Thursday, October 6, 2016

Mold, Birds, Goats & a Son

Thursday, October 6, 2016
To purify the house the priest must take two birds, a stick of cedar, some scarlet yarn, and a hyssop branch.  He will slaughter one of the birds over a clay pot filled with fresh water.  He will take the cedar stick, the hyssop branch, the scarlet yarn, and the live bird, and dip them into the blood of the slaughtered bird and into the fresh water.  Then he will sprinkle the house seven times.  When the priest has purified the house in exactly this way, he will release the live bird in the open fields outside the town.  Through this process, the priest will purify the house, and it will be ceremonially clean.    Leviticus 14:49-53(NLT)
The Levitical law is almost maddening in its nitpicking details.  Here, in the case of simple household mold, the house, to be cleansed and re-plastered, had to be spiritually-cleansed by the priest offering a sacrificial bird, and releasing a live one. 

In the annual sacrifice for sin at the temple in Jerusalem a goat was slaughtered, while a second goat was released outside the city – the scape goat.  The priest would tie a scarlet ribbon on the goat’s horn, lay his hands on its head, symbolizing the transference of sin from the people to the goat, and release it outside the city, carrying the peoples’ guilt far away from the guilty.

At God’s direction Abraham took Isaac up the mountain of sacrifice; it was a test for Abraham, God stopped him short of actually harming his son.  But the case of sacrifice for forgiveness was made, and it’s hard to forget.

Over and again in Scripture the imagery of sacrifice, forgiveness, and cleansing is repeated.  Mold, goats, birds and a son…what to make of it all?

In each case of a living animal being sacrificed to cleanse something once-encased in death’s grip was followed by a second living animal carrying the death away.  This was the sacrificial system of Israel.

So what does it mean? 

God’s desire for a close relationship with His creation (us) is short-circuited by sin.  And the problem of sin has to be addressed.  The mold (or leprosy) is a type of insidious sin, infecting every part of life.  (If you’ve ever had a mold problem, you know how hard it is to get rid of it completely).  This highlights how impossible it is for us to eliminate our sins without God’s intervention.  After all, how can you undo something in the past?

The scape-goat and scape-bird are types of God dealing with our sin problem, taking it far from us, along with punishment.  The son, Isaac, is a foreshadow of God offering His own dear Son, Jesus.  He was both the sacrifice AND the scape-goat/bird, as he rose from the grave, carrying the leprosy of our sins far away.

Listen to the words of our Easter hymn, One Day[ii]:
One day when heaven was filled with His praises,
  One day when sin was as black as could be,
Jesus came forth to be born of a virgin—
  Dwelt among men, my example is He!
Living, He loved me; dying, He saved me;
  Buried, He carried my sins far away;
Rising, He justified freely forever:
    One day He’s coming—O glorious day!

For You Today

If the well is a little dry finding ways to praise God for what He has done for you, try reading a little Leviticus.  God leaves out no detail when it comes to cleaning house!

You chew on that as you hit the Rocky Road…have a blessed day!

[i] Title Images: By Benyamin Reich עברית: בנימין רייך, via Wikimedia Commons
[ii] Hymnal Net  Lyrics:  John Wilbur Chapman (1859-1918), Music:  Charles Howard Marsh (1886-1956)

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