The Waters of Cleansing
Throughout the Scriptures we read and learn of the importance of water. From the Torah through the prophets and continuing in the Brit Chadasha, there are so many verses about Living Water.
Working backwards from the Brit Chadasha to the Torah, we begin with Yeshua speaking of Himself as The Living Water. In John 4:4-26 Yeshua dialogs with the Samaritan woman by Jacobs Well – how prophetic – where He declares – “…whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” (John 4:14). In John 7:37-39 at the end of Sukkot, He references Himself as the Living Water. In Revelation 7:13-17 ‘have washed their robes and made them white…’ In Revelation 22:1-2 there is a river of the water of life.
The prophets reference water as Living and flowing. Jeremiah 17:13 ‘O Lord, the hope of Israel, all who forsake You will be put to shame. Those who turn away on earth will be written down, because they have forsaken the fountain of living water, even the Lord.’ Zechariah 14:8-9 ‘And in that day living waters will flow out of Jerusalem, half of them toward the eastern sea and the other half toward the western sea; it will be in summer as well as in winter. And the Lord will be king over all the earth; in that day the Lord will be the only one, and His name the only one.’ Psalm 104:10-11 speaks of wild donkeys quenching their thirst: ‘He sends forth springs in the valleys; they flow between the mountains; they give drink to every beast of the field; the wild donkeys quench their thirst.’ He gives water to His chosen people in Isaiah 43:20: ‘The beasts of the field will glorify Me, the jackals and the ostriches, because I have given waters in the wilderness and rivers in the desert, to give drink to My chosen people.’ Nehemiah 9:20 ‘You gave Your good Spirit to instruct them, Your manna You did not withhold from their mouth, and You gave them water for their thirst.’
Unless we read and understand Torah, how would we know why Yeshua even references Himself as water? Let alone living water? Where is He getting that concept?
In this parsha, Chukat there are instructions concerning the cleansing waters. Numbers 19:7-9 ‘Then the priest shall wash his clothes, he shall bathe in water, and afterward he shall come into the camp; the priest shall be unclean until evening. 8 And the one who burns it shall wash his clothes in water, bathe in water, and shall be unclean until evening. 9 Then a man who is clean shall gather up the ashes of the heifer, and store them outside the camp in a clean place; and they shall be kept for the congregation of the children of Israel for the water of purification; it is for purifying from sin.’ Numbers 19:11-13 ‘He who touches the dead body of anyone shall be unclean seven days. 12 He shall purify himself with the water on the third day and on the seventh day; then he will be clean. But if he does not purify himself on the third day and on the seventh day, he will not be clean. 13 Whoever touches the body of anyone who has died, and does not purify himself, defiles the tabernacle of the Lord. That person shall be cut off from Israel. He shall be unclean, because the water of purification was not sprinkled on him; his uncleanness is still on him.’
Are we dead until we live again through the Living Water? James 2:26 ‘For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.’ Are we lacking Living Water out of disobedience? Jeremiah 2:13 ‘For My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and hewn themselves cisterns—broken cisterns that can hold no water.’
Life is associated with water in Scripture and in the world. Cities are built by rivers and ports. Wells are dug and re-dug. Life cannot be sustained without water. Isaiah 12:3 ‘Therefore with joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.’
In Chukat, it was a ritual for the purification of those who had been in contact with or near a dead body. A dead body was the primary source of impurity, and the defilement it caused to the living meant that the person that was affected could not enter the Tabernacle or Temple until cleansed, in a process that lasted seven days. A key element of the purification process involved a Priest sprinkling the affected person on the third and seventh day with a specially prepared liquid known as “the water of cleansing.” First a Red Heifer had to be found: without blemish, and which had never been used to perform work, (meaning a yoke had never been placed on it). It was then ritually killed and burned outside the camp. Cedar wood, hyssop, and scarlet wool were added to the fire, and the ashes were placed in a vessel containing “living” as in fresh water. It was this mixture that was sprinkled on those who had become impure by contact with death. One of the more paradoxical features of the rite is that though it cleansed the impure, yet it rendered impure those who were involved with the preparation of the water of cleansing. How could that be?
