(Part II: How We should be Prepared to Meet the Holy God)
Exodus 28-31, Key Verse: 29:44-46
“So I will consecrate the tent of meeting and the altar and will consecrate Aaron and his sons to serve me as priests. Then I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God. They will know that I am the Lord their God, who brought them out of Egypt so that I might dwell among them. I am the Lord their God.”
Through last Sunday’s passage, we learned how the tabernacle and its furnishings should be prepared to meet the Holy God. Today’s passage, chapters 28-31, teaches us how a priest should prepare himself to meet God and serve his people. As the High Priest, Jesus teaches us how to meet God and serve people of the world. Through today’s passage, let’s learn how we should prepare ourselves to meet God and serve others as a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.
I. Priestly Garments (28)
A uniform represents one’s identity and role. One young man joined the US Marine Corps because its uniform looked cool and dignified. He was proud of himself when he went through such a hard training even though he felt sick. The Marines have a motto, which says, ‘Once Marine, forever Marine.’ When he was in a battlefield, he fought like a marine. Even without wearing a uniform he knew that he had higher standards than a civilian. Chapter 28 is about the priestly uniform. Look at verse 1. “Have Aaron your brother brought to you from among the Israelites, along with his sons Nadab and Abihu, Eleazer and Ithamar, so they may serve me as priests.” God chose Aaron and his children to serve as priests. This reminds me of Jesus’ saying, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last.” (John 15:16) God wanted the priests to wear sacred garments, in order to give them dignity and honor. This uniform is designed not by a mere human being but by God; a breastpiece, an ephod, a robe, a woven tunic, a turban and a sash. Let’s discuss each of these elements and think about its meaning.
First, an ephod. Look at verses 6-14. It is made of gold, and of blue, purple, and scarlet yarn and finely twisted linen. It has two shoulder pieces, each holding an onyx stone engraved with six names of sons of Israel, in gold filigree settings. Look at verse 12. “Aaron is to bear the names on his shoulders as a memorial before the Lord.” When Aaron wears the garment to serve, he is bearing the weight of the whole nation, Israel.
Secondly, the breastpiece. Look at verses 15-30. It has the same materials as the ephod. It is a square by a span with four rows and three columns of precious stones; 12 altogether with each name of tribes of Israel, connected to the two shoulder pieces and waistband of the ephod. Look at verse 30. “Also put the Urim and the Thummim in the breastpiece, so they may be over Aaron’s heart whenever he enters the presence of the Lord. Thus Aaron will always bear the means of making decisions for the Israelites over his heart before the Lord.” The Urim and Thummim were used for a decision making by lot, as the Urim means guilty, and the Thummim, not guilty. The priest carries the twelve tribes in his heart as he enters into the Presence of the Lord and makes decisions before God using the Urim and the Thummim. The ephod and the breastpiece teach us that a priest should be carrying the burdens of his nation as he serves God and the people. Even if it may look like a small decision, his decision will impact the nation. As a kingdom of priest, each one of us should think of our nation as we make a decision because our small act of faith may be an example to others.
There was one freshman in a college, who wanted to give an offering for world mission as his church was praying to send one missionary to overseas. But he did not have money because his family was living hand to mouth. Yet, when he prayed, God gave him heart to sell his blood in order to make an offering. His small act of faith inspired so many people to offer their small offerings for world mission. Moreover, God blessed their prayers and offerings to raise many sacrificial lay missionaries to go out to all over the world. May God bless our small decision of faith for this nation through being an exemplary to another person to make a small decision of faith. May God bless Rob’s small decision of faith to go to Afghanistan as a short-term lay missionary to raise many short-term missionaries among us. These small decisions of faith will raise this nation to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. Amen!
Thirdly, golden bells and a turban. Look at verses 31-35. Golden bells are on the hem of the bottom robe alternate with the pomegranates of blue, purple and scarlet yarn. So whenever the priest moves, the bells make beautiful sounds. Aaron must wear it when he ministers, so that when he enters the Holy Place, the bells make sounds and he will not die. It means that the presence of a priest should be known at all times to God and to the people. Likewise, our presence is known to God and to others. In addition, a priest must wear a turban with a golden plate on the front of his head, which says “Holy To the Lord”. Holy to the Lord means set aside from the world to the Lord. God’s name goes with him. In fact, a Christian carries God’s name, just as a US ambassador carries the name of the US President. Thus, people of the world watch what we do whether we like it or not. We are judged by higher standards than unbelievers, just as a soldier in uniform is judged by higher standards than a civilian.
