Biblical Interpretation from Someone with no Training in Biblical Interpretation
The Law has an absolutely bizarre ritual that is used both for the cleansing of skin diseases and mold. Check this out:
The Lord said to Moses, “These are the regulations for the diseased person at the time of his ceremonial cleansing, when he is brought to the priest: The priest is to go outside the camp and examine him. If the person has been healed of his infectious skin disease, the priest shall order that two live clean birds and some cedar wood, scarlet yarn and hyssop be brought for the one to be cleansed. Then the priest shall order that one of the birds be killed over fresh water in a clay pot. He is then to take the live bird and dip it, together with the cedar wood, the scarlet yarn and the hyssop, into the blood of the bird that was killed over the fresh water. Seven times he shall sprinkle the one to be cleansed of the infectious disease and pronounce him clean. Then he is to release the live bird into the open fields (Leviticus 14:1-7).
Weird, right? That was the version for skin diseases, the one for mold is found in Leviticus 14:49-53, but since it’s basically the same I won’t write it out here. Anyway, as modern-day Christians, what are we supposed to do with a ritual like this? Well, the Holy Spirit explained what it means and showed me that the ritual is actually pretty awesome (though not something to be performed anymore).
As noted in a previous article, the rashes and molds in the law represent sin. That is to say that they’re bad, can be reoccurring or one time, and they make you unclean. So this cleansing ritual is a symbol of our forgiveness from sin through Jesus Christ.
The first part of this ritual is the note that the person has already been pronounced clean. This means that the person undergoing the ritual is already clean (technically speaking, as the disease is healed or the mold is gone). This is representative of our situation when we come to Jesus for forgiveness. He already died before we came to him, and therefore we’re already clean (though not spiritually recognized as such). Paul reminds us in Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” And, although not officially saved before coming to Christ; Scripture suggests that your salvation was already pre-determined; for it is written,
But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14).
God already knows who’ll be saved. There’s a complicated time and space explanation for the process of election, but what it comes down to is that the Lord is without time himself (as he exists outside of our space-time); so when a person becomes saved, the Lord already knew it from the beginning (as all time occurs at the same time to him). The end then for us is that those who have been saved always were (and were chosen by God…because they accepted Christ in our time line). There’s a few other articles that’ll touch on this coming out in the future; but my backlog is really big so if you have any specific questions or comments about the process of election; just put it in the comments section and I’ll get back to you as quickly as I can.
The next part of the ritual requires a few odd ingredients: hyssop, scarlet yarn, cedar wood, and water. These ingredients form an image of Jesus. Water is clean; it represents Christ’s purity. Paul wrote of Jesus, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus never sinned; therefore he was totally clean and pure before the Lord. Hyssop has medicinal properties. Jesus, likewise, went around healing people wherever he went. History records, “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness” (Matthew 9:35). Cedar wood represents…well it represents wood. Jesus was hung on a wooden cross in order to take our sins upon him; for it is written that “Chris redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree’” (Galatians 3:13). And scarlet yarn is a synonym for red wool. Jesus is called the “Lamb of God” by John the Baptist in John 1:29: “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’” And Isaiah prophesized of the coming Messiah,
He was oppressed and afflicted,
Yet he did not open his mouth;
He was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
And as a sheep before her shearers is silent,
So he did not open his mouth (Isaiah 53:7).
Both of these comparisons of Jesus to sheep come together in Revelation 5:6, where John notes,
Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.
Jesus was the Lamb of God, slain; and his wool stained red with his blood –scarlet yarn indeed. But Christ’s suffering and death were for our cleansing, as 1 Peter 2:24 notes: “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.” So in one verse all of the ingredients come together; Christ’s purity made sin through the wooden cross; turning the vibrantly white wool of the lamb blood red, all for our healing.
Ok, the third and fourth parts of the ritual are especially odd: the birds. One of the birds is killed. This is because forgiveness requires sacrifice, as is explained in Hebrews 9:22: “In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” After the bird is killed and its blood drained, the elements of Jesus are dipped into the blood. This represents both Christ’s humanity (he bled on the cross) and his becoming a sacrifice for us. The Bible speaks of Jesus,
God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished – he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus (Romans 3:25-26).
That’s a mouthful of concepts, but for our focus: God made Jesus a sacrifice of atonement, and used Jesus’ death to justify those who put their hope in Christ. It is written, “And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:10). The elements of Jesus are dipped into the sacrifice; this is the symbolization of Jesus’ death on a cross; hence why it is a part of the ritual.
The other bird is alive. From a physical standpoint, it probably looks the same. This is representative of Jesus’ death and resurrection. One bird dies, and the other bird, looking the same (since birds can’t resurrect) flies away free from the confines of death. Christ’s resurrection is confirmed through Romans 6:9-10 as Paul wrote,
For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.
And Peter said of Jesus, “But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him” (Acts 2:24). So through these two birds we see Jesus, who both died and yet still lives (after overcoming death). The birds also represent us being remade in Christ’s image; as we die to our sins and are allowed to live on as new creations in Christ when we accept salvation. Paul continued in Romans 6:11, “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
And that second bird, horrified after being dipped in blood, is never coming back –and neither are your sins. The Lord spoke through Isaiah,
I, even I, am he who blots out
Your transgressions, for my own sake,
And remembers your sins no more (Isaiah 43:25).
When the Lord eliminates your sin, it is gone forever. Such is how it is for Christians who follow Jesus and are sprinkled with his sacrifice. Paul wrote of this, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1-2). When you are forgiven through Jesus’ sacrifice, your transgressions are permanently eliminated from your record by the Lord. Just like that bird; your old sin will never come back to haunt you (as far as God is concerned).
And that, my friend, is what the Holy Spirit told me of the ritual of cleansing and how it relates to our Savior, Jesus Christ. Let Jesus’ work on the cross cleanse you too!
Rock on God!