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The Urim and the Thummim
“And Aaron shall bear the names of the children of Israel in the breastplate of judgment upon his heart, when he goeth in unto the holy place, for a memorial before the LORD continually. And thou shalt put in the breastplate of judgment the Urim and the Thummim; and they shall be upon Aaron's heart, when he goeth in before the LORD: and Aaron shall bear the judgment of the children of Israel upon his heart before the LORD continually.” (Exodus 28:29-30)
The Urim and the Thummim are mentioned only five times in the Scriptures (Exodus 28:30; Leviticus 8:8; Deuteronomy 33:8; Ezra 2:63; and Nehemiah 7:65). Yet, these two pieces in the breastplate of God’s high priest were very significant and typically instructive. The first time they are mention is here in Exodus 28.
Aaron was an eminent type and picture of our Great High Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ, as God the Holy Ghost tells us in Hebrews 7.
“But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he did once, when he offered up himself. For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore.” (Hebrews 7:24-28)
As Aaron was a priest chosen and appointed by God himself, the Lord Jesus is the Priest of God’s choice and God’s appointment. As Aaron alone made atonement ceremonially for the sins of Israel on the day of God’s appointment, the Lord Jesus by the sacrifice of himself made real atonement for God’s true Israel on the day appointed by God from eternity. As Aaron ministered in the holy place, representing God’s chosen nation, the Lord Jesus ministers in heaven itself, representing God’s elect. As Aaron’s priesthood was ceremonially effectual for all Israel, securing the blessing of God upon the people of Israel, Christ’s priesthood is in reality effectual for all God’s true Israel.
Moses put the special, holy garments of the High Priest upon Aaron by God’s command, those holy garments made specifically as the Lord God had prescribed: (The Coat, The Girdle, The Robe, The Ephod, The Breastplate, The Miter. Those holy garments put on Aaron were put on him to symbolize what our Lord Jesus Christ has done and is doing for us. Christ did not wear the ceremonial garments of a priest. He who is our High Priest made the garments of salvation and put them on us.
Moses, symbolizing the law of God, put the golden plate, the holy crown, upon Aaron’s head. Though there was never a priest in Israel who was also a king, the priestly garments were not complete without this holy crown on the head of the high priest (Zechariah 3:1-5). Why? – Because Aaron represented the Lord Jesus, who is a Priest upon a throne, a Royal Priest. Christ is the Priest who wears the crown as Zion’s King.
There are many, many things about Aaron and his priestly garments that are highly symbolical and instructive. But, perhaps, that which is given the least consideration by the commentators is the Urim and the Thummim. Because these two aspects of Aaron’s priestly attire are commonly ignored, and because they are so highly instructive, I want to show you what I can of their meaning.
The word “Urim” means “lights.” It is always plural. The word “Thummim” means “perfections.” Again, it is always plural. But there is no way for us to know precisely what the Urim and Thummim were. The Scriptures never tell us what they were, only what their use and purpose were; and history gives nothing but tradition and speculation. Therefore, intriguing as it might be to look at the possibilities of what they were, I will leave that alone.
This much we know from the Word of God. — The Urim and Thummim were placed along with the names of the twelve tribes of Israel in the breastplate worn by Aaron. Specifically, they were worn upon the heart of God’s high-priest. And it was by these, through the intercessory work of the high-priest, that God gave direction to the children of Israel and settled all important matters of judgment and justice, as Moses tells us in verse 30.
“And thou shalt put in the breastplate of judgment the Urim and the Thummim; and they shall be upon Aaron’s heart, when he goeth in before the LORD: and Aaron shall bear the judgment (the verdict and the discernment) of the children of Israel upon his heart before the LORD continually.”
Joshua was required to follow the direction of God’s priest, who sought God’s counsel by the Urim before the Lord (Numbers 27:21). But the Urim and Thummim were lost during the time of the Babylonian captivity and were never recovered, as is apparent from the instructions given by Nehemiah in the rebuilding of the temple at Jerusalem.
