“And thou shalt make holy garments for Aaron thy brother for glory and for beauty. And thou shalt speak unto all that are wise-hearted, whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom, that they may make Aaron’s garments to consecrate him, that he may minister unto me in the priest’s office.”-Exodus XXVIII. 2,3.
THERE are three characters which are leading ones amongst those which represent the Lord:—the Law-giver, the King, and the Priest. The most distinguished representative of the Lord as Law-giver was Moses; as King was David; and as Priest was Aaron. The Lord Jesus, as Jehovah in the flesh, was all in all; Law-giver, King, and Priest. It is in this latter capacity that we would consider His divine character now, as it was represented in the Jewish dispensation by the high priest, and especially by Aaron, and by the garments which he was divinely appointed to wear.
That the Lord Jesus is a priest, and that He was represented by Aaron is clearly recognized in the writings of the Apostles. Thus in the epistle to the Hebrews, ” So also Christ glorified not himself to be made a high priest, but He that said unto him, Thou art my son, to-day have I begotten thee.”-v. 5. As he saith also in another place, “Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.” Again,” By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament. 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.”-VII. 22-27. Many more passages occur to the same effect, but these are sufficient to show that the Apostle recognized the truth that the Lord Jesus not only was, but is, a High Priest in His glorified Humanity, though higher than the heavens.
The essence of the priestly character is a love for the eternal happiness of men. Every true priest yearns to promote the salvation of all around him. The Lord having this love infinitely, is an Infinite High Priest. His love ever pleads for them, just as mother’s love pleads for her children; pleads for their happiness; and if they have fallen into sin, pleads for their restoration.
This divine love induced the Lord to assume the human nature to reconcile and reunite man to Himself: filled His Humanity with a burning desire to save the human race and as that salvation could only be accomplished by suffering and victory, by complete glorification and full union with the Father hence He is said to be a High Priest who offered up Himself: and thence made Himself a new and living way, by which His Holy Spirit like divine blood could descend to purify and renew human souls, and thus impart to them eternal life. “Christ being come, a high priest of good things, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered. in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God.”-Heb. IX. 11, 14.
The Lord Jesus in His Humanity, especially as to His Divine Love yearning for the salvation of the human race is the HIGH PRIEST yearning for HIS full union with the Father; and then, and now, yearning for the regeneration and happiness of all His Immortal children. Before His full glorification He interceded for full union with the Father that mankind might be saved. Since His full glorification His Spirit intercedes in us, suggesting our prayers, and helping our infirmities. “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities; for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.”-Rom. VIII. 26.
The Divine Love, then, embodied in our Lord Jesus Christ, is the High Priest represented by Aaron. That love incessantly pleads for all His children. When truth would condemn, and say of sinful man, like the dresser of the vineyard of the profitless tree, “Cut it down, why cumbereth it the ground? ” the Divine Love in accents of mercy ever seeks to arrest the fall and says, “ Let it alone this year, and I will dig about it, and dung it, and if it bear fruit, well; and if not, then after that, thou shalt cut it down. ‘-Luke XIII. 8, 9.
This Divine Love, then, as presented in the Glorified Humanity of the Lord Jesus was. represented by the High Priest Aaron. This Divine Love is the High Priest of the universe. It provides for, and yearns for the salvation of all human beings, and when they become reformed and regenerated rejoices over them, and rejoices in them with ineffable blessing, and unspeakable peace. But it is not so much with the character of the Lord as High Priest that we have at present to do as with the representation of the Garments of the High Priest. They are so particularly described that the thoughtful mind which has a worthy idea of the Word of God will easily be led to conceive that some important truths are intended to be conveyed by descriptions so elaborate and exact.
The Word of God would hardly be so much taken up with information about these garments, unless they had some lesson of heavenly wisdom to place before us. The whole Jewish law, as the Apostles stated, was a shadow of good things to come, and certainly the High Priest, its central object, in his divinely appointed robes, must be regarded as bearing an especial part in this representation of divine and spiritual things, by natural objects.
The High Priest himself, as we have seen, was the representative of the Lord Jesus, our Divine High Priest, especially as to His Divine Love. The Garments which clothed the High Priest will represent the wisdom which clothes the Divine Love, and which in its several degrees reveals and manifested the Divine Love to angels and to men.
How grand is that invocation where the Psalmist says, “Bless the Lord, O my soul. O Lord my God Thou art very great; thou art clothed with honour and majesty. Who coverest thyself with light as with a garment; who stretchest out the heavens like a curtain.”-Ps. CIV. 1, 2: Indeed, what is all creation both visible and invisible, both in the spiritual and the material universe but the gorgeous robes which clothe Eternal Love. The inner heavens vast beyond human thought, the outer sky blazing with innumerable suns are but the glorious dress, the spheres of inner and outer grandeur which surround the Almighty One.