Fourthly, three other garments; tunics, sashes and caps. The tunic and the turban are made of linen, and the sash is beautiful work of embroiderer. Look at verse 40. “Make tunics, Sashes and caps for Aaron’s sons to give them dignity and honor.” Even the people of the world make their uniforms to have dignity and honor; how much more God wants the priests to be dignified and honored as he serves God and the people. Even if we may not have fancy clothes to wear, let us wear the best clothes we have as we come to worship and serve God on Sundays even if online. Amen!
Most of all, we should clothe ourselves with spiritual garments, which will give us true spiritual dignity and honor. Romans 13:14 says, “Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.” How can we clothe ourselves with Jesus Christ? Jesus came to this world as high priest for us. Jesus did not live to gratify the desires of the flesh but the desires of God. He carried not only the burden of the nation, Israel, but also the sin of the whole world on the cross. His Messianic life was known to his disciples to see and follow. Jesus adorned himself with his obedience to death, death on the cross, and God adorned Christ with the power of resurrection and made him King of kings and Lord of lords. May God help us to clothe ourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ through following his footsteps of obedience as the high priest. Amen.
II. Ordination of Priests (29-30)
In the ordination of a priest, two things are required: consecration and anointing. The consecration is cleansing the priest to be acceptable to God. For the consecration, a young bull, two rams without defect, and loaves of wheat bread without yeast are used. A priest should wash himself, dress with the priestly garments and be anointed with the anointing oil on his head before making offerings. Chapter 30:17-21 tells us how often the priest should wash himself using the water in the bronze basin. It was before entering into the Holy Place and before making an offering. In Chapter 30:22-33, God also gave a specific direction to make the anointing oil and use it only for anointing the priests, the tabernacle and its utensils to consecrate them so they would be most holy. The anointing oil also represents the anointing of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament. As a modern-day priest, each one of us should be anointed with the Holy Spirit to serve Christ and his people.
It takes seven days to ordain a priest, with a bull each day as a sin offering to make atonement, purifying the altar every day. Then the altar will be most holy, and whatever touches it will be holy. Seven days of sin offering means the priest should repent of his sins before God deeply. The more and deeper repentance leads us to the holiness of God. How can we help others to repent when we do not repent of our sins first before God? We must take a plank out from our own eye before we can remove dust from our brother’s eyes.
Then, a priest should take one ram for burnt offering, and lay his hands on it. The internal organs should be washed and the blood should be splashed on the altar. Then they were to take some of the blood and put it on the lobes of their right ears, on the thumb of their right hand, and on the big toe of their right foot. Then, they were to burn the entire ram on the altar. Again, the burnt offering represents one’s total dedication. This means the priest should dedicate his whole life to God. His ears, hands and feet should be cleansed and dedicated to do what is right before God. This reminds me of Romans 6:13, “Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness.”
Another ram is for ordination; the fat, the fat tail, the fat on the internal organs, the long lobe of the liver, both kidneys with the fat on them and the right thigh of the lamb, and thin and thick loaves of bread were offered as a wave offering, burnt on the altar. And the breast and the thigh of the ram belong to Aaron and his descendants as a fellowship offering. We find God’s mindfulness of his servants’ health and needs. For their health, God made them to burn all the fat parts and provided them the breast and the thigh of the ram for them to eat.
A priest has to make a daily offering regularly: two lambs, one in the morning with bread without yeast and wine, and another lamb at twilight with the same offering. At that time, twilight was the end of the day. This is a daily devotional time for us; Christians, modern day priests, should come to God in the morning and at the end of the day.
