|Pilgrim cross, Glendalough|
Worms play an important role in the story of the Judeo-Christian faith. The blood of the coccus worm gave its purple colour to various items, such as linen, in the Tabernacle. The Tabernacle is a portrait of the person, ministry and sacrifice of Christ Jesus. Therefore, the worm and its blood must have some prophetic and symbolic link with Jesus.The first Biblical mention of the coccus worm in Job 25:5-6 is foundational for our understanding. ‘If even the moon is not bright and the stars are not pure in his (God’s) sight, how much less a mortal, who is a maggot, and a human being, who is a worm!’ This comment from Bildad might seem over the top and uncomplimentary to our self-esteem. I believe it is very insightful, if not prophetic.
Centuries later King David of Israel penned Psalm 22. The background to this awesome psalm is not clear. What is undeniable is its portrayal of a future event featuring Jesus. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” is the cry from the cross. (Read the whole passage and behold the crucifixion of Christ foretold a thousand years before the event).
What has that to do with ‘the worm’? Everything! ‘I am a worm, and not human; scorned by others, and despised by the people’ (Psalm 22:6). The events of the Passover crucifixion major on Jesus being the Lamb of God whose life and death provided our place of safety from God’s judgement. The symbolism of Jesus being ‘the worm of God’ seems a little bit tasteless. Yet, it actually deals with Bildad’s problem, and often, our unasked but perceived assessment, if not of ourselves, of others.
It is hard to imagine a creature weaker than a worm. Also, by inference, its dwelling place is in earth’s dirt. That is a fit Biblical description of the human condition morally and spiritually. When we come to grips with the symbolic and prophetic magnitude of the cross of Christ, we cannot but be stunned. Writers of the New Testament say many things about the cross. One of the most revealing, for me, is Paul’s: ‘We proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles … For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength’ (1 Corinthians 1:23-25).
Why do you think Jesus became ‘the worm of God?’ I understand it this way. He became the weakest of the weak so that no one has an excuse by saying Christ’s offer of saving grace wouldn’t reach down to his/her depth. The Bible insists that there isn’t anyone beneath what Christ became. We are also informed that as ‘the worm’ Jesus lived in the midst of Humanity’s filth but was uncontaminated. However, He absorbed all the rottenest of this world and was crushed under its weight and judgement by God the Father. Was the weakness of ‘the worm of God’ strong enough to die so as to rise again? Was His uncontaminated life verified? Was Bildad’s description able to be reversed? That was answered on the third day of entombment. The angel sounded the victory song ‘He is risen!’ God the Father had accepted the identity with, the substitution for, and the victory over the wrath accrued on behalf of ‘Earth’s worms.’
What does this mean for we who believe in and commit ourselves to Jesus as the risen Lord and Saviour? Many things. However, to conclude the theme of ‘the Worm of God’, recall the fact that the coccus worm gave its blood to colour the Tabernacle. When Jesus poured out His life in the shedding of his blood, it made something eternally wonderful for you and me. It includes being redeemed, purchased, justified, sanctified, washed and at peace with God. The blood of the coccus worm stained the Tabernacle linen purple. The blood of the Lord Jesus did what Isaiah wrote about as a promise of God: ‘Come now, let us argue it out, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be like snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool’ (Isaiah 1:18).