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Post  Admin on Mon 12 Aug 2019, 9:12 pm

Bible verses about Footwashing 
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Leviticus 23:5

While the Passover is one of God's appointed times, it is not listed in Scripture as one of the annual Sabbaths. It is a regular day of work—in fact, it is the preparation day for the first day of Unleavened Bread—but the first few hours, the evening portion of the day, is a significant memorial of two great events in God's plan for mankind: the death of the firstborn in Egypt and the sacrifice of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

The bulk of the instruction about the Passover is written in Exodus 12, and a great deal of it concerns the Old Testament ritual meal that was eaten on that evening. These details are types that were fulfilled in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, so the New Testament church is no longer required to slay a lamb, since, as the apostle Paul writes, "For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us" (I Corinthians 5:7).

The New Testament Passover is modeled after the events that occurred during what is commonly known as the Last Supper, the Passover meal that Jesus ate with His disciples just before His arrest, trial, and crucifixion. Jesus began His instruction that evening with a command to wash one another's feet: "For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you" (see John 13:1-17), and so we do.

The apostle Paul summarizes what happens next:

For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, "Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me." In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me." (I Corinthians 11:23-25)

So, to commemorate His sacrifice—His broken body and His shed blood—by which He paid the penalty for human sin and consecrated the New Covenant (see Hebrews 9:11-28), Christians eat a little unleavened bread and drink a small amount of wine. In doing so, they acknowledge His sacrifice and rededicate themselves to their covenant with Him. It is clear from both the Old Testament and New Testament examples that only those who have made the covenant—Christ's disciples—are allowed to partake of the bread and wine, thus only baptized members should participate in this part of the service (see the principle in Exodus 12:43-49; also I Corinthians 11:27-29).

As Christ did after changing the Passover symbols, members of the church then listen to the words of Jesus' discourse to His disciples, which is found in John 13-17. Then, to close the service, they sing a hymn before concluding the solemn service (see Matthew 26:30; Mark 14:26).

Richard T. Ritenbaugh 



John 13:1-5

During the evening of Nisan 14, Jesus and His disciples ate the Passover, commonly known as the "Last Supper." After the meal was served, Jesus rolled up His sleeves, as it were, tied a towel around His waist and washed His disciples' feet. Later in the evening, after He predicted that one of the disciples would betray Him (verses 21-26), Jesus introduced the symbols of bread and wine as part of the Passover service (Mark 14:18-24). Following this example, the church places the footwashing ritual first in the annual service.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh 
Footwashing


John 13:6-10

Kenneth N. Taylor, in his Living Gospels: The Paraphrased Gospels, puts it this way: "Master, You shouldn't be washing our feet like this!" Christ responds, "What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this" (verse 7).

Peter, still not convinced, flatly states, "You shall never wash my feet" (verse 8). Christ's next words, however, finally cause him to give in: "If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me." Jesus' response—whatever His tone of voice—struck the disciple squarely between the eyes: Peter's eternal life was on the line! This time, his response is quite different: "Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!" (verse 9). This sounds a little like Psalm 51:2, where David prays, "Wash me thoroughly. . . ."

Our Savior's answer to this request is not what some would expect: "He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean" (John 13:10). The New International Version's translation of this verse makes His thought clear: "A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean." Obviously, the disciples had bathed before coming to eat the Passover meal. But having to walk along dusty roads in sandals, they collected a small amount of dirt on their feet. Thus, Christ explains that to be perfectly clean again, all He needed to do was to wash their feet.

Upon repentance, baptism, and receiving God's Holy Spirit, we are at that point perfectly clean in God's eyes. The blood of Jesus Christ has symbolically washed away all our past sins, and we stand before Him completely sinless. We have been buried in the waters of baptism and resurrected to a new life. However, as we all know, our human nature has certainly not departed from us, and it is not very long until the fact that we have sinned again stares us in the face. The old self has not really gone away; our lives are much as they were—with some important exceptions: We now have the Holy Spirit and have been given God's grace.

Having been regenerated by God through His Spirit that He has given us, we have entered a unique relationship with God the Father. The veil that once separated us from having access to Him has been torn away by the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ (Matthew 27:51; Hebrews 6:19-20; 10:19-22). Through Him, we can communicate with the Father to seek mercy and forgiveness for our sins and weaknesses. Upon repentance, God applies again the sacrifice of Christ to us and forgives us by His grace.

