But if the priest comes in and examines it, and indeed the plague has not spread in the house after the house was plastered, then the priest shall pronounce the house clean, because the plague is healed. And he shall take, to cleanse the house, two birds, cedar wood, scarlet, and hyssop. Then he shall kill one of the birds in an earthen vessel over running water; and he shall take the cedar wood, the hyssop, the scarlet, and the living bird, and dip them in the blood of the slain bird and in the running water, and sprinkle the house seven times. And he shall cleanse the house with the blood of the bird and the running water and the living bird, with the cedar wood, the hyssop, and the scarlet. Then he shall let the living bird loose outside the city in the open field, and make atonement for the house, and it shall be clean. (Leviticus 14:48-53)
It’s A Matter Of The Details
The fear of leprosy was a great reality in Bible times as a disease that would put one in a place of isolation away from all other people under Jewish law and bring a slow and miserable death. God used it as a sign with Moses to prove His power. In the Law of Moses, there were many regulations concerning the leper and how the priests would make a determination to the level of the disease and whether a time would come the victim could be proclaimed clean of the offense. This law extended to the homes of those who may suspect the plague to be in his house. He would call the priest to inspect the home which would be emptied of all furniture and possessions. If there is evidence of the plague the house would be shut up for seven days before a follow-up inspection. When the priest returns and finds the plague still in the house, the offending stones would be taken away to a place outside the city and cast away. The house would be scraped inside, all around, and the dust that they scrape off would be poured out in an unclean place outside the city. New stones are brought in and the house plastered again. After a time the priest will inspect the house for the plague. If the plague is found again in the house it would be torn down, its stones, its timber, and all the plaster to be carried outside the city. But if the priest comes in and finds the house free of the plague, the house will be pronounced clean. The details for the ceremony of announcing the house clean is very specific and exact. To cleanse the house the priest must take two birds, cedar wood, scarlet, and hyssop. The Hebrew suggests two small birds which are unnamed to type. Cedarwood was designated eliminating in other kinds of wood. Yarn or threads of crimson would be used in the ceremony along with hyssop (a plant used for cleansing). One of the birds was to be killed in an earthen vessel over running water. It must be observed the first matters of detail are the type of vessel and the manner of the killing to be done over running water. The priest would then take the cedar wood, the hyssop, the scarlet, and the living bird and dip them in the blood of the slain bird and in the running water. Attention to detail is noted in the command of God for the priest to carry out this function in the proper manner. Finally, the house would be sprinkled seven times. The priest would signify the cleansing of the house by the blood of the dead bird and the running water and the living bird, with the cedar wood, the hyssop, and the scarlet. Then the live bird would be released outside the city in the open field making atonement for the house. After all of this, the house would be declared clean.
It seems a lot of work to go about trying to declare a house clean from leprosy. Finding two birds to kill would have been easy enough but why two birds? Then the priest must find or create running water (they did not have modern faucets in the home) to cleanse everything with. What difference what kind of vessel the bird had to be killed over and what was the significance of doing it over running water? Understanding the science of leprosy, what does cedar wood, a couple of strings of red yarn and a bramble bush have to do with cleansing a house of a dreaded disease like leprosy? None of these items would make any sense to the wisdom of man to declare a house clean of leprosy. The priest could inspect the home and when it was found safe to live in, post a notice on the door telling the residents the quarantine is lifted and the family can return home. Having a priest come in with a couple of birds, wood, string and a branch performing some ceremony would seem more sensational than religious. If these regulations were imposed today most people would ignore them. Attending to the details of such a frivolous act as commanded by the Lord would have been changed and ignored by modern religious thought. Arguments would have been presented why the cedar wood had no cleansing power no more than strings of crimson or a bush. Preachers would proclaim the message of salvation from leprosy by only believing the leprosy was gone convincing the myriads of faithless followers that ignoring the details of the law of God would save them by His grace alone. Vast throngs of believers in Christ would move back into houses plagued with leprosy denying the law commanding two birds, cedar wood, scarlet, and hyssop. Sadly these dear ones would die of leprosy because they were never cleansed from the plague of death. Why? They were not concerned about the details of God’s law denying the pattern given by the Lord to cleanse them.
Commandment keeping is frowned upon in the religious world today as salvation by works. Science could prove that killing a bird over running water in an earthen vessel and sprinkling a house with the cedar wood, hyssop, scarlet, and a live bird would have no impact upon removing a plague from its walls. The point of God was not to impress the scientific world with its own wisdom but to test whether man would obey Him or not. If the priest did not follow the commandments of the Lord which included two birds, cedar wood, scarlet, hyssop, running water and an earthen vessel the house would not have been proclaimed clean. When a person argues about baptism that immersing the body into water has no cleansing power denies the commands of God and the power of His grace to save. How does water take away sin? Is there a magical infusion that takes place in water that removes sin? Would the waters of the Jordan River cleanse sin better than the waters of the Mississippi River or the Pacific Ocean or Lake Thonotosassa or mom’s bathtub? God washes away sin when He sees the heart in obedience follow His commands. On the Day of Pentecost, three thousand people did not argue about the science of water baptism. They believed in the grace of water baptism and obeyed. Denying the burial in water as burial in the death of Christ does not take away the command of God that sins are washed away in the water of obedience. Two birds, cedar wood, scarlet, hyssop, running water and an earthen vessel prove that baptism is essential for salvation.