melchizedek.
Now, why is that important? Because the book of Hebrews will say Jesus Christ has a higher priesthood than the priesthood of Aaron. His goes all the way back to the priesthood of Melchizedek to whom even father Abraham gave tithes. So the tithes predated the Law, then during the Law there was the law of the tithe. We're seeing part of it here. Verse 25, "The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 'Speak thus to the Levites, and say to them: "When you take from the children of Israel the tithes which I have given you from them as your inheritance, then you shall offer up a heave offering of it to the Lord, a tenth of the tithe."
"'"And your heave offering shall be reckoned to you as though it were the grain of the threshing floor and as the fullness of the winepress. Thus you shall also offer a heave offering to the Lord from your tithes which you receive from the children of Israel, and you shall give the Lord's heave offering from it to Aaron the priest." '" So the Levites themselves, though they were given the tithes, they themselves had to tithe. I believe it's the same today. If I as a minister or any of us on the staff of a church that is supported by the offerings of the people who come, if we don't tithe, something's wrong with that, something's amiss with that.
Something's askew with that, because we're saying to people, "You should tithe and you should trust the Lord with your finances," but we're not willing to trust the Lord with our finances. The idea of the tithe is that it all belongs to God, and you are recognizing that he is allowing you to keep 90 percent of what you make and give 10 percent to the Lord and do his work. And so even the Levites who received the tithes were to tithe themselves. It's always been a practice, Lenya and I started early in our marriage, the very first check that we will write will be our tithe.
Yes, I know that tithe is Old Testament and what about the New Testament? The New Testament makes it simple: "Let everyone give," Second Corinthians 9, "as he purposes in his heart, not out of constraint, but willingly; for God loves a cheerful giver." So do it with a hilarious heart. We talked about that last week. But we always made it our practice that we would give 10 percent to the church we fellowship at, this church, we write the first check. And then beyond that there are freewill offerings to missionaries that we know or worthwhile organizations that we want to support.
So even back then the Levites were called upon to trust the Lord, relinquish control of these finances. " ' "Of your gifts," ' " verse 29, " ' "you shall offer up every heave offering due to the Lord, from the best of them, the consecrated part of them." Therefore you shall say to them: "When you have lifted up the best of it, then the rest shall be accounted to the Levites as the produce of the threshing floor and as the produce of the winepress. You may eat it in any place, you and your households, for it is your reward for your work in the tabernacle of meeting. And you shall bear no sin because of it, when you have lifted up the best of it. But you shall not profane the holy gifts of the children of Israel, lest you die." ' "
So they were able to eat the offerings that were brought. They were able to eat the firstfruits that were brought. They were able to eat the firstborn of the animals that were sanctioned by the Lord for them to eat. Thus they were remunerated for their work and they themselves also had to give a portion of it. Now, chapter 19 is an unusual chapter in that it is the law of the red heifer. And it's unusual because it's one of those laws that was not given during the period of the Exodus, it's not given in the book of Leviticus, it's singularly given while they're out in the wilderness wandering from point to point.
And it is a special formula, recipe of ashes placed in water that was used for ritualistic cleansing of people who would become defiled. "Defiled how?" you ask. Defiled by touching a dead body. "Why is that an issue?" Why is that an issue? It became not an issue, it became the singular issue during the period of these almost forty years. Why? Because God promised, "Your entire generation is going to kick the bucket in the desert." Remember the older generation, they were saying, "Oh, we're going to starve out here, and doesn't God care about our little kids?"
God says, "I care about your little kids so much, your little kids are going to get the land, you're going to die in the wilderness. I love your kids so much, they're the ones I'm going to bring into my Promised Land, but not you. You wouldn't go in when the spies said go in. You took the route of unbelief and you complain at every turn. You don't believe me for anything, so you're worried that you're going to die in the wilderness, you will. Enjoy the death experience of the wilderness; your kids, however, are going to go on to the land."
