David’s prayer of confession in Psalm 51:7 (literally, “De-sin me with hyssop”) figuratively sums up the theological significance of hyssop. His sin had robbed him of fellowship with God, and knowing that the only thing that could restore that fellowship was the hyssop, he expressed his faith in the cleansing of the blood of the sacrifice. So it is that we must appeal to the blood of Jesus in order to experience forgiveness of sins and the enjoyment of restored fellowship with Him (1 John 1:7, 9). There’s more to hyssop than meets the eye.
At first glance, there is nothing special about hyssop. Solomon spoke about the tall-growing cedars of Lebanon and the hyssop that grew out of a wall (1 Kings 4:33; Heb. 9:19). The cedars and hyssop were at opposite ends of the spectrum: from big and beautiful to small and stark. Hyssop is a small, bushy plant that generally grows in arid, rocky places such as walls. Its principal feature is the sponge-like shoots that collect moisture and transfer that moisture to other objects, particularly when the plant is shaken. Its simple ability to collect and disperse liquids is what made it suitable for its most significant function in the ceremonial rituals of the Old Testament, all of which were picture prophecies pointing to the sacrificial work of Christ.
New Testament references to hyssop underscore the truth that Christ is the fulfillment of the Old Testament ceremonies, making their continuance obsolete but not obliterating the significance of their message. Hebrews 9:19 specifically mentions the inadequacy of hyssop along with other elements of the Old Testament sacrifices in order to point to the superiority of the sacrifice of Christ, which actually accomplished what all the Old Testament types could only anticipate. Although not in the context of the Mosaic ceremonies, the reference to hyssop in John 19:29 ironically associates it with the supreme sacrifice of Jesus. The vinegar-soaked hyssop touching the parched lips of Jesus immediately preceded His dying declaration “It is finished” (John 19:30). With that declaration, any further ceremonial use of the hyssop became unnecessary. Nonetheless, looking at the hyssop in the Old Testament pictures highlights four realities that Christ’s sacrifice accomplished