Two little birds can show you why you’re going to be fine.
Imagine if we had been taught world geography all our lives without ever having been shown a map. Cartography helps us grasp spatial distances that would be almost impossible had they been presented in words only. Even the most gifted of teachers would find their vocabularies exhausted trying to portray irregular coastlines, the bulk of nations, national boundaries.
Christians may often find themselves in a similar dilemma, having difficulty quantifying the shape and substance of the Lord’s work. They hear words in gospel messages that can evoke their faith, but later find their sins threatening them, and their weaknesses so condemning them that they question their very future. The words that nourished their souls have become nebulous.
In those moments, we need a message in vivid, graphic detail.
Show me something, Lord.
As we’ve seen in the previous weeks, the book of Leviticus uses leprosy as a hard hitting illustration of the average sinner’s corruption. We’ve broken the picture down to demonstrate it in all its moral and spiritual ramifications–an excruciating expose, but helpful, nonetheless.
Consequently, no picture of sacrifice is more effective than the one offered on behalf of a cleansed leper in Leviticus chapter 14. This unwieldy, but telling sacrifice goes all out to prophetically demonstrate, in picture, the comprehensiveness of Christ’s accomplishments for us.
Lev. 14:4 the priest shall command them to take for him who is to be cleansed two live clean birds and cedarwood and scarlet yarn and hyssop. 5 And the priest shall command them to kill one of the birds in an earthenware vessel over fresh water. 6 He shall take the live bird with the cedarwood and the scarlet yarn and the hyssop, and dip them and the live bird in the blood of the bird that was killed over the freshwater. 7 And he shall sprinkle it seven times on him who is to be cleansed of the leprous disease. Then he shall pronounce him clean and shall let the living bird go into the open field.
At the heart of this odd, highly suggestive scene lies blood and freshwater, signifying the two main aspects of salvation–redemption and eternal life that is in Christ. True salvation always gravitates around these dual themes. And to further add, the two birds themselves do so as well–one that dies, and the other that flies away, emblematic of resurrection.
But it is the elements of the offering–cedarwood, hyssop, and scarlet yarn–that calls for our specific attention. According to 1 Kings 4:33, these represent a range of all things great and small. For there we’re told that Solomon spoke of everything from cedar to hyssop, referring to his scope of attention upon matters stretching from the noteworthy to the insignificant.
What did our King and High Priest, Jesus Christ, have in mind when He died and then rose to stand for us in the power of life eternal? If we say it was only to deal with witchcraft, murder, idolatry, and other high profile evils, then we will have a lopsided view of His work. Likewise, if we think of lesser, more pedantic offenses like lying, greed, and hatred, we have an anemic idea of His work. And should we fixate upon tiny, unseen transgressions like mixed motives, profanity, and dirty thoughts, then His blood will seem to have been shed for trifling things.
No, we must conceive of His offering as including everything from the hubris of high disobedient philosophy and admired white collar crimes, to sickening forms of violence and abuse, to privately held envy. And all of it is bound together with a scarlet cord. All. According to the divine view, all are grouped into the category of sin. And all alike have been dealt with on the cross of Christ, from the stately cedar to the paltry hyssop sprout.
Finally, the seven-fold sprinkling (seven referring to completion in a unit of time) tells the leper he is covered for the complete span of his life. There is nothing lurking in a believer’s past, present, or future that could, by itself, derail his or her life before God.
The two birds are a veritable New Testament street level map of salvation, assembled under the scrupulous design of God. It was there in those verses when you were a kid. When your dad and grandad were kids. In fact, before your ancestors ever left the old world to sail to America. Before there ever was an America. Before there was an old world as we know it.
Even then God was saying about these Scriptures,
Look at this.
Think about it.
Dwell on it.
It’s all yours.
More than you could ever need.