We are cleansed by Yeshua: 1 John 1:7 ‘But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Yeshua His Son cleanses us from all sin.’ 1 John 1:9 ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.’ Hebrews 9:22 ‘Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.’ Matthew 26:28 ‘For this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.’ Ephesians 1:7 ‘In Him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace…’
There is another instance of Living Water in this parsha. In Numbers 20:1-13, Moshe is told to speak to the Rock to bring forth water for the people. Two visual errors we see. The first is Numbers 20:10 ‘And Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock; and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels! Must we bring water for you out of this rock?” Who is the ‘we’ in this instance? Did God need his help, or simply require his obedience? The second is Numbers 20:11 ‘Then Moses lifted his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came out abundantly, and the congregation and their animals drank.’ The instructions in Numbers 20:8 was to ‘speak’.
Do we take credit as we live and drink of the Living Water? Are we striking the Rock as we perish in disobedience? To live in the Living Water is to live in loving obedience, neither agreeing or disagreeing with His Word – but simply doing.
In Luke 11:27 a woman cried from the crowd, trying to give accolades and blessings to Miriam. ‘And it happened, as He spoke these things, that a certain woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, “Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You!”
Yet, Yeshua answering back so profoundly said, “More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” Luke 11:28
Chukat / Decree
HafTorah Judges 11:1-33
Brit Chadasha John 3:10-21
Chukat is the title of this parasha, which means statute/decree or ordinance. In the Torah we see different types of laws categorized as judgments, commandment and statutes/chukim (plural for chukat). Statutes are ordinances from God which are perpetually binding. We obey these commands that are in the Torah of God because they have been commanded by God not necessarily because there is always a clear “rational explanation” for doing them, but rather because He ordained them.
This parasha begins with the detailed ritual for the red heifer sacrifice and is called the ‘strange ritual’. The failure for people to understand the truth does not make the truth less true. Clearly, the purpose of this command was to reconcile man back to God after contact with the dead. As believers, we see incredible Messianic symbolism in the red heifer. Even the adjective “red” is highly suggestive by itself:
1. Red - Adom אדם
2. Ground earth ארץ
3. Blood דם
We are reconciled from death to life by Messiah, and we are told to choose life over death. We are from the dust, we must walk in the spirit, we live in the flesh, our blood holds the ‘life’. Our soul will return to the Creator and our flesh will return to the dust/ground. Genesis 2:7 tells us that man, dust at that time, received God’s breath. This is such a profound moment that just reading it in English does not capture all the magnificence of the action. “He breathed into his nostrils a breath of life.” God’s spirit, His Ruach, the Holy Ruach, the Holy Breath, enabled Adam to come to life.
As we continue with Numbers 19:1-9 ‘Now the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, 2 “This is the ordinance of the law which the Lord has commanded, saying: ‘Speak to the children of Israel, that they bring you a red heifer without blemish, in which there is no defect and on which a yoke has never come. 3 You shall give it to Eleazar the priest, that he may take it outside the camp, and it shall be slaughtered before him; 4 and Eleazar the priest shall take some of its blood with his finger, and sprinkle some of its blood seven times directly in front of the tabernacle of meeting. 5 Then the heifer shall be burned in his sight: its hide, its flesh, its blood, and its offal shall be burned. 6 And the priest shall take cedar wood and hyssop and scarlet, and cast them into the midst of the fire burning the heifer. 7 Then the priest shall wash his clothes, he shall bathe in water, and afterward he shall come into the camp; the priest shall be unclean until evening. 8 And the one who burns it shall wash his clothes in water, bathe in water, and shall be unclean until evening. 9 Then a man who is clean shall gather up the ashes of the heifer, and store them outside the camp in a clean place; and they shall be kept for the congregation of the children of Israel for the water of purification; it is for purifying from sin.’
The Waters…The Red Heifer…The Burning…The Ashes
According to biblical law, those who prepare the mixture of the water and ashes must be pure. However, since the impurity caused by exposure to death is so common, it was hard to find someone pure. During Temple era the children of priestly families were raised from birth in special courtyards free of impurity. When the children were old enough, and had remained from impurities, they would ride down to the Siloam Spring on oxen and there at the pure waters the children would draw the water and bring it back to the Holy Temple.
The heifer was brought to the Mount of Olives on a special bridge connecting it to the Temple Mount. It was slaughtered outside the camp, a large assembly, including the Elders of Israel attended. As the animal is consumed by fire the priest added cedar and hyssop which were tied together by a band dyed with scarlet from the ‘shani’ snail.
