Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: We read in Lev. 14 of the ritual that persons healed of leprosy would go through. One bird was sacrificed and another set free. We who are in Christ need to see ourselves as birds set free.

Free As A Bird

Leviticus 14

Cleansing From Infectious Skin Diseases

1 The LORD said to Moses, 2 "These are the regulations for the diseased person at the time of his ceremonial cleansing, when he is brought to the priest: 3 The priest is to go outside the camp and examine him. If the person has been healed of his infectious skin disease, [1] 4 the priest shall order that two live clean birds and some cedar wood, scarlet yarn and hyssop be brought for the one to be cleansed. 5 Then the priest shall order that one of the birds be killed over fresh water in a clay pot. 6 He is then to take the live bird and dip it, together with the cedar wood, the scarlet yarn and the hyssop, into the blood of the bird that was killed over the fresh water. 7 Seven times he shall sprinkle the one to be cleansed of the infectious disease and pronounce him clean. Then he is to release the live bird in the open fields. (New International Version)

This passage describes cleansing that one healed of leprosy would have to undergo to be declared clean.

I. The cleansing ceremony for those cleansed of leprosy

A. Two birds—one sacrificed, one set free

B. The sacrificed bird was killed over running water. The running water represented cleansing.

C. The bird and a bundle of cedar and hyssop tied

with scarlet and dipped in the blood of the sacrificed bird.

D. Elements involved in the cleansing of lepers

1. Cedar wood

What is the significance of cedar? According to most commentators, cedar is presented in Scripture as a symbol of imperishable existence. When cedar burns it produces a sweet aroma bringing to mind the sweet aroma of the sacrifice Christ would make on the cross. Cedar is a common wood used throughout Palestine and the Middle East. It is quite possible that Christ was even crucified on a cross made of cedar. In Ezekiel 17, Christ is portrayed as a cedar tree.

Ezekiel 17

22"And the Sovereign LORD says: I will take a tender shoot from the top of a tall cedar, and I will plant it on the top of Israel’s highest mountain. 23It will become a noble cedar, sending forth its branches and producing seed. Birds of every sort will nest in it, finding shelter beneath its branches. 24And all the trees will know that it is I, the LORD, who cuts down the tall tree and helps the short tree to grow tall. It is I who makes the green tree wither and gives new life to the dead tree. I, the LORD, have spoken! I will do what I have said." (New Living Translation)

Cedar thus seems to signify that which is eternal.

2. Hyssop

Hyssop in Scripture is associated with cleansing. In Psalm 51:7, David wrote:

“Purge me with hyssop, and shall be clean…”

Hyssop is a small bushy plant that grows in the Middle East. Oil from hyssop in fact is said to be quite an effective antiseptic and antibacterial agent. Hyssop oil contains 50 percent carvacrol which is an antifungal and antibacterial agent that still used in medicine.

Hyssop thus seems to signify cleansing.

3. Scarlet

Many commentators see this color as symbolizing life. Scarlet is the color of blood. Blood is the source of life. It was the blood of Jesus shed on the cross that would offer cleansing and eternal life.

E. The Leper is sprinkled seven times with the blood from the slain bird.

F. The other bird is set free. This signifies that the leper is set free from quarantine.

II. Christological Significance of this ceremony

A. All sacrifices in the Old Testament point to the ultimate sacrifice of Christ on the cross.

B. We can identify with lepers in that we have a decaying sickness in our lives called sin.

C. Our ailment keeps us quarantined from God

D. Christ is the bird who sacrificed His life so that we could be set free.

E. The elements involved in the sacrifice can remind us of the quality of the sacrifice Christ made for us.

1. The cedar reminds us of the eternal security we have in Christ

2. The scarlet thread reminds us of the blood of Christ shed for our sins

3. The hyssop reminds of the healing we have through the sacrifice of Christ

F. The leper sprinkled seven times reminds us of the completeness of Christ’s atonement for us on the cross. Seven is the number of completion.

G. The bird set free reminds of how we have been set free from the law of sin and death.

Some Lessons from the Bird Set Free

I. We who have accepted Christ are the birds set free

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