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Clothes of Service
“And of the blue, and purple, and scarlet, they made cloths of service, to do service in the holy place, and made the holy garments for Aaron; as the LORD commanded Moses…Thus was all the work of the tabernacle of the tent of the congregation finished: and the children of Israel did according to all that the LORD commanded Moses, so did they…And Moses did look upon all the work, and, behold, they had done it as the LORD had commanded, even so had they done it: and Moses blessed them.” (Exodus 39:1-43)
As the Mosaic record of the tabernacle’s construction ended, Moses was inspired of God to give us a description of “the holy garments” that were made for Aaron, those garments Aaron was required to wear whenever he went into the tabernacle doing service before the Lord God as Israel’s high priest. They are called “clothes of service
Two Sets of Garments
These “clothes of service” were very significant and highly symbolical. They are listed three times by Moses (Exodus 28, Exodus 39, and Leviticus 8). Aaron was not allowed to appear before the Lord God as Israel’s priest to do service in the holy place without these “holy garments,” without these “clothes of service.” They were vital to his priestly work. We are specifically told that they were garments of consecration (Exodus 28:3), “for glory and for beauty” (Exodus 28:40)
These garments were made specifically for Aaron to show forth the glory and beauty of his work as Israel’s high priest. But they show more than that. These garments were made for and put upon Aaron to show forth the glory and beauty of our Lord Jesus Christ, our great High Priest, of whom Aaron was but a type and picture.
First, Moses put the ephod on Aaron’s shoulders.
“And he made the ephod of gold, blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen. And they did beat the gold into thin plates, and cut it into wires, to work it in the blue, and in the purple, and in the scarlet, and in the fine linen, with cunning work. They made shoulder pieces for it, to couple it together: by the two edges was it coupled together.” (Exodus 39:2-4)
The ephod was the outer apron that hung over Aaron’s robe. It was made of two parts, covering both his back and his chest. The two pieces of it were joined together at the shoulders by golden clasps. Those golden clasps were the setting for the onyx stones. Like Aaron’s robe, the ephod was made of gold, blue, purple, scarlet, and fine twined linen. The breastplate with the names of twelve tribes of Israel and the Urim and Thummim (Lights and Perfections) were worn on the ephod.
Try to get the picture in your mind’s eye. — Here is Aaron, wearing his gorgeous, costly robe. Strapped over his shoulders, held by gold clasps, is this gorgeous, costly apron. Upon his heart and shoulders hangs the breastplate with the names of God’s chosen people engraved in precious stones. And somewhere in the ephod or in the breastplate are those mysterious emblems of light and perfection called the Urim and Thummim.
What does all that mean? I know I can only scratch the surface; but it certainly means that the Lord Jesus Christ constantly has his people upon his heart. He carries us upon his omnipotent shoulders. He guides us according to the light and perfection of his purpose and grace. We are the sparkling jewels of his glory and beauty (Malachi 3:17). And because our all-glorious, omnipotent, ever-gracious Christ carries us upon his shoulders, in his heart, and in his hands, we are totally safe, beyond the reach of any enemy.
Second, Moses was commanded of God to gird Aaron with a girdle. This was not just the ordinary girdle worn by the other priests, Aaron’s sons. This was “the curious girdle of his ephod.”
“And the curious girdle of his ephod, that was upon it, was of the same, according to the work thereof; of gold, blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen; as the LORD commanded Moses.” (Exodus 39:5)
“Blessed are those servants, whom the Lord, when he cometh, shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them.” (Luke 12:37)
Third, Moses put the breastplate on Aaron.
“And he made the breastplate of cunning work, like the work of the ephod; of gold, blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen. It was foursquare; they made the breastplate double: a span was the length thereof, and a span the breadth thereof, being doubled. And they set in it four rows of stones: the first row was a sardius, a topaz, and a carbuncle: this was the first row. And the second row, an emerald, a sapphire, and a diamond. And the third row, a ligure, an agate, and an amethyst. And the fourth row, a beryl, an onyx, and a jasper: they were inclosed in ouches of gold in their inclosings. And the stones were according to the names of the children of Israel, twelve, according to their names, like the engravings of a signet, every one with his name, according to the twelve tribes. And they made upon the breastplate chains at the ends, of wreathen work of pure gold. And they made two ouches of gold, and two gold rings; and put the two rings in the two ends of the breastplate. And they put the two wreathen chains of gold in the two rings on the ends of the breastplate. And the two ends of the two wreathen chains they fastened in the two ouches, and put them on the shoulderpieces of the ephod, before it. And they made two rings of gold, and put them on the two ends of the breastplate, upon the border of it, which was on the side of the ephod inward. And they made two other golden rings, and put them on the two sides of the ephod underneath, toward the forepart of it, over against the other coupling thereof, above the curious girdle of the ephod. And they did bind the breastplate by his rings unto the rings of the ephod with a lace of blue, that it might be above the curious girdle of the ephod, and that the breastplate might not be loosed from the ephod; as the LORD commanded Moses.” (Exodus 39:8-21)
Exodus 28:30 gives this description of Aaron’s priestly breastplate. — “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.”
