Evening Bible Study
The nation of Israel
was miraculously set free from their slavery in Egypt by the mighty works of a
They spent their first year out of Egypt at the base of Mount Sinai where Moses
received the commandments of God and they built their portable worship center
called the Tabernacle.
Their journey from Sinai
into the Promised Land should have taken two weeks, but because the people were
not willing to trust God to help them, they ended up wandering in the
wilderness for forty years.
The book of Numbers covers that period of forty years where the nation
learns to grow up and become a lean, mean, fighting machine.
19:1-10 Red Heifer
Death and sin
The Bible speaks of death as the consequence of our sin. God warned Adam:
(Ge 2:17 NKJV) but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not
eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
Adam broke God’s one commandment to him, and as a result he brought death
to all mankind.
(Ro 6:23 NKJV) For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life
in Christ Jesus our Lord.
We see death as ultimately as not being just a separation of a person’s
life from their physical body, but a separation of man from God.
You will see through the Bible that death and God do not mix.
(Jn 14:6 NKJV) Jesus said to him, “I am
the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the
Father except through Me.
Unclean dead bodies
Touching dead things made you “unclean”. One of the ramifications of being “unclean”
was that you had to stay away from the Tabernacle.
supposed to stay away from dead bodies.
(Nu 6:6 NKJV) All the days that he separates himself to the Lord he shall not go near a dead body.
The first thing
God tells Moses when He begins to lay out the rules for the priests has to do
with dead bodies.
(Le 21:1 NKJV)
And the Lord said to Moses,
“Speak to the priests, the sons of Aaron, and say to them: ‘None shall defile
himself for the dead among his people,
Part of the ritual that was supposed to set up the Levites for service in
the Tabernacle involved something called “water of purification”.
(Nu 8:7 NKJV) Thus you shall do to them to cleanse them: Sprinkle water of purification on
them, and let them shave all their body, and let them wash their clothes, and
so make themselves clean.
What we’re looking at tonight is how this “water of purification” is
If the Temple
is to be rebuilt, before there can be any sacrifices there must be a cleansed
undertaken the raising of special holy children, with the idea that they would
grow up without ever coming into contact with anything unclean.
But there will also need to be the provisions in this chapter, a cleansing
that will only come from a special mixture of water and the ashes of a red cow known as the “red
:1 Now the Lord
spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying,
:2 “This is the ordinance of the law which the Lord has commanded, saying:
‘Speak to the children of Israel, that they bring you a red heifer without
blemish, in which there is no defect and on which a yoke has never come.
If a red heifer
has as much as one white hair on it, it was considered “blemished”. Even the
hooves of the heifer needed to be reddish. Tradition says the heifer must be
three years old when it is sacrificed.
:3 You shall give it to Eleazar the priest, that he may take it outside the
camp, and it shall be slaughtered before him;
was one of Aaron’s sons. The high priest himself didn’t perform the sacrifice.
– The animal wasn’t actually killed at the Tabernacle, but at a place outside the camp.
:4 and Eleazar
the priest shall take some of its blood with his finger, and sprinkle some of
its blood seven times directly in front of the tabernacle of meeting.
The blood was sprinkled on the altar at the Tabernacle to show that this
offering was being made to the Lord.
:5 Then the heifer shall be burned in his sight: its hide, its flesh, its
blood, and its offal shall be burned.
– peresh – contents of the stomach
and intestines, fecal matter, dung
Everything from the animal was thrown into this sacrifice.
:6 And the
priest shall take cedar wood and hyssop and scarlet, and cast them into the
midst of the fire burning the heifer.
There were more ingredients that went into these special ashes besides just
the ashes of an animal.
:6 cedar wood
– a fairly aromatic wood. It reminds me of the cross, Jesus being nailed to a cross of wood. Wood
is not typically used in a sacrifice.
– a plant, whose branches were often used to sprinkle blood in the different
It was used on the first Passover
to sprinkle the blood on the door posts.
(Ps 51:7 NKJV) Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall
be whiter than snow.
– can be a picture of sin, or of the blood that is used to cleanse us from sin:
(Is 1:18 NKJV)
“Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the Lord, “Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool.
It is interesting to note that these were the same three ingredients added
to the sacrifice
for a leper that made the leper clean after he had been already healed:
(Le 14:4 NKJV) then the priest shall command to take for him who is to be
cleansed two living and clean birds, cedar wood, scarlet, and hyssop.
We have seen leprosy as a picture of sin and the weaving of the death and
resurrection of Jesus into the picture of what brings cleansing.
:7 Then the
priest shall wash his clothes, he shall bathe in water, and afterward he shall
come into the camp; the priest shall be unclean until evening.