Now we can see that, even though we were once washed completely clean at baptism, we will occasionally sin as we walk through this life. We will spiritually get our feet dirty, and we will need Christ to wash our feet to make us completely clean again. Thus, He tells Peter, if He did not wash his feet, he would have no part with Him. None of us can carry unforgiven sins and still remain part of the body of Christ. This points out why it is so imperative that we seek His mercy and help to repent each day. When we do this, He can symbolically wash our feet and make us clean again. Each year at the Passover service, we reenact this to remind us how important it is.

Bill Keesee (1935-2010) 
Another Look at Footwashing

Another Look at Footwashing
by Bill Keesee (1935-2010)
Forerunner, February 2002
In the thirteenth chapter of his gospel, the apostle John records a ceremony that Christ performed and instituted on the very last night of His life. It may at first seem strange that the other three gospel writers did not address this act at all in their biographies of Jesus' life and ministry, but upon closer examination, it makes perfect sense why God chose John to record it. The footwashing ceremony is at its root an act of love, and who better to describe it than "the disciple whom Jesus loved" (John 21:7, 20; 13:23; 19:26; 20:2)?

As we have so often been taught, washing another's feet is an act of humility when we perform it as Christ instructs us. While it indeed should be done with a humble attitude, after a more intensive study of Christ's instructions concerning it, we will find a deeper and more meaningful reason why it is so vital that we do it with a correct understanding. This deeper meaning will help us realize how important Christ's example is to us today.

At first, it may also seem strange that, while the other three gospel writers focus on the bread and wine that Christ instituted that same evening—and make no mention of footwashing—John does just the opposite. We must remember that John, as the last of the gospel writers, fills in some of Jesus' acts and statements that the others left out of their gospels. The answer could be as simple as that John felt that the footwashing ceremony needed to be included in the New Testament canon. On the other hand, John probably recognized the direct connection between footwashing and the awesome work of Christ in His life, death, and afterlife.

The footwashing ceremony, recorded in John 13:1-17, allows us a window into the character of our Savior. When we apply the lessons of this unique and instructive ritual in our lives, it gives us a better understanding of why some people struggle to find happiness yet never fully achieve it, and why others are brimful and running over with joy.

Master = Servant

Immediately upon reading the account, we notice that Christ performs a menial task generally done by the lowliest servant in the household. Jesus says of this in verses 13-15:

You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet; you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him.

This last statement by Jesus gives us a little insight into His mind. What He says can apply both to earthly relationships of masters and servants as well as to a human's relationship to Christ. We can see in the pages of the gospels that it also describes how Jesus approached His relationship with God the Father. He was always submissive to the Father in everything. Beyond this, God the Father is the greatest servant in the universe. In our behalf, He sustains everything we depend on for our very lives.

Luke probably alludes to the same statement in his account of that Passover evening:

But there was also rivalry among [the disciples], as to which of them should be considered the greatest. And He said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called 'benefactors.' But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves. For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves."

Christ, by His actions, made it very clear that He would not expect anything from us that He was not willing to do Himself. He, as our Governor and Elder Brother, though He should have been served by others, served them. Undoubtedly, service is the essence of godly leadership.

Washed Clean

Notice Peter's objection in John 13:6: "Then He came to Simon Peter. And Peter said to Him, 'Lord, are You washing my feet?'" The translation does not do Peter's reaction justice. Kenneth N. Taylor, in his Living Gospels: The Paraphrased Gospels, puts it this way: "Master, You shouldn't be washing our feet like this!" Christ responds, "What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this" (verse 7).

Peter, still not convinced, flatly states, "You shall never wash my feet" (verse 8). Christ's next words, however, finally cause him to give in: "If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me." Jesus' response—whatever His tone of voice—struck the disciple squarely between the eyes: Peter's eternal life was on the line! This time, his response is quite different: "Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!" (verse 9). This sounds a little like Psalm 51:2, where David prays, "Wash me thoroughly. . . ."

Our Savior's answer to this request is not what some would expect: "He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean" (John 13:10). The New International Version's translation of this verse makes His thought clear: "A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean." Obviously, the disciples had bathed before coming to eat the Passover meal. But having to walk along dusty roads in sandals, they collected a small amount of dirt on their feet. Thus, Christ explains that to be perfectly clean again, all He needed to do was to wash their feet.

