The Red Heifer

*OLD Testament Reading: Numbers 18-19

Psalms Reading: Psalm 68

New Testament Reading: 2 Corinthians 5

Numbers 18-19 continue laying out God’s specifics for his tabernacle with things like priestly duties, purification procedures, and one topic covered in detail in Chapter 19 is the sacrifice of the red heifer. This sacrifice is unique from others, and worth taking the time to look at a bit. The sacrifice of the red heifer was different than other animal sacrifices laid out in the law of Moses.

For one, this was a female animal instead of male. Also, this one was to be slaughtered outside the camp, burned in all of its flesh and blood (and dung!) with a few specific additions to the fire including cedar, hyssop, and scarlet wool. (Interestingly, I realized that I now have some hyssop popping up that I planted last year, and I added cedar shavings to the garden this past week. But, no scarlet wool and no red heifers around here!).  It seems this sacrifice was extremely specific and unique, and definitely similar to some things we see in Jesus’s sacrifice for us. If you want to read more about the symbolism and foreshadowing from the red heifer to Jesus, it is certainly out there. And, without looking too hard, we can definitely see connections including Jesus being killed in all of his flesh/blood outside of the temple, being perfectly flawless, being offered hyssop on the cross, being a sacrifice for our sins the way the red heifer was for the Israelites, etc., etc.

Evidencing that Old Testament stories are still relevant for us today, according to the Temple Institute, five blemish-free red heifers from Texas arrived in Israel in September 2022. Some view this acquisition as a step forward to the functioning of the new temple and related to Bible prophecy. No matter what, it is interesting to see how this reading from Numbers is still related to current events, and humbling to think what Jesus was willing to sacrifice for all of us.

“My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous;  and he himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.” (I John 2:1-2, NASB)

-Jennifer Hall

Reflection Questions

  1. How was Jesus’ sacrifice different from the red heifer sacrifice – and different from all the other Old Testament sacrifices? What do all these sacrifices have in common?
  2. What can we learn about God through our Bible reading today?

Satisfaction and Sin

Numbers 18 29 NIV

Numbers 18

Everything in Israel that is devoted to the Lord is yours. – Numbers 18:14
The old saying to “save the best for last” might be our natural inclination as people, but when it comes to giving to God, the best should always come first. That was what God demanded of Israel. As the chosen servants of God, the Levites received that offering, the very best, as their own.
1st of all, the Levites enjoyed a distinguished role. They were God’s gift to Aaron. There should have been no confusion about Aaron’s authority over them; instead, they should have appreciated the fact that God had wanted them for His service.
That service was part of its unique responsibility. No one else in Israel could come so close to the Lord’s dwelling as the Levites. They were given the opportunity to care for and handle the holiest dwelling in the whole land. They were employed in the service of the Almighty.
God blessed them with material gifts as well. In exchange for their service to God, the Levites received the tithe offered by the entire community, the best that Israel had to offer.
For any among the Levites to have been unhappy, they must have been deceived or deluded about their stance with God. The proper response to all that He had given them was to give Him a tenth of what they received—not just any part of it, but the very best of the best. Instead, they demanded more. People who are not satisfied with the best, can never really be satisfied. Do you recognize what God has blessed you with?

Numbers 19

If a [unclean] person does not purify himself, he must be cut off from the community, because he has defiled the sanctuary of the Lord. – Numbers 19:20
It was very easy to become unclean without realizing it. To touch a corpse, to be in the same room as the dead, to stumble over a grave, was enough to defile the Israelite, and excommunicate him from the Tabernacle with its holy rites. Could anything more graphic give us a clear picture of sin? We cannot be in contact with people who are blatantly sinning, or using foul language, or watching movies or tv that express the evil of this world.
This is the reason why, at the end of the day, we often feel unable to pray, or hold fellowship with God: we are excluded from the Most Holy Place, because of this defilement. There is only one way of escaping it, and that is in being covered, sealed, by the Spirit of God. “In whom you were sealed until the day of redemption.”
Andy Cisneros
Today’s Bible reading, Numbers 18-20 can be read or listened to at
Tomorrow’s reading will be Numbers 21-22 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan
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