There are very few things which so clearly demonstrate God’s hatred sin as the sacrifice of the Red Heifer. For example, this is a blood sacrifice which was made – not for the wicked – but for professing believers. This came after all the sin offerings, trespass offerings, the Passover and so on. The Lord still hates our sins, even after the atonement. The Red Heifer still bears the general characteristics of all sacrifices. There was the fact that a beautiful animal had to die for the sins of wretched men. Here was an animal which in no way had ever sinned against its Creator, and yet it was killed. Death is a result of sin, but this death had a special relationship to that sin. This was a vicarious death – a substitutionary death made on behalf of the sinner. “Without the shedding of blood there is no redemption” and deliverance from sin. But when God has ordained a substitution, if the criteria is met a switch can be made. This sacrifice was so horrific that it rendered everyone involved unfit further worship. The priest and all his helpers became unclean by offering this sacrifice. It was spiritually radio-active, and these people could not serve the Lord for the rest of the day, even though what they were doing was ordained and commanded by God Himself. God hates our sins. And among other things, all of this was done outside the tabernacle and outside camp. It was so horrendous and disgusting that it couldn’t be performed in the midst of general society. This was no superficial, smile on the face, lack-luster everyday sacrifice. This was a once in a lifetime – once in a generation – once in a hundred years offering to God. And it carried a spiritual stench that set it apart from nearly all others.
The Book of Hebrews clearly teaches that all Old Testament sacrifices were pictures of Christ Jesus. But there is one aspect of this special offering which I’d like to pursue this morning. Both the Red Heifer and the Lord Jesus were slain “outside” or “without the camp.”
I hope that no one is confused by that word “without.” I can just imagine one of those “it don’t take no education to preach the Bible” sort of preachers. He stands before his tiny stunted church saying, “Jesus died without the help of anyone in the camp. He died without the company of His church and without friends. He died without comfort and without the prayers of others.” While these things may be true in part, they have nothing to do with this text. “Without the camp” simply means that Jesus died outside the camp of Israel, outside of the city gate.
May God remind us of something here this morning.
May we see that Jesus suffered death as a REJECTED SPECTACLE – a CURIOSITY.
Did you ever study or read accounts about the French Revolution? If nothing more did you read “A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens? Many people, some of whom were guilty of nothing but not being poor, were taken from the Bastille prison in carts in the midst of soldiers and dignitaries. The whole atmosphere was one of gaiety and festivity – it was a parade with the streets lined with jeering and cheering crowds. And where was the guillotine was placed? In a public square with room for hundreds of spectators. Earlier during the Inquisition those who were called “heretics” were often executed…. publicly. Even in the wild, wild west, the gallows was commonly placed in the most conspicuous place in town. The execution of criminals was, for centuries, public, free and even festive. And, of course, one of the purposes was to discourage others from following that same path. Yes, despite its cost, I do believe in capital punishment; it is a proven deterrent to crime.
Admittedly, Christ Jesus wasn’t crucified in Central Park in downtown Jerusalem. But that may have been only because there wasn’t a Central Park. What they had was just as good – and perhaps even more dramatic. Those Romans didn’t want other troublemakers like Jesus, so they made a spectacle of His death. The soldiers beat our Redeemer and placed cross across His back, marching Him outside the city. There was essentially a parade, likely with drums, marching soldiers, flags and lots of noise. If they had been available, there probably would have been floats, bands and colorful balloons. Despite being outside the city, the Romans wanted everyone to be aware of this crucifixion. Then the cross was raised on a prominent hill, not far from a major road. The truth is – some of the prophetic significance would have been lost if Christ had been executed in the square directly before the palace of the Governor.
Despite the staring eyes and multitudes of witnesses, Jesus didn’t die as a martyr. That is what a great many heretics think. The Saviour was not example, showing us how to die, but rather He was a sacrifice that we might live. The lesson of the cross is not morality or courage, but God’s hatred of sin. But actually the lesson of the cross is not as important as the direct result of the cross. Sadly there are many who learn the lessons of Calvary, but who don’t reap the blessings of Calvary. Christ could have died completely alone in the basement of the Fortress of Antonia. He could have been beheaded in the public square, or drowned as so many of our Baptist forefathers. But there was a specific, prophesied way in which He was to die, just as this Red Heifer had his specific method of sacrifice. Jesus died as a substitute for the sins of many – not as an example to many. He “bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness.” He didn’t bare HIS sins on the cross, to show us how we ought to bear our sins. He carried MY sin in Himself, just as the Red Heifer or the Goat of Atonement carried sins away sin. There were many things involved which controlled the way in which Jesus died, and one of them was that He must die “without the camp.”
