Discovering Spiritual Truths & Celebrating God's Grace in the Every Day Happenings of Life.
Ash Wednesday is a good day to remember that, even in ashes, is hidden the spark of life.
In the Old Testament, if someone touched a corpse, they became ritually unclean. God’s solution to this problem? Holy ashes. A priest slaughtered a red heifer, sprinkled its blood toward the Lord’s altar, and burned its body, along with cedar, hyssop, and scarlet (Number 19). This strange gray cocktail was kept in ready supply. When a person had touched death, the concoction was mixed with water and sprinkled on them. The ashes of this heifer preached the gospel of Christ’s sacrifice to come. God lit within these ashes the fire of a promise: whoever they touched, that person became clean. They could step into the Lord’s sanctuary. Stand before his altar. Worship him as those whose bodies had been purified.
This was one of the Father’s many ways of telling the pre-story of his Son. Before Christ was born, God gave his people sacrifices and rituals that bore within them a story: the narrative of what Jesus would do to fulfill all things. They were imperfect portrayals of the sacrifice to come. Black and white pictures awaiting the color only the Messiah could fill in. Hebrews says, “If the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled, sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ…cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God,” (9:14).
How much more, indeed. If heifer ashes cleansed the body, how much more will Christ’s blood cleanse you inside and out? The ashes of a red heifer foreshadowed the red blood of the Lamb of God. If those ashes enabled you to stand before the Lord’s altar pure and undefiled, how much more will Christ’s blood enable you to enter the Holy of Holies itself? The ashes of a heifer preached the gospel of Christ’s sacrifice to come. The purification they provided for the body pointed to the complete purification the cross would provide for our bodies and souls made unclean by sin and death. So today, and as you worship with us here tonight, bring the memory of the red heifer with you to church. As the ash markings are placed on your forehead, remember that you are ashes, to be sure, but remember too that God once provided ashes full of the fire of grace. The promise of something better to come. The promise of blood that would, once for all, bury death in its own grave. The ashes of a red heifer foreshadowed the red blood of the Lamb of God. Even today, the ashes are not just blotched upon us; they are intentionally placed in the symbol of Christ’s cross and the promises of His grace.
(Devotion from Chad Bird, 2.25.17)
Pastor Steve Vera