Not only does this breastplate upon Aaron’s chest portray our Savior’s constant love for and care of us, it speaks of our constant, perfect, immutable acceptance with God in him. The names of God’s elect are known to our great High Priest. They are engraved upon his heart and cannot be erased. He says, “I know them…I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish!” For them he makes continual and effectual intercession (John 17).
Can you see your Priest yonder in heaven, with your name upon his heart? Not only are you, my brother, my sister, beyond the reach of any enemy. In Christ, we are beyond the influence of any foe or any evil!
What a consolation this is to this poor sinner! The Lord God almighty always sees me, and only sees me in his Son, as a sparkling jewel, shining in him gloriously! In his eyes, I shine with all the brilliance of Christ himself! Is he precious? We are precious in him. Is he accepted? We are accepted in him. Does he live? We live in him.
There, in heaven’s glory, before the dazzling brilliance, brightness, and purity of the white light of God’s holiness, things are seen clearly, as they really are. That, my tempted, tried, tempest tossed, heavy hearted, sinning, falling, weeping brother, — That, my tempted, tried, tempest tossed, heavy hearted, sinning, falling, weeping sister, is the very thing that ought to comfort our hearts. — We are jewels in Christ, with Christ, upon his heart, in his heart, in heaven. The more brilliantly the light shines upon a diamond, the more it sparkles with radiant beauty. He has set us as a seal upon his heart (Song of Solomon 8:6). — Oh, what grace! What Joy! What Peace! What a cause for whole hearted devotion and consecration to God our Savior! — We are, in Christ, made to be partakers of his beauty and his glory!
The fourth garment Aaron wore was a robe. Moses clothed Aaron with the priestly robe as God commanded. This was the robe of the ephod (the outer apron), worn under the ephod, and had a hem of golden bells and pomegranates.
“And he made the robe of the ephod of woven work, all of blue. And there was an hole in the midst of the robe, as the hole of an habergeon, with a band round about the hole, that it should not rend. And they made upon the hems of the robe pomegranates of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and twined linen. And they made bells of pure gold, and put the bells between the pomegranates upon the hem of the robe, round about between the pomegranates; A bell and a pomegranate, a bell and a pomegranate, round about the hem of the robe to minister in; as the LORD commanded Moses.” (Exodus 39:22-26)
This was a robe that was blue in color, but was woven of gold, blue, purple, and scarlet, and was made of fine linen. Gold symbolized our Savior’s divinity. The blue is the color of heaven above. Purple is the color of royalty. Scarlet represents blood. Fine linen portrayed purity. This robe represented the righteousness of Christ. It is that with which Christ himself is clothed, and with which we are clothed in him. It is a robe covering the whole man from head to foot.
This was a robe prepared according to the law of God. In the parable of The Prodigal Son, our Lord Jesus portrays it as “the best robe” (Luke 15:22), the robe of Christ’s perfect righteousness, which the Lord God puts upon every sinner who comes to him by faith in Christ, because his righteousness is our righteousness (Jeremiah 23:6; 33:16). Yes, we are made the very righteousness of God in him (2 Corinthians 5:21).
The golden bells portray the perfection and sweetness of Christ’s intercession for us. As Aaron moved about inside the holy place of the tabernacle, the ringing bells told the people, “All is well. Aaron is alive. God accepts your priest.” They speak of our living, exalted High Priest and the sweet savor of his intercession in heaven for us.
The pomegranates speak of the fruitfulness of Christ’s priesthood. If you slit a pomegranate open, you would find it full of seeds in a red fluid. If you will look at Exodus 28:35, you will see that Aaron was required to wear these bells and pomegranates on the hem of his robe “that he die not.”