:8 And the one who burns it shall wash his clothes in water, bathe in
water, and shall be unclean until evening.
:9 Then a man who is clean shall gather up the ashes of the heifer, and
store them outside the camp in a clean place; and they shall be kept for the
congregation of the children of Israel for the water of purification; it is for
purifying from sin.
:10 And the one who gathers the ashes of the heifer shall wash his clothes,
and be unclean until evening. It shall be a statute forever to the children of
Israel and to the stranger who dwells among them.
Now we’re going to see how these ashes were used.
:11 ‘He who touches the dead body of anyone shall be unclean seven days.
:12 He shall purify himself with the water on the third day and on the
seventh day; then he will be clean. But if he does not purify himself on the
third day and on the seventh day, he will not be clean.
:13 Whoever touches the body of anyone who has died, and does not purify
himself, defiles the tabernacle of the Lord. That person shall be cut off from
Israel. He shall be unclean, because the water of purification was not
sprinkled on him; his uncleanness is still on him.
:14 ‘This is the law when a man dies in a tent: All who come into the tent
and all who are in the tent shall be unclean seven days;
:15 and every open vessel, which has no cover fastened on it, is unclean.
:16 Whoever in the open field touches one who is slain by a sword or who
has died, or a bone of a man, or a grave, shall be unclean seven days.
:17 ‘And for an unclean person they shall take some of the ashes of the
heifer burnt for purification from sin, and running water shall be put on them
in a vessel.
:17 running water
– The Jews have taken this to mean water that comes from a spring, “living
During the time
of the Temple, in Jerusalem there is only one place with “running water”, the
pool of Siloam where the water comes from the Gihon spring.
This was the same place that water was drawn from for the celebrations
during the Feast of Tabernacles where water was poured out on the altar (John
:18 A clean
person shall take hyssop and dip it in the water, sprinkle it on the tent, on all
the vessels, on the persons who were there, or on the one who touched a bone,
the slain, the dead, or a grave.
:19 The clean person shall sprinkle the unclean on the third day and on the
seventh day; and on the seventh day he shall purify himself, wash his clothes,
and bathe in water; and at evening he shall be clean.
:19 third day
– Could this be a hint at the resurrection?
:19 seventh day
– Could this be a hint of the day that God rested? Cleansing bringing rest?
:20 ‘But the
man who is unclean and does not purify himself, that person shall be cut off
from among the assembly, because he has defiled the sanctuary of the Lord. The
water of purification has not been sprinkled on him; he is unclean.
:21 It shall be a perpetual statute for them. He who sprinkles the water of
purification shall wash his clothes; and he who touches the water of
purification shall be unclean until evening.
:22 Whatever the unclean person touches shall be unclean; and the person
who touches it shall be unclean until evening.’ ”
The Temple Institute in Jerusalem is a Jewish
organization dedicated to the rebuilding of a Temple in Jerusalem. Their ideas
reflect those who hold a more orthodox approach to Judaism. They have some interesting ideas about all
Some of the Jewish rabbis look at the red heifer as being a parallel to the
Golden Calf that Aaron made.
The heifer is red because some considered the golden calf to have a reddish hue.
the one to sacrifice the red heifer, but instead his son (Eleazar) was. The
rabbis taught that this was because Aaron was the one who made the golden calf.
The golden calf
was burnt, mixed with water, and the people drank it, which led to their
“cleansing” or forgiveness for their sin – same picture as the red heifer.
One of the traditions among the Jews is that when a red heifer is
sacrificed, the ashes of the previous red heifer are mixed into the mix.
There is a tradition that just before the Romans burnt down the Second
Temple, that some of the items of the Temple were snuck out of the Temple and
This has caused some to go on expeditions to locate the ashes of the red
heifer. Some speculate that they might be located somewhere in Qumran, where there were
many scrolls hidden until 1947 with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
To date the old ashes have not been located yet.
Over the last fifteen years there has been an effort to raise a line of red
cows in Israel. From time to time a calf is born that looks like a possible
candidate. I’ve even reported at some of the Prophecy Updates that a calf has
But as the calf grows, inevitably some defect is found and the calf is disqualified.
It’s possible that there is indeed some defect in the calf. There might be
a white hair found on the calf.
candidate (named Melody) was born in April, 2002. By November 2002 it had been disqualified.
Some have suggested that the disqualification is due to political pressure.
If a red heifer is proclaimed, and consequently sacrificed, then there will
be some pretty hefty pressure to do something about building a Temple – which
is not exactly politically acceptable just yet.
