Daily Family Worship

Exodus 39: The Priestly Garments

by | Mar 28, 2022

exodus 39

This chapter tells us about the making of the holy garments for Aaron the high priest and his sons. Let us examine the high priest’s garments in the order that Aaron would have put them on. He was first arrayed in a coat of fine linen (verse 27) – woven without a seam, and decorated with needlework – which covered him from head to foot. It had sleeves down to the wrists, and it was secured with a belt. Here we see Jesus in His spotless purity and holiness, girded for the great work that He had undertaken to do. The snow-white seamless coat represents the perfection of His righteousness; while the inner “girdle of faithfulness,” which bound that coat firmly around Him, showed Him to “be a merciful and faithful high priest” – ready and willing to make reconciliation for the sins of His people. Over the linen coat, the high priest donned a shorter robe (verses 22-26). This robe was also seamless, but it was without sleeves. It was bright blue; and it had a hem or border of fine white linen, which was richly worked all around the hemline with pomegranates, in blue and purple and scarlet. 

The ephod (verses 2-5) was the next of the holy garments that the high priest put on. This was a very splendid short tunic worn over the blue robe; and like the coat and the robe, it had no seam. The ephod was made of fine linen and woven with blue and purple and scarlet, and it was also richly embroidered with pure gold threads. It was bound around the waist by a girdle of the same rich colors and golden needlework. On each shoulder-strap of the ephod was placed an onyx stone (verses 6, 7), set in gold and engraved with the names of the twelve tribes of Israel – six on each stone. And on the front of the ephod, the high priest wore the holy breastplate (verses 8-21), which was a square of fabric that was made of the same rich material as the ephod itself – pure white linen with blue, purple, scarlet, and gold embroidery. And in the middle of it were set four rows of precious stones that were finely cut and polished until they sparkled. These were set in gold, and on each stone was engraved the name of one of the tribes of Israel. Thus the high priest carried the names of his people before God continually, and every believing Israelite could joyfully rest assured that he was represented there. 

The last thing which gave its finishing grace to the high priest’s garments was the holy diadem (verses 28, 30, 31). This was the headdress of a king and a priest joined together in one. It was different from anything else that was typically worn on a person’s head. It consisted of the white linen turban of a priest, fixed within a kingly crown of pure gold, bearing a plate engraved with the words, “Holiness to the Lord.” And that was its crowning glory! This sacred headdress belonged to the high priest of the Jews alone, and he only wore it because he was a picture or foreshadowing of Him Who has the right to wear it forever. No mortal prince or priest could dare to write “Holiness to the Lord” upon his brow! But the Lord Jesus is the holy King and High Priest of His Church. He sits as “a priest on his throne” (Zech. 6:13), and He rules in righteousness and peace. His glorious Name is written on the hearts and lives of His people; and thus, even on the most common items of their daily service, those words are reflected: “Holiness to the Lord!” (Zech. 14:20)

The priests’ garments were rich and splendid indeed. Through those holy garments, the people of God in the Old Testament were taught by shadows of good things to come; but the substance is Christ and the grace of His Gospel. Jesus is our Great High Priest! When He undertook the work of our redemption, He put on the clothes of service. He arrayed Himself with the gifts and graces of the Spirit; He girded Himself with resolution to go through the undertaking; He took charge of all God’s people; He laid them near His heart, engraved them upon the palms of His hands, and presented them to His Father. And He crowned Himself with “Holiness to the Lord” – thereby consecrating His whole undertaking to the honor of His Father’s holiness.

After the conclusion of all the work for the Tabernacle, a list of everything was made; and in this list, we find a reference to “the cloths of service to do service in the holy place.” These cloths were made of blue, purple, and scarlet; and they were used to cover the Ark of the Covenant and all the sacred furniture before they were moved by the Levites from one campsite to another. These holy things were to be seen by no eyes except those of the priests. Even the very servants who carried them never saw them, for they were carefully covered up by the priests before they were moved. This was intended to teach men the awful holiness that surrounds Jehovah. Besides the priests, no eye was to gaze upon anything inside the Tabernacle, which was the Lord’s dwelling-place on earth; for everything therein was expressly set apart to be pictures and foreshadows of the Great High Priest “who is passed into the heavens,” and Who dwells with God “in the light that no man can approach unto.” Dear brothers and sisters! Let us pray for grace that we may not displease our God by a careless, irreverent way of using the means of grace that He has given us!

Lord Jesus, as we finish reading about the making of the priestly garments, we call to mind the glorious work of redemption which You – our Great High Priest – have finished by Your complete atonement. How costly the work! How great the undertaking! We beseech You to raise up Your power in our souls. Consecrate all we have to Your service; and cause us to know the power of Your resurrection and the fellowship of Your sufferings! Amen.

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