“And the Tirshatha (Governor - Nehemiah) said unto them, that they should not eat of the most holy things, till there stood up a priest with Urim and with Thummim.” (Ezra 2:63)
Jehovah’s Holy One
With those words, the Holy Spirit showed the deficiency and imperfection of the Levitical priesthood and the great need of another priest, not after the order of Aaron, but after the order of Melchizedek, a great High Priest over the house of God, with whom would be the true Urim and Thummim. That is the priest of whom Moses spoke in the prophecy of Deuteronomy 33:8.
“And of Levi he said, Let thy Thummim and thy Urim be with thy holy one, whom thou didst prove at Massah, and with whom thou didst strive at the waters of Meribah.” (Deuteronomy 33:8)
The Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer, is Jehovah’s “Holy One.” He is the holy God and the holy man. In fact, the words of Deuteronomy 33:8, “thy holy one,” might better be translated “the man, thy holy one.” Christ alone fits that character. He is “the man, God’s holy One” in his conception and birth, in his nature, and in all the acts and deeds he performed. Thus, he is a suitable High Priest for his people, “holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens.”
Not only is Christ the “Holy One” spoken of here, he is also that One whom Israel “didst prove at Massah and with whom Israel didst strive at Meribah” in the wilderness (Exodus 17:1-7).
“For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. Today if ye will hear his voice, harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness: When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my work.” (Psalms 95:7-9)
The true Urim (Lights) and Thummim (Perfections) belong to and are found in the Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior. Deuteronomy 33:8 might be properly paraphrased, as John Gill suggested, “And of the tribe of Levi, he said, Let thy Thummim and thy Urim (or thy Perfections and thy Lights, O God) be with thy Holy One, Christ Jesus, whom thou, O Levi, with the rest of the tribes of Israel, didst tempt at Massah, and strive with at the waters of Meribah.”
Christ The Urim
Our Lord Jesus Christ is the true Urim and Thummim, the true lights and perfections of his people. All light and perfection are found in Christ and only in Christ. Apart from Christ there is no light of any kind; and apart from him there is no perfection. — “For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell” (Colossians 1:19). — “In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3).
Christ is the Urim. Christ is the Light in whom all light is found and from whom all light comes. As all the light of the creation from the first to the fourth day was in the sun, so all the light of the new creation is in Christ, the Sun of Righteousness. As the light of the earth is but the reflected light of the sun, so the light that is in us is but the reflection of Christ, who is the Sun of our souls and the Light of the world. — “That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (John 1:9.
All natural light in men comes from Christ. The light of nature in fallen man is nothing compared to what it was before the fall. Yet, there is a sense in which all men are, in their natural state, enlightened by Christ. This natural light is not sufficient to save; but it does render all men without excuse before God.
It is by this natural light, given by Christ to all men, that all men and women know that God is, that he is holy, that he is mighty, and that he is to be worshipped. This light even causes the natural man, to some degree, to know the difference between good and evil, and the necessity of an atonement for sin to satisfy his offended Creator. This light of Christ, sometimes called “the light of nature,” also teaches natural, unregenerate men and women how to behave, at least in measure (Romans 1:20; 2:14-15).
When John says that Christ is that true Light, “which lighteth every man that cometh into the world,” he is not talking about the light of grace that comes to regenerate men in the new creation. Christ does not give every man the light of grace. There are many who never even receive the light of the gospel, much less the light of grace. Besides, in the context, John is not talking about the new creation of grace, but about the physical creation and the things of nature (John 1:3-4). As all men have their natural life and being from Christ, their divine Creator, the Creator of all things, so all men have all natural light from him.
