(By Angela Watson)
I’d been reading through Psalm 51, David’s prayer to God after being confronted by the prophet Nathan regarding his sin with Bathsheba, and while the words in verse 7 were so familiar, I was puzzled.
“Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow” (Psalms 51:7).
What did David mean by being purged with hyssop and how would it make him clean?
As I started to dig a little deeper, my heart was moved by how amazing our God is. Our God is not a God of chaos or coincidence. He is a God of planning and purpose, right down to the smallest details.
I don’t know if you are familiar with what hyssop looks like, but I was quite surprised when I searched and discovered beautiful images of a purple shrub that is native to southern Europe and the Middle East. This herb grows approximately two feet tall with beautiful flowers and aromatic leaves and has many medicinal purposes.
As God created that particular plant at the beginning of this world, He knew that it would have a part to play in His rescue plan. Perhaps that is why hyssop, unlike most herbs, has such beautifully attractive flowers. God planned beauty even in the brokenness that was about to follow.
God knew how this plant would be used like a paintbrush at the first Passover in Exodus 12 to apply the blood of the lamb to the doorposts of the Israelites’ homes so that when the destroyer came through the land of Egypt, it would pass over the houses where the blood was applied.
God knew that He would use this herb to provide cleansing for lepers and for their houses as they would need to deal with this awful disease as they left Egypt and moved into the Promised Land of Canaan to take possession. Leviticus chapter 14 gave the instructions for cleansing lepers and leprosy in the Bible is often used as a picture of our sin.
God planned for its use in the purification laws that He would set out in Numbers 19. Fresh water would be added to the ashes of the burnt sin offering, and a clean person would dip that hyssop branch into the water and sprinkle it on the unclean and their tent and their possessions, and after the seventh day of this ritual, they would be clean.
And finally, as the Lamb of God hung on the cross, His blood shed...to save us from our sin which covered us like leprosy...so we could be purified and declared clean before God, we once again see the hyssop branch. John 19:28-30 tells us:
After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to His mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.
The cross was not an afterthought; it was always God’s plan, every little detail.