“This is the ordinance of the law which the LORD has commanded, saying: ‘Speak to the children of
, that they bring you a red
heifer without blemish, in which there is no defect and on which a yoke has
never come.’” ( Israel Numbers 19:2)
There is no salvation apart from the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. His death on the cross was unneeded if there were any other way we could be saved. The horror Jesus went through—what would be God’s complicity in allowing it and Jesus’ futility in submitting to it—is nothing but a tragedy, if by some other means even one person could obtain entrance to heaven. That can never be! We receive salvation as a gift based on the work of Christ on the cross or we will die in our sins—hell bound and hopeless.
That message is underlined in red throughout the Old Testament. In the many sacrifices and shedding of blood, God was saying to
that the way of salvation
would be the way of sacrifice. It isn’t
that those offerings could cleanse from sin—they had no power to do so. Rather it was by faith in the sacrifice yet
to come that they—and we—could be saved.
The difference is that their saving faith had to look forward to the
finished work of Christ, while our faith can rest in what He has already accomplished. The repeated offerings under the Old
Testament were an object lesson to communicate this truth. The particular sacrifice in view today is
that of the red heifer. This red heifer
symbolizes God’s supreme Servant—the Lord Jesus Christ. Israel
It was a SPOTLESS SACRIFICE (v.1-2). The red heifer had to be examined, and found to be without flaw, it was qualified to become a sacrifice. From His supernatural conception, by the work of the Holy Spirit within the womb of the virgin—which meant He was born without a sinful nature, as all other descendants of Adam possess—and in His sterling compliance to the word of the Holy Scriptures—which meant He lived a sinless life, which no other human has done—He was examined and found to be without defect, fully qualified to be the sacrifice.
It was a SUBMISSIVE SACRIFICE (v.2b). No yoke had ever rested on the red heifer’s neck. The yoke symbolizes a breaking of a stubborn animal’s will, but in Christ there was instead a willing submission. He did not need to be forced into a mission He wished to avoid. It was voluntary devotion to death.
It was a SEPARATED SACRIFICE (v.3). The red heifer was slain outside the camp. That was the place of excommunication and symbolized how Jesus would be taken beyond the city walls of
Jerusalem to die on Calvary. There He would suffer the worst separation,
cut off from His Father as He endured hell for sinners.
It was a SATISFACTORY SACRIFICE (v.4-22). The blood was sprinkled seven times—the number of completion. The ashes were stored up as a memorial—a perpetual reminder of the work accomplished. Christ would cry from the cross, “It is finished!” God’s justice was satisfied, and we can now be justified by trusting in Jesus. Rest in Him—salvation is by His grace alone. Full and final cleansing is ours at the cross!