Oh, how I wish that we could learn how repulsive, awful, terrible and loathsome sin is to God. I’m afraid that we are too sinful to even recognize the sinfulness of sin. The Lord is too holy even to look upon iniquity. Not only does the Bible make that declaration, but we see it illustrated in the darkness that surrounded last hours of the crucifixion. And the bearer of our sins carried them outside the camp of Israel. Like the Red Heifer, His remains were disposed outside the camp. Don’t think for a moment that you can carry your wretchedness into the presence Lord. You haven’t the slightest promise of glory if you don’t hate sin as God does. Paul says, “Follow …holiness, without which no man shall see God.”
What special group of people were usually found outside the gates of those Jewish cities? There were no 10 acre estate homes out there with white fences and thoroughbred horses. Outside the camp was where the lepers lived – in poverty, filth and living death. And why were those lepers forced outside the camp? It was not strictly as a medical quarantine, because leprosy is not highly contagious. There are hundreds of diseases more contagious and dangerous than leprosy. This disease was selected by God as the outward, visible sign of inner spiritual corruption. It began simply, but spread – disfiguring, dissolving, degrading and defiling… As it progressed, it was a good social picture of the effect of sin – spiritually.
Christ died out there where the sinners were, for that is why He came to this earth. “They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick.” Jesus said “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Be of good cheer Mr. leper, Christ died without the camp, just like you. In other words there is no one – NO ONE – too wicked, too odious, too sinful for Christ. He took the despised tax-collector and adulteress, murderer and thief. The rich and famous, as well as leprous and filthy, must all meet Christ at same place. The church may not let the leper in, but Jesus came out to where he lived. He too was “despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” Those could have easily been the words of the leper rather than Jesus. He understands the needs of the sinner; of us here this morning. I am of the conviction that if the Lord burdens you enough to seek His salvation, He will meet your need. And it does not not matter who you are and what your outward sins might include. If you murdered an unborn child, Christ can forgive you;. If you are a repenting homosexual, Christ can give you eternal life. If you are a drunkard or addicted to cocaine, there is a Saviour outside the camp with you. But…. it must be a desire for God’s salvation – not your idea of what God’s salvation is.
In that Christ died without the camp where the lepers live, we all have grounds for rejoicing.
At the same time it needs to remembered that Jesus is STILL OUTSIDE the camp so-to-speak.
Notice the verb tense of verse 13 – “Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach.” The suggestion of the scripture is that He is still out there. Christ Jesus is not a part of the establishment.
If you look every day of your life and search every church that you find, you will not find within any of them the perfect Christian. “Paul, has the Lord been 100% satisfied with your life? How about 80%?” No, “the good that I would I do not and the evil which I would not that I do.” “What about you Peter? Pastor James?” They would give the same answer. Do you ever feel that Heaven has left the phone off the hook when you call? Does your heart ever say, “You call this a Christian life? You’ve got to be kidding.” Does the tempter ever whisper, “You can’t possibly be a child of God.” Do you as a brother or sister in Christ find leprosy growing in your soul once again? It happened to Miriam, the sister of Moses – she sinned and God smote her. “Father I’ve sinned, and am no more worthy to be called your child.”
To you who are honest about such things, let me assure you, the Lord Jesus is still outside the camp. God doesn’t cast aside people whom He foreknows and predestinates to be conformed to His Son. That Red Heifer was burnt and preserved to provide a continual sanctifying substitution. You say that you’ve sinned against Lord, I’m glad to hear you say that. I’m not happy that you’ve sinned, please don’t misunderstand. But I’m happy to hear you admit it. Because “if we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” John said, “My little children, these write I unto you that sin not, and if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”
Not only is this true, but there is something else in the fact that Christ is still “outside the camp.” Exodus 33:5-7 – “For the LORD had said unto Moses, Say unto the children of Israel, Ye are a stiffnecked people: I will come up into the midst of thee in a moment, and consume thee: therefore now put off thy ornaments from thee, that I may know what to do unto thee. And the children of Israel stripped themselves of their ornaments by the mount Horeb. And Moses took the tabernacle, and pitched it without the camp, afar off from the camp, and called it the Tabernacle of the congregation. And it came to pass, that every one which sought the LORD went out unto the tabernacle of the congregation, which was without the camp.” Bible Christianity was never designed to remain within the camp – as a part of the world. If Jesus was here today He’d still be without the camp. Think of John the Baptist – how much ministry would he have in the cities? As his fame grew, he didn’t move into a mansion or a cathedral. He essentially demanded that if people wanted to have what he was offering they had to come out to him in the wilderness.