Upon repentance, baptism, and receiving God's Holy Spirit, we are at that point perfectly clean in God's eyes. The blood of Jesus Christ has symbolically washed away all our past sins, and we stand before Him completely sinless. We have been buried in the waters of baptism and resurrected to a new life. However, as we all know, our human nature has certainly not departed from us, and it is not very long until the fact that we have sinned again stares us in the face. The old self has not really gone away; our lives are much as they were—with some important exceptions: We now have the Holy Spirit and have been given God's grace.

Having been regenerated by God through His Spirit that He has given us, we have entered a unique relationship with God the Father. The veil that once separated us from having access to Him has been torn away by the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ (Matthew 27:51; Hebrews 6:19-20; 10:19-22). Through Him, we can communicate with the Father to seek mercy and forgiveness for our sins and weaknesses. Upon repentance, God applies again the sacrifice of Christ to us and forgives us by His grace.

Now we can see that, even though we were once washed completely clean at baptism, we will occasionally sin as we walk through this life. We will spiritually get our feet dirty, and we will need Christ to wash our feet to make us completely clean again. Thus, He tells Peter, if He did not wash his feet, he would have no part with Him. None of us can carry unforgiven sins and still remain part of the body of Christ. This points out why it is so imperative that we seek His mercy and help to repent each day. When we do this, He can symbolically wash our feet and make us clean again. Each year at the Passover service, we reenact this to remind us how important it is.

Washing Others' Feet

In John 13:14, Christ says, "If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet." The common explanation for this is that it teaches us to learn humility by doing good for others, by doing acts of service or kindness for our brethren. This is certainly a good lesson that we can take from Christ's example, but we can perhaps derive another from it.

In John's account, what did Jesus suggest that the washing of feet symbolized? He tells Peter that the washing of his feet symbolizes forgiveness of his sin to return him to a "clean" relationship with God. It is only logical to deduce that God expects nothing less from us in response to the sins of our brethren. In the section of the Sermon on the Mount on prayer, Jesus says: "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (Matthew 6:14-15).

No doubt, God puts a very great emphasis on our relationships since our lives are to reflect His character. If we have begun to "put on Christ" (Galatians 3:27), would we be a good example of His love for us if we held grudges, hated our brother, or would not forgive another? Obviously, no. Putting on Christ demands that we "put off" these carnal destroyers of relationships and replace them with Christian virtues.

Peter asks Christ, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?" (Matthew 18:21). Christ's answer should give us a clue to how He feels about this issue. Peter had ventured a number he thought would be sufficient to establish his forbearance. Christ, though, pulls out all the stops, telling him that there is no set limit: "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven" (verse 22). We are indeed fortunate and can be thankful that same unlimited forgiveness applies to us when we need God's mercy.

The following verses, Matthew 18:23-35, is the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant. The servant was deeply in debt to his master, and when he sought relief, his master forgave him his gargantuan debt. Then the tables turn. Another man owed him a small amount and could not repay it. Instead of following his master's example, the servant forgot the mercy he had just received and had the man thrown into prison!

Verses 34-35 sum up the story: "And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. So My heavenly Father will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses." The language Christ uses leaves little room for exclusions. He Himself, in the agony of crucifixion, says without reservation, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do" (Luke 23:34). His plea applies, not only to those who cried out for His death and nailed Him to the stake, but to all, past and future, who would be just as responsible as they were and need God's forgiveness. That includes everybody.

"Happy Are You . . ."

Finally, we must notice John 13:17, where Jesus concludes His comments on footwashing: "If you know these things, happy are you if you do them." Observe that His emphasis is on their application, not on whether we know about them or even understand them.

In this verse, Christ makes a very positive statement: We will be happy if we put this teaching into practice. He knew that grudges, hate, anger, and lack of forgiveness do nothing but shackle us and hinder our spiritual growth. If we let them hang around, they will eventually destroy us. Forgiving even those who have done things spitefully against us (Matthew 5:44) unlocks our shackles and releases us from feelings of animosity. When we rid ourselves of these burdens, we can find inner peace and true happiness.