Certainly, the light of grace is found in and comes from Christ as well. When I speak of the light of grace, I am talking about that light which comes upon poor sinners, sinners born in darkness, raised in darkness, living in darkness, walking in darkness, and loving darkness, causing them to be made “light in the Lord.” The light of grace causes sinners to see what they could not see before: their lost condition, the depravity of their hearts, the guilt of sin, the necessity of a Redeemer, the fulness and glory of Christ as their Redeemer, and the accomplishment of redemption and salvation by Christ.
Sinners enlightened by Christ, enlightened with the enlightenment of grace, testify with the man in John 9:25 — “One thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see!”
God’s saints are called “children of light,” because we have been called, called by the almighty, irresistible power and grace of God the Holy Spirit out of darkness into light, out of the darkness of depravity, death, and sin, into the marvelous light of life, grace, and righteousness in Christ. If anyone receives this light, it is by the gift and grace of Christ our God (Ephesians 5:14).
If any are called to light, it is by Christ. If any walk in the light, they walk in Christ. He is given of God the Father, “a Light to lighten the Gentiles.”
Christ gives us the light of the perfections, the attributes of God. It is true, as we have already seen, that some of God’s perfections as God are shown forth in creation to all men. But the light of the knowledge of the glory of God is manifest and made known only in the face of Jesus Christ, our crucified, risen, exalted Substitute and Savior (2 Corinthians 4:6). He is the brightness of the Father’s glory and the express image of his Person. Salvation is more than a religious creed, experience, or feeling. Salvation is the knowledge of the living God as he is revealed and made known in Jesus Christ (John 7:3).
Unbelieving heathen and pagans know God as their Creator. Believers are people who know God in Christ. We see the wisdom of God in the scheme of salvation by and in Christ. We see the exceeding riches of his mercy, love, and grace in the mission of Christ as our Surety. We see the justice and grace, holiness and truth, faithfulness and severity of the Almighty in the sufferings and death of Christ as our Substitute. Indeed, in Christ crucified, and only in Christ crucified, we see the perfect harmony of all the attributes of God, each fully displayed, each completely satisfied, and none in conflict with another (Psalm 85:10; Proverbs 16:6).
His Own Light
It is only in his light that we see light. As we see the sun in its own light, and it is impossible for us to see it in any other light than its own, so we see Christ, the Sun of Righteousness, in his own light, and it is impossible for us to see him in any other (John 1:14). It is in his own light that we see him as the brightness of the Father’s glory and the express image of his Person. It is in his own light that we see him as the only Mediator between God and men. It is in his own light that we see him as the only and all-sufficient Savior for guilty sinners. It is in his own light that we see the glory and efficacy of his sin-atoning, precious blood, whereby he has perfected forever them that are sanctified. It is in his own light that we see the completeness and perfection of his justifying righteousness. It is in his own light that we see the immense treasures of grace and glory laid up in him for believing sinners.
The light of the knowledge of the gospel and the glorious truths of the gospel is from Christ, who is the Light and the Truth. It is Christ who, by his Spirit, opens our understandings and causes us to understand the Scriptures. It is Christ who gives regenerate men and women to understand the mysteries of the kingdom. He sends his Spirit to his elect as the Spirit of Truth, to lead us into all truth. Otherwise, the Bible would be to us, as it is to all the world, a sealed Book, full of riddles, contradictions, and outdated moralisms. Its doctrines would be as confusing to us as a road map of the United States would be to a New Guinea tribesman.
David understood this and prayed for light from Christ to understand the Word of God. We would be wise to follow his example. — “Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law” (Psalm 119:18).
The Light of Glory
As the light of nature and of grace is from Christ, the true Urim, so too is the light of glory. Heaven is a world, a state, a condition of blessed, glorious, eternal, satisfying light. The inheritance of God’s saints is called the inheritance of light (Colossians 1:12). All the light of heaven’s glory is Christ, God’s Urim (Revelation 21:23).
