DEALING WITH DYING
Father, you are the God of the great and the small, the young and the old, the strong and the weak. I praise you Lord.
Read NUMBERS 19
The Water of Cleansing
19 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron: 2 “This is a requirement of the law that the Lord has commanded: Tell the Israelites to bring you a red heifer without defect or blemish and that has never been under a yoke. 3 Give it to Eleazar the priest; it is to be taken outside the camp and slaughtered in his presence. 4 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. 5 While he watches, the heifer is to be burned—its hide, flesh, blood and intestines. 6 The priest is to take some cedar wood, hyssop and scarlet wool and throw them onto the burning heifer. 7 After that, the priest must wash his clothes and bathe himself with water. He may then come into the camp, but he will be ceremonially unclean till evening. 8 The man who burns it must also wash his clothes and bathe with water, and he too will be unclean till evening.
9 “A man who is clean shall gather up the ashes of the heifer and put them in a ceremonially clean place outside the camp. They are to be kept by the Israelite community for use in the water of cleansing; it is for purification from sin. 10 The man who gathers up the ashes of the heifer must also wash his clothes, and he too will be unclean till evening. This will be a lasting ordinance both for the Israelites and for the foreigners residing among them.
11 “Whoever touches a human corpse will be unclean for seven days. 12 They must purify themselves with the water on the third day and on the seventh day; then they will be clean. But if they do not purify themselves on the third and seventh days, they will not be clean. 13 If they fail to purify themselves after touching a human corpse, they defile the Lord’s tabernacle. They must be cut off from Israel. Because the water of cleansing has not been sprinkled on them, they are unclean; their uncleanness remains on them.
14 “This is the law that applies when a person dies in a tent: Anyone who enters the tent and anyone who is in it will be unclean for seven days, 15 and every open container without a lid fastened on it will be unclean.
16 “Anyone out in the open who touches someone who has been killed with a sword or someone who has died a natural death, or anyone who touches a human bone or a grave, will be unclean for seven days.
17 “For the unclean person, put some ashes from the burned purification offering into a jar and pour fresh water over them. 18 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 anyone who has been killed or anyone who has died a natural death. 19 The man who is clean is to sprinkle those who are unclean on the third and seventh days, and on the seventh day he is to purify them. Those who are being cleansed must wash their clothes and bathe with water, and that evening they will be clean. 20 But if those who are unclean do not purify themselves, they must be cut off from the community, because they have defiled the sanctuary of the Lord. The water of cleansing has not been sprinkled on them, and they are unclean. 21 This is a lasting ordinance for them.
“The man who sprinkles the water of cleansing must also wash his clothes, and anyone who touches the water of cleansing will be unclean till evening. 22 Anything that an unclean person touches becomes unclean, and anyone who touches it becomes unclean till evening.”
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
ReflectAs a boy my favorite part of football was slide tackling… the muddier, the better! As we journey through life we collect ‘mud’ from sin, pain, death, struggle – how much do you need a ‘wash’?
Be honest: does this passage feel alien? It should, because we are dealing with a 3,500-year-old culture! But it’s worth persevering. For starters there is the simple reality of disease: washing after encountering a dead body in a world without antibiotics is sensible. More importantly, did you notice the heifer was to be sacrificed whole, including the blood (v 5)? Normally the blood of a sacrifice was poured out (e.g., Exodus 29:12, Leviticus 4:7). But here the blood, the life of the heifer, was left in and burned to ashes. As a result, the water of cleansing made with that ash (v 17) contained a powerful sign of life. So, if the uncleanness of death is made clean by that which sustains life, what does that tell us about life and death? Which is more powerful?
We may be tempted to cope with the pain of death by minimizing it as ‘nothing at all’ or being ‘in the next room’. But this ancient ritual teaches us a truth of real comfort: although death is real, life is stronger.
More powerful than the water of cleansing is the blood of Jesus, which washes us from all uncleanness and rescues us from death. All that ‘mud’ you thought about earlier – ask Jesus to clean you inside and out, and give you his new life.
Father, thank for the sin you poured on Jesus at Calvary, allowing me to be forgiven. May I never take it for granted.
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