But because that younger generation is going to over the next thirty-eight years and ten months watch the older generation die off, if there's that much death, they've got to do something because there's going to be an enormous number of corpses that will create ritualistic defilement. So something has to be done to manage that. I just want to draw your attention back to chapter 17, the last couple of verses. "The children of Israel," verse 12, "spoke," this is chapter 17, "to Moses, saying, 'Surely we die, we perish, we all perish! Whoever even comes near the tabernacle of the Lord must die. Shall we all utterly die?' "
Well, they won't all utterly die, but the older generation will utterly die. If there were the 2 to 3-plus million people in the wilderness that we figure conservatively that left Egypt, if that generation that died was, let's say, 1.2 million people, it would mean that over the period of almost 40 years, 38 years and 10 months, there would be 85 funerals a day as an average, or 7 funerals every waking hour. That's just the average. That's how many will die over the next several years. Death will be everywhere. There will be a constant reminder of God's judgment upon that unbelieving generation.
So that's an enormous amount of death, and you have to deal with those corpses. Not only that, but there were episodes where God, like, plagued the people. We already saw 15,000 died in one setting. So because of that there's going to be ritual defilement and chapter 19 talks about what to do with that. Notice, "Now the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron," together now. Remember the Lord spoke to Moses, then last week we saw that he spoke individually to Aaron, now he's speaking to both. "This is the ordinance of the law which the Lord has commanded, saying: 'Speak to the children of Israel, that they bring you a red heifer without blemish, in which there is no defect and on which a yoke has never come.' "
A red heifer--- you go, "What on earth is a red heifer?" Well, it's a female cow that's older than a calf. According to Jewish tradition it had to be between two and three years of age before it was suitable for sacrifice. It was female, which is interesting, because the sacrifices up to this point, the sin offering, the burnt offering were male animals. This is a female. It's red, which speaks of blood. And not only is it red, but according to rabbinical tradition the description of it has to be perfect in its redness. You go, "Well, what does that mean, 'perfect in its redness'?"
Now, listen to this: There has to be a red hue over the entire animal. If there was a few white hairs or black hairs, it was disqualified. Even the hoofs and the horns had to have a hue, a reddish hue to it. So a red heifer along with certain elements that will be burned by fire, and the ashes of that heifer will be used for ceremonial cleansing. "You shall give it," verse 3, "to Eleazar the priest that he may take it outside the camp, and it should be slaughtered before him." Now we don't have time to look at all of the ways the red heifer does speak of our perfect sacrificial One, the Messiah, Jesus Christ, but there is a corollary.
Jesus was also killed outside the camp, outside the city, outside the city of Jerusalem, outside of the Damascus gate, at that place of public execution and humiliation, Golgotha, Calvary. "Outside the camp, and shall be slaughtered before him; and Eleazar the priest shall take some of its blood with his finger, and sprinkle some of its blood seven times directly in front of tabernacle of meeting. Then the heifer shall be burned in his sight: its hide, its flesh, its blood, its offal," all of the innards, "shall be burned.
And the priest shall take cedar wood." Why cedar wood? Interesting, cedar is a wood that decays slower than many other woods. If you build a fence, best thing to use for wood is cedar fencing. It'll withstand the elemental changes, the temperature changes. It's a good, sturdy, nondecaying or slowly decaying wood. It was probably either Phoenician cedar wood, prevalent back then, known for its high quality, or brown, buried cedar wood, also known for its exceptional qualities withstanding temperatures, etcetera. So he takes cedar wood and hyssop.
If you remember, during the Passover back in Exodus, Moses told the leaders of the homes to take hyssop, this plant, and to dip it in blood, and take the blood and put it on the lintels and the doorposts of the homes. It was with the hyssop. Hyssop speaks of purgation, of cleansing. One of the Psalms, I think it's Psalm 51, "Purge me with hyssop, and I will be clean." When Jesus was on the cross they gave him something dipped in hyssop, something to drink dipped in hyssop to quench his thirst. It's a common plant in the Middle East.
If you go to Israel, just maybe take this note so when you go on a tour to Israel, outside of almost any gate in Jerusalem you can buy this bread. The Arab sellers sell it in their little carts. It looks like a bagel on steroids. It's a megabagel. [laughter] And they'll sell you this bagel for like a buck, freshly baked, and then this little newspaper wad with spices in it. And it's this ground-up---they call it záatar. And záatar is a spice, it's hyssop. And they put a little salt in it and it's just really, really great. I know you're thinking of bagels with cream cheese, but in Israel it's bagels with hyssop.
