The Mystery of the Red Heifer

Wendy Blight

Day: 19 | Plan: Numbers

Today's Reading: Numbers 19

Numbers 19:1-2 (NIV) “The LORD said to Moses and Aaron: ‘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.’”

Today we encounter a profoundly beautiful foreshadowing of Christ in the red heifer.

In Leviticus, God set forth the offerings required for purification (sin offerings, burnt offerings). The red cow in today’s verse is not one of those traditional offerings. God commanded Moses and Aaron to establish another method of purification called “the water of cleansing” (Numbers 19:9). The law required the ashes of the red heifer be mixed with water to cleanse a person in their community who came in contact with a dead body because such contamination rendered a person unclean.

As we study this purification process, we’ll discover how the red heifer was a perfect foreshadow of Jesus’ work on the cross at Calvary. (Hebrews 10:1)

First, the law required the red heifer be without “ defect or blemish.” Additionally, its pure red color was quite rare and thus increased the value of the offering. Scripture says the same about Jesus. (1 Peter 1:18-19)

Second, most offerings were made inside the camp in the tabernacle, yet this law required the priest take the heifer “outside the camp.” Similarly, the Romans crucified Jesus “outside the city gate” (Hebrews 13:11-12).

Third, after they slaughtered the heifer, the priest dipped his fingers in the blood and sprinkled it seven times in the direction of the tent of the meeting, toward the brazen altar where the priests sacrificed the people’s offerings. (Leviticus 17:11) This sprinkled blood sanctified the ceremonially unclean in a limited way so that they were outwardly clean. But Jesus spilled His own blood and offered Himself to His Father. A sacrifice that cleanses us inwardly. (Hebrews 12:24, 10:22) It literally saves us from sin and death, washes us clean from the inside out and frees us from shame and condemnation. Forever! Hallelujah!

Finally, to create the water of cleansing, the priest mixed the ashes of the heifer with fresh running water, creating a reddish, muddy substance. He then took hyssop, dipped it in the water and sprinkled it directly on the unclean person. Both the blood and ashes from the heifer and the water were essential ingredients for purification. Remember, this water did not remove the person’s sin; symbolically it removed the contamination of sin that death represented. Only the blood of Jesus actually removes the stain of sin and death forever and always.

Again we see a foreshadowing of Jesus. Upon Jesus’ death, a soldier pierced His side with a spear. A sudden flow of blood and water poured forth. Scripture often uses water to symbolize the Holy Spirit. It’s by Jesus’ blood and power of the Holy Spirit that we are cleansed and purified. (1 Peter 1:2; 1 Corinthians 6:11) The power of God’s Holy Spirit, signified by living water, breathes new life into our dead souls. He revives our hearts and empowers us with the very power that raised Jesus from the dead.

I stand amazed at God’s plan of salvation set up before time began! The body in which all the fullness of the Godhead dwelled … the fullness of God’s glory and holiness … willingly shed His blood for us! And by His Holy Spirit, we are made alive again so that we can live in the fullness of God’s glory and holiness.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, before You hung a single star in the sky, You designed the red heifer. You knew it would walk the earth ... be chosen for purification … be a sign and a symbol of Your unending love, mercy and grace poured out through the life and blood of Jesus. Thank You for the red heifer and thank You for Jesus. Keep my heart forever grateful for the sacrifice Jesus made for me. In Jesus’ name, amen.

More Moments:

Numbers 19 brings back the hyssop we first encountered in Exodus on the night of the first... Read More

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