If we can now see how much more meaningful the footwashing ceremony is, and how important it is that we emulate the example Christ set for us, then the Passover can have a greater impact this year. It shows the depth of Christ's love in making Himself a sacrifice for us so we could be forgiven of our sins. Remember, "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends" (John 15:13), and Jesus Christ did just that for our forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life.

Think of these things during the next footwashing ceremony. It may still be humbling, but it should also make us happy that we are following the example of our Savior in serving one another by forgiving one another.

© 2002 Church of the Great God
PO Box 471846
Charlotte, NC  28247-1846
(803) 802-7075


Bible verses about Washing as Metaphor 
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Psalm 51:7

Woven into the fabric of the Psalms are many of the very words that Jesus Christ used Himself during His life on earth, including some of the final words He uttered before His death. The understanding that David possessed, a gift and blessing that the Eternal gave to him, is further evidenced in Psalm 51:7: "Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow."

Here, David refers to the spiritual washing required for his cleansing. He makes a deliberate request of God to wash Him, knowing that only the cleansing power of Almighty God can make a man clean and pure. Though his sins have covered him in filth and stained him to the very roots of his being, the washing power of God makes a man whiter than snow.

In our understanding of the symbolism of colors, "snow-white" is considered the ultimate in white, the whitest of white, as pure and unsullied a white as possible. David's expectation was that God's cleansing power would exceed even that ultimate white - "I shall be whiter than snow." We can only relate this to absolute spiritual, moral perfection, the very state in which Almighty God exists. The wording expresses that the scrubbing God could give him would permit him to exist in that absolute, ultimate state of perfection.

At the beginning of verse 7, David makes the deliberate request of God to purge him with hyssop. Hyssop is an interesting choice as a cleansing agent. It is an herb, a species of marjoram and member of the mint family, and some Bible versions actually refer to it as "marjoram." It has long been considered an aromatic and medicinal herb, anciently indigenous to western Asia and northern Africa, including regions of the Middle East. The hyssop plant grows just under three feet in height, producing clusters of variously colored flowers. In ancient times, it grew naturally in rocky crevices, and people cultivated it on terraced walls.

The short, cut stems of the plant can be gathered into bunches, and in the Old Testament, these bunches were used for ritual purposes. The most spiritually significant of these uses is recorded in Exodus 12:22. Moses has just given the instructions for the killing of the Passover lamb, and he continues with some further instructions that must have been rather startling for those participating Israelites:

And you shall take a bunch of hyssop, dip it in the blood [of the Passover lamb] that is in the basin, and strike the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin. And none of you shall go out of the door of his house until morning.

It is important that we consider all the aspects of this event. During repeated requests by Moses for Pharaoh to allow Israel to leave Egypt, Pharaoh had continually refused to let God's people go, and the nation had endured nine plagues of cataclysmic consequences. The economy of the nation was largely a shambles. Crops were ruined, and disease had run rampant.

Since the third plague, God had also made readily visible a clear distinction between the captive nation of Israel and the Egyptians, in that the Israelites in Goshen had been spared much of the devastation that had ruined the rest of Egypt. By the use of the blood of the sacrificial lamb, God was about to make a final, absolute distinction between these two nations that would never be forgotten.

We must recognize that Egypt suffered the devastation at the hand of God because though it was a sophisticated, dazzling, world-dominating empire, it was also a wicked, idolatrous nation. The Egyptians were a people who openly flouted the natural evidence of a supreme Creator by worshipping a pantheon of idols and gods dedicated to their own passions and lusts. Egyptians regularly engaged in a frenzy of immoral and idolatrous celebrations, sporting events, fashions, and music all dedicated to gods of materialism and human gratification.

The plagues God meted upon the land of Egypt and its people were just as much attacks on her idols and lifestyle as they were punishments for the sins of her people. As just one example, the Egyptians worshipped the Nile River as a god, and when God turned its waters to blood, the life-giving nature of the river was destroyed, along with the power that the Nile River god supposedly possessed.

Thus, in this solemn Passover event of Exodus 12, God used blood of a different nature to represent the saving, life-giving power that only He, the almighty, eternal God, possessed. The sacrificial lamb of Passover symbolized the future Son of God, who would take upon Himself the role of the sacrificial Lamb of God (John 1:29). The shed blood of the Passover lamb symbolized the blood to be shed by the coming Messiah.

