A man who is clean shall gather up the ashes of the heifer and put them in a ceremonially clean place outside the camp. They are to be kept by the Israelite community for use in the water of cleansing; it is for purification from sin. – Numbers 19:9
This passage is one of the first I can remember where water is associated with the forgiveness, or purification, from sin. There is much discussion about being made clean and cleaning with water in leviticus, but this is the first specific mention of its ability to purify us from sin. I am not sure that purify is the same as forgiveness, but it is close.
The mixture of ashes and water to make the water of cleansing is vaguely reminiscent of Jesus making a paste of saliva and mud to heal the blind man (John 9:6-7). It is interesting that the water used in Jesus’ healing was actually his saliva, condensate of God. What does this look like for us today? How can we accept the water’s of purification that God through Jesus still offers?
The Catholic church has Holy Water which is used for healing I believe, but I am not sure that one requires Holy Water to assist in healing or conveying God’s grace to someone who needs healing (physical or spiritual). I don’t think we need to find and burn a cow so that we can use the ashes to make water for cleansing. The practice of confession has been used by some to serve the same purpose as the cleansing water. The elements of communion are in a sense cleansing. As we take the bread and drink the cup we are accepting the sacrifice Jesus made for us for the forgiveness of sins.
It seems like there is something else here though. How many of us feel like we are still sinners even after we have been made clean by accepting Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins? How often do we mess up and feel like we have disappointed God? How do we receive the “cleansing water” that is offered by Jesus for the purification from sin? Maybe the answer lies in not expecting or pretending to be “clean” all the time. Perhaps simply acknowledging that we need the “cleansing water” of God daily is enough.
Prayer: God help me to seek, and accept, your cleansing water daily.