It's just a killer combination. So keep that if your mind next time you're there. "Cedar wood and hyssop and scarlet." Scarlet speaks of blood, speaks of life. A female heifer, she's the bearer of life. It's a red heifer; blood is the substance of life. Hyssop is what is purged with blood. Cedar, this ongoing, stout wood that can last almost anything. And then, finally, the scarlet which also speaks of sacrifice, also speaks of blood. "And shall cast them into the midst of the fire burning the heifer. And the priest shall wash his clothes, and bathe in water, and afterward he shall come into the camp; and the priest shall be unclean until evening."
Now, according to tradition, again, according to the writings that we have, once they got this red heifer---and by the way, there has been lots of controversy as to where they could get another one today if they were to rebuild the temple. There's a guy in Oklahoma, there's a guy in Texas that have tried to breed these things. They have been successfully bred on a kibbutz, a farm in Israel. And they're examined by this group called the Temple Institute. According to tradition, when the very first red heifer was burned up and used in this ceremony that we're about to read, when the ashes were almost completely done, they would be, a small portion of them, would be saved.
And when they burned the second red heifer, they would put the ashes of the first red heifer into the ashes of the second red heifer. When the ashes were almost done, because of the rituals we're about to read, they would take those ashes and put it in the next, and put it in the next, and every single generation down. So that the idea was you always had some of the elements of the very first red heifer. This continues all the way through until the temple is built in Jerusalem. When the temple is built in Jerusalem---the temple is eventually destroyed by the Romans, you remember, in 70 AD.
According to the rabbinical writings, when a priest would come into the priesthood, the ashes of the red heifer put into this water of purification would inaugurate a priest into the priesthood. Well, this is one of the big problems right now with a group in Israel called the Temple Institute, which I mentioned last week and this week. The Temple Institute is a group of rabbis and Orthodox Jews that are sworn to and pray for the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem, the Jewish temple. They have a yeshiva where they have trained priests.
As I mentioned, they have the red heifer, they have garments of the priests, they have the menorah. I've shown you pictures of it. They have several of the vessels ready to put in the temple. One of their problems is the red heifer. "Where are the ashes from the temple period in 70 AD when the temple was destroyed? Where are they, so we can take some of those first ashes and place them with the ashes of the new red heifer, otherwise we can't have a priesthood, we can't initiate and inaugurate a priesthood." There was a guy a few years ago---he died---in Texas, and he believed he knew where the ashes of the red heifer were.
No, they weren't in Texas, though you would think that's probably what he would say. And Texas is cool, but not that cool. He believed that the ashes of the red heifer from the second temple period, the temple period we're talking about during the time of Christ, was in cave number 3 in Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found, the Copper Scroll was found. He believes that they were there. However, another noted archaeologist named Asher Kaufman, a Jewish Israeli archaeologist Asher Kaufman who's done extensive digs and articles on different things related to the temple says, according to the documentation that he has, ancient documents, he knows exactly where they are.
They're on the Mount of Olives where the red heifer during the temple period was burned. It's called the Mount of Anointment. And the priests after burning it would sprinkle the blood seven times toward the west where they---from the Mount of Olives toward the west where the temple is. And he says that there is a cistern on the Mount of Olives, according to the documentation, that has the ashes of the red heifer, and they're there today. The problem is there's a Greek Orthodox Church built on top of that cistern, and the bishop of that church and the leaders won't let anyone go down into it to do any kind of excavation.
But according to Kaufman, get down to that cistern, and those ashes are there, and the priesthood can then be reinitiated. Well, it's all fascinating, but time is running out, so let's mosey through this. Verse 7, "The priest shall wash his clothes, bathe in water, and afterward he shall come into the camp; the priest shall be unclean until evening." He's dealt with death. "And one who burns it shall wash his clothes in water, bathe in water, and be unclean till evening." Same thing, he's dealt with death.
"Then a man who is clean shall gather up the ashes of the heifer, store them outside the camp in a clean place; and they shall be kept for the congregation of the children of Israel for the water of purification; it is for purifying from sin. And one who gathers the ashes of the heifer shall wash his clothes, and be unclean until evening. It shall be a statute forever to the children of Israel and to the stranger who dwells among them. He who touches the dead body of anyone shall be unclean seven days. He shall purify himself with the water on the third day and on the seventh day; he will be clean."
