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Numbers 19:19-22 like a bug zapper

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, October 15, 2021

19 The ceremonially clean person will sprinkle the unclean person on the third day and on the seventh day. On the seventh day, after the ceremonially clean person has purified the unclean person, that person will wash his clothes and bathe himself in water, and he will be clean at evening. 20 But anyone who is unclean and refuses to purify himself will be cut off from the midst of the assembly, because he has defiled the sanctuary of the LORD. The water for removing impurity was not sprinkled on him, so he remains unclean. 21 This will be a permanent regulation for them. The one who sprinkles the water for removing impurity shall wash his clothing, and whoever touches the water for removing impurity will be unclean until evening. 22 Everything that the unclean person touches will be unclean, and the person who touches those things will be unclean until evening.

A series of additional commands ends the chapter with no question as to the procedure for the water of cleansing. The use of the definite article with the phrases “the ceremonially clean person” and “the unclean person” leads us to understand that the same Levite should sprinkle the unclean person in question on both the third and seventh day. This might be so that the Levite could testify as a witness that the law had been fulfilled (Deuteronomy 19:15).

Once again we see that anyone handling the water for sprinkling became ceremonially unclean until evening. Another question that is answered here is, what if the unclean person touches an object, and then a clean person touches it? Answer: The one who touched it is unclean until evening.

We already saw how Hebrews 9:13-14 shows the greater cleansing that we now have in Christ. Even though this chapter is a single long law, it can’t be classified only as Law in the Law/Gospel sense. God was graciously providing his people with a way to be cleansed even of the stain of death. This foreshadowed the victory of Christ over the power of death in every way.

God, separated from sin in every way, cannot be approached by the sinful. This chapter shows how God’s holiness has a similar picture as that of the bug zapper in my neighbor’s yard. The purplish-blue light of the bug zapper draws in the mosquitoes and other pests of the night, and the electric voltage powering that light is lethal. Man is drawn to God, but man cannot approach God without being zapped. The only solution is to be protected. No bug I have ever heard of has ever been saved by someone stopping it from flying in, or by giving the little insect a tiny insulating coat to keep it from certain death. But God has been merciful to man. He tells us to keep away if we are unclean. But more than this, he has also sent his Son into our midst, God With Us (Isaiah 7:14, 8:8,10), to cover us with a perfect insulating coat to protect us. That coat is Christ’s righteousness, which is ours through faith (Romans 4:5). And even here my little illustration limps, for Christ doesn’t just cover us, he had eliminated that which causes us to be zapped: He has removed your guilt. “Your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for” (Isaiah 6:7). And John said: “Christ is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2).

Even knowing this, our view of Christ is often the “poor reflection as in a mirror” (1 Corinthians 13:12), meaning an ancient-style mirror of “cast bronze” (Job 37:18) and blurry or cloudy because of the dark surface and the imperfections. We ourselves are that darkened surface and filled with those imperfections, so we rely on the Word of God to brighten our view of Jesus Christ. Show him to us, O Lord, in all his glory! Jesus sits at the Father’s right hand even now (Hebrews 1:3) “and is also interceding for us” (Romans 8:34). He cries out as each of us sins, “Spare him, Father, for my sake!” “Have mercy on her, O my Father, because of your eternal compassion!” And even though Jesus prays for us, we cannot forget to pray ourselves for God’s forgiveness. David teaches us well: “Remember O Lord, your great mercy and love. Do not remember the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways. According to your mercy, remember me, for you are good, O Lord” (Psalm 25:6-7). We are sprinkled by more than water mixed with the ashes of an innocent heifer. We are sprinkled by the blood of Christ (Hebrews 12:24), in possession of his perfect life, lived in our place, and we advance day by day toward the place he has prepared for us all, the many mansions and many rooms of our eternal home.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith

About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.


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