Soon, my brother, my sister, we will safely arrive in our glorious, heavenly, eternal home with Christ. Once we have reached Canaan’s fair and happy land, we shall walk perfectly in perfect light forever! All the lingering darkness of infidelity, doubt, and fear that vexes us here will be completely dispelled in the twinkling of an eye. Our very souls will be radiant with the beams of light from Christ which shall forever strike our hearts with wonder, and joy, and praise.
“The sun shall be no more thy light by day; neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee: but the LORD shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory. Thy sun shall no more go down; neither shall thy moon withdraw itself: for the LORD shall be thine everlasting light, and the days of thy mourning shall be ended.” (Isaiah 60:19-20)
Christ the Thummim
Do you see what I have been talking about? The Urim is Lights; and Christ is the Light. He is the true Urim. The lights of nature, grace, and glory all come from him. Now, I want you to see that our Lord Jesus Christ is the true Thummim, too. All perfections are found in him, fully, completely, and everlastingly. Whenever we think about perfections, let us only think of Christ. He comprehends them all and possesses them all. All the perfections of the Triune God are in him. — “For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9).
Is eternity a Divine perfection? Christ is the eternal God (Revelation 1:8). Is omnipotence a Divine perfection? Christ declares himself to be “The Almighty!” His name is “The Mighty God.” Is omniscience a Divine perfection? It is in Christ. He knows the thoughts of the heart (John 21:17). Is omnipresence a Divine perfection? Christ is the everywhere present God (Matthew 18:20). Is immutability a Divine attribute? Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). All the perfection of the gifts of the Spirit are in Christ and flow to us from Christ (Psalm 68:17-20).
All the perfection of grace is in Christ and comes to chosen, redeemed sinners through Christ and for Christ’s sake. Our all-glorious Christ is full of grace, every kind of grace. All justifying grace is in him and comes from him. All sanctifying grace is in him and comes from him. All preserving grace is in him and comes from him. All glorifying grace is in him and comes from him. Christ is our wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. He is that holiness we must have, without which no man shall see the Lord. Indeed, in this matter of grace and salvation, “Christ is all!”
All the perfection of the blessings and promises of God to sinners in the covenant of grace are in Christ. Christ is our Joseph. He owns and holds the keys to all the storehouse of God’s grace. — “For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us” (2 Corinthians 1:20).
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.” (Ephesians 1:3-6)
We cannot come into any circumstance or condition but what there is a blessing and promise of God in Christ to meet our need, if only we had faith to see it and lay hold of it.
All the perfection of life is Christ himself. With him is the fountain of life. All the streams of life, particularly spiritual, eternal, everlasting life, flow to God’s elect through him, through his mediation, merit, and power. Perhaps you ask, “How is it that all life came to be in Christ the Mediator?” The answer is found in Psalm 21:4. As our Mediator and Surety, he asked his Father for it for all his seed upon the grounds of his obedience and death; and the Father granted him his request. — “As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him” (John 17:2). It was for this purpose that the Son of God came into the world, to remove all obstacles out of the way, that the streams of life might flow freely to his people forever.
All the perfection of strength is in Christ We are poor, weak, helpless creatures of flesh. Without him, we can do nothing. But Christ is the man of God’s right hand, whom he has made strong for himself and for us. Though we can, of ourselves do nothing, we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. The Lord is my Strength and my Salvation!
All the perfection of wisdom is in Christ. Christ is Wisdom (Proverbs 8). Without him, there is nothing but folly. And he is made of God unto us Wisdom to teach us, to guide us, and to protect us.
All the perfection of joy is found in our all-glorious Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. There is always a reason to rejoice in him: in his Person, in his righteousness, in his blood, in his intercession, in his promises, and in his providence. All who worship God in the Spirit rejoice in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:3).
All the perfection of comfort and consolation is in Christ as well. He is our Comfort and our Consolation. Any comfort and consolation found anywhere else is a deceit and a delusion (John 14:1-3).
Christ is the true Urim. All true light is in him and comes from him. And our great God and Savior is the true Thummim. All perfections are in him and come from him.