The bunch of hyssop was dipped into the blood, and per God's instructions, that blood was sprinkled or brushed on the doorposts and lintel of each home. The Israelites were then told to stay within those homes, separated from the Egyptian people and their normal routines. That night, there was to be no interaction or communication with any aspect of the Egyptian civilization. Their very lives depended on their following this command to the letter.

The sacrificial blood, sprinkled or smeared by the bunch of hyssop, graphically represented a separation and a protection of Israel against the deadly havoc that God wrought upon Egypt that night. The blood ceremonially cleansed and protected the people inside those homes against the plague of death that struck a people who practiced the filthy abominations of godlessness.

Later, in the books of Leviticus and Numbers, hyssop was used as part of sacrificial ceremonies. The hyssop was always tied into bunches for use in sprinkling the blood of the sacrificed animal. In some sacrifices, the priest sprinkled the blood onto the person making the sacrifice.

In Numbers 19, Moses gives instructions for one who is unclean due to touching a dead body. These instructions include taking a bunch of hyssop, dipping it into clean, running water, and sprinkling the unclean individual, his tent, and possessions. This example clearly connects the use of hyssop and clean water for cleansing.

Over the years, some have suggested that hyssop contains valuable antiseptic or cleansing properties that would "disinfect" the contaminated person or his possessions. This cannot be the point because such an idea contradicts the fact that God is the only Source of true purification. The biblical use of hyssop in the Passover, the sacrifices, and the ceremonial cleansing rituals was a constant reminder, painting a detailed picture of the washing, cleansing, saving, purification, and salvation from death itself that come only from the eternal God.

This is the kind of cleansing that David requested of God when he asked to be purged with hyssop.

Staff 
Purge Me With Hyssop
https://www.bibletools.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Library.sr/CT/ARTB/k/1212/Purge-Me-With-Hyssop.htm


Purge Me With Hyssop
by Staff
Forerunner, February 2007

Many years ago during my college days, I experienced a magnificent six-week career as a door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman. It was a miserable but educational experience. The brand of vacuum I sold, Rainbow, may be familiar to some. Until recently, the Rainbow was unique among vacuum cleaners in that it uses water as its basis of filtration. All vacuums function on the principle of pulling air in at high velocity into some kind of filtering system, by which the dirt and dust particles become trapped and cleaner air is returned to the room.

Nearly a century of research has produced a number of different types of filtration systems for vacuum cleaners, some much better than others. However, even with the improvements and advances in the filtration systems on the market today, water-based filtration remains one of the very best and most efficient systems in use. Water will trap and retain between 90-99% of dirt and dust particles.

The motto used in the Rainbow marketing was "Wet dust don't fly." It is an accurate concept. Among the hundreds of cleaning solutions available in the marketplace, water continues to be the base for most of them, and water alone is still considered the best general agent for cleaning almost anything.

"The Washing of Water"

The Bible refers frequently to using water for cleaning and purification, with both physical and spiritually symbolic implications. In the Old Testament, God gave the Levitical priesthood specific washing instructions in the performance of their duties. Individuals who were physically or ceremonially unclean were separated from the camp of Israel and were required to wash themselves with water before returning to the congregation. The religious Jews of Christ's time had devised intricate washing ceremonies to demonstrate their inner and outer purity. The rite of water baptism, of course, contains elements of washing symbolic of our spiritual cleansing.

Perhaps Jesus Christ performed the most significant use of water as a means of cleansing when He instituted the footwashing ceremony at His last Passover, just before His death and resurrection (John 13:1-17). Before this occasion, the Pharisees, horrified that His disciples did not follow the ceremonial washing rituals of the religious Jews before they ate, had confronted Him because of this (Matthew 15:1-20; Mark 7:1-23). Jesus denounced these rituals as vain and hypocritical, as they did nothing to cleanse the inner man.

Even though both rituals used water and were intended as symbols of inner cleanliness, Jesus' institution and performance of the Passover footwashing service was in direct contradiction to the washing ceremonies of the Pharisees. The Pharisaic ceremonial washings with water were merely public showmanship that contributed to the vanity and false esteem of those washing themselves. By contrast, Jesus relinquished any prerogatives or semblance of rank or esteem by kneeling before common men, and using a basin of water, He washed their feet, not His own. His purpose was to make His disciples clean, not to perform a show of His own cleanness.

