Scripture: verses 6 and 7
As for the live bird, [the priest] is to take it with the cedar-wood, scarlet yarn and hyssop and dip them and the living bird in the blood of the bird slaughtered over running water, and sprinkle the person to be purified from the tzara‘at [leprosy] seven times. Next he is to set the live bird free in an open field.
Observation: The rituals for purifying someone from leprosy have got to be one of the most elaborate sets of rituals in Leviticus – certainly it seems more complicated than consecrating the priests did. This is the first ritual, done after the priest has examined the person and determined that he is clean again.
We see numerous symbols of purification and preservation here. Cedar wood was probably used then, as it is now, to keep critters away from clothing. Isaiah 1 promises that our scarlet-dyed sins will be as white as snow. Hyssop is a purgative, as mentioned in Psalm 51. Running water was used for washing, and the live bird was freed after being dipped in sacrificial blood. (Incidentally, I would not want to try dipping a live, healthy bird into blood. That seems like something that would go horribly!)
But what gets me is that these things don’t make the person who had leprosy clean. He still has to spend another seven days outside his tent (though he can be inside the camp) and then offer more sacrifices before he is truly clean. These things are the promise of being clean.
We aren’t given purgatives and bleach so we can make ourselves perfect. It doesn’t work that way. God gave us those things as a picture of what He offers.
Living clean and doing good things and being generous to others and all the good things we do are not things that make us holy. God gave us those things to be a picture of His grace and His will. But if we spend all our time looking at the picture, we’ll never accept His offer. We’ll never be clean.
There’s only one way to be clean: through the sacrifice of the Lamb. Everything else is just a promise of what’s to come.
Application: Don’t spend all your time and energy on the picture. Claim His blood and His gift. Seek His face. See the rest for what it is: a set of useful tools and helpful pictures, but not salvation.
Prayer: Yeshua, thank you for being my Lamb. Thank you for making me clean when nothing else could. Help me not to get distracted by things that don’t work. Amen.