Devotion 81 – Thursday of Epiphany 3

Opening Prayer

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean. Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. (Psa 51:7)

Text: Leviticus 14:2-8

“This shall be the law of the leper for the day of his cleansing: He shall be brought to the priest. And the priest shall go out of the camp, and the priest shall look; and indeed, if the leprosy is healed in the leper, then the priest shall command to take for him who is to be cleansed two living and clean birds, cedar wood, scarlet, and hyssop. And the priest shall command that one of the birds be killed in an earthen vessel over running water. As for the living bird, he shall take it, the cedar wood and the scarlet and the hyssop, and dip them and the living bird in the blood of the bird that was killed over the running water. And he shall sprinkle it seven times on him who is to be cleansed from the leprosy, and shall pronounce him clean, and shall let the living bird loose in the open field. He who is to be cleansed shall wash his clothes, shave off all his hair, and wash himself in water, that he may be clean. After that he shall come into the camp, and shall stay outside his tent seven days.”

Devotion

Lepers were excluded from the community of Israel’s people and were just like the dead. They were incurable. Only when the leprosy had broken out over the whole body, so that nothing healthy could be seen, then they were cleansed and could be received again into the people and in communion with God. The two birds are to be considered as one and represent the leper. The cedar wood represents what is indestructible; scarlet, the color of life; and hyssop, cleansing; and the bird dies in place of man. The blood is mixed with fresh water in a bowl and the living bird is dipped into it. The man is sprinkled with it, together with everything else. The bird is set free. The leper is regarded as dead and made alive again and clean.

Sin has made us unclean, yes, dead. By sin and unbelief we are separated from God and His people. Not until we acknowledge ourselves completely sinful, that there is nothing healthy is us, can we be cleansed. Christ died in our place and lives again. He has joined His atoning life and blood with the water of our Baptism and lives forever to intercede for us. By the sprinkling we are cleansed from the impurity of sin, received into the covenant with God, and belong to His people. For He took our place when He became Man, died, rose again, and went home to God, and we become one with Him in Baptism. Little children who are baptized are cleansed from the leprosy of sin and made alive again, for they do not reject the grace of God. But when the baptized grows up, he is to make the grace of Baptism his own. And this faith cannot arise except in a heart which knows itself completely sinful, having no righteousness in himself, and knowing nothing other than Jesus for life and cleansing. If you are completely sinful and totally condemned, then hold on to Him as your only and perfect Savior. Then you are pure in His eyes and belong to His people. Then you shall wash your clothes, shave all your hair, and bathe in water, that is, separate yourself from your sinful life and show yourself a new creation in Christ.

Closing Prayer

Lord, teach us Your way of grace, and lead us on it. We are leprous, cleanse us. We are dead, make us alive. We are doomed, have mercy on us, and save us. Show us rightly our deep corruption, and grant us healing in Your death and in Your life. Amen.

Hymn

You can, O Jesus, if You will,
I know You have all power.
O stretch Your hand to reach me still
Before I faint this hour!
Speak to my soul, and promise good,
Say that You will relieve me,
And receive me,
A soul, cleansed by Your blood,
This double cleansing give me.

Kingo: Paa berget har nu Jesus endt L 212:2 tr. DeGarmeaux;
tune: Ich ruf zu dir (ELH 255); alternate hymn: Rock of ages ELH 286:3

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