After the burning the ashes were crushed with long club by the priest. Then the ashes were sifted so that a powered consistency was obtained.
A priest then would pour the water from the Siloam Spring in a tone vessel, into a stone container and add a small amount of ashes from the red heifer.
It is by the blood, the dust, the water and the Life of Yeshua that we might begin to understand the significance of the Red Heifer as we reconcile our life from death to The Creator, Adonai.
Hebrews 9:22 ‘In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.’
Hebrews 13:12 ‘And so Yeshua also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through His own blood.’
Colossians 1:20 ‘…and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.’
Romans 5:14 ‘Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.’
John 4:14 ‘But whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”
Psalm 110:7 ‘He will drink from the brook by the wayside; therefore, He will lift up His head.’
Isaiah 12:3 ‘Therefore you will joyously draw water from the springs of salvation.’
Chukat continues with Moses striking the rock after The LORD specifically commanded him to speak to the rock, Numbers 20:1-13. Moses is denied entry into the land, for not honoring God as holy before the people. We can connect Numbers 20:9-11 with that as Moshe states that he is part of the equation that is able to bring water from the rock. When in fact, it was God and God alone. ‘So Moses took the staff from the Lord’s presence, just as he commanded him. 10 He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” 11 Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.’
In Numbers 21, again The LORD gives the people life sustaining water, Numbers 21:17-18 ‘Then Israel sang this song: “Spring up, O well! Sing about it, about the well that the princes dug, that the nobles of the people sang—the nobles with scepters and staffs.” Numbers 21 continues with Israel conquering the Amorites and the surrounding settlements.
Chukat ends with Numbers 22:1 ‘Then the Israelites traveled to the plains of Moab and camped along the Jordan across from Jericho.’
We may not understand the purpose of the red heifer, but what we do know is that we follow the commands of Adonai to the best of our ability.
Chukat / Decrees
Torah Portion Numbers 19:1-22:1
HafTorah Judges 11:1-33
Brit Chadasha Matthew 21:1-17
The Red Heifer and The Rock…
Chukat begins with the ordinances for the sin offering of the red heifer, which is called the strange ritual. Unlike most sin offerings, the red heifer was to be female, not male. This can allude to the offering of ‘giving’. The purpose of the sin offering of the red heifer was to cleanse/make pure those who had come into contact to death: a metaphor of great proportions – to reconcile man back to God.
The ashes of the red heifer are to be gathered by the clean/pure, to be contained in a clean place, to use in water for cleansing for the purification of sin. The rites of the red heifer make the impure pure and the water is for the cleansing, the purification of sin.
Moses is once again faced with a grumbling congregation for there is no water. They gathered against Moshe, blaming him for their exit from Egypt only to be brought to the wilderness to die. Moses and Aaron fall on their faces before God and He commands Moses to speak to the rock, to bring forth water for the congregation. We know the story; Moses can’t control himself and strikes the rock.
Numbers 20:10-12 “Hear now, you rebels! Must we bring water for you out of this rock?” 11 Then Moses lifted his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came out abundantly, and the congregation and their animals drank. 12 Then the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe Me, to hallow Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.”
Is there a connection between the ritual of the red heifer and the rock? The red heifer was to give life, making the impure pure and reconcile back to God. The Rock is the solidarity of God and water is the living substance.
John 10:10-11 “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. 11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.”
John 14:6 “Yeshua said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
1 John 1:7 ‘But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Yeshua His Son cleanses us from all sin.
Hebrews 9:14 ‘How much more will the blood of Messiah, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.’
Isaiah 48:21 ‘And they did not thirst when He led them through the deserts; He caused the waters to flow from the rock for them; He also split the rock, and the waters gushed out.’
1 Corinthians 10:2-4 ‘…all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Messiah.
Isaiah 8:14 ‘Then He shall become a sanctuary; but to both the houses of Israel, a stone to strike and a rock to stumble over, and a snare and a trap for the inhabitants of Jerusalem.’
Matthew 21:42 ‘Yeshua said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures, ‘The stone which the builders rejected, this became the chief corner stone; this came about from the Lord, and it is marvelous in our eyes?’
Matthew 7:24-25 ‘Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: 25 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.’
