Foundations of the Faith

the elementary teachings in Hebrews 6
that prepare disciples in Yeshua to move on to maturity

Instruction about Washings
5: Vessels and Clothing

To conclude our review of instructions about washings, we look first at the washing of utensils, and then at the washing of clothes.

If it seems that these have no spiritual relevance, it is probably because we are used to thinking of physical dishes and cups, and of physical clothing. However, each of these have their spiritual equivalents, which are of much higher importance, and so is the proper washing of those spiritual things.

Ceremonial vs. Spiritual Washing

We are not to confuse "spiritual washing" with the commands for cleansing in the Torah. The Pharisees had become very concerned about these commands for ceremonial cleansing. Their teaching was wrong, not in observing the ceremony, but in taking something that was given as a picture of spiritual cleansing, and trying to use it as a method of spiritual cleansing.

Yeshua and His disciples did not share this priority given to washing ceremonies, because those who were using them were relying on the ceremonial performance itself. They had neglected the inward cleansing of which the ceremonies were supposed to remind them and convict them.

Washing Our Food Vessels

As a picture of spiritual realities, if clean (kosher) food and drink represent what we internalize for our spiritual nutrition and growth, then the containers that store or serve our food and drink can be viewed as representing the sources and people providing us with our spiritual nourishment. The Lord used ceremonial washing of these vessels to reveal the Pharisees' blindness about how to cleanse such human "vessels":

"Woe to you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean."

It's clear that the Lord is not talking about physical utensils: who expects a dirty cup to become clean outside by washing only the inside?  But the way spiritual cleansing works for people is different from the way it works for dishes. The only place where cleanness affects a person spiritually is in his heart. If he has removed the spiritual dirt on the inside, then he is spiritually clean, regardless of whether or not he is ceremonially clean.

In contrast, the Pharisees were trying to achieve spiritual cleanness from the outside. They allowed greed and self-indulgence to remain untouched issues, because such "sins of the heart" could be difficult for men to observe, and even more difficult to prove in a court of law. Instead they focused on what men could see, and added new rulings that could be used in a court to judge a man's cleanness by his visible acts. They had forgotten that the only important judgment on cleanness is determined by G-d, who looks on the heart.

This error has remained part of standard rabbinic teaching to this day. If a Jew obeys the commandments that can be seen by men, observing them with enough kavana (fervor and intent) at the proper times and with enough precision, he is viewed as righteous. As in the days of the Pharisees, focusing on outward obedience encourages hypocrisy and blindness, giving people no motivation to cleanse their hearts.

The Lord's disciples understood and taught us how to properly cleanse our human vessels, so that we can be used by the Lord for honor in His house: "'Everyone who names the Name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness.' Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work."

Water for Cleansing

Both physical and ceremonial washings require water. Where do we find spiritual water that will make our hearts clean? From the living Word of God, as Yeshua said: "You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you." Paul understood this also, for he wrote: "Messiah loved the church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to Himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless."

In the Torah, only freely running streams could be used for cleansing, called "living water". The physical definitions of "living water" for ceremonial cleansing reflect the more important spiritual kind of "living water". Yeshua identified this as the Holy Spirit: "'Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.' By this He meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were later to receive."

This is Living Water that we not only wash in, but also drink to quench our spiritual thirst: "To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life." "For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring, and My blessing on your descendants."

Clean Garments and White Garments

The washing of clothes is included in many ceremonial cleansing processes in the Torah. It was required after touching dead creatures or dead people, leprosy, bodily discharges, the scapegoat, the sin offerings burned outside the camp, the red-heifer sacrifice and its ashes, and the Levites when they were dedicated.

Like the washing of vessels, these are pictures to teach us. Spiritual cleansing is needed after those who are clean come into spiritual contact with those who are unclean, or after performing certain kinds of spiritual service. So why do these pictures specify the need to wash clothes, rather than hands or bodies as might be expected? What are spiritual "garments"?

We learn about the spiritual reality represented by clothing from the spotless linen wedding dress to be worn by the Bride of the Lamb: "Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and His bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear. (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)"

Since clothing is what we appear in before others, in order not to be seen naked, it is an illustration that the acts we do become our covering when viewed spiritually by others.

We see that this clean, bright wedding garment "was given" to the Bride. Elsewhere the Lord tells us that we must obtain such clothing from Him at a price: "I counsel you to buy from Me… white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness." By this we know that the righteous acts of the saints do not originate in themselves but rather in the Lord. And indeed the apostle Paul confirms it: "For we are G-d's workmanship, created in Messiah Yeshua to do good works, which G-d prepared in advance for us to do." What then is the price Yeshua requires for us to "buy" them? Abandoning our own works, which cannot cover our spiritual nakedness, and performing those which Messiah gives us to do.

And yet even the good works given to us to do by the Lord still need cleansing. We know this from pictures given in both the Torah and the New Covenant. In Torah, the high priest was required to atone for "the guilt involved in the sacred gifts" that were accepted by G-d from His people. In Revelation, we see that the redeemed have washed their robes: "These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb."

Since we have direct access to the eternal High Priest who atones for us continually, this cleansing is something that we can and should be doing ourselves. Washing our righteous acts in the blood of the Lamb is what makes them completely pure.

Scripture references, in the order that they appear:
Matthew 23:25-26
2 Timothy 2:19-21 (NASB)
John 15:3
Ephesians 5:25-27
John 7:38-39
Revelation 21:6
Isaiah 44:3
Revelation 19:7-8
Revelation 3:18
Ephesians 2:10
Exodus 28:38
Revelation 7:14

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