In the book of Exodus Moses was given a command to build a tabernacle for the Lord to dwell among his people. He was told to make it according to the pattern shown him in the mount, with its outer court, the holy place, and the holiest of all. There were vessels in the tabernacle and Aaron and his sons were appointed to minister there as priests. Just as the directions were given for the tabernacle, the directions given for Aaron’s garments were equally as important.
These were called holy garments and were for glory and beauty (Exo 28:2). They were the breastplate, an ephod and a robe, a broidered coat, a mitre, and a girdle. The materials were gold, blue, purple, scarlet, and fine linen. These five materials were used for the ephod, the breastplate of judgment, and the curious girdle. The four colors are often used typically to represent the person of Christ in the four gospels. The blue reminds us of the Lord from heaven in John; the purple of His royalty, the king in Matthew; the scarlet of the perfect servant in Mark; the fine linen of the perfect manhood of Christ in Luke.
The gold woven into these four garments speaks of his divinity. “Great is the mystery of godliness; God was manifest in the flesh” (1Tim 3:16). The perfect union of the divine and human nature set forth in one man. In Exodus 40 we see how the gold was prepared and then woven with the rest of the materials. It was first beaten into thin plates and cut into strips so that it could be incorporated into the garments in such a unique way as to be inseparable from the other materials.
In the ephod, we have a further mention of gold as the setting for the two onyx stones upon the shoulders. These were engraved with the names of the 12 tribes, then placed and secured in golden settings. The child of God is doubly secure. “I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand, My father which gave them Me, is greater than all; no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand” (John 10:28-29). The Lord will never let us go until we are safe in that heavenly fold. The 12 tribes were collectively borne on the high priest’s shoulders.
There were golden chains attached to the two settings, which, in turn, were connected to the breastplate with gold rings. The breastplate was then joined to the ephod with gold rings and ribbons of blue, all securely joined together. The names of the tribes were individually engraved and fastened securely in golden settings and secured to the breastplate, in a divinely arranged order. They were always on the heart of the high priest, the place of love and affection, and collectively borne on the shoulders, when he was ministering in the tabernacle.
When we consider the curious girdle made of the same materials, we see a picture of the perfect servant of Jehovah here on earth. He could say as no other, “I am among you as one that serveth” (Luke 22, 27). Think of that scene in the upper room when He laid aside His garment, girded Himself with a towel and began to wash the disciples’ feet (John 13, 4-5).
On the hem of the ephod were pomegranates of blue, purple and scarlet and golden bells, all evenly balanced, a bell, and a pomegranate, a bell and a pomegranate around the hem. As the high priest moved in his service in the holy place these bells would ring in the presence of God so that he would not die. When these bells rang they did not clash against each other because of the pomegranates. Their sound was unique and distinct from all other sounds in the tabernacle, speaking to us of the Lord when He was here. Men were sent to arrest Him, and returned empty handed. When asked why they had not brought Him, they answered, “never man spake like this man.” There were many sounds heard in that tabernacle court but one stood out. It was the sound of those golden bells as the high priest moved about. They were distinct, different, and sweet, apart from all other sounds in the court. The words of Christ spoke peace and healing to multitudes. To add a practical note, the bells and pomegranates were evenly balanced around the hem. In Proverbs 30 we have the words of Agur: “Two things have I required of thee; deny me them not before I die: Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: Lest I be full and deny thee, and say Who is the Lord? Or lest I be poor, and steal and take the name of my God in vain” (vv7-9). In this day of the rush after materialism, the voice of Agur should have a message for us. We should seek to have our lives evenly balanced so that we can serve the Lord without distraction. Godliness with contentment is great gain; a beautiful balance.
Finally, we will consider the golden plate on the mitre of Aaron’s forehead with HOLINESS TO THE LORD inscribed on it. It was visible for all to see as he moved in the divine service. There was one man who forgot this, King Uzziah. He accomplished much during his reign but we read that his heart was lifted up and he went into the sanctuary of the temple to burn incense on the golden altar. The priests went in after him to tell him it was not his place to burn incense. He was angry with the appointed priests. We read the Lord smote him and the leprosy rose up in his forehead, the worst kind. He hastened to get out of the sanctuary (2Chron 26:16-20).
He may have worn a royal crown as a king did, but the holy crown was only for the high priest. Christ alone is both King and Priest, and this will be seen when He returns to earth to reign. May we ever remember “holiness becometh thine house … forever.”