The Tenth Red Heifer
The Mishna (Jewish oral tradition) records that there have been nine red
heifers through history. The first was in Moses’ day, the last one was back in
the time of the Second Temple, in Jesus’ day. The Mishna even records who each
of the priests were who supervised the sacrifice of each red heifer.
mystic Maimonides wrote in the Middle Ages: "...
and the tenth red heifer will be accomplished by the king, the
Messiah; may he be revealed speedily, Amen, May it be God's will."
In other words, there is a Jewish tradition that the Messiah would
officiate at the sacrifice of the next red heifer. I’m not saying this is correct, I’m pointing
out that this is what some Jewish people believe.
It could also be just as likely that it is the antichrist who officiates,
since he will have many fooled into thinking that he is the Messiah.
I’m not sure there is a direct parallel in the New Testament to the ashes
of the red heifer.
Our Great High Priest is Jesus. He has no need to be cleansed.
We’re the ones that need to be cleansed.
Researchers at the University of Toronto published data in
2006 that suggests people experience “a powerful urge to wash themselves” when suffering
from a guilty conscience. This urge is known as the “Macbeth effect,” referring
to Shakespeare’s famous play in which one of the main characters cries, “Out,
damned spot!” while trying to scrub away bloodstains that exist only in her
mind. In order to study this effect, the researchers asked volunteers to think
about immoral acts they had committed in the past—shoplifting, betraying a
friend, and so on. The volunteers were then offered an opportunity to clean
their hands. According to the results of the study, those who had retraced
their sins “jumped at the offer at twice the rate of study subjects who had not
imagined past transgressions.” Interestingly, the act of washing did relieve
the guilt of many volunteers—at least temporarily. After deciding whether or
not to wash, the subjects who had felt guilty were given a chance to volunteer
for a charity event. Those who actually washed their hands “were far less
likely to sign up than those who didn’t wash.”
Your Hands of Guilt"; The Week (9-29-06), p. 21; submitted
by Ted De Haas, Bedford, Iowa
I think if you’re around someone that’s sick, it’s great
to wash your hands. But when you
struggle with sin and guilt, God has better things than soap and water to clean
Yet God has provided things for our cleansing, better than washing our
1. The Blood of Jesus
(1 Jn 1:7–9 NKJV) —7 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we
have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all
sin. 8 If we say
that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our
sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
It’s Jesus blood, shed in our place that brings forgiveness with God.
We get that forgiveness applied to our lives as we confess our sins to God –
as we admit to God our sins.
2. The Word of God
(Eph 5:25–27 NKJV) —25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the
church and gave Himself for her, 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the
word, 27 that He
might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or
any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.
It’s not hard in our current society to become “unclean”. Just
turn on the TV. Just drive down the freeway and glance at the billboards. Pick
up a magazine. Go to the movies.
of the best ways to clean your mind is to wash it with the water of God’s Word.
I guess you could call this “brain washing”. But it’s the
kind of washing that we need.
20:1-13 Moses and
:1 Then the children of Israel, the whole congregation, came into the
Wilderness of Zin in the first month, and the people stayed in Kadesh; and
Miriam died there and was buried there.
:1 Miriam died
– Moses had an older brother and sister.
Miriam was the oldest of the three.
She is the first to die. By the
end of the chapter Aaron will die as well.
At the end of Numbers we are told what year it was when Aaron dies.
(Nu 33:38 NKJV) —38 Then Aaron the priest went up to Mount Hor at the command of
the Lord, and died there in the fortieth year
after the children of Israel had come out of the land of Egypt, on the first
day of the fifth month.
We are now getting to the end of the forty years in the wilderness.
What happened the last time they were at Kadesh? (Num.13)
It was thirty nine years ago when they had just come out of Egypt, they
came up to the border of the Promised Land at Kadesh.
Moses had sent out twelve
spies, ten of which came back with such a bad report, that the people got
discouraged and didn't want to go into God's Promised Land.
God promised them forty years of wandering, a time of getting them ready to
take the Promised Land.
Learn it now, or learn it later.
Sometimes we don't always learn the lessons we're supposed to the first
Sometimes we just run away from our problems.
But God usually brings us around some time or later to deal with the
have hurt or abused you in some way. God
wants you to learn how to forgive them.
You refuse. Sooner or later, you’ll
be faced again with the problem, will you learn to forgive?
You get a nice
job, doing all the things you like to do, but there are some people you work
with who have lots of problems. God
wants you to learn how to get along with them and even maybe love and minister
to them. But instead you quit work and look for another job. But amazingly enough, at the new job, you find the same people,
different faces maybe, but the same people. It’s amazing how this works!
