May 23, 2023

God's holiness necessitates purity.

Numbers 19

Tori Feaster
Tuesday's Devo

May 23, 2023

Tuesday's Devo

May 23, 2023

Big Idea

God's instruction can always be trusted.

Key Verse | Numbers 19:22

"And whatever the unclean person touches shall be unclean, and anyone who touches it shall be unclean until evening."

Numbers 19

Laws for Purification

Now the LORD spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying, “This is the statute of the law that the LORD has commanded: Tell the people of Israel to bring you a red heifer without defect, in which there is no blemish, and on which a yoke has never come. And you shall give it to Eleazar the priest, and it shall be taken outside the camp and slaughtered before him. And Eleazar the priest shall take some of its blood with his finger, and sprinkle some of its blood toward the front of the tent of meeting seven times. And the heifer shall be burned in his sight. Its skin, its flesh, and its blood, with its dung, shall be burned. And the priest shall take cedarwood and hyssop and scarlet yarn, and throw them into the fire burning the heifer. Then the priest shall wash his clothes and bathe his body in water, and afterward he may come into the camp. But the priest shall be unclean until evening. The one who burns the heifer shall wash his clothes in water and bathe his body in water and shall be unclean until evening. And a man who is clean shall gather up the ashes of the heifer and deposit them outside the camp in a clean place. And they shall be kept for the water for impurity for the congregation of the people of Israel; it is a sin offering. 10 And the one who gathers the ashes of the heifer shall wash his clothes and be unclean until evening. And this shall be a perpetual statute for the people of Israel, and for the stranger who sojourns among them.

11 Whoever touches the dead body of any person shall be unclean seven days. 12 He shall cleanse himself with the water on the third day and on the seventh day, and so be clean. But if he does not cleanse himself on the third day and on the seventh day, he will not become clean. 13 Whoever touches a dead person, the body of anyone who has died, and does not cleanse himself, defiles the tabernacle of the LORD, and that person shall be cut off from Israel; because the water for impurity was not thrown on him, he shall be unclean. His uncleanness is still on him.

14 This is the law when someone dies in a tent: everyone who comes into the tent and everyone who is in the tent shall be unclean seven days. 15 And every open vessel that has no cover fastened on it is unclean. 16 Whoever in the open field touches someone who was killed with a sword or who died naturally, or touches a human bone or a grave, shall be unclean seven days. 17 For the unclean they shall take some ashes of the burnt sin offering, and fresh 1 19:17 Hebrew living water shall be added in a vessel. 18 Then a clean person shall take hyssop and dip it in the water and sprinkle it on the tent and on all the furnishings and on the persons who were there and on whoever touched the bone, or the slain or the dead or the grave. 19 And the clean person shall sprinkle it on the unclean on the third day and on the seventh day. Thus on the seventh day he shall cleanse him, and he shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water, and at evening he shall be clean.

20 If the man who is unclean does not cleanse himself, that person shall be cut off from the midst of the assembly, since he has defiled the sanctuary of the LORD. Because the water for impurity has not been thrown on him, he is unclean. 21 And it shall be a statute forever for them. The one who sprinkles the water for impurity shall wash his clothes, and the one who touches the water for impurity shall be unclean until evening. 22 And whatever the unclean person touches shall be unclean, and anyone who touches it shall be unclean until evening.”


[1] 19:17 Hebrew living

S2:097 Numbers 19

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Dive Deeper | Numbers 19

Do you remember in spring 2020 that you quarantined when you found out you had been near someone for 15 minutes who tested positive for COVID? And then people you were recently near would learn that you were quarantining, so they figured they should quarantine, too. Before you knew it, the whole world was sheltered in place for weeks.

We took COVID seriously in 2020, but our Holy God takes impurity even more seriously. Numbers 19 explains that any small encounter with death makes a person unclean AND whatever that person touches becomes unclean, like a never-ending quarantine. He demands that all be made clean before Him, then He supplies a way for that to happen.

If Texas bluebonnets had an Israelite cousin, it might be hyssop. However, if you saw a bunch of hyssop in Moses' time, you wouldn't find families taking Christmas card photos. Instead, you would see priests gathering it for a very specific purpose. As the tenth plague hit Egypt in Exodus 12, the Israelites were instructed to use hyssop to spread the Lamb's blood over their doorposts, saving them from death. Now, in their wanderings, hyssop reappears, this time to purify Israel from death around them. 