“And thou shalt make the robe of the ephod all of blue. And there shall be an hole in the top of it, in the midst thereof: it shall have a binding of woven work round about the hole of it, as it were the hole of an habergeon, that it be not rent. And beneath upon the hem of it thou shalt make pomegranates of blue, and of purple, and of scarlet, round about the hem thereof; and bells of gold between them round about: A golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate, upon the hem of the robe round about. And it shall be upon Aaron to minister: and his sound shall be heard when he goeth in unto the holy place before the LORD, and when he cometh out, that he die not.” (Exodus 28:31-35)
The “fine linen” represented purity and righteousness (Revelation 19:8), the purity and righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ is the purity and righteousness of all his saints. The word “righteousness” in Revelation 19:8 is really in the plural — righteousnesses. Many vainly imagine that it refers to the righteous works the saints of God perform on the earth. You and I know better. We have no ability to perform righteousness. But we do have a righteousness that exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees. We have the righteousness of Christ imputed to us in free justification and the righteousness of Christ imparted to us in sanctification (regeneration).
These undergarments spoke of the personal righteousness of Christ. All his other perfections and glories were displayed in the outer garments of the priest. This embroidered linen coat was a seamless garment, like that worn by our Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ (John 19:23). It was worn next to Aaron’s body as he went about his priestly functions. I see three things here.
1. Our Need — If we come to God and are accepted of him, we must have a complete clothing of righteousness, the righteousness of Christ.
2. God’s Supply — Christ is our Righteousness.
3. Our Covering — Those linen britches were specifically to cover the priest’s nakedness (Exodus 28:42). And it is the blood and righteousness of Christ that covers our nakedness as we walk before our God!
Sixth, Moses was commanded of God to put the miter of fine linen upon Aaron’s head (Exodus 39:28). The miter (turban) was made of fine white linen. It was a symbol both of honor and humility. It was worn both by kings and by servants. When Zechariah saw the vision of Joshua the high priest standing before the Lord (Zechariah 3:1-5), the first thing the Lord commanded, after he put away his filthy garments, was this miter. — He “set a fair mitre upon his head, and clothed him with garments.”
The Lord God has given us his own dear Son to be for us the helmet of salvation. This miter, made of white linen, like Aaron’s robe, portrays that perfect righteousness which is ours in Christ (Revelation 19:8).
Seventh, Moses put the holy crown on Aaron’s head.
“And they made the plate of the holy crown of pure gold, and wrote upon it a writing, like to the engravings of a signet, HOLINESS TO THE LORD. And they tied unto it a lace of blue, to fasten it on high upon the mitre; as the LORD commanded Moses. Thus was all the work of the tabernacle of the tent of the congregation finished: and the children of Israel did according to all that the LORD commanded Moses, so did they.” (Exodus 39:30-32)
Moses, representing the law of God, put the crown upon Aaron’s head. And when the Lord Jesus finished the work of our redemption portrayed in the tabernacle, the very law and justice of God crowned him, our great High Priest, Lord and King forever. Here is a blessed, weighty revelation given for the comfort of our souls. — This golden plate, the holy crown, emblazoned on Aaron’s forehead pictured the perfect holiness of our Lord Jesus Christ.
It is this holiness that made it possible for our Lord Jesus Christ to bear our iniquities. He not only put away our sins, he has washed away forever the iniquity of our “holy things” (Exodus 28:38), our best deeds of righteousness, faith, and worship. This holy crown is always upon our Savior’s head. The Lord Jesus wears this crown, emblazoned before the holy Lord God, “HOLINESS TO THE LORD,” that we may be forever and ever “accepted before the Lord.”
What rest there is here for our weary hearts! Amid all our failings, in spite of all our sin, though we may be often harassed by hell with doubts and fears, though our hearts are as cold as ice, as hard as steel, and as empty as a broken, empty cistern, our acceptance with God is as unvarying, perfect, and sure as Christ’s (Ecclesiastes 9:7-8).
All these “clothes of service,” all these priestly garments represent Christ’s glory and beauty. Do you see how beautiful, how glorious a Savior the Lord Jesus is? — His glory and beauty are ours (Ezekiel 16:8-14). Believe him, trust him as God your Savior, and his glory and beauty are yours! — “He shall beautify the meek with salvation” (Psalm 149:4; Isaiah 61:1-3).