“to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.”
What to wear? Women of all ages will of course resonate with that question, but men also face the same dilemma when important dates or job interviews loom on the horizon. Dress code has changed dramatically since I was a child and I can remember my father quoting with a very serious voice, “Clothes maketh the man” and I can also see him in my mind’s eye, preparing himself for his weekly meeting with the Rotary Club (a service club in which he loved being a member). Every member of that club would not dream of attending a meeting unless appropriately dressed, which meant suit, waistcoat, jacket, tie and of course beautifully polished shoes! My father would emerge from the bedroom impeccably dressed confident that he met the standards expected of him.
Appropriately dressed. I was thinking what this meant when our Home Group came to the passage in Exodus 28 which we are studying at the moment, with the title, Priestly Garments. This lengthy chapter with its 43 verses is entirely devoted to describing in detail not only each article of clothing, but the skills needed to prepare precious stones, weave beautiful patterns in exquisite materials e.g.
“Make the ephod of gold, and of blue, purple and scarlet yarn, and of finely twisted linen- the work of a skilled craftsman…” (Exodus 28:6)
Our Home Group began the study with the big question, “Why would God go to such lengths with such detail in how the priests were to be dressed before they could come into his presence and what significance did this have for us today?”
We were all surprised to find that as we read carefully the preparations for the priests, a feeling of awe began to surround us and we began to experience the feeling of anticipation that would have been flooding over those men. This was no ordinary meeting, God was promising to come and dwell with his people and the people were to learn what an incredible privilege God was granting them and one of the ways to remember was the beautiful array of the priests clothing with every part bearing its own meaning so that its significance would never be forgotten.
“They will know that I am the Lord their God, who brought them out of Egypt so that I might dwell among them. I am the Lord their God.” (Exodus 29: 46)
We know that Jesus Christ became our High Priest and fulfilled the sacrifices these priests were being trained for, and that intense detailed preparation is no longer needed, we can actually come and be welcomed into the presence of the Creator of the Universe but, at the same time, reading this passage in Exodus we realised that this incredible privilege should never be taken lightly. We began to think of the spiritual garments we could wear when we enter our Lord’s presence; a garment of praise/ a spirit of humbleness/ thank fullness/piety/ joy/gladness/so we never forget the price Jesus paid for our freedom to worship.
The most beautiful garment of all is the Lord Jesus himself and Paul urges us to clothe ourselves with his beautiful presence and what could be more fitting apparel than him.
“Rather clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” (Romans 13: 14)
In fact, Peter reminds us in his letter that we are now all considered to be a royal priesthood so let us don those spiritual garments.
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter2: 9)