"But if he does not purify himself on the third day and on the seventh day, he will not be clean." If you don't go the way that God has prescribed, you won't be clean. See, there's an important principle there. "Well, you know, I've always believed that God is sort of like this or that," and "My idea of God . . ." and, "I think God would be okay if I worshiped him here or in whatever I decide is really cool for me." Well, God has given a prescription of how he wants to be approached, and who is clean and who is not clean. You don't get clean this way, you ain't clean.
Even if some little Jewish guy out in the desert is scratching his head and going, "I don't understand how this could even work--- ashes of a dead cow and water? How cool and clean is that?" God said if you do it, you'll be clean. It's a ceremony that speaks of dealing with the problem that is all around you. "Whoever touches," verse 13, "the body of anyone who has died, and does not purify himself, defiles the tabernacle of the Lord. That person shall be cut off from Israel. He shall be unclean, because of the water of purification not sprinkled on him; his uncleanness is still on him."
"For this is the law"--- before we get into that, let's make an application, because this is Old Testament. This is if you get defiled because of death, then these ashes along with the water sprinkled on you ceremonially will make you clean. A female, the bearer of life, the symbolic things placed into it that speak of life being perpetuated, that out of death comes life, life will continue, life must be sacrificed for life to continue--- all of this symbolism is in here. How would that apply to a New Testament believer?
Well, follow me here. This isn't the sin offering, this isn't the trespass offerings, this is a special offering, a special cleansing for a certain kind of defilement, death. So how does it apply to us? Because Jesus Christ died "once for all." When he hung on the cross he said, "It is finished." You can't add to that. You can't do anything beyond what Jesus did. It's done. It's enough. God the Father looked upon that sacrifice and said, "What my Son has done is enough---one sacrifice for all time."
However, though we have been cleansed once for all by the blood of Jesus Christ, we walk through this world. And as we walk through this world we touch dead things, and people who are dead in trespasses and sins, and values, and movies, and songs, and language, and stories, and lifestyles that are filled with death, and we need to be cleansed from that--- lest we become defiled. So as we walk through this world we become defiled. It's similar to when Jesus at Passover started washing his disciples' feet and Peter said, "Well, you're not going to wash my feet!"
And then Jesus, like as if to bypass him, said, "If I don't wash your feet, you will have no part with me." And Peter says, "Well, then give me a shower, cleanse all of me, Lord! Not just my feet, but my head, and everything!" And it's like, uh, okay, that was overkill, Peter, a little overreaction there. Jesus said to him, "He that is cleansed needs only for his feet to be washed." You see, we walk through this world and we get dirty feet. We're cleansed by the blood of Christ once for all, but as you and I walk daily we get dirty feet.
And the imagery that Jesus used in the ancient times was like a bathhouse. You go and you go to a mikveh, you immerse yourself in ritual baptism, and you towel dry, and you go home. But the walk from the ritual bath to your home, you've walked in dirty streets, dusty streets with sandals, by the time you get home you've got dirty feet. So, as soon as you get home sandals are off and either you or the servant washes your feet. And Jesus took on the role of a servant and says, "You're cleansed, you're clean, not all of you," Judas isn't. But, "You're cleansed, but you need to get your feet washed."
So we walk and we contract dead things and people dead in trespasses and sins, and we too need this kind of cleansing on a daily basis. "Lord, I've been exposed to this today, I've got involved in that today, just cleanse me." It's not like you have to get born again, again, get saved again. "I've--- Pastor, I've come down fifteen times, last time you gave an altar call, all fifteen times I've given my life to Christ." You don't need to do that. Once is enough. "I've been baptized," once is enough. "Well, I better get rebaptized, I don't know if the first one took." [laughter] The only baptism that saves is a dry one, not a wet one.
