Death is a sad occasion in anyone’s life, and God understands that people need to grieve the loss of loved ones. God also wants to make sure death happens as little as possible, which is why He gave laws about cleaning yourself after you touch a dead carcass.
Verses 1-9: The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying: This is a statute of the law that the Lord has commanded: Tell the Israelites to bring you a red heifer without defect, in which there is no blemish and on which no yoke has been laid. You shall give it to the priest Eleazar, and it shall be taken outside the camp and slaughtered in his presence. … Then the heifer shall be burned in his sight; its skin, its flesh, and its blood, with its dung, shall be burned. The priest shall take cedarwood, hyssop, and crimson material, and throw them into the fire in which the heifer is burning. … Then someone 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 congregation of the Israelites for the water for cleansing. It is a purification offering.
Verses 11-13: Those who touch the dead body of any human being shall be unclean seven days. They shall purify themselves with the water on the third day and on the seventh day, and so be clean; but if they do not purify themselves on the third day and on the seventh day, they will not become clean. All who touch a corpse, the body of a human being who has died, and do not purify themselves, defile the tabernacle of the Lord; such persons shall be cut off from Israel. Since water for cleansing was not dashed on them, they remain unclean; their uncleanness is still on them.
To read more about God’s sanitation laws, read the whole chapter by clicking here: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Numbers%2019&version=NRSV
I’m amazed at how God’s sanitation laws always have spiritual lessons in them. At first, it seems harsh for God to say that those who don’t get “dashed” wish the cleansing ashy water will be cut off from Israel, but when I think about it, God seems to be illustrating a timeless lesson. When someone touched dead corpse, they had to be cleansed, or else cut off from Israel. Death is a result of sin. Sin is lethal and deadly. When we sin, we also must be cleansed. However, we must choose to be cleansed. If we don’t choose cleansing, we will be cut off from the joys of our Promised Land. I’m thankful that God gives us more than 3 and 7 days to decide, but maybe you and I should choose now to be cleansed. The longer dirt stays on someone, the harder it is to clean it off.
I think David must have been thinking a little about this chapter (or process) when he wrote Psalm 51. It’s possible he had to be cleansed with the ashy water, because his baby had just died. If you read the entire chapter, you know that even the hyssop was used in this sanitation process for cleansing! Read these verses from the inspiring song and see if you don’t agree:
Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
(Verses 2 and 7)
Lord, please create a new heart inside of me. Please cleanse me from all unrighteousness so that I may proclaim the praises of You—the One who has called me out of darkness into Your marvelous light.
Timmy Baze 😀
Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.