Numbers 19–21: Mystery of the red heifer reveals the work of Messiah

The Torah reading חֻקַּת‎ Chukat/Khuqat (“statute of”) starts with “the statute (khuqat) of the red heifer” and the bronze serpents, which are both symbolic of the role of the Messiah, Yeshua (Jesus).

The red heifer ashes are the ultimate purifier yet the heifer itself was treated as unclean, those who killed and prepared it were also unclean for a time. This is a profound catch-22.

God told Moshe to talk to the rock to bring the water out but instead he berated the people and hit the rock. The rock has no water in and of itself. God was the source of the water, not Aharon’s rod, which was the rod in front of the covenant or Moshe who was yielding it.

Before Aharon died, he had to remove his holy garments and give them to his son, in a peaceful transfer of leadership, authority and priesthood from father to son.

The red heifer was taken outside the camp, not in the tabernacle. This is the only sacrifice not made in the tabernacle and is slaughtered in the direct presence of the High Priest. The person making the sacrifice had to be clean but the act of sacrificing the red heifer made the person unclean. The red heifer ashes are the ultimate purifier yet the heifer itself was treated as unclean, those who killed and prepared it were unclean for a time. This is a profound catch-22.

When there is death, it has to be purified if you want to come into God’s presence. These rules for the Aharon priesthood do not apply to the Melechzedek priesthood.

Some people question why we will have a third temple in the Messianic age. The truth of the matter is the sacrifices will play the same role in the Messianic age as they always played. They were symbolic of the Messiah. The sacrifices never removed sin and of themselves. Sin has always been removed and purified through the death of Messiah by God Himself.

‘Fathers of impurity’

Some have grouped the forms of uncleanliness into four or five different groups, referenced as the “fathers of impurity.”

The most profound impurity or the “grandfather of impurity” is the corpse = death. The ultimate stain on humanity is death. God can’t live in the midst of death. We believe that death is natural, but it is not. What we see in Revelation 21 is the end of death and the grave. The sacrifices are about life, not death. They were in place to bring people closer to God, the Life-Giver.

The “father of impurity” refers to those things touched by the spilling of blood and bodily discharges. We are used to these things, but God is not accustomed to these things.

The “first order of impurity” is someone who make contact with someone in one of the other stages of impurity.

The “second order of impurity” is someone who simply touches someone in a state of impurity.

When we attend a funeral and the corpse is in view, we don’t consider a big deal. But there are those who believe strongly in avoiding any visitation of a corpse.

When we put our trust in Messiah Yeshua, He saves us from death. We live in a world that gets farther from the truth of why things die, they become nihilistic and obsessed with death. They love to look death in the eye and wallow in the loss and pain of death. God says we are to love and dwell upon life.

The red heifer purified and cleansed others of death and its lingering effects.

The red heifer was a seven-day purification process. Seven is the number of completion, we see it in the seven days of creation. The Shabbat is a memorial of that.

As the deputy High Priest sprinkled the blood of the Red Heifer, his view went directly over Golgotha at that place where the Messiah would one day be crucified. (The early writings of the Jews inform us that the wall of the temple was not high, so that it would not block the view of the priest as he sprinkled the blood. that they not prevent him from seeing the door of the temple[1]. If the place were only a few meters lower, to the left or to the right, this would not have been the case. Photo by Rdusatko via Wikipedia Commons License.
The red heifer is a key shadow of the Messiah. She screams out “You can’t do this on your own.” We read that there is a search for a red heifer but since we don’t have any red heifer ashes to purify those who would sacrifice a modern red heifer, it is a futile effort.

We can’t cleanse ourselves from death, only the Messiah can do that.

The red heifer was taken outside the camp, Yeshua was taken outside the camp. His resurrection conquered death once and for all.

The cedar and the hyssop were burned with the red heifer. Both are red and both are known for keeping items from getting by bugs, larvae and germs. A scarlet thread was also burned with it. These “preservatives” were thrown into the red heifer fire in a bundle.

The Temple is an embassy of life in a world of death.

Hebrews 9: Messiah is the ultimate cleanser

The parallel passage we are going to study is Hebrews 9, which is a good haftarah (parallel passage) for today’s reading. This shows us where the heifer fits, which Paul goes into greater detail in Romans 5–8.

Humanity’s deal with death can only be broken by the death and resurrection of the Messiah. When we take up our cross daily, we are acknowledging that the old life has to die. Not many of us understand how important that is and that all us must die to our old life, not just people we consider seriously sinful such as drug addicts or alcoholics.

The red heifer is a copy of the work of the Messiah.

Now, let’s go back to the Parashah and take a look at the Bronze Serpent, which is another Messianic symbol.

The people complained yet again about the lack of food, water and the manna. God hates complainers. God is the one who creates, the one who makes us holy and brings us to new life.

The Brazen Serpent, Artist: Tissot, Photographer: John Parnell, Photo © The Jewish Museum, New York

There’s an interesting word play with the word for serpent and the word for copper. It’s related to word for serpent, נָחָשׁ nachash (H5175), which comes from נָחַשׁ nachash (H 5172), to hiss or to incant a spell.

These nachash that are biting the people with bites that are venomous enough to kill.

The seraphim, or fiery serpents, were taking life of those rebelling against God, but the seraph on the pole was protecting or restoring life to those under the curse, providing grace and salvation. The verb שָׂרַף saraph  (H8313) means to set on fire.

Those things that bought death to them on the ground was also lifted in the air on a pole and when they looked at it, they received life.

While explaining the true role of the Messiah to Nicodemus of the Sanhedrin, Yeshua compared Moshe’s lifting up of the bronze serpent to the coming lifting up of Him (John 3:4–21). Though judgment is given to Yeshua, He came to the stake as a life-giver, not life-taker. Those who are saved would have their old lives “burned” out of them. His return will be as a life-taker and as life-giver.

Both the red heifer and the bronze serpent shows that what seems to bring death actually bring life.

The bronze serpent was a replica of what Messiah Yeshua would do.

What we see in the red heifer and the bronze serpent is a glimpse into the heart of God.

Banner Photo: The Red Heifer was required to be sacrificed on the pit made in the days of Ezra. Underneath this pit was a hollow to protect from a bone in the depth. Photo by Rdusatko via Wikipedia Commons under Creative Commons License. 

Summary: Tammy.

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