Why should God ask the priest be ordained through consecration and anointing? There are three main reasons. First, I will meet and speak to you. Look verse 42-43, “For the generations to come this burnt offering is to be made regularly at the entrance of the tent of meeting, before the Lord. There I will meet you and speak to you; there also I will meet with the Israelites and the place will be consecrated by my glory.” In order for a priest to meet and listen to God, he should be consecrated through the blood of the bull. He should make a burnt offering and be anointed with the anointing oil. Through the priest, God will also meet his people. Likewise, as modern-day priests, we should repent of our sins and be forgiven, dedicate ourselves to God and be anointed with the Holy Spirit, so that we can meet God and listen to him, and give God’s message to the people.
Secondly, serve me as priests. Look at verse 44, “So I will consecrate the tent of meeting and the altar, and will consecrate Aaron and his sons will serve me as priests.” Even though they were chosen by God, Aaron and his sons had to be consecrated in order to serve as priests. May God help each one of us to consecrate ourselves daily so that we are able to serve God as modern-day priests.
Thirdly, I am the Lord who brought you out of Egypt. Look at verse 45-46. “Then I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God. They will know that I am the Lord their God, who brought them out of Egypt so that I might dwell among them. I am the Lord their God.” It is God’s ultimate desire to dwell among his people. This is the reason why God gave them the instructions in detail how to make the tabernacle and its furnishings, and how a priest should be prepared. But there is one thing God wanted them to know. He is YHWH, who brought them out of Egypt. God wanted them to know, “I am,” when they were not able to save themselves from the bondage of Egypt. It is God’s saving grace upon the people of Israel. In the Old Testament, God wanted to constantly remind the people of Israel of his saving grace through the Festival of Unleavened Bread every year. He reminded them as they were conquering the Promised Land in the book of Joshua and when prophets warned the people of Israel when they forgot about God and worshiped idols. When they did not repent and were punished in exile to Babylon and as they were returning to God, God reminded them again and again. Even at the time of darkness before the coming of the Messiah Jesus Christ, God reminded them how he saved them out of Egypt with his mighty hand in order to convince of God’s love and power.
This teaches us how important it is for us to remember Jesus’ saving grace. Apostle Paul always reminded the churches of God’s saving grace and God’s calling together, saying, “We have received grace and apostleship.” Romans 8, he said, “While we were still sinners, Christ died for you. Who can separate us from the love of God?” The saving grace of God enabled Paul to work hard for Christ and still be humble. In his letter, the Apostle Peter reminded suffering Christians of the saving grace of new birth so that they would endure the persecutions with the heavenly inexpressible joy and the hope of eternal glory. The saving grace of God enables us to be more than conquerors. May God bless each one of us to remember God’s saving grace; how he saved us from the bondage of sin and the devil, so that God may dwell in our lives and use us as modern-day priests. Amen!
III. God’s Provision (30:11-16, Chapter 31)
God established the tabernacle and chose the priests who should make offerings and maintain its furnishings. In order to maintain the tabernacle, they needed necessary materials. In 30:11-16, God also provided the way to support all necessary materials through collecting the tax. Taking a census, each person 20 years or older should give a half shekel, which should be used for the service in the tent of meeting. This is a called a temple tax and was later collected each year as they came to the Temple annually. It is making an atonement for their lives, and the money was used for the tent of meeting.
In 31:1-16, God also sent people to make the tabernacles and its furnishings. God chose Bezalel who was filled with the Spirit of God, with wisdom and with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills. God also provided him an assistant, Oholiab, to help, and sent people with skills necessary to serve. God always sends people with talent to serve the work of God, which means God has given each one of us necessary talents to serve the church. Thank God for sending many talented servants of God among us to serve the church.
In 31:12-17, God mentioned the law of the Sabbath again, saying, “You must observe my Sabbaths. This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the Lord, who makes you holy.” God reminded them of the law again because he wanted to make them holy. Holy means set apart. God wanted to set them apart from the world to God. It is also the sign that they depend not on themselves but on God.
Through today’s passage, we learned what Aaron and his sons should wear and do for ordination in order to serve God as priests for the nation, Israel. God is raising priests in order to dwell among his people, and remind them how he saved them out of Egypt. As a kingdom of priests, let us make a small act of faith which may set a good example for others. Let us prepare ourselves to meet God and listen to his voice through daily devotions, repenting our sins, reminding God’s saving grace and receive the Holy Spirit so that we can serve God and his people. Most of all, let us clothe ourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ not to fulfill our sinful desires but obey God’s will. Amen!