10th July 2015

Hyssop’s Fables? 

“Cleanse me of my wickedness with hyssop, and I will be clean. If You wash me, I will be whiter than snow.”
Psalm 51:7 (VOICE)

It’s a beautiful summer evening and I am sitting in the garden looking at the colourful flowers and breathing in the aroma of the herbs. Among the most treasured of our herbs are Blue and Rock hyssop plants. Hyssop has a legendary history. The ancient Persians added it to skin lotions, the Greeks thought it had healing properties, and in the Bible it is connected to protection from disease and to cleansing.

When I roast lamb or chicken with hyssop or add it sparingly to other herbs to flavour soups and stews, it makes me feel in some strange way close to biblical times. Perhaps you can imagine my disappointment when I read in the 1980s that hyssop in the scriptures did not refer to my lovely hardy perennial but to a form of marjoram. At least that was the accepted view until a few years ago when it was discovered that penicillin mould grows on the leaves of Hyssopus officinalis and its related varietals. This supplies an interesting background piece of information when reading Leviticus 14:4-6 where hyssop is used in purification baths for lepers. Hyssop was also the plant dipped into the blood of the Passover lambs when God spared the Israelites from the plague that caused the death of the firstborn (Exodus 12:22).

In the Psalm above David explains his need for deep, spiritual cleansing and uses hyssop in an analogy about how God cleanses and purifies us. In the New Testament it is the sacrificial blood of Jesus that cleanses us once and for all from sin (Hebrews 10:2, 22). True spiritual cleansing is a gift from God alone, and from no other source. It is when Jesus washes us that in His righteousness we become whiter than the snow.

It remains uncertain whether the biblical hyssop is today’s hyssop or marjoram or oregano or, as some also suggest, summer savoury. We don’t know, but what we do know is that, when it comes to the cleansing of our hearts, Jesus is the real thing.

Let Jesus cleanse you from your sins.

Cleanse us, Father, through the purifying blood of Your son Jesus, Who, through the Eternal Spirit, offered Himself on the cross that we may serve You. In Jesus’ name.

Study by James Henderson


Bible openAbout the Author:
James Henderson is the National Ministry Leader for Grace Communion International in the UK and Ireland.  You are welcome to attend any of our local congregations.  For details of your nearest local congregation, check on our website, www.gracecom.uk under the ‘Churches’ tab, or ring +44 (0)1858 437099.

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