Of the amazed disciples, Peter expressed dismay at the notion of having his feet washed by his Master. He wanted no part in a ritual that appeared to diminish his Lord in his eyes. But when Christ explained that if He did not wash his feet, he could not remain with Him, Peter demanded to be washed all over, not just his feet. Christ calmly informed him that washing his feet was sufficient for him to be "completely clean."

Shortly thereafter, Jesus commanded them, "If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet" (John 13:14), implementing this as a permanent Christian service. Obviously, an annual footwashing does not replace a daily bath or shower—our daily hygiene is a personal responsibility—but what Jesus established at this Passover footwashing is the basis for our spiritual cleansing. It is only His washing of us that makes us spiritually clean and acceptable before God!

Some centuries before this Passover evening, the Israelite king, David, understood this. He writes in Psalm 51:1-2:

Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; according to the multitude of You tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.

In the depths of his godly sorrow over his sins, David understood that it was the washing of His Creator that was needed for him to be cleansed of his transgressions of God's way of life.

In the book of Psalms, David expresses profound details of his relationship with his Creator. He looked forward to his Savior coming to fulfill the purposes of cleansing and restoration. David understood that His God was working to open the gates to everlasting life for human beings who would be cleansed and made whole, perfected as children of the great God.

Recall in Psalm 23 that David concludes his description of his relationship with his Shepherd, his Creator, by declaring that he would "dwell in the house of the Lord forever" (Psalm 23:6). David looked forward to eternal life, understanding that it would take God washing him and cleansing him of his sins to allow him to come into this inheritance.

"Whiter Than Snow"

Woven into the fabric of the Psalms are many of the very words that Jesus Christ used Himself during His life on earth, including some of the final words He uttered before His death. The understanding that David possessed, a gift and blessing that the Eternal gave to him, is further evidenced in Psalm 51:7: "Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow."

Here, David again refers to the spiritual washing required for his cleansing. He makes a deliberate request of God to wash Him, knowing that only the cleansing power of Almighty God can make a man clean and pure. Though his sins have covered him in filth and stained him to the very roots of his being, the washing power of God makes a man whiter than snow.

In our understanding of the symbolism of colors, "snow-white" is considered the ultimate in white, the whitest of white, as pure and unsullied a white as possible. David's expectation was that God's cleansing power would exceed even that ultimate white—"I shall be whiter than snow." We can only relate this to absolute spiritual, moral perfection, the very state in which Almighty God exists. The wording expresses that the scrubbing God could give him would permit him to exist in that absolute, ultimate state of perfection.

At the beginning of verse 7, David makes the deliberate request of God to purge him with hyssop. Hyssop is an interesting choice as a cleansing agent. It is an herb, a species of marjoram and member of the mint family, and some Bible versions actually refer to it as "marjoram." It has long been considered an aromatic and medicinal herb, anciently indigenous to western Asia and northern Africa, including regions of the Middle East. The hyssop plant grows just under three feet in height, producing clusters of variously colored flowers. In ancient times, it grew naturally in rocky crevices, and people cultivated it on terraced walls.

The short, cut stems of the plant can be gathered into bunches, and in the Old Testament, these bunches were used for ritual purposes. The most spiritually significant of these uses is recorded in Exodus 12:22. Moses has just given the instructions for the killing of the Passover lamb, and he continues with some further instructions that must have been rather startling for those participating Israelites:

And you shall take a bunch of hyssop, dip it in the blood [of the Passover lamb] that is in the basin, and strike the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin. And none of you shall go out of the door of his house until morning.

It is important that we consider all the aspects of this event. During repeated requests by Moses for Pharaoh to allow Israel to leave Egypt, Pharaoh had continually refused to let God's people go, and the nation had endured nine plagues of cataclysmic consequences. The economy of the nation was largely in shambles. Crops were ruined, and disease had run rampant.

Since the third plague, God had also made readily visible a clear distinction between the captive nation of Israel and the Egyptians, in that the Israelites in Goshen had been spared much of the devastation that had ruined the rest of Egypt. By the use of the blood of the sacrificial lamb, God was about to make a final, absolute distinction between these two nations that would never be forgotten.

