Purge Me with Hyssop


“Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” Psalm 51:7

As the M’Cheyne Bible reading plan has led us through the book of Exodus, I was struck by how the word intricately is always used to describe the ephod, the special priestly garment woven of linen, gold, blue, purple, and scarlet threads. For example, here it is introduced in Exodus 28:8

And the intricately woven band of the ephod, which is on it, shall be of the same workmanship, made of gold, blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine woven linen.

Intricate also describes the wonderful ways that the Holy Spirit has woven the themes in the Bible together. Today I caught a glimpse of that intricacy in a reference to a humble plant, the hyssop. 1 Kings 4:33 describes Solomon’s wisdom in speaking of trees, from the greatest—the cedar of Lebanon—to the least—the lowly hyssop that grows out of the wall. Similar to many references to Biblical plants, scholars are not agreed on the exact species of plant that the Hebrew word ezowb points to. But hyssop plays a crucial role in Old Testament worship. It was used:

  1. By the Hebrew people to mark the lintel and door posts of their homes with blood so the death angel would pass over (Exodus 12:22)
  2. By Moses to sprinkle blood during the dedication of the book of testimony and the people (Hebrews 9:19)
  3. By the priests to sprinkle blood for the cleansing of leprosy (Lev 14)
  4. By the priests when they burned a sacrificed red heifer for creating the ashes used to purify the unclean and prevent them from being cut off from the community (Numbers 19)

In all these cases, no power rested in the lowly hyssop; rather, it became the means of sprinkling the blood that brought freedom from death and forgiveness of sin. It is in this sense that David mentions hyssop in Psalm 51, which is his great psalm of repentance after Nathan exposed his sin with Bathsheba.

And this is where we see the intricate weaving of threads come together in John 19:29-30. In Jesus final moments on the cross, he cried “I thirst,” and a soldier reached a sponge soaked in sour wine to him. The soldier could have attached that sponge to any kind of stick; but instead, he “happened” to use a branch of hyssop to touch the lips that next uttered the word “Tetelestai” (it is finished).

God again provided a humble branch of hyssop to touch the true blood sacrifice that takes away the sin of the world, foreshadowed in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers.

For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? Hebrews 9:13-14

That Roman soldier could have grabbed anything at hand, but God ordained a branch of hyssop to be available so he could add a finishing touch to the intricately woven story that began in the Garden, where he promised that the seed of the woman would crush the serpent’s head.

How much more can he provide for us and ordain our steps as we trust in Him!


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1 Comment

  1. Jan

    Loved these thoughts and the way you wrote about them.
    Thanks for blessing me today, Helen.


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