Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;

   wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Psalm 51: 7

David knew something about sin, and he was acutely aware of the harm that his wandering heart caused to his relationship with God and to his ability to remain close to people, too. So, I think that these words are both a lament and a strong request. David is sorrowful for the sin in his life, and he desires to have the Lord perform His cleansing work upon his body and in his heart. The rough surfaced leaves of the hyssop plant were used to ceremonially cleanse people who had become defiled by dead bodies and by contact with lepers. A bird was sacrificed and the hyssop branch was dipped in its blood so that the blood could be sprinkled on the person who was unclean but repentant for the totality of his sin. The priest would then pronounce the penitent clean, and thus, it was acceptable for him to participate in temple worship or in other forms of sacred rights and ritual. In other words, the person who had repented of his sin and undergone the cleansing ritual was then acceptable to be in the presence of God.

All people are born into a similar condition and many of us find ourselves in a like place in life as did David. We are sinners from birth. We do not get to choose whether we will be perfectly obedient to God or whether we will rebel against His love, righteousness, and call to holiness. People follow the path of our parents just as they adhered to the one that had been established by the many generations that came before them. When the Apostle Paul declared that, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” he truly meant to be all-inclusive. None of us get to escape this reality, and no one has an answer to our separation from God other than God’s own answer, which is found in Jesus Christ alone and that is made available to all of us by and through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and God’s resurrection of Him from among the dead. That is it! There is nothing else and no other way to be made righteous and holy in God’s eyes. So, there is no alternative to Jesus if we wish to dwell in the presence of God.

Jesus, through His cross, has eliminated the need for dead birds and rough branches. He has also taken over the position and the authority that had previously been granted to human priests, for Christ alone has God’s endorsement to pronounce people cleansed of sin and so, rightly fit to be in God’s perfect and holy presence. The work that those priests did was temporary at best, but the work that Christ does lasts for all of eternity. The blood that was shed in sacrifice upon Christ’s cross penetrates much deeper than the surface so that the soul of anyone who turns to Christ is not just touched by a few of its purifying drops but it is washed clean and made pure and acceptable to a Holy God. The bright snow of a winter’s day covers over and obscures the dirt and the decay that is a part of life in our world. So too does Christ cover our brokenness and sin with His cleansing blood; however, the snow melts and its effect dissipates with time, but Christ’s pure whiteness lasts for all of eternity. 

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Sanctify them in the truth, your word is truth.

John 17: 17

 

Jesus is praying to the Father. These are those last moments before the great drama that would include Judas pointing Him out, the arrest and trials, and then Christ’s seeming humiliation and crucifixion. In this time of prayer, Jesus pours out His heart and lays bare His deep desires before God, the Father. So, the Lord asks the Father to make His people clean from their sinfulness and so make them worthy to be in the presence of God. This requested outcome is not just one that is for the moment, to be redone over and over again, rather, it is a form of cleansing that is to last for all time. It includes their days of life on earth to come and the entire expanse of time in which their souls will continue to exist beyond this life. Sanctify them, make them holy, set them apart for service at God’s altar of life; this is the plea and the request that Jesus sends upward to His God.

 

This is something that does just happen. This cleansing is effective upon our acceptance of Christ as our Savior and Lord; yet, it is something that is never completed in this life. This is also the point that Jesus is making in this prayer. This truth that Jesus references is something deep, profound, and fundamental to all that exists in the universe. For truth as it is related to God is not a mere descriptor of something else, it is a part of the foundation upon which everything is constructed. Truth is an essential aspect of the nature and the character of God. So, it is solid, concrete, and without distortion or deviation over time. This truth that Jesus asks the Father to pour out into His followers responds to all of life, to everything that might come our way, in a manner that puts its adherents into a position to live out our days in conformity to God’s will and as righteous inhabitants of the Lord’s kingdom on earth.

 

The word that Jesus speaks about here is also something more basic than even the written Word of God that we view under the title Holy Bible. It is God’s expressed nature, His perfect character, and the will that defines all of His actions and that frames in all human endeavor on earth and in Heaven. Jesus was very familiar with a part of the written form of this word as it existed in His earthly days, but He was even more intimately involved with the totality of God’s expression of Himself by virtue of His engagement in the statement of this eternal truth. Jesus, in conjunction with the Father and the Spirit, spoke all of creation into existence, and He also gave us all that is loving, just, right, and holy by way of thoughts and actions to follow as a model for living within that creation. When we surrender ourselves to Christ, we are made pure, clean, and holy before God, and as we live out our remaining days in yielded surrender to Christ’s will, under the instruction of His Word, and in the counsel of His Spirit, we continue along the Lord’s sanctification road that takes us to the perfection of eternity.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth,

so are my ways higher than your ways

and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Isaiah 55: 9

 

These are God’s words as Isaiah relates them to us. The Lord is contrasting the way that He acts and thinks with the way that people conduct our lives. Yet, God is not really establishing His superiority as much as He is setting out the possibility for us. The Lord is calling upon people to choose to follow a path through life that is righteous and holy. This is a call to repentance that leads us into relationship with our Lord.

 

You see, God does not dwell in the rubbish heap that is too often our world. His place of residence is heaven, and this is a place that is wholly separate and apart from the sin-ravaged and broken landscape here. Yet heaven is not so because God has placed a barrier around it in order to keep it apart and the world distant; rather, God is holy, sinless, and He does not allow anything that is otherwise into His presence. Herein lays the powerful appeal of God’s words through the Prophet.

 

Through Christ we can enter into this same state of being holy and acceptable to God. As we are in Christ we are changed, transformed, and our old fallen ways of acting and thinking are continually being reshaped into ways that are holy, that is loving, just, other-focused, and humbly yielded to God’s word. As the Holy Spirit does this work in us a great miracle takes place. We are relocated into the glory of heaven; yet, we do not leave this world. As we think and act out of the wisdom and the grace of our new lives in Christ, we bring the righteousness and the renewal of heaven into this needy place.