For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. – Hebrews 9:13-14
Reading this chapter you may wonder, what does it mean? The first part of the chapter deals with the slaughter of a heifer. This is not to be confused with the regular sacrifices as recorded in the first chapters of Leviticus. In the sacrifice of this heifer, the involvement of the priest is minimal. There is also no transfer of guilt. The heifer had to be sacrificed in order to get ashes. An added interesting detail is that being part of this sacrifice made a person unclean, unlike many of the other sacrifices. It reminded the people of the power of defilement.
The chapter then describes situations in which the ashes had to be used, namely to cleanse someone who had come in contact with death. Death is the result of sin. At the same time, death is a reality in life. In chapter 17, we read that 15,000 people had died. They needed to be buried. That means the need for cleansing was acute. The LORD provides a way to purify from the defilement of sin.
These ceremonies remind us of the destructive and pervasive power of sin. Sin defiles. The good news is that the LORD provides a way out so that we can serve Him. The Letter to the Hebrews brings this out. The ashes of an animal purified people, how much more will the blood of Christ purify us from dead works to serve the living God. He offered Himself without blemish to God.
Suggestions for prayer
Thank the LORD for providing purification from dead works to serve Him. Pray for His grace that we may offer ourselves as living sacrifices of thankfulness to Him.
This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Douwe G. J. Agema is currently minister of Living Word Canadian Reformed Church in Guelph and also teaches several courses at Covenant Canadian Reformed Teachers’ College.