You get married. But as you find out in a few years, you can’t
get along with your spouse. There’s just
things they do that you can’t stand. God
wants you to learn how to love unconditionally, but you get a divorce
instead. You marry again, and again, and
again, yet every time you get married, you find that all these people have
And so, the people find themselves in a familiar place once again.
:2 Now there
was no water for the congregation; so they gathered together against Moses and
:2 no water
– The last time the Israelites complained about water was right after they had
come out of Egypt at a place called “Rephidim”.
The people complained about their lack of water. God showed Moses a Rock and told him to
strike the Rock and water would come out (Ex. 17:1-7)
We saw in our
Exodus study that there is an interesting rock formation in the desert
northwest of Jubal al Musa, what we think is a likely candidate for Mount
Sinai. (Play “Sinai and Rephidim” map clip.)
The people are now in a different place, but with the same situation. They are out of water.
:3 And the
people contended with Moses and spoke, saying: “If only we had died when our
brethren died before the Lord!
– riyb – to strive, contend
We’re going to see a name “Me-rib-ah” come from this word.
:4 Why have you
brought up the assembly of the Lord into this wilderness, that we and our
animals should die here?
:5 And why have you made us come up out of Egypt, to bring us to this evil
place? It is not a place of grain or figs or vines or pomegranates; nor is
there any water to drink.”
It’s been thirty-nine plus years, and they still remember Egypt.
:5 not a place of
grain or figs…
Of course it’s not, you’re still in the wilderness dummy!
When you’re in a wilderness time, don’t spend your time complaining about
how bad it is, start looking for the lessons you’re supposed to be learning,
and start learning them!
The faster you learn your lessons, the quicker you’ll get out of the
lesson is patience, and be ready, you’ll never learn that one overnight!
(Jas 1:2–4 NKJV) —2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various
trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let
patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking
:6 So Moses and
Aaron went from the presence of the assembly to the door of the tabernacle of
meeting, and they fell on their faces. And the glory of the Lord appeared to
:7 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying,
:8 “Take the rod; you and your brother Aaron gather the congregation
together. Speak to the rock before their eyes, and it will yield its water;
thus you shall bring water for them out of the rock, and give drink to the
congregation and their animals.”
:8 gather the
What is going to happen was meant to happen in front of everyone. God wanted the people to see where this fresh
water was coming from.
:8 the rock
There is something special about the Rock.
(1 Co 10:1–4 NKJV) —1 Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that
all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, 2 all were
baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 all ate the same spiritual
food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that
spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.
Paul makes is sound as if the Rock was following them.
There are even certain Jewish Rabbinical teachings that say that the rock
followed them through the desert, giving them water.
Whether it was the Rock itself, or just the principle of water coming from
a Rock, the Rock is a picture of Jesus.
God is going to get very specific as to just how to treat this Rock and solve
Jesus is the Rock
When we feel like we’re in the wilderness, we’re not alone.
There is a Rock with us.
He is ready to quench our thirst.
Last Sunday we looked at the Feast of Tabernacle and the special water
ritual that the Jews had developed for this Feast.
The Feast was to remind the people of these same 40 years when they
wandered in the wilderness.
Every morning a priest would lead a procession to the pool of Siloam, which
collected the “living water” that came from the Gihon spring.
The priest would fill a golden pitcher with water and take it back to the
Temple and pour it out on the altar.
The last day of the feast represented the end of the wilderness wandering…
the very time period we’re looking at tonight.
(Jn 7:37–38 NKJV) —37 On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus
stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.
38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow
rivers of living water.”
You are not alone in the wilderness.
There is a Rock you can go to.
God wants you to experience the full, continuing work of
the Holy Spirit.
God said to Moses to “speak to the Rock” – all we need to
do is to “speak” to Jesus, to ask, to believe.
:9 So Moses
took the rod from before the Lord as He commanded him.
:10 And Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock; and
he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels! Must we bring water for you out of this
Moses has done just
a few things wrong here.
fed up with the people, calling them “rebels”.
But keep in mind, this isn’t what God said.
There were times when God was upset with the people, but this apparently
wasn’t one of them.
the attention on the wrong things.
He said, “Must WE bring water …”
God is the one who is bringing the water, not Moses.
:11 Then Moses
lifted his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came out
abundantly, and the congregation and their animals drank.
Even though God told Moses to speak to the Rock instead of striking it, God
is gracious and makes water come from the Rock.
:12 Then the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe
Me, to hallow Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not
bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.”
Why is God
being so harsh on Moses?
After all, the water did come out of the rock, the people were satisfied,
isn’t that enough?
