Thoroughly Equipped: Ashes in the Water

Today’s reading includes Numbers 19:1-20:29, Luke 1:1-25, Psalm 56:1-13, Proverbs 11:8.

In today’s reading we see lots of repetitions, which always remind us to take note.  We see many references of the holy numbers 3 and 7.  Three stands for the holy things of God, even Himself as in the Trinity.  Seven is the number of completion and perfection.  We also see the repetition of hyssop, which we have already studied.  As a reminder, hyssop was symbolic for cleansing, healing, and the forgiveness of sin.  Listen to what David said in Psalm 51:6-7:

            Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.  Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

We also see the repetition of cedar.  Remember what cedar represents?  The cedar represents a protective covering from the plague of sin.  It represents taking action to not only prevent the spreading of sin, but also to reduce and deter that which had already begun its destruction. And then there is the red cloth.  Red represents not only sin, but also the blood shed to cleanse the sin.  And the cloth is another symbol of a means of being cleansed.

The religious leader will take cedar wood and hyssop and red cloth, and put it on the burning cow. Then the religious leader will wash his clothes and wash his body in water.

                                                                                                Numbers 19:6-7

So, today we see the red cow burned as a sin offering and its ashes are kept to be mixed with water so that in the future tents, objects, and people could mix the ashes with water as a sin-cleansing agent.

Now a man who is clean will gather up the ashes of the young cow and put them in a clean place away from the tents. They will be kept for the people of Israel to mix with the water used to make things clean, to take away sin.

17 The person who is unclean must take some of the ashes from the burning of the sin gift. Clean water must be added to them in a pot. 18 Then a clean person must take hyssop and put it in the water…

 19 The clean person must put the water on whoever is unclean, on the third day and on the seventh day.

Here we see not only the process of application, but the timing of application.  It is in the holy numbers of the third day and the seventh day.  The third day is reflective of the Resurrection of the perfect sacrifice to come.  Jesus rose on the third day, forever defeating sin and death.  And the seventh day?  What is the significance of the seventh day?  Remember that seven is the number of completion and perfection.  The seventh day God rested from His great work of creation.  He rested because He had completed the work.  In the seventh day, it was finished and it was very good.

The holy numbers show up again and again in scripture and again and again in the story of the death and resurrection of Jesus.  It was around seven a.m. when the hearing took place, the crucifixion took place at the time the Jewish referred to as “the third hour”.  Darkness covered the land at twelve noon.  About three in the afternoon, Jesus cried out and said “It is finished!” and died.

28 Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. 30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

                                                                                                John 19:28-30

There were seven times Jesus spoke from the cross.  God created the world with His spoken words, in seven days.  Both finished the great work and then rested after speaking forth a brilliant creation.

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.

And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.

And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.

                                                                                                Genesis 2:1-3

God created the world in seven days; Jesus restored the world and set the stage for man to become new creations after the seventh phrase left His holy lips, “It is finished!”

As we sift through the reading of the ashes of the sin offering entering the water so that the people could be cleansed of their sins, let’s not forget the ultimate Sin Offering who entered the water.

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”

15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.

16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

                                                                        Matthew 3:13-17

In the Old Testament, the sin offerings and the ashes in the water were an effort to appease and please a holy God who could not look on the sin of those He had created, loved, and chosen.  Their sin caused a separation between Him and his beloved ones.  God graciously offered measures for temporary restoration, at least until the next sin.  But when Jesus entered the water, finally the perfect Sin Offering had come.  Jesus was to be totally consumed in the fiery trial of the crucifixion, just as the sin offering was consumed by the fire.  And with Him, God was forever pleased.  If we trust in Jesus to cleanse us from our sins, we too will hear the beautiful words, “This is my child, whom I love; with him (and her!) I am well pleased.”

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