True Bible Christianity is different from the corrupt version which we see in the world today. Do you think that if Jesus was here He’d stand beside the Maryolators the way some Southern Baptists do. Do you believe that He’d befriend the money-grabbing healer and the baptismal regenerationist? He would condemn women preachers and Christian rock groups and ecumenical revivalists. He would expose the syrupy, sickening, Christian TV talk and variety shows. Would He spend a moment’s time listing to the “ministry” of a “Christian” comedian? Christ would take a whip to the back many modern churches, calling them “dens of thieves.” He’d be outside the pale of modern Christendom so fast make that it would make heads spin. He once looked at Jerusalem and wept over it. “Oh, Jerusalem, Jerusalem…. I go without the camp.”
And that’s where He wants you and me to be.
Verse 13 – “Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach.” God doesn’t think much of religion that is not outside the camp – that is where He is. Can you find a servant of God in the Bible who was a close friend of the Pharisees, or Sadducees, the Romans or the Greeks? God cares nothing for man who is a friend of sin, friend of heresy, or friend of apostasy. That doesn’t mean we can’t reach out to these people, but we must not join or be a part of them. He doesn’t want us following their fads, fashions, fables and failures.
God’s greatest servants were all despised by the world – reproached, hated, and even sometimes martyred. Read what they did with Paul, David, Stephen, Peter, and James. They unjustly charged our Anabaptist forefathers with crimes which not even Sodom knew. They drove our people out of their houses and into winter storms. When God’s servants are sincere in their worship and service, they eventually end up without the camp.
But a word of caution here. Just because someone is an outcast it doesn’t mean that he is God’s hero. He may be nothing more than a common criminal – a leper. Common sense is needed to discern the character of this outcast. And in studying the lives of Bible “outsiders” notice that they didn’t seek to be expelled nor to leave. Only John the Baptist seems to have left society by his own choice. Even Christ Jesus walked among the city people – the undiagnosed lepers. But then he was forced outside the camp. Daniel was a man who kept on serving the Lord until world took him to the lion’s den. He didn’t go out of his way to spit upon Nebuchadnezzar as a person, or as a sinner. Daniel simply lived his life in fellowship with the Lord. And that in itself made him an outcast.
Of course, we need the spiritual nourishment which comes with the fellowship of Christ. And that means that we will be outside the camp. The camp may laugh at our ideas as fundamental Baptists. Let them laugh. The camp may think that only a lunatic would attend the house of God more than once a week. The camp likes Balaam and Demetrius the worldling, but God doesn’t.
The camp represents the majority, and Christ represents the minority. There are days when it is necessary to stand with Christ and fight against the stream. “Here is the doctrine of God, and here we stand. If this makes us exiles, then amen.” And why? Because we are “looking for a city whose builder and founder is God.” “For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come.”
Please listen to John 12:26 – “If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour.” What does that mean? It doesn’t mean that we are supposed to make ourselves freaks, or our church a circus. It simply says, “Let us follow Christ, and if that mean’s reproach, okay.” Let us not forget what the Saviour endured for us. Let us follow the Lord outside the camp where spiritual lepers are. Let us tell them of the great physician and warn them about dangers of wickedness.
There is only one road to peace with God and forgiveness of sin. It is not by walking the road or talking the talk, but union with the crucified Christ. If we are not willing to take a position of humility at the foot of Jesus’ cross…. If we are not willing to acknowledge Christ as the only Saviour of mankind – of ourselves… If we are not willing cast aside whatever comforts the camp offers us…. If we are not willing to cast everything aside to cling to Christ – then we shall forever be lepers. As a member of the lost world, the end of the lost world will be ours. “The world passeth away and the lust thereof, but he that doeth the will of the Father abideth for ever.”
Christ, our sacrifice, is without the camp this morning. We must be willing to meet Him there and to abide with Him there.