God doesn’t always do things the same way twice.
I wonder if he was just doing it because that was what worked last time.
That’s our tendency: If God works
during a special time or place in our lives, we often want to go back and try
to duplicate that event so we can see God work again.
The problem is that we misunderstand God.
He works because He’s God, not because we said some magic words or
Obeying God doesn’t always mean doing the same thing you did before.
God desires that we learn to be sensitive to His Spirit and the new things
He wants to do and places to take us.
Moses seems to be acting in anger.
He calls the people “rebels”
He strikes the rock, not even once, but twice.
Even though at other times, God made it clear that He was angry with the
people, it wasn’t so here.
:12 to hallow Me in the eyes of the children of Israel
God is concerned that we don’t just think about Him as being holy whenever
we’re in worship, but also throughout all of our lives, as we are in front of
We are always setting an example, either a good one or a bad one.
People are watching you to see what this Jesus stuff is
all about. Are they going to look at
your life and decide, “Hmmm, I guess this Jesus stuff isn’t such a big deal
God wanted the people to see that all Moses had to do was
speak, and God would graciously supply water.
But Moses made it look as if he had to beat someone up to get some
3. Moses ruined the picture
We know that the Rock was Jesus, it represented Him (1Cor.10), and so we
know that there’s significance in relation to Jesus with these events.
The picture, as God intended it, was supposed to be that Jesus being struck
on the cross, and then all who would simply call on Him would be saved.
But instead, Moses struck the rock again, blowing the whole imagery.
Moses made it look as if by human strength he could make the water come
out, as if by your own actions you could be saved.
God says we are saved by believing, by calling out to Him.
:13 This was
the water of Meribah, because the children of Israel contended with the Lord,
and He was hallowed among them.
– “place of strife”, or “contention”
Because the sons of Israel contended (Hebrew - rib) with the Lord.
(Ps 95 NKJV) —1 Oh come, let us sing to the Lord!
Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation. 2 Let us come before His
presence with thanksgiving; Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. 3 For the Lord is the great God, And the great
King above all gods. 4 In His hand are the deep places of the earth; The
heights of the hills are His also. 5 The sea is His, for He made it; And His hands formed the dry
land. 6 Oh come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. 7 For He is our God, And we are the people
of His pasture, And the sheep of His hand. Today, if you will hear His voice: 8 “Do not harden your
hearts, as in the rebellion, As in
the day of trial in the wilderness, 9 When your fathers tested Me; They tried Me, though they saw My
work. 10 For forty years I was grieved with that generation, And said, ‘It is a
people who go astray in their hearts, And they do not know My ways.’ 11 So I
swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest.’ ”
:8 rebellion – the Hebrew word is “Meribah”
Complain or thanks?
Maya Angelou writes,
When my grandmother
was raising me in Stamps, Arkansas, she had a particular routine when people
who were known to be whiners entered her store. My grandmother would ask the
customer, “How are you doing today, Brother Thomas?”
And the person would reply, “Not so good today, Sister Henderson. You see, it’s this summer
heat. I just hate it. It just frazzles me up and frazzles me down. It’s almost
killing me.” Then my grandmother would stand stoically, her arms folded, and
mumble, “Uh-huh, uh-huh.” And she would cut her eyes at me to make certain that
I had heard the lamentation.
As soon as the
complainer was out of the store, my grandmother would call me to stand in front
of her. And then she would say the same thing she had said at least a thousand
times, it seemed to me. “Sister, did you hear what Brother So-and-So or Sister
Much-to-Do complained about?” And I would nod. Mamma would continue, “Sister,
there are people who went to sleep all over the world last night, poor and rich
and white and black, but they will never wake again. And those dead folks would
give anything, anything at all for just five minutes of this weather that
person was grumbling about. So you watch yourself about complaining, Sister.
What you’re supposed to do when you don’t like a thing is change it. If you
can’t change it, change the way you think about it. Don’t complain.”
It is said that persons have few teachable moments in their lives. Mamma
seemed to have caught me at each one I had. Whining is not only graceless, but
can be dangerous. It can alert a brute that a victim is in the neighborhood.
Chicken Soup for the Soul, Copyright 1996 by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen
& Patty Hansen
Moses wasn’t the only one with a problem at Meribah.
The people had a problem too. Their
problem was in their striving and complaining against God.
God invites us
to trust Him.
Sometimes that means that we will go through deserts where
life gets difficult.
Will we trust Him when it’s difficult or only when it’s
The first part of the Psalm is where our hearts ought to be.
We should learn to give God thanks and praise.
Look at all He’s done for us. Complain or praise?