Almost All Things
Michael Browne, Bath, England [SEE PROFILE BELOW]
It is an established principle throughout God's Word that "without shedding of blood is no remission". The truth of blood-shedding is dyed deep into the fabric of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation, from the blood shed typically in Eden, Gen. 3. 21, to the blood shed antitypically at Calvary. That the blood of Christ had to be shed for the remission of sins is an ineradicable New Testament fact of God's highest revelation. This means that the implications of the word "almost" in Hebrews 9. 22, "And almost all things are by the law purged with blood", can only refer to a few lesser known types. These are not usually taken up in ministry: indeed, the Spirit of God has not elaborated upon them where mentioned in Hebrews 9, intimating they are subsidiary to the argument in that place and brought in mainly for the sake of absolute accuracy. They are brought in however, and having been mentioned the spiritually inquisitive mind will pursue them further, and in so doing not only familiarize itself more with God's holy Word, but discover new facets of God's grace which will refresh the heart and quicken the tongue in praise. The types of the Old Testament suggested by the phrase "almost all things" are as follows.
1. Fine-flour used as an Atonement for Sin, Lev. 5. 11-13. The significance of this special offering seems to be this. The fine-flour as a sin offering was a gracious provision by Jehovah enabling the very poorest of the people, who could not even afford two cheap birds, to bring an atoning sacrifice to the Lord. Thus their souls would be purged, and their troubled minds quietened from the guilt of sin. Sin-purging must be available to all the people, to the desperately poor as well as to the affluent, for sin's ravages and guilt would be felt throughout all society. All levels of society therefore must have a means of atonement to purge away the guilt of their sin.
It is important here to see what it does not signify. Today, some apply it to a deeper or shallower appreciation of the scope and value of the death of Christ, but the writer cannot, as some have taught, believe these various grades within the offerings had anything to do originally, in the mind of Jehovah, with lack of heart-appreciation of the offerer's need; to an imperfect apprehension of the worth of the offering; and of the deep love that provided a means of atonement. This would be a sort of spiritual spiral down from a high conception of God and His provision in grace (the more expensive and larger offerings), to a low appreciation of the value and character of the atonement (the turtledoves, pigeons, and fineflour offerings). This teaching denies that the fine-flour sin-offering has as equal a value with God as does the more expensive kid or lamb. It says, in effect, that God would much rather have the more expensive offering as such, with its deeper (?) spiritual appreciation of all that is involved: but that He will, in His mercy, still accept the sinner in spite of blurred views both of sin and its sacrifice as seen, supposedly, in the poverty of the lesser offering! This then makes personal spiritual intelligence and sensitiveness, and with it the deeper manifestation of contrition, depend upon one's wealth. The measure of my repentance and spirituality, and therefore, by extension, well-being of soul, would be the measure of my material treasure! And conversely, lack of economic means would be indicative not only of material, but also spiritual poverty! One has only to set such a notion down in lucid black and white to see the fallacy of this line of argument.
In fact the Scriptures teach quite the reverse, and show that poverty is never a hindrance to spirituality. It is the God-dependent poor who are blessed, Luke 6. 20, and satisfied, 1. 53; and the rich, in his affluence and proud independence, who is sent empty away. Plus the fact that the poor man here, who could only afford a handful of fine-flour as an offering for his sin, was already under the power of the blood sacrificed and applied for him as a unit within the nation, by Aaron on the day of atonement. He understood perfectly therefore the value and extent of Jehovah's requirements and provision in atonement.
But there is an application of this offering which has a lesson for us today. The fine-flour, so white, so smooth and even, which was burnt upon the altar, reminds us of the unsullied, perfect and balanced life of obedience lived by Christ upon earth, and then devoted to God in death. The absence of the oil and frankincense, cf. Lev. 2.1, presents that death as being, symbolically, a forsaken death, a bitter death. For Christ was supremely alone, no comfort of the Spirit (the oil) sustained Him when enduring God's wrath against man's sin, Matt. 27. 46.; And there was no fragrance (the frankincense) for God in it, for this is that aspect of Christ's death that shows Him as being made sin, and an Object therefore of indignation and anger by high heaven, 2 Cor. 5. 21', Psa. 22. 6, 15b.
The lesson learned is that sin makes that which was fragrant, bitter; and that which was nigh, cast off. What a solemn lesson for us today not to tamper again with sin, knowing, as we do, what our sin meant for the Saviour.
2. Incense Used as an Atonement for Sin, Num. 16.46. The murmuring and threatening accusations of the Israelites against Moses and Aaron after the judgment of God upon Koran's rebellion, v. 41, drew an immediate chastisement from the Lord. Their murmuring was an insurrection against the just penalty of God against evil, and showed the root of Korah's sin had not been completely eradicated from the congregation. Their sympathy lay with the rebels, and not with the governorship and priesthood of God represented in Moses and Aaron.