Hyssop Dipped in Blood

We must recognize that Egypt suffered the devastation at the hand of God because though it was a sophisticated, dazzling, world-dominating empire, it was also a wicked, idolatrous nation. The Egyptians were a people who openly flouted the natural evidence of a supreme Creator by worshipping a pantheon of idols and gods dedicated to their own passions and lusts. Egyptians regularly engaged in a frenzy of immoral and idolatrous celebrations, sporting events, fashions, and music all dedicated to gods of materialism and human gratification.

The plagues God meted upon the land of Egypt and its people were just as much attacks on her idols and lifestyle as they were punishments for the sins of her people. As just one example, the Egyptians worshipped the Nile River as a god, and when God turned its waters to blood, the life-giving nature of the river was destroyed, along with the power that the Nile River god supposedly possessed.

Thus, in this solemn Passover event of Exodus 12, God used blood of a different nature to represent the saving, life-giving power that only He, the almighty, eternal God, possessed. The sacrificial lamb of Passover symbolized the future Son of God, who would take upon Himself the role of the sacrificial Lamb of God (John 1:29). The shed blood of the Passover lamb symbolized the blood to be shed by the coming Messiah.

The bunch of hyssop was dipped into the blood, and per God's instructions, that blood was sprinkled or brushed on the doorposts and lintel of each home. The Israelites were then told to stay within those homes, separated from the Egyptian people and their normal routines. That night, there was to be no interaction or communication with any aspect of the Egyptian civilization. Their very lives depended on their following this command to the letter.

Exodus 12:23-27 tells us why:

For the Lord will pass through to strike the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the Lord will pass over the door and not allow the destroyer to come into your houses to strike you. And you shall observe this thing as an ordinance for you and your sons forever. It will come to pass when you come to the land which the Lord will give you, just as He promised, that you shall keep this service. And it shall be, when your children say to you, "What do you mean by this service?" that you shall say, "It is the Passover sacrifice of the Lord, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt when He struck the Egyptians and delivered our households." So the people bowed their heads and worshipped.

The sacrificial blood, sprinkled or smeared by the bunch of hyssop, graphically represented a separation and a protection of Israel against the deadly havoc that God wrought upon Egypt that night. The blood ceremonially cleansed and protected the people inside those homes against the plague of death that struck a people who practiced the filthy abominations of godlessness.

Later, in the books of Leviticus and Numbers, hyssop was used as part of sacrificial ceremonies. The hyssop was always tied into bunches for use in sprinkling the blood of the sacrificed animal. In some sacrifices, the priest sprinkled the blood onto the person making the sacrifice.

In Numbers 19, Moses gives instructions for one who is unclean due to touching a dead body. These instructions include taking a bunch of hyssop, dipping it into clean, running water, and sprinkling the unclean individual, his tent, and possessions. This example clearly connects the use of hyssop and clean water for cleansing.

Over the years, some have suggested that hyssop contains valuable antiseptic or cleansing properties that would "disinfect" the contaminated person or his possessions. This cannot be the point because such an idea contradicts the fact that God is the only Source of true purification. The biblical use of hyssop in the Passover, the sacrifices, and the ceremonial cleansing rituals was a constant reminder, painting a detailed picture of the washing, cleansing, saving, purification, and salvation from death itself that come only from the eternal God.

This is the kind of cleansing that David requested of God when he asked to be purged with hyssop.

"I Thirst!"

There is a final use of hyssop in John 19:28-30:

After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, "I thirst!" Now a vessel full of sour wine was sitting there; and they filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth. So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, 'It is finished!" And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.

In the final moments of His physical life on earth, God orchestrated that Jesus Christ be given hyssop, an identifying element that

» connected Him to the Passover lamb centuries before in Egypt;

» associated Him with the sacrificial and cleansing ceremonies; and

» recalled David's request to be purified of his sins.

Water is indeed the most wonderful physical means to clean and cleanse that God has created. Yet, it is through the life, the shed blood, the death, and the resurrected, eternal, glorious life of our God and Savior that we can experience the ultimate cleansing and purification, as typified in the use of hyssop in the pages of the Bible. Through this spiritual cleansing and purification, we can, like David, anticipate the end of our physical lives and hope to dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

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