I have seen people spitting on the sports field and in the news so I cannot stop thinking about it, Why? It is a disgusting action that carries distain, unworthiness, failure, a lack of value, but it brings a sense of power to the one carrying out the action. As I dug into God’s Word, I was surprised how many times it speaks of spitting. This outward expression has been with us for centuries. So, swallow hard and let’s digest this thought together, sorry I felt I needed to attempt some humor before we moved into this disgusting topic.
Job 7: 15-19 ESV
I would rather be strangled— rather die than suffer like this. I hate my life and don’t want to go on living. Oh, leave me alone for my few remaining days. “What are people, that you should make so much of us, that you should think of us so often? For you examine us every morning and test us every moment. Why won’t you leave me alone, at least long enough for me to swallow!
Job feels completely useless, unworthy, a complete failure, who lacks any value in himself. He is mad at God for caring about him. Job was in so much physical pain that even the simplest of actions, swallowing, caused him great difficulty and was only a reminder of his struggles. When he asks God, “at least long enough for me to swallow”, today we might say, “Can you at least give me a minute alone!” a rest from the pain and hurt that is our life. Job was considered by God and Satan as an honorable man. His friends came to comfort him but instead condemned him, with the discussion that everything done to him was a form of discipline from God. Job was sinking into depression and wanted a minute to process how he got there, “just let me swallow all this saliva.
Numbers 12: 10-14 ESV
As the cloud moved from above the Tabernacle, there stood Miriam, her skin as white as snow from leprosy. When Aaron saw what had happened to her, he cried out to Moses, “Oh, my master! Please don’t punish us for this sin we have so foolishly committed. Don’t let her be like a stillborn baby, already decayed at birth.” So, Moses cried out to the LORD, “O God, I beg you, please heal her!” But the LORD said to Moses, “If her father had done nothing more than spit in her face, wouldn’t she be defiled for seven days? So, keep her outside the camp for seven days, and after that she may be accepted back.”
Miriam is touched with Leprosy, often in the bible we see a view of sin through this illness. God is showing Moses a visual sign of their sin. With Leprosy, you lose the sensors in your mind that warn you of pain. God gives Moses another example, the pain of having your own father spit in your face. As a daughter you would be broken, how did you fail so miserably, causing such distain and unworthiness from your own father. Certainly, she would leave home, take a moment and swallow. How do you return, where do you find the strength to return and walk back into your home?
Deuteronomy 25: 7-9 ESV
“But if the man refuses to marry his brother’s widow, she must go to the town gate and say to the elders assembled there, ‘My husband’s brother refuses to preserve his brother’s name in Israel—he refuses to fulfill the duties of a brother-in-law by marrying me.’ The elders of the town will then summon him and talk with him. If he still refuses and says, ‘I don’t want to marry her,’ the widow must walk over to him in the presence of the elders, pull his sandal from his foot, and spit in his face. Then she must declare, ‘This is what happens to a man who refuses to provide his brother with children.’
To preserve the name of her husband, the brother-in-law living on the same property of his deceased brother must marry the widow and bring a child to continue the fallen brothers’ name. This is so interesting to me and in today’s world it seems so foreign. But even beyond the continuation of a name and a family line, this widow is without a means to survive. In the economy of this era, value was found in childbearing.
She sets a time to meet with the town leadership and explains the unwillingness of the brother-in-law to provide her a son that would carry on the name of her fallen husband. Then the town leaders speak with him, but he still refuses. Another visual sign is given in front of several witnesses and the town leaders. She must bend down and remove one sandal. Then standing up, she spits in his face with a declaration of his disgrace, his shame, and his unworthiness.
Mark 8: 23-25 ESV
Jesus took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village. Then, spitting on the man’s eyes, he laid his hands on him and asked, “Can you see anything now?” The man looked around. “Yes,” he said, “I see people, but I can’t see them very clearly. They look like trees walking around.” Then Jesus placed his hands on the man’s eyes again, and his eyes were opened. His sight was completely restored, and he could see everything clearly.
Wait, we moved from the Old Testament to the New Testament, but why is Jesus spitting in someone’s eye. This is not the only time that we find Jesus spitting by the way. Each time it is to heal someone’s blindness. Job was asking for a moment to collect his saliva, his mind set was only on his hurt, he couldn’t see the work being done in his life.
Just before this passage the disciples are discussing the fact that they had forgotten to bring bread. In verses 17 and 18 of chapter 8, Jesus replies, “Why are you arguing about having no bread? Don’t you know or understand even yet? Are your hearts too hard to take it in? ‘You have eyes—can’t you see? You have ears—can’t you hear?’ Don’t you remember anything at all? They had personally witnessed the provision of His hand, for he had fed the 5000 and the 4000 with very little. Could they not see or understand?
Jesus gives them yet another visual. Jesus had come to redeem, to set in proper order even the disgraced, the worthless, and the devalued. Being blind was a sentence of loneliness, your family left you only to beg on street corners for any hope you might have of survival. At one encounter the disciples ask Jesus, “Who sinned, this man or his parents?” Jesus using the act of spitting to heal not to hurt, to improve a life, not devalue it. This man’s life is forever changed and for the better. Unlike Miriam who was an example of the pain of sin, this man was an example of the redemption from sin, offered by God through Jesus.
Matthew 27: 28-30 ESV
They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him. They wove thorn branches into a crown and put it on his head, and they placed a reed stick in his right hand as a scepter. Then they knelt before him in mockery and taunted, “Hail! King of the Jews!” And they spit on him and grabbed the stick and struck him on the head with it.
In Deuteronomy we saw the sister-in-law making a public display of her distain for the man that should have carried on the name of his brother but refused. Here we see Jesus being made into a public display of mockery, shame, and to appear valueless. Jesus was going to redeem this visual. They came to Him, no kneeling and no sandals to remove but they then spit on Him in an effort to bring disgrace. They went so far as to publicly beat Him as they proceeded to take him outside the village and crucify Him.
Matthew 27: 45-48 ESV
At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. At about three o’clock, Jesus called out with a loud voice, which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”
Some of the bystanders misunderstood and thought he was calling for the prophet Elijah.
One of them ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, holding it up to him on a reed stick so he could drink.
Jesus could feel the pain and hurt with each breath. Some even thought he had a dry mouth and offered Him some drink but even then, it was sour wine. Why does He make so much of us and think of us so often? The words of Job are so fitting, even now.
God utilizes every form of learning that allows us to see how much He cares for us. If it takes the visual of saliva to help us understand his redeeming power, then He will. Do you understand, can you see, have you heard, or do you remember, the great love He has for you. He wants to redeem your life. He desires to change the hurt into joy, the pain into love, and our unworthiness into honor. He values you and is willing to do whatever it takes to redeem your life.