What the Bible says about
Blood of Christ
(From Forerunner Commentary)
The most spiritually significant of the ritual uses of hyssop in the Old Testament 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.
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.
Purge Me With Hyssop
Just as the Parable of the Mustard Seed (Matthew 13:31-32) concerns a single plant, so the Parable of the Pearl of Great Price focuses on a single, precious gem. The Mustard Seed shows growth relative to a humble beginning. The Pearl of Great Price illustrates this also, as a pearl's value largely depends on how big it grows (in relative terms) over the years as layer upon layer of nacre accretes over a minuscule irritant. What people seek even more than size are a pearl's quality and perfection: A smaller, flawless pearl is worth more than a larger, marred, misshapen one.
The New King James Version's “beautiful” in Matthew 13:45 is translated as “goodly” in the King James Version. The Greek word, kalos, carries a sense of beauty, but it refers to moral goodness and virtue, not simply aesthetics. It is the same word underlying “good works,” “good fruit,” “good seed” and “good ground” (as in the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares), “fitting,” “better,” “good shepherd,” as well as “honest.” The pearl was beautiful because of its exquisite qualities, not merely because it caught the eye.
The contrast between these two parables lies in the result. The latter end of the mustard plant is an abode for birds, just as the nation at the time of Jesus was rife with unclean spirits. In contrast, the pearl is a symbol of purity. It caught the attention of a merchant, who specialized in seeking “goodly” pearls. For the merchant to conclude his search with this singular, superlative pearl proves its great worth in this expert's eyes. Whereas the Parable of the Mustard Seed ends with spiritual uncleanness, the Pearl of Great Price concludes with satisfaction over superb quality and worth. The merchant spends everything he had; he could buy no other, nor did he desire to.
As with many of the previous parables, the most common interpretation of this parable lacks scriptural support. The popular reading asserts that the pearl variously represents salvation, the Kingdom, or Jesus Christ Himself. In this view, the merchant represents the individual Christian, willing to give up everything to purchase these things of inestimable worth.
While true and admirable sentiments exist in this view—a follower of Christ certainly must count the cost of discipleship and be willing to sacrifice all—the fact remains that human beings have no currency with which to purchase salvation, the Kingdom, or the Savior. They can accept or reject these gifts, but they can never procure them by wealth, works, or good intentions.
The merchant does not represent ordinary men. In the paired Parable of the Mustard Seed, the man represents Jesus Christ, symbolically sowing a tiny seed in the world, initiating a physical nation/kingdom. Likewise, the merchant in this parable represents Jesus Christ, who first surrendered His divine position to become human and then sacrificed His sinless, physical life. His sacrifice paid the redemption price for those with the faith of Abraham—the faith that is a gift of God and is demonstrated by works of obedience (Genesis 26:5; James 2:17-22; John 14:21; I John 5:2-3).
God's promises to Abraham are fulfilled in both the physical nation of Israel and spiritual Israel, the church, and this pairing of parables captures this overlap. One—the Mustard Seed—shows the biological family growing large, while the other—the Pearl—reveals the spiritual Family supremely valued. Abraham's faith facilitated the fulfillment of God's promise of an heir and thus the first increase of the Kingdom (see Genesis 17:5-7). However, the apostle Paul explains that physical heritage, while important in some aspects (Romans 3:1-2), matters far less than receiving from God the same faith Abraham had (Galatians 3:7-9).
Those with this faith are “bought at a price” (I Corinthians 6:20; 7:23); they are of “the church of God which He purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28). Peter writes that God redeemed us “with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (I Peter 1:19). Truly, Christ sold all He had to purchase this pearl He found so valuable.
David C. Grabbe
God's Kingdom in the Parables (Part Four)
The English word "remission" here indicates that the sins flowed out with Jesus' blood. This word is translated from the Greek word aphesis, which can also mean "release" or "liberty," as in the release of blood previously contained by the body's arteries and veins. This word aphesis stems from the word aphiemi, which means "yield up" or "expire." The word aphiemi, in turn, stems from the words apo and hiemi, which together mean "let go" or "sent forth by separation," as in a violent separation of the blood from the body's pressurized circulatory system (which, in Jesus' case, resulted in His complete separation from His Father in death). When God the Father laid the sins of the world upon the head of His beloved Son, they passed into and contaminated Him. They remained in Him until they were poured out with His shed blood.
Jesus' Final Human Thoughts (Part Two)
Justification, by grace through faith in Christ's blood, secures for us access into the very presence of God and more of God's grace. The emphasis here is upon the word "access." The Israelites' relationship with the Tabernacle and the Temple pictured this: They were denied access to the Holy of Holies. In fact, the law also forbade them entry into the Holy Place, the first room inside the Tabernacle and the Temple. Only the priests could go into the Holy Place, and they could enter it only in performing their duties. Whenever David organized them into courses, the ordinary priests could only enter it a few times during the year.
So what about ordinary Israelites? They never got in there—not at all. So, no sacrifice (no single sacrifice or multitude of sacrifices)—no quantity of good works of the law or of any kind—gained them entrance into where God lived, into His presence. God completely shut them off from any direct access to Him. Only the high priest—once a year, on the Day of Atonement—was allowed in, but only after he offered a sacrifice for sin, underwent ritual purification through washing, and donned special clothing.
God is illustrating for us that we are not righteous enough to be in His presence. (Nowhere does the Bible say that justification does away with the law. It is not a property of justification to do so.) Justification brings us into alignment with a standard. With God, justification is a gift; on our part, it is unearned. We cannot earn it because our works are flawed and thus unacceptable. We are unacceptable. Justification—by God's grace, through faith in Christ's blood—brings us into alignment with God's standard and therefore into the status of "righteous" in His eyes. Then we have access to God.
In principle, this does not differ from breaking a law of man (committing a crime) and going to jail. Once the penalty has been paid, and we are squared away with the law we have broken, we are released from prison. Once again, we have free access to the public. But the major difference between that scenario and what God does is that we cannot pay the penalty and still have His purpose continue in our lives because we would be dead.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part Four)
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