READ EXODUS 28
The Tabernacle was a place where all of Israel could come and be made right before God. There, they could make offerings of thanksgiving or offer sacrifices for sin. But, as commentator R. Kent Hughes puts it, the Tabernacle was not a “self-serve” station. It was not a free-for-all worship hall. It was ordered according to God’s design, and God’s design included priests.
Aaron was chosen by God to lead the priests before God. Aaron was consecrated before God with His sons to serve God as priests in the Tabernacle. They were called to be the ones who would keep the lamp stand always burning, a reminder to God’s people that He was at home. They would be the ones to replace the Bread of the Presence, eating the bread weekly as a reminder that God provides sustenance for His people in worship. And in our text for today, God gives Moses commands for what they should wear as they serve Him as priest.
Read Exodus 28:1-5. What three words describe the garments they are to make for the priests?
God commands His people to make priestly garments that fit three descriptors: holy, glory, and beauty. The first word describes the content or quality of the garments: they are holy, or set apart. And the second two describe the purpose: they are for glory and for beauty.
Let’s study these three words so that we better understand how they are being used in context.
Look up the following references where each of these three words is being used. Make a note about how the word is being used and what that verse adds to our understanding of the word:
Holy (קֹדֶשׁ, “ko-desh”):
Glory (כָּבוֹד, “kaw-bode”):
Genesis 31:1 (note: “kaw-bode” appears in a variant form here, “wealth”)
Beauty (תִּפְאָרָה, “tif-aw-raw”):
2 Chronicles 3:6
These garments were first of all holy. They were set apart. In the simplest terms, these clothing items were to be distinct from the rest of their wardrobe, but in a profound sense they also reminded God’s priests that what they were doing as they wore these holy garments was holy. As they put on their pieces of clothing before the Lord to serve in His temple, they were reminded that their duties were sacred, and that they themselves had been set apart.
We are then told that the garments are “for glory.” This word for glory is also translated “weight” elsewhere in the Old Testament. As the priests put them on, they were well aware of the weightiness of the tasks at hand. As they fit themselves with their ephod and breastplate, they felt the physical and spiritual weight of what it meant to represent the people before God. Indeed, this is one of the purposes for these garments.
And lastly, the garments were purposed for beauty. Designed with the same elements of the Tabernacle itself, the priests were donned with the same blue, purple and scarlet embroidery that God’s dwelling place had. Sewn into their clothes were the precious metals of the Tabernacle and the royal colors of the Holy Place. They were, in the most literal sense, fit to match the Tabernacle they represented.
Why do you think God described these garments using these three words?
What do you think is the significance of each word in relation to the role of the priest?
The priests were called to embody the Tabernacle. They were to be walking representations of the dwelling place of God. They were set apart, and their wardrobe showed it. They were to be filled with glory, the weight of God’s presence. And they were to be beautiful, literally matching the very materials that marked out God’s dwelling place among men.
Tomorrow, we will look at the specifics of their garments in more detail, but today we cannot miss this glorious truth: the priests prefigured for Israel the time in which God would come and fully dwell among men. They served as walking prophecy, if you will, that one day the Tabernacle would not be necessary to house the Lord, but that God would come and dwell among His people in a profound and pervasive way! One day, God was promising them, My Tent won’t need stakes and curtains – the place of my dwelling will walk among men!
How do you see the Gospel in this?
PRAY & REFLECT
Praise God that He has promised to come and dwell among us in such a profound way by His Spirit through Christ! Thank Him for arranging the worship of His people to always point forward to the coming of Christ!