Carried on His Heart
Look at Exodus 28:9-30 again.
“And Aaron shall bear the names of the children of Israel in the breastplate of judgment upon his heart, when he goeth in unto the holy place, for a memorial before the LORD continually. And thou shalt put in the breastplate of judgment the Urim and the Thummim; and they shall be upon Aaron's heart, when he goeth in before the LORD: and Aaron shall bear the judgment of the children of Israel upon his heart before the LORD continually.”
As Aaron, the typical high priest, carried the Urim and Thummim upon his heart, so Christ, God’s true High Priest, carries his people upon his heart in all his priestly functions. He carries our judgment — our verdict! And he carries our judgment — our discernment!
Remember, the Urim and Thummim were carried upon the high-priest’s breastplate where the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel were engraved in precious stones. Specifically, they were carried upon his heart before the Lord. This teaches us three specific, glorious, soul-cheering gospel truths.
1. God’s elect are ever upon the heart of Christ, our great High Priest.
As the names of the children of Israel were upon Aaron’s breastplate, so our names are engraved, not only upon the palms of his hands, but also upon our great Savior’s heart. He has set us as a seal upon his heart. We were upon his heart from eternity as the objects of his everlasting love. We were upon his heart when he came into the world to save us. We were upon his heart when he died at Calvary. We were upon his heart when he took his seat in heaven. And we are upon his heart now and forever.
When Aaron made atonement by sacrifice, he made atonement for the congregation of the Lord. So, Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us. He obtained eternal redemption with his own blood for us. He entered into and took possession of heaven as a Forerunner for us. He appears in the presence of God for us. He makes intercession for us. That is the very language of Holy Scripture. Thank God for particular grace and distinguishing love!
Remember, it was by the Urim and the Thummim that God gave direction to his servants, and thus to his people.
“And he (Joshua) shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall ask counsel for him after the judgment of Urim before the LORD: at his word shall they go out, and at his word they shall come in, both he, and all the children of Israel with him, even all the congregation.” (Numbers 27:21)
None but the high-priest could ask counsel of God in the sanctuary. And Christ alone can speak to God for us. We cannot come to God without a Mediator, without a Priest, or without a Sacrifice. God’s direction and blessing was sought upon the ground of Urim (Light) and Thummim (Perfection), upon the ground of God’s omniscient judgment and absolute perfection being fully satisfied with Christ. Intercession was made and counsel sought for Israel alone, just as our Lord Jesus makes intercession for God’s elect Israel alone. The Urim and the Thummim, all the Lights and all the Perfections of the Triune God were engaged for a specific people. So, too, all that Christ does he does for a specific people, his redeemed, the people of his love!
And as that person for whom counsel was asked was to stand before the high-priest, so we must each take our place before Christ, our great High Priest. We cannot come to God any other way, but by faith in his name.
If the true Urim and Thummim, all true Lights and Perfections, are found in Christ, let us go to him for them. In our darkness, let us go to him for light. In our sinfulness, let us go to him for perfection.
If we are, as the elect of God, engraved upon the very heart of the Son of God, how dear we must be to him. Upon his heart we are loved. Upon his heart we are safe. Upon his heart we ought to be free of fear.
If Christ is our Urim and Thummim, our Light and our Perfection before God, we ought to confidently trust him to manage all our affairs: spiritual, eternal affairs, temporal, earthly affairs, domestic, family affairs — All our affairs!
“How delightful it is to see Jesus thus represented,” wrote Robert Hawker, “as bearing the persons of his redeemed, in his own light and perfection, when he goes in before the presence of God for us! Sweet and precious is the thought to the believer!”
This is no trivial matter. It is of such great importance that Moses, when dying, expressly prayed, “Let thy Thummim and thy Urim be with thy Holy One.” O precious, glorious, gracious Lord Jesus, be the Urim and the Thummim, Lights and Perfections to our souls in grace here and in glory hereafter forever!