************ Sermon on Exodus 28 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on November 2, 2014
"Priestly Garments for Aaron"
For a number of weeks now we have been looking at the tabernacle. As you know, every part of the tent and its furnishings was designed by God. He left nothing to chance. He left nothing to the ingenuity or mind of man.
Keep in mind the purpose of the tabernacle: It was a "Tent of Meeting." It was here that God would come down and dwell in the midst of His people. It was here that God would meet with man. Note, please, that God came to sinful man, not the other way around, for fallen man does not seek God. And even if man somehow wanted to approach God's presence, there was simply no way to meet His demands of holiness. I want you to see that the Tent of Meeting is a sign of God's mercy, God's grace, and God's love.
Remember, too, that everything about the Tent of Meeting speaks of Jesus. The only way inside (through the door at the east end), to the bronze altar of burnt offering, to the mirrored basin for washing shows it is only through Jesus that we can enter into the presence of God.
Once inside the Holy Place we see Jesus depicted as the Bread of life on the Table of Showbread. We see Jesus as the Light of the world when we look at the golden lampstand. We see Jesus as our Advocate before the Father when we look at the altar of incense.
Only one room is left: the Holy of Holies. Only one man, the high priest, could enter this room. And, he could enter it only on one day of the year carrying the sacrificial blood to cover all the sins of the people.
I wonder: Was the high priest able to sleep the night before he entered into the Holy of Holies? I say this because it was the most important experience in his life. It was awesome, and it was humbling. It was frightening, and it was peaceful. It was holy and precious. Think about it: He would be in God's very presence.
Because of Jesus we can enter the Holy of Holies to meet with the glorious and almighty God. How great and wonderful this is. Yet, like the high priest, we know we are not worthy, we know we are not good enough, we know we fall short of the glory of God. In spite of this, we are accepted into His presence where we feel the peace of God, and know the love of God, and experience the grace of God. All because of Jesus and the new and living way He has opened for us into the presence of God (Heb 10:20).
I The Priesthood
A Before we look at the priestly garments we need to spend a few moments looking at the priesthood itself.
What was the job of the priests? The priests were mediators between God and the nation of Israel. They represented the people to God by offering sacrifices and incense, by leading worship, and by interceding for the people in prayer. They also represented God to the people: they instructed Israel in God's Law, through them God communicated His will, and they were constant reminders that God forgives sinners.
B As high priest Aaron was assigned special clothing. Wherever he was, wherever he went, Aaron wore these clothes as a sign of the "dignity and honor" of his office (Ex 28:2). Aaron's garments spoke of glory, splendor, and magnificence.
Aaron and the high priests after him took pride in their uniform. However, on that one special day of the year when Aaron was about to enter the Holy of Holies, he was instructed to remove that source of pride and beauty. All of the wondrous needlework, embroidering, golden tassels, precious stones, bells, and stones were stripped away. The turban, shoulder pieces, Urim and Thummim, sash, ephod, breastpiece, and stones were removed. All that the high priest wore into the Holy of Holies was the pure, white undergarment.
Here is a reminder that God does not allow human pride and human accomplishment to enter into His presence. Here is a reminder that we enter God's presence only by grace and not by works. This is true whether it is Aaron, Moses, you, or me.
Before God, congregation, our beauty is nothing, our works are nothing, our righteousness is nothing. The only thing that counts when we enter into the presence of God is the blood of the Lamb. The righteousness of Christ is our covering and His blood is the entrance fee.
With this background, let's now look at Aaron's garments in detail and see, in Christ, how they apply to us today. At the back of the sermon outline you can see a picture of what we are talking about this evening.
II The Priestly Garments
A The first item of the priestly garments described by Scripture is the ephod. This vest-like outer jacket featured two stones, mounted one on each shoulder. Six names of the tribes of Israel were engraved on one stone and the remaining six were engraved on the other stone. Telling us that on his shoulders the high priest bore the weight of all Israel. Meaning what? Meaning that whenever Aaron entered the tabernacle, he represented all the people of God.
Today, it is Jesus Who represents the people of God before God's throne. The New Testament says "we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One" (1 Jn 2:1).
B The next item is the "breastpiece." This square pouch was attached to the ephod with chains of gold. In the breastpiece we are to see a picture of the Holy of Holies (which also was a perfect square). Twelve precious stones were mounted on it, each with the name of a single tribe. Again, the emphasis falls on Aaron as the representative of the people before God.
Notice the name given to the breastpiece: it is called the "breastpiece of decision" (Ex 28:29), "breastpiece for making decisions" (Ex 28:15), or, as we find it on the diagram, "breastplate of judgement." This name comes the Urim and Thummim – a white stone and a black stone that were put in the breastpiece (Ex 28:30). No one knows exactly how these two stones of decision were used. We do know, however, that God used them to communicate His will to Israel. It seems that at times the white stone represented YES and the black stone represented NO. At other times, the white stone represented INNOCENT while the black stone represented GUILTY.
We don't need the Urim and Thummim today. Because our heavenly High Priest has sent us His Holy Spirit. And, through the Word the Spirit leads us and guides us into the will of God.
Do you remember the promise Jesus gave to the church at Pergamum in Revelation 2? Jesus said,
(Rev 2:17) He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone ...Any Jew reading this sees right away that the white stone is a reference to the Urim and Thummim. Meaning what for us today? Meaning that when a born-again believer stands before the throne of God he or she will be given a white stone as a declaration of innocence in Jesus Christ.