You have to be baptized in Christ, immersed in Christ, that's the one that saves. So there is a corollary even for us New Testament believers. Verse 14, and we'll finish out the chapter and take the Lord's Supper. "This is the law when a man dies in a tent: All who come into the tent and all who are in the tent shall be unclean seven days." So you walk into your tent and somebody just has passed out dead. Shlomo in his tent, maybe one of his relatives fell over dead. So all these tents with death in them, that's intense. [laughter] A grave situation to be sure. [laughter]
"He'll be unclean for seven days; and every open vessel which has no cover fastened on it, is unclean," so an open jug of water. It's God's open container laws in the Old Testament. If you have water in your tent that you use for whatever rituals or for drinking, if it's open, there's no lid on it, somebody dies, that liquid is also defiled. "Whoever is in the open field touches one who is slain by the sword or who has died, or the bone of a man, or a grave, shall be unclean for seven days. And for an unclean person they shall take some of the ashes of the heifer burnt for purification from sin, and running water shall be put on them in a vessel."
"A clean person shall take hyssop and dip it in the water, sprinkle it on the tent, on all the vessels, on the persons who were there, the vessels and the persons who were there or on the one who touched a bone, the slain, the dead, or a grave. The clean person shall sprinkle the unclean on third day and on the seventh day; and on seventh day he shall purify himself, wash his clothes, and bathe in water; and at evening he shall be clean. But the man who is unclean and does not purify himself, that person shall be cut off from among the assembly, because he has defiled the sanctuary of the Lord. The water of purification has not been sprinkled on him; he is unclean."
So, I suppose knowing as the younger generation the older generation is dying off, before I leave my tent, just in case, I want to cover up all the food, all the pots of water, etcetera. So there may be a principle here. An open container is defiled; a closed one is protected. I meet people all the time when it comes to spiritual things, they go, "You know what? I don't want to be so closed-minded. I'd rather be open-minded. I want to be open to all sorts of different ideas, ideologies, philosophies, religious orientations. I never want to be closed-minded. I always want to maintain an open mind.
You know what the Bible says, that we are vessels, clay pots. But if you as a vessel are too open-minded in this world, you will become defiled by the death and all of the messages of death, antichrist messages that are around us constantly. So, I'm proud---in a good sense, not an evil, prideful sense. I'm honored to say that I do not have an open mind. I have a closed mind. I had an open mind, and my mind was so open I think most of my brains leaked out. [laughter] But something changed in my life, I met "the way, the truth, the life." He not only changed my mind, having found truth, he closed my mind.
So now before I was confused I was open to anything and everything and confused about it all, but now there's clarity, there's definition. Sure, I'm accused of being closed-minded, but I can always say, "You're right, I am. I'm honored to be so. I met Jesus Christ and he's the one that close my mind. It's sealed, it's set, my gate is fast," and you march forward. So be careful about being too open-minded, because pretty soon you can just collect defilement. Make sure that you are open to truth and closed to that which is not truth.
"The man who is unclean and does not purify himself, that person shall be cut off from among the assembly," verse 20. We don't know if this means that he was killed or that he was excommunicated, either way it's a tragedy, a travesty. "He has defiled the sanctuary of the Lord." Verse 21, "It shall be a perpetual statute for them. He who sprinkles the water of purification shall wash his clothes; he who touches the water of purification shall be unclean until evening. Whatever the unclean person touches shall be unclean; and the person who touches it shall be unclean until evening."
So the Lord spoke to Moses and to Aaron. Moses, the mediator of the covenant, and he was a good mediator, right? I mean, the people complained and God said, "Moses, move out of the way, I'm gonna get rid of them all and start something new with you." And Moses said, "No, Lord! No, please!" And he stood in the gap and he interceded for them. He was a great mediator, but he wasn't good enough. He wasn't good enough. They needed a better mediator than Moses. Moses couldn't bring them into the Promised Land. Moses himself never saw, never entered into the Promised Land. They needed a better mediator than even Moses was.
And Aaron? Great priest, validated by God, chosen by God; he and his family. But even Aaron with all the sacrifices he made for the people could not take away their sins, could only temporarily cover their sins, just cover them up. They needed a better priest, they needed a better mediator, based upon a better covenant with better sacrifices. The writer of the book of Hebrews says as much. I'm reading out of Hebrews, chapter 9, listen: "But Christ came as the High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation."
"Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with his own blood he entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this reason he [Jesus] is the mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant [the Old Testament], that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance."
