Red Heifer Cleansing
Only when we include the Old and New Testaments is the Bible complete. So it is with our understanding of the Bible, the New can only make complete sense in light of the Old Testament. If you are trying to understand God's meaning rightly, you will need to know the Old Testament as you do the New.
Exodus through Deuteronomy explains the how, why, when, where, and what about animals sacrifices, so there can be no doubt about what pleases God. The book of Hebrews in the New Testament clarifies the inadequacy of the Old Testament system.
Animal sacrifices did not permanently remove the guilt of all the sins a person would ever commit; therefore, they had to be repeated. The law was a tutor so that men would understand they could not save themselves but by a blood sacrifice of the Son of God. The Old Testament offerings only pleased God as they taught men to look to Jesus Christ.
The offering in Numbers 19 is different because it pointed to an eternal deliverance of a guilty conscience in men yet to come. The offering of the Red Heifer was an offering meant to cleanse the conscience of the sinner. It differs because of the ashes that were to be taken and mixed with water, and thereby vast amounts of water could continually cleanse away the guilt of sins.
"Now a man who is clean shall gather up the ashes of the heifer and put them outside the camp in a clean place, and the congregation of the sons of Israel shall keep them for water to remove impurity; it is purification from sin." (Numbers 19:9)
"But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things having come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made by hands, that is, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all time, having obtained eternal redemption." (Hebrews 9:11, 12)
In the life of the Christian, it is vitally important to have a clear conscience before God for mainly two reasons. The first is to appreciate the lasting benefit of Christ's offering correctly. The person whose conscience is not clear does not understand the extent to which Christ's sacrifice removes the guilt of their sin. God the Father looks at the repentant sinner through the sacrificial gift of His Son. Therefore, to Him, their sins are as far as the east from the west, thrown into the depths of the sea, and remembered no more. (Psalm 103:12; Micah 7:19; Hebrews 8:12) The person not living by faith as they should is not benefiting from God's precious promises either.
Secondly, Satan uses sin to separate us from God, thus diminishing our intimacy with Him and His power to overcome sin and temptation through us. What Satan fears is the believer having intimacy with the living God. He can always defeat the believer living by his own abilities, discernment, and resolve. But a believer connected to God by faith is a no-win proposition for the Devil; this is why it is so important to watch and pray.
The Conscience of the Redeemed and Assurance of Salvation
Chapter 19 concludes by explaining the defilement by being near the dead. "This is the law when a person dies in a tent: everyone who comes into the tent and everyone who is in the tent will be unclean for seven days." (Numbers 19:14)
In the wilderness, men were continually in the presence of the dead. The dead defiled any person attending a funeral under the law. Numbers 1 tells us there were 603,550 men able to go to war. Add the elderly, women, and children; there had to be at least a million and a half people in Israel. If one person died every day for forty years, only fourteen thousand six hundred people would have died. However, it took forty years to make an eleven-day journey, and thereby the first generation would not enter the promised land as God promised.
My dear readers, I point these things out to understand, in a small way, the extent of human defilement by sin. Nonetheless, the sacrifice of Christ has removed all defilement from the mind of God. On truths such as these is built the assurance of salvation.
"These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life." (1 John 5:13)
"What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? Far from it! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?" (Romans 6:1, 2)