A virulent plague began to decimate the people. Moses, with spiritual insight, discerned instantly that this plague could only be atoned for by the swift and immediate intervention of the high priest using incense. There was no time for the ritual slaying and arrangement on the altar of an animal sacrifice to make an atonement by blood. Aaron must take his fire-filled censer, and make an atonement with incense. As the fragrant cloud of smoke arose from the burning incense in the high priest's censer, an atonement was made. The cloud came between the dead and the living, and the pestilence was halted. What a striking picture of Christ's fragrant offering upon the cross - for the fire that consumed the incense was taken from the altar of burnt-offering, v. 46 - blotting out the plague of our sin before God, cf. Isa. 44. 22. His fragrance arose from the fire of judgment whereby we are covered (the essential thought in atonement), and accepted in the sweetness of His offering, "accepted in the beloved", Eph. 1. 6; rebels now made nigh.
3. Ashes Mixed with Water for the Purging of Sin,
Num. 19.9. The application of these ashes of the red heifer as a "water of separation" or a "water for impurity" (r.v. marg.), for the removal of sin was, properly speaking, a sin-offering for it was slaughtered "without the camp", v. 3. It was God's provision for the removal of ceremonial impurity caused by contact with a human corpse as His redeemed people passed through the wilderness. He did this, not by a fresh application of sacrificial blood, but by the washing of water in which the ashes of a dead sacrifice had been mixed; that is, by a memorial symbol of blood already shed. Its counterpart in the New Testament is the application, by the Holy Spirit ("living waters" v. 17 marg.), of the cross-work of Christ to our consciences through the Word, bringing us to repentance and confession whenever we have touched, as it were, the dead thing and sinned, Eph. 5. 26; 1 John 1. 7, 9. It answers to the feet-washing of John 13. 10, and the restoration of communion with the Father (broken because of some sin in the believer's life leading him into a state of spiritual defilement) as a result of the advocacy of Jesus Christ the Righteous One, 1 John 2. 1-2.
4. Fire, Num. 31. 22-24. After the slaughter of the Midianites and the false prophet Balaam, before the men of war could return into the camp, all the spoil taken from the ungodly enemy had to pass through the fire to make it clean or render it ceremonially pure. This was in addition to the "water of separation" which, as we have seen from the previous paragraph, was a sin-offering. So with our spiritual warfare today, 2 Cor. 10. 4-5, before we "come into the camp" so to speak, and enjoy our eternal "rest" from conflict, Heb. 4. 9, bearing with us the spoils of battle won in this world, 2 Tim. 4. 7-8; Rev. 19. 8, there will be the trial by fire of all our works. Whatever we count as victory and the trophies of spiritual combat, must first pass through the fire of God's testing, 1 Cor. 3. 12-15. Only that which can bear the pure flame of His scrutiny will be retained, Heb. 12. 28-29.
5. Jewels of Gold, Num. 31. 50-54. Gold ornaments, taken in battle and devoted to the Lord as an oblation, are here used to make an atonement for their souls. It was in the nature of a thank-offering to Jehovah who protected them in the battle so that not one man was lost, v. 49. This offering of gold was then laid up as a permanent memorial for the children of Israel in the tabernacle. In this way the house of God was further enriched with gold - as it had been previously by silver, Exod. 30. 16 - the most precious of metals and a fit symbol of the glory of deity. We see in this incident as applied to our situation today, the special work of God in preserving us, by His power, through our wilderness conflict upon earth. So we offer back to Him the precious spoils of our warfare: the gold of our experience gained in victorious action, now changed into praise and worship, a continual memorial of His goodness in the house of God down here. Then, when the last trump has sounded and the "good fight" ends in final triumph with the enemy utterly despoiled, not one soldier-saint will be missing from the Lord's army when the roll is called up yonder! And the golden memorial of all His preserving care will be enshrined forever in the "true tabernacle" on high, Heb. 8. 2, in the Person of the Sovereign Son who brought the many sons to glory.
In addition to these five clear examples, some include the consecration of Israel at Sinai by water, Exod. 19. 10,14, and the washings of Leviticus 15. 5; 16. 26, 28; 22. 6. The case for the various washings is weak however, because it does not involve atonement for sin usually purged by blood as above. These five examples are special cases, and, being types, do not affect the great, rock-firm principle of the work of Christ that "without shedding of blood is no remission".
AUTHOR PROFILE: Michael is in fellowship in Manvers Hall, Bath, where he serves as an elder. He worked as a missionary in Hong Kong for thirteen years and since 1972 has had an itinerant Bible teaching and gospel ministry labouring in many parts of the world.