All of those sacrifices in the Old Testament cast their shadow toward the cross. They were all pointing toward the cross of Jesus Christ. Blood was needed, animals were killed, blood sprinkled---how many times? How many wounds were on Jesus? Seven: two hands, two feet, crown of thorns, spear in his side, back opened up with a whip--- seven wounds. Seven times the priests all speaking, says the writer of Hebrews, of a better covenant with a better mediator, a better priest, based upon his own blood. Now I gotta tell you as we take the Lord's Supper, these elements, which speaks of his broken body and his shed blood, this bothers a lot of people.
They look at Christianity as a bloody religion. One feminist theologian Delores Williams said, "We don't need any theory of atonement at all. Folks hanging on crosses with blood dripping down and all that weird stuff," her words, "we don't need." Why would she say something like that? Because this lady has no clue of the reality of her own sin. And a person who thinks he or she is relatively good sees no need to have their sin expiated, atoned for, because they compare themselves with somebody else: "I'm better than that person. Maybe not as good as that person, but better than most people."
And so we self-justify with our good works. God said, Yahweh said in the Old Testament, "Your works are like filthy rags in my sight." So God took care of the problem that you and I can never take care of in sending his perfect, sinless Son to get killed once for all. Never has to be repeated. Done. Finished. What do we have to do? Believe that what he did for us was good enough, place our faith in him. That's pretty easy. He did all the heavy lifting. We believe, we're saved. You want to know what God's love toward you is like? Look at the nail prints.
Look at the point of the crown of thorns piercing his forehead. Look at his back beaten like hamburger meat for you and for me. That's what our sin did to him, but that's how much he loved us. Pilate looked at Jesus after the flogging and said, "Behold the man!" shocked. "Behold the man!" John years later said, "Behold what love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the children of God!" [applause] Behold the love. Tonight we behold the man and we behold the love of God toward us in Christ, the perfect mediator, the perfect priest, the perfect sacrifice--- once for all.
Now, we're going to take the Lord's Supper. If you do not know the Lord personally, if there's not a real relationship with him, do not take these elements. All you are is preaching a sermon of condemnation to yourself. If you're a believer, you trust in Jesus, you believe in Christ, and some of you right now are going, "Ah, I wish he wouldn't have said that, because I wasn't perfect today." I did not say that. I didn't say you have to be a perfect person. God made you, he declared you perfect. He made a declaration, "You're clean, you're as spotless as my Son." That's God's declaration toward you.
So whether you've had a successful Christian day or a nonsuccessful, you're a believer in Christ, you just get right with God, but you take these elements. If you are not a believer, don't take them, or, or, or you pray right now and you ask Jesus to be your Savior. Simple prayer: Lord, I invite you into my life, into my heart. I want to know you. I believe in you. I trust in you. I'm turning from my sin and turning to you." And then after this service come see us up front or in this prayer room right up here to my left. Just walk through those doors and say, "I said that little prayer tonight. I prayed in my heart.
We'd like to help you take it from there and walk with the Lord. Now, you have and I have a handy little pack. The bread is on the top, you peel the first transparent layer off and you get to that little wafer of bread. You peel the second not translucent or transparent, but opaque scarlet-purple wrapping off, and you get to the juice underneath. So it's convenient, you already have it. I'm going to ask a couple of my pastors, Pastor Kerry Rose is going to pray for the bread, and then Jarrett Petero is going to come up and pray for the juice.
Kerry Rose: Father, we love you. And we love what your Son did for us. You know, we can't even imagine the pain, just the horror of what you went through for us. But as our pastor said tonight, I pray we might take a minute and just think about the things we've done that gave you cause to get on the cross for each of us. And then quietly we just ask your forgiveness, and at the same time thank you so much for the pain you bore for me, for us, so that we might be here tonight celebrating, remembering what you've done for us, in your Son's name, amen.
Jarrett Petero: Father, thank you for making a way through your Son. Thank you for the great sacrifice of him dying upon that cross, shedding his blood for us. Lord, as we hold this cup in our hands, we receive that transformed life of Jesus, Lord, the cleansing power of your blood upon us to live the Christian life. Father, we pray that you would fill us with your Holy Spirit to walk in obedience, Lord, to live in that continual place of just receiving your love, Lord, to be able to receive and absorb your love. As we take this, Lord, as a symbol of your blood, your precious blood, may we just remember the sacrifice given for us. We pray this in Jesus' name, amen.