The Pure Water~
Ephesians 5:26 ‘That He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word…’
John 4:13-14 “Yeshua answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
John 7:37-38 ‘On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. 38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”
Revelation 22:17 “The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” Let the one who hears say, “Come!” And let the one who is thirsty come, and the one who desires the water of life drink freely.”
Numbers 20:12 states the consequences for Moses striking the rock ‘Then the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe Me, to hallow Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.”
Cleanses, pure, purified, water, rock and life; everything connects. As Moses, do we ever strike The Rock in our unbelief or rebellion? God said to Moses ‘Because you did not believe Me to hallow (make holy/kadosh) Me… referencing that Moses made (tried to make) God common. We can never make God common, but by our unbelief and rebellion we make ourselves common and impure. We defile ourselves.
1 John 3:4 states ‘Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness (torahlessness); and sin is lawlessness (torahlessness).
We strike The Rock when we don’t understand the concept of Yeshua as ‘with God’ Elohim in the beginning, with creation, and the Creator of Shabbat and the author of The Torah. When we deviate from the totality of The Word, we strike The Rock, as if to say, ‘I am angry, I will not hallow You. I will do things my way.’
Psalm 98:2 ‘Adonai has made His salvation know.’
Chukat / Statute
In Chukat we learn a valuable yet somewhat obscure lesson regarding striking the rock verses speaking to the rock, and about Moses; the faithful shepherd. He has led the Israelites for forty years and is told that he will not live to cross the Jordan to enter the promised land and although the consensus seems to tie the sin of Moses’ to striking the rock verses speaking to the rock, there are so many variables and opinions.
Almost forty years have passed since the exodus and most of the generation who remembered Egypt have died as has Miriam. The Israelites are close to the Promised Land, in their new camp, however without water. So, they default and complain in Numbers 20. “If only we had perished when our brothers perished in the presence of the Lord. Why have you brought the assembly of the Lord into this wilderness for us and our livestock to die? Why did you take us up from Egypt to bring us to this vile place, where nothing grows, not corn or figs, not vines or pomegranates? There is not even any water to drink.” This is all too familiar, as they whine to die – again - and Moses and Aaron fall on their faces before the Lord as if to say, ‘We’ve had it!’
God commands Moshe to speak to the rock, Moses strikes the rock instead right after he rebukes the Israelites. Can’t you just hear it?
Numbers 20:7-12 ‘Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 8 “Take the rod; you and your brother Aaron gather the congregation together. Speak to the rock before their eyes, and it will yield its water; thus you shall bring water for them out of the rock, and give drink to the congregation and their animals.” 9 So Moses took the rod from before the Lord as He commanded him. 10 And Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock; and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels! Must we bring water for you out of this rock?” 11 Then Moses lifted his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came out abundantly, and the congregation and their animals drank.’
Immediately, the consequence is given: ‘12 Then the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe Me, to hallow Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.”
Was Moses simply carrying out the previous command in Exodus 17:6 where God does command him to ‘strike the rock?’ Or was he overcome with irritation? What was the reason behind the two different instructions, to strike then to speak?
One tradition teaches that the previous generation was slaves; they had to be taught everything, especially taught to leave a slave mentality. But the other generation, were born free in the wilderness. He was facing a new generation. One set of people needed a leader, the latter needed a teacher. The people he confronted the first time were those who had spent much of their lives as slaves in Egypt. Those he now faced were born in freedom in the wilderness. They were now responsible for their actions. They ‘knew’.
Is this not so unlike our conquest in life? We are in bondage, slaves of an Egypt system. We murmur, we grumble, and we complain; ‘there is no water!’ We have to be led out of Egypt, as if we were slaves. We are given the Living Water, and we surrender to God. We are now responsible to learn, to grow and to change. We are not to strike The Rock anymore, for we have already been giving a taste of The Living Water which has sustained us. Yet, still we murmur. But we know what the Living Water is, and now it is our sole responsibility to keep growing. So, we ‘speak’ to The Rock which contains the Living Water.
1 Corinthians 10:1-4 ‘For I want you to know, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.’
Psalm 114:7-8 ‘Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob, who turns the rock into a pool of water, the flint into a spring of water.’
John 4:9-14 ‘Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. 10 Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water? 12 Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?” 13 Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”
Do we strike the rock? Or do we speak to The Rock?
Blessings~ Rabbi Jay