Clothes Mark the Priest?
Heavenly Father, awaken me to hear Your call, and help me to listen with my heart as well as my mind.
Read Exodus 28:1-30
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. All rights reserved throughout the world. Used by permission of International Bible Society.
“As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Col. 3:12).
What strikes me here are the twin requirements of precise order and extravagant ornamentation. On the priest’s shoulders lay huge responsibilities: embodying the people’s hopes and mediating the will and purpose of God to them. He must be clothed both correctly and splendidly. Difficult now to reconstruct, the ephod bore the names of the 12 tribes of Israel. Thus the priest carried all of Israel into the presence of God (12). The number 12 came to represent completeness; e.g., features of Solomon’s Temple (1 Kings 7:15, 44), Ezekiel’s vision of the altar (Ezek. 43:16), Jesus’ 12 disciples, and the dimensions of the City of God in John’s vision (Rev. 21:10-21). Finally, the tree of life with its 12 fruits (Rev. 22:2) was for the healing of all nations because Jesus’ sacrifice brought all humankind into the presence of God.
The elaborate breastplate held the mysterious Urim and Thummim, probably stone lots or dice, used to determine God’s will. Engraved on the breastplate over the priest’s heart were the names of the 12 tribes (29). The lavish beauty of the priestly garb asserted the abundance of God’s rule. Beauty and loveliness contrast sharply with the meanness and ugliness of wilderness and exile where life was cheap and thin. I observe similar attention to both order and lavishness in Vanuatu (an island republic in the South Pacific) where a chief in ceremonial dress wears specific flowers and foliage appropriate to his rank. The chief symbolizes the community, its traditions and its aspirations. We modern church leaders need to be cautious about dress. In poor communities, lavish ceremonial dress declares that poverty and meanness do not define life. In our more affluent context, designer suits may sometimes represent self-aggrandizement.
Pray for your church leaders that they may always avoid being extravagant or self-centered in their lifestyle but be “clothed with righteousness” (Psa. 132:9, KJV).
Living and loving Lord, thank You for clothing me in the righteousness of Jesus Christ, so that I am acceptable in Your presence.
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