Even the Church in the world, the Lord’s heaven and earth among men, is His outer robe, changing as each dispensation changes, and altering its modes as the change of states among men require. It is the outer clothing of Infinite Wisdom. That Wisdom endures though human forms and systems pass away. Old moral creations perish and new ones come, but the Divine Word which is their source endures. The most ancient church passed and was succeeded by the ancient. This faded away and was followed by the patriarchal and Jewish. Then came the first Christian heaven and earth, and now this is gradually fading away, and the New Jerusalem is tinging the horizon with rays of coming splendour. We see a new heaven and a new earth, and the former heaven and the former earth are passing away, yet the same glorious Lord remains, and will for ever remain, the Eternal Source of all that is good. “I said, O my God, take me not away in the midst of my days; thy years are throughout all generations. Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the work of thy hands. They shall perish, but thou shalt endure; yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed. But thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end.”
Let us, then, consider the Garments of the High Priest as representing the clothings of Divine Love, or, in other words, the Wisdom of the Lord as adapted to angels in heaven, and to men upon earth; and I trust we shall be enabled to perceive how truly they may be called “holy garments for Aaron, for glory, and for beauty.”-2.
First, let us notice the materials of which the Garments were made. Gold, and fine twined linen, of the colours of blue, purple and scarlet. Gold seems to have been a sort of governing material, Introduced as the leading object in every portion. Hence we read, “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.” Ex.XXXIX. 3. Gold, corresponding as we know to celestial love, was thus made a sort of universal thread reigning everywhere in the High Priest’s dress, to teach. us that the grand element in every spiritual possession is the spirit of love. All angelic excellencies are blessed, because they flow from love. “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love,” said the Apostle, “I am become as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal.”-l Cor. XIII. 1. Angelic faces are the forms of love angelic voices are the sounds of love, angelic talents are the glorious powers of love. So must it be with Christian men. Faith is only valuable as it is grounded in love. Works to be saving must be the operations of the spirit of Christian love within, Without this they lack the true heavenly tinge and can neither save nor bless. This then was the reason why everywhere in the garments of the High Priest was to appear the thread of gold, and thus the lesson was given in symbol which was afterwards given by our Lord in precept, I counsel thee to buy of me fine gold.”-Rev. III. 18.
The fine linen twined represented spiritual truths seen, and blended into a true system of heavenly order. The fine linen is the righteousness of saints.”-Rev. XIX. 8. The colour blue represents the deep spiritual nature of divine truth, like the exalted blue of the upper sky, while the purple and scarlet, one a deep and the other a bright shade of red, represent the two grand shades of all truth derived from heavenly fire-namely, love to the Lord above all things, which was represented by the purple, and love to our neighbour, of which the scarlet was the symbol. “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”-Matt. XXII. 40.
These then were the universal materials out of which all heavenly garments, and indeed all heaven itself was to be composed—celestial love, and the truths of love, to the Lord, and charity to our neighbour, intelligently received and woven together by those who are wise in heart. Hence, it is written, “And thou shalt speak unto all that are wise-hearted, whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom, that they may make Aaron’s garments to consecrate him, that he minister unto me in the priest’s office.”-3.
The next point to be noticed is, that there were three garments one under the other: the broidered coat, the inmost robe; the robe of blue, the middle; and the ephod, the outermost garment. There was also an inner belt or girdle for the inner coat (4, and Ex. XXXIX. 29), and a girdle, called a curious girdle, for the ephod.—8.
The broidered coat which formed the inner garment of the High Priest will remind us of the seamless coat which formed the inner garment of our Lord, and both represent to us the inner harmony of Divine Truth, such as it is in its inmost character. It is said to be broidered, chequered or plaided, to represent that it is love and wisdom in combination.. As the heat and the light of the sun of nature flow out as one, inseparable, so divine love and wisdom flow from the Lord, and are received by His true servants, blended together; the love is wise, and the wisdom is loving. It is an inward embroidered coat. It is as a holy glow within the soul, of love and wisdom.
The next garment was a robe, a middle garment, to represent Divine Truth when it is intellectually seen as a system by the rational faculty, Divine Truth when it is apprehended in application to our motives and ends is an inner coat; when it is rationally and philosophically conceived, it is a middle robe, and when it is brought out into a virtuous and benevolent life it is the outer robe or ephod, to which we would now invite your attention, and all these spheres of truth are the Garments of salvation; of which the soul is instructed by the Prophet to say, “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God: for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation; he hath covered me With the robe of righteousness.” Isa. LXI. 10.