C The remainder of Exodus 28 describes the rest of Aaron's uniform: the robe, turban, sash, and undergarments.
The robe was made of the same materials as the tabernacle. It was decorated with embroidered pomegranates, which were symbolic of God's fruitfulness and remind us of the Garden of Eden and the Promised Land. Hanging between the pomegranates were bells to keep Aaron alive – though we have no idea how they functioned.
On his head Aaron wore a turban. And on the turban was a gold plate with the words, "HOLY TO THE LORD." Not just Aaron but the whole nation of Israel was holy to the Lord.
All of this Aaron had to wear as a sign of office. All of this Aaron had to wear in order to do his work as high priest.
D Let me backtrack for a moment. We are told that Aaron's sacred garments were to be made of "gold, and blue, purple and scarlet yarn, and fine linen" (Ex 28:5). We find this description five times in our Bible reading and twenty-five times in the book of Exodus – telling us something of its importance. Now, do you remember where else we have seen these materials? We have seen them in the description of the tabernacle:
(Ex 26:1) Make the tabernacle with ten curtains of finely twisted linen and blue, purple and scarlet yarn, with cherubim worked into them by a skilled craftsman.
So what do you see when you look at Aaron? What did the Israelites see? Look at the diagram. Perhaps with squinted eyes. Block off the head, arms, and feet. What do you see?
When Aaron was walking around he looked like the tabernacle. Aaron's clothes reproduce the tabernacle, as they are made out of the same material and the same colors. The breastpiece represents the Holy of Holies. So, in a very real way, Aaron is a living, walking tabernacle. In a very real way, Aaron represents the presence of God among His people in the flesh.
E But we are to see more as well. Aaron was not only wearing a replica of the tabernacle. It should come as no surprise that we see heaven itself foreshadowed when we look at Aaron's garments. Remember, the tabernacle and its furnishings are a shadow of what we find in God's heavenly throne room (Heb 8:5).
I want you to note that when the New Jerusalem descends out of heaven, it has the same features as Aaron's breastpiece. The names of the twelve tribes of Israel are inscribed upon its gates (Rev 21:12). The city itself is perfectly square, just like the Holy of Holies depicted on Aaron's breastpiece. And the foundation of the wall that surrounds the city is adorned with the same precious stones we see on Aaron's breastpiece.
We look at Aaron and we get a picture of heaven. We look at Aaron and we get a picture of God's heavenly throne room. We look at Aaron and we see something of the glory and majesty and purity and holiness of God Himself. Truly, as I already said, Aaron represented God before the people.
III Christ our High Priest
A So, when Aaron was walking around he looked like the tabernacle. Now, do you remember what the Apostle John wrote about Jesus?
(Jn 1:14) The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.Did you hear what John said? "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us." Actually, the Greek says "The Word became flesh and tabernacled among us." "The Word became flesh and tabernacled among us."
In a very real way, then, in looking the way he did Aaron was only anticipating Him Who tabernacled among us – namely, the Lord Jesus Christ. In Aaron we are to see a picture of Christ Himself.
B So, as we look at Aaron and his clothing we need to look beyond him to Jesus our great High Priest:
(Heb 4:14) Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.
Jesus is the High Priest, just like Aaron. But with a difference. We know Jesus is the perfect High Priest Who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin (Heb 4:15). Therefore, He does not need to offer sacrifices every day, first for His own sins, and then for the sins of others (Heb 7:27). Furthermore, since Jesus is the perfect High Priest He does more than make us outwardly clean; by His sacrifice He brings the actual forgiveness of sins (Heb 9:13-14).
IV We Are Priests
A So, what do we all see when we look at Aaron and his clothing. First, we see the tabernacle. Second, we see God's heavenly throne room. Third, we see a picture of Christ.
But there is also a fourth picture. When we look at Aaron and his clothing we are to see a picture of you and me and everyone who believes. Keep in mind what Peter says:
(1 Pet 2:9) But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God ...Did you catch that? We are "a royal priesthood."
B Like Aaron we wear sacred garments. We are clothed in robes of righteousness. We are clothed in the righteousness of Christ Himself. My favorite depiction of this comes from the prophecy of Zechariah. In this prophecy Joshua the high priest stands before the Lord in soiled filthy garments as Satan hurls one accusation after another against the priest. Satan is rebuked by an angel. The angel then tells others to remove the priest's filthy garments of sin. Joshua is then dressed in pure garments of holiness and righteousness (Zech 3:1-5). That is a picture of you and me in Christ – we are wearing the robes of righteousness.
C In Christ, there is a true priesthood of all believers. So, like Aaron, we can approach the very presence of God – at all times and not just one day of the year. We have free access into His presence. Which means that the most gifted preacher on the planet has no better access to God than a janitor or mechanic or secretary. Pastors and elders may be appointed to teach and lead the church but they do not represent us before the heavenly throne room as did Aaron with the people of Israel.
Look at Aaron, congregation. Look at his sacred garments. And rejoice. Rejoice that because of Christ we no longer need to fear the presence of the Lord. Rejoice that we longer need to sacrifice bulls and goats. Rejoice that we don't have to worry about the garments we wear because the Lord Jesus Himself clothes us in robes of righteousness. Rejoice in Christ the holy and righteous High Priest Who has offered Himself for our sins.
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