Numbers 19:18-19 instructs the clean person to dip hyssop in water and sprinkle it on whatever and whoever touched anything that was dead, so that they can be clean. Hyssop was a temporary method of purification meant to foreshadow the permanent method of purification through the blood of Christ. In fact, fast-forward to when Jesus is on the cross and you'll see that Jesus receives sour wine from a hyssop branch immediately before taking His last breath and declaring, "It is finished" (John 19:28-30).

God saved the Israelites from death in Egypt, purified them from death in the wilderness, and has now set us free from death forever through Christ's life, death, and resurrection!

When the Israelites drew near to the dead, they became unclean. Yet, when Jesus draws near to the spiritually dead, the dead become alive. Our "uncleanness" shouldn't drive us away from Jesus, but directly to Him to be made new! (Hebrews 4:15-16)

This month's memory verse

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

– Philippians 2:3–4

Discussion Questions

1. Has there ever been a season when you felt like you couldn't draw near to God because of your "uncleanness"? How does Jesus' life, death, and resurrection dispel that lie? 

2. Just as the unclean person makes those around them unclean by association, our sin can have an impact on the people around us. Are there ways you are compromising with sin and unintentionally leading others to compromise as well? 

3. Conversely, is there anyone in your close circle who is compromising with sin, tempting you to drift away as a result? How can you help that person make recovery from the sin?

4. What is one area of your life that you can ask God to purify right now?

Respond to Today's Passage

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Hugh Stephenson

Good morning, Tori! Thanks for a thoughtful devo. Love your link to COVID for us and ritual uncleanness for them. I can remember leaving all non-food items outside for two days after we have heavily sprayed the boxes, bags, and cartons. All food was washed very thoroughly. We were focused to near distraction on cleanliness and purity. Personal life was not as easy. I noted more recently that the risk of death was about 1/4 of 1%. And that most deaths were from those whose health was already seriously compromised. Sadly, my former assistant and a longtime client were among them. At a certain level it was a frustrating truth to accept that I could never be fully “clean”. Romans 3:23 says all I need to know about me. I say all this to note your great point that, while perfect biological cleanliness is impossible, Jesus can make me perfectly clean. Permanently. Good trade. Q1. Youth until 55. I heard about salvation and atonement in church for most of my life. I never really took it in until I more fully understood how totally and irredeemable sinful I was. As noted in prior posts, the video on a Good Friday several years ago was powerful for me- Q2. I think I can say that to the degree that this is true it’s somewhat less true the longer I stay focused on God’s Word, live with His people, and claim His spirit that lives in me. That’s about as good as I’ll get this side of Heaven. Q3. I suppose this is always true also. The same heart that keeps me moving as in Q2 helps me here. Decades of sin and its horrific consequences has been a bit of a vaccination to me. Said another way, if I let that movie play, I know how it ends. Q4. Ugh. Gluttony is a coping mechanism for stress. Also, I seem to be “majoring in the minors” in key relationships.

Hugh Stephenson

What I didn’t realize until a few years ago was contrast between the truth that, for these Israelites the touching the dead or other unclean activities made them unclean- but that touching Jesus or having Him touch them made THEM clean. What a great picture of atonement. This summary helps- “Life and death are the two poles of existence inside and outside the Bible. Holiness, God, and life are associated in Scripture, whereas uncleanness, sin, and death also belong together.” The water of impurity was a fascinating element. ...Nerd Alert! More here, And here And here, And here, Cedar or gopher? “Strong wood that represented continuance of life” And scarlet, “strong, vital energy connected to blood”. Lastly, God knew that 7 days was the incubation period for bacteria. How about COVID?