The ephod or outward garment of the High Priest represented religion in life and practice.
The ephod had in it all the constituents of the rest of the dress. It is written, ” And they shall make the ephod of gold, of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen.” It was to be a permanent symbol of the truth. “All religion has relation to life.” It was fastened at the shoulders by two onyx stones, set in ouches, or settings of gold, on which were engraved the names of all the tribes of Israel: six on one side, and six on the other, for stones of memorial before the Lord. From these stones also proceeded two chains of wreathen work to the Breastplate which the High Priest had on when he went to worship before the Lord; and which also contained the precious stones covering the names of the twelve tribes.
Lastly, at the hem of the robe of the ephod there were embroidered figures of the pomegranate, each containing a little golden bell, so that the ephod was bordered by these tassels, of a bell and a pomegranate, a bell and a pomegranate, all round. In all these particulars there are shadowed forth most interesting characteristics of spiritual life.
The onyx stones on the shoulders with the names of the twelve tribes, for a memorial before the Lord, represented the inner memory, with all the truths of religion impressed there; and forming the spring of power and energy in life.
The shoulders are the centres from which the arms and hands act. When anyone gives his whole energy to a cause he is said to put his shoulder to the wheel. The good shepherd who found his lost sheep laid it on his shoulders, and went away rejoicing.
The ephod then united over the shoulders by the onyx stones set in gold, with the names of the twelve tribes engraved under them, was a symbol of all the principles of religion, embraced in the very life and purpose of man and determined to action with all his energy. When religion is thus engraven upon the affections, and constitutes the inner life of man, it pervades his whole character. It is the law put into their inward parts, and written in their hearts (Jer. XXXI. 33). Being rooted within, it gathers the whole force of their inner life and causes their light to ” so shine before men that they may see their good works, and glorify their Father who is in heaven.”
From the same ouches of gold on the shoulders came the chains of wreathen gold to which the Breastplate was suspended, which was the symbol of religion in worship; but our remarks upon that beautiful and important portion of the High Priest’s dress must be reserved for our next discourse.
We cannot, however, pass over the embroidered pomegranates, and the bells of gold, hanging in each, forming the tassel-work of the hem of the lower border of the robe of the ephod.
The pomegranate is a fruit the size of an orange, and full of seeds, which are nutritious and pleasant to eat. They correspond to religion in daily acts. A life, whose minute deeds are all the fruit of Christian thought and feeling; in which virtue and gentleness are combined in all its ways and works, is surrounded by a moral robe whose hem exhibits these spiritual pomegranates. The bells of gold represent their words of love. The truth spoken in love is like a little golden bell, and fraught with pleasant sounds, leaving only pleasant memories.
Such are the lessons taught by the High Priest’s dress. The beautiful robes and their arrangement represented the holy states of the angels who form the heavens which the Divine Love fills and blesses, and which to Him are magnificent garments. Such, too, must be the states of men who live for heaven. They, too, must not forget the inner belt and the outer girdle, for these represent that firmness of purpose, first to receive religion within, and then to carry it firmly into life; without which there is no real consistent Christianity.
“Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning,” was the injunction of our Lord to His disciples; and the same lesson was represented by the inner and outer belts of the sacred dress.
There must be concentrated energy in receiving divine things. No feeble grasp should be used in prayer, or in the inner work of the soul as it lays hold on, eternal life. We must be girded within; nor must we act with a faltering hesitating hand in doing the Lord’s will. “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might,” is a maxim never to be forgotten by those who seek to do the Lord’s work, and to leave the world better than they found it. Hence they will need two belts, one within, and one without; and being firmly girded by both, will acquire true force and consistency of character.
Lastly, there was the mitre of the High Priest made of the same materials as the rest of the dress, and having a plate of gold on the front with the inscription upon it, ” Holiness to the Lord.“ The mitre represents a perception on the part of the wearer that the Lord is the source of all good, an acknowledgment that every virtue In heaven and earth, that every pure thought and hallowed disposition is from the Lord alone. “Holiness to the Lord.” In the highest heavens the inmost affections of the angels are incessantly saying like the four living ones in the midst of the throne, “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty, who was, and who is, and is to come.” And upon the mitre of everyone who wishes to be as the angels will be this confession, from the inmost love of their hearts, like letters of light, on the plate of gold, “Holiness to the Lord.”
Author: JONATHAN BAYLEY –From From Egypt to Canaan (1867)