In this section different forms of defilement are mentioned. The first is by a death in a tent. A tent represents the private sphere, what is happening in our house. Death can suddenly enter there. This can happen, for example, by a manifestation of the flesh in something that is said or done. We sometimes say or do things there that are heard and seen by our wife or our children and that negatively influence them. Or we bring things into the house like magazines, books, television, internet, where we can distinguish what defiles, but our children can’t.
A tent can also be applied at a local church. Here too, death can enter suddenly through the manifestation of the flesh in something that is said or done. All are defiled by it.
An open vessel is open to defilement. If death has entered, in whatever form, open vessels will be affected. As examples in the application of open vessels we can think of children, young converts, weak believers, who are all receptive to the wrong.
The field looks at the public sphere, our activities in the world. Killed with the sword points to violence. This spirit of violence can also sometimes characterize us. Think of violent language. This language defiles us. If we react aggressively, we have touched a corpse or something like it.
The bones of a human being, a bone, represents something that reminds us of the distance of death. It is the picture of a generally accepted behavior, in which the thought of the sin has completely disappeared into the background. A lie for good must be possible, the figures must be filled in slightly differently to give a rosier picture than the reality is, we should not make a big deal of doing that.
Without being guilty ourselves of using dirty or violent language, we can also hear language that defiles us. We can also simply end up in a way of thinking that we no longer realize it is connected with death. In both cases we have to cleans ourselves. We must engage with the Lord Jesus and His work by reading God’s Word. Then we will see wherein we have defiled ourselves, confess our sin and receive the certainty of forgiveness. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1Jn 1:99If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.).
The touching of a grave also defiles. A grave can look beautiful, but inside it is dead and cold. The Lord Jesus thus describes the Pharisees (Mt 23:2727“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.). In each of us there is a Pharisee. We can easily pretend to be more beautiful than we are. We use flattering language when we speak to someone, but in our hearts we wish that person all but. If we recognize this, we must be cleansed.
Sometimes we come into contact with such people without knowing it. Then we will be defiled and we need to be cleansed. In practical terms, this is only possible if we become aware of it. It may be that we don’t immediately realize it, but we still feel that something is not right in what we have heard or seen. Therefore it is good to say it with David and to pray: “Who can discern [his] errors? Acquit me of hidden [faults]“ (Psa 19:1212Who can discern [his] errors? Acquit me of hidden [faults].
For cleansing, the ashes from the burned heifer has to be taken. The ashes must be put in a vessel. Then flowing water must be poured onto it. This suggests the following in the picture. The Spirit of God applies the suffering of Christ to the soul through the living Word of God. In this way the soul regains the certainty that sin and all that is of the old man and the world has been disposed of through the atoning death of Christ.
A clean man must apply the water. This is a picture of us as brothers and sisters helping each other to apply this water. To be able to help others, there must be no sin in our lives. We cannot always solve impurity in our lives ourselves. Sometimes it is desired, sometimes even commanded, to confess the sin to others (Jam 5:1616Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.). It is a privilege to benefit from the spiritual service of others.
Whoever refuses to let this water sprinkle on him, whoever does not ask for it, remains unclean and shall be cut off from the midst of the assembly (verse 2020‘But the man who is unclean and does not purify himself from uncleanness, that person shall be cut off from the midst of the assembly, because he has defiled the sanctuary of the LORD; the water for impurity has not been sprinkled on him, he is unclean.). Every sin, even the slightest sin, from which we do not let (or allow) to be cleansed, will lead us to destruction. On the way to destruction we will also drag others along. Hence, a person who does not repent of sin must be removed from among the church (1Cor 5:13b13But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.). It is not sin that becomes fatal to us, but the failure to apply the means of cleansing that God has given us.
The clean man is not better. He must use hyssop to apply the water (cf. Exo 12:2222You shall take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood which is in the basin, and apply some of the blood that is in the basin to the lintel and the two doorposts; and none of you shall go outside the door of his house until morning.). This means that he must deal with the unclean in humility, “in a spirit of gentleness” (Gal 6:11Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; [each one] looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.). David asks for such a man (Psa 51:77Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
). The flowing or living water, the Word of God, and the ashes, the proof that the sacrifice has been consumed, are the means of cleansing and not the knowledge or insight of the clean man. The clean man must know the Word of God to use the right text and he must know the work of the Lord Jesus to point out the right aspect.
The water must also be applied to the tent and all who are in it. If there has been defilement, everyone consciously or unconsciously involved must also be brought under the power of the purification water. Let us be glad when someone comes with the Word of God and presents to us the ashes of the red heifer, that is to say, the complete consuming of the Lord Jesus for sin, so that we may be cleansed from attached defilement.
The clean man should also cleanse himself. To help others to confess, to hear the sins of others, defiles. Any contact with sin and what is necessary to cleanse it makes one unclean. Therefore he must wash his clothes, that is, he must place his conduct in the light of God’s Word, so that nothing of the sin with which he had to occupy himself will attach to him.