Michael Sisson

Re: Num 19:1-22 “This ritual is considered ‘chok’ within the Jewish tradition, meaning that it defies rational sense. In fact, the Talmud states that of all the taryag mitzvot (613 commandments), this is the only one that wise King Solomon could not fathom. Why was this sacrifice so puzzling to King Solomon and the Jewish sages? Well, the sacrifice of the red cow just doesn't fit the pattern of any of the other sacrifices given in the Torah…. “The Talmud says there were nine red heifers (parot hadumot) offered so far on behalf of the Jewish people, and that a tenth (and final) Red Heifer will be burned by the Mashiach at the time of the rebuilding of the Temple (Mishnah, Parah 3:5). However, these sages clearly did not understand that Yeshua is the fulfillment and substance of this type of sacrifice (Heb 9:11-28). Like the mysterious Red Cow, Yeshua was completely without sin or defect (2Cor 5:21; John 8:46); He was utterly unique (John 1:14,18; Mt 17:5, etc.); He was sacrificed outside the camp (Heb 13:13); He became contaminated by offering Himself as sin for us (2Cor 5:21); His blood was part of the sacrifice (Eph 2:13; Heb 9:14; 1Pet 1:19, etc.); His sprinkling makes us clean (1Pet 1:2; Heb 12:24; Rev 1:5); and the ‘water of separation’ that His sacrifice created is the means by which we are made clean from the impurity of sin and death (Eph 5:25-6; Heb 10:22). “The sages of the Talmud had it partly right.... Yeshua's sacrifice as our ‘Red Heifer’ indeed preceded the ‘rebuilding’ of the Temple (John 2:19) - though this Temple is one made ‘without human hands’ by the power of the Holy Spirit (Mt 26:26-28, 1Cor 12:27, Eph 4:4,11-12, Col 1:24, etc.). The followers of the Messiah are now part of the Temple of His Body (1Cor 3:16, 12:27) and are called ‘living stones’ (1Pet 2:5). The sacrifice of the tenth Red Heifer — Yeshua — instituted a new priesthood after the order of Malki-Tzedek (Heb 5:10; 1Pet 2:5) that replaces the older Levitical priesthood of Aaron (Heb 13:10). Beloved, we have been cleansed from our sins by a better sprinkling than that which the tent of Moses could afford (Mt 26:28; Heb 9:14, 12:24; Eph 1:7; 1Pet 1:2,18-19; Rom 5:9; Col 1:14; 1John 1:7; etc.).” — John Parsons, Hebrew For Christians For a deeper dive into the Red Heifer ceremony and how it points to Yeshua ha Mashiach (Jesus Christ), see the following Hebrew For Christians articles: “Yeshua our Red Heifer” “The Gospel of the Red Cow” In September 2022, five red heifers from Texas met the rabbinic requirements to be used for the sacrifice prescribed in Numbers 19 and were flown to Israel. You can read about that effort here:

Michael Scaman

This would be very hard on an unclean person or someone who dies in a home. It would be very alienating for an unclean person. If someone died everyone in it was unclean , Jesus was touched by an 'unclean woman' and she became clean. Jesus and 3 disciples went into the little girl's home who died. Jesus touched the girl holding her hand and she un-died. Jesus sidestepped the issue of aren't they all unclean now in part saying 'she was asleep" and also a kindness to the little girl who might have been treated oddly for being back from the dead. She had an opportunity to grow up without that stigma. Jesus touch makes clean. Jesus treated each person the right way for that person. On the "not a shiny golden calf" but "an earthy red cow" sacrificed its ashes spread making the earth holy for the tabernacle ad future temple. AKA the "ashes of the red hefer?'. An article by is here The red hefer is here and next to the story of the death of Miriam so redemption and death next to each other and the unusual nature of that law. Not sure what to make of it. I like their sentence "The passage of the red heifer is introduced by saying, “This is the statute of the Torah” (Numbers 19:2). The Hebrew word for statute—chok—implies a commandment beyond human reason. "

Sue Bohlin

Thanks so much, Tori! SUCH a good devo! The Israelites were going to need instruction on how to minimize the impact of so much death in their midst. I did some digging on the numbers of the Israelites who died in the wilderness, and figured that over 40 years, 73 people died every single day. That is a LOT of graves to dig, a lot of bodies to wash, a lot of uncleanness in family and friends exposed to dead bodies. I have no idea what kind of funeral services they conducted with that many people dying every day. The ritual for dealing with uncleanness caused by death, on top of the actual deaths themselves, would have been a continual reminder of the seriousness of unbelief and rebellion.

Tonni Shook

You wrote two very outstanding statements: (1) God demands that all be made clean before Him (but I can’t clean myself up enough to stand before Him) - so He sent Jesus to clean me daily. Love it! (2) when Jesus draws near to the spiritually dead, we come alive! So so good. I’ve had this question before but did no one think about the unclean laws when they took down Jesus from the cross? They didn’t miss a beat when it came to touching His dead body. I guess they knew, those that stayed with Him to the end, the truth of what He’d said.

Amy Lowther

1. Yes, there are seasons where I made a mistake and felt I couldn’t draw near to God. Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection helped me improve, try, and return to God knowing he loves and cares for each of us in everything. 2. No. 3. No.. 4. I would ask for God’s help in closing the job I have nicely and in opening a new job nicely.

Kathy Hempel Cox

Great devo! Thanks for the lesson on hyssop. LOVE learning something new and connecting the dots. Thank you