Do you remember the crappy gifts you gave your parents when you were little? I remember drawing my best imitation of a blue first place ribbon and cutting it out for my father. I wanted to give him the “Number 1 Dad” award. Of course, parents love those silly little things and keep them with care. At the end of the day, they’re scraps of paper covered in crayon scribbles. Yet somehow, a mother’s or father’s love transforms it into something special.
Much upgraded from crayon scribbles were the gifts and offerings the Israelites were to present to their Father in the tabernacle He was still designing with Moses. Now God is describing the garments that would adorn the priests who would serve in that tabernacle. God designates Aaron and his four sons to be priests, and then describes everything they would have to wear to do it, from the breastpiece and ephod down to their underwear (verse 42)! Like the tabernacle, the priestly robes would be carefully made using fine linen and reds and blues and purples. Precious stones would rest in the breastpiece, which would be mounted to the ephod using twisted gold chains. More gold adorned the turbans the priests wore and embroidered sashes would tie their tunics and robes close to them. The priests were going to be seriously decked out, but also seriously consecrated for their jobs. The instructions for the priests’ ordinations are coming next.
The Treasures Within:
We Tried Our Best
As the list of instructions and materials and tasks on Moses’ Tabernacle To-Do List grows, I’m reminded of one of those shows that follows around the people who pull off big events like weddings and fancy shows. They bob their heads up and down as more and more demands are piled on them. It all sounds so stressful, and it is for the people on those shows, but, as we’ll see later, it’s not like that for Moses and the children of Israel. All of God’s instructions and guidelines will be carefully followed. More than enough materials will be donated. Details like tightly securing the breastpiece so that it doesn’t swing wildly (verse 28) and carefully weaving the collar in the priests’ robes so that it doesn’t tear (verse 31) will be enthusiastically perfected. The Israelites and Moses will do their absolute best to obey and serve and please God because they believe in Him and they love Him.
But at the end of the day, what will all of their efforts amount to? The garments and furniture and curtains are all just the cheap, dim, and dusty offerings of sinful humans. Compare the tabernacle the Israelites would soon hack together with the perfection, the light, and the unmarred glory of heaven! I mean, even following God’s instructions closely, the Israelites had to take extra care to cover themselves from the eyes of God, or else their imperfection would be destroyed by His blinding perfection (verses 35, 43). It was like creating something special for someone, but wearing gloves up to your elbows as you did it, for fear of contaminating your giftee. The point is, the Israelites’ efforts were ultimately pathetic and paltry next to the God who had designed the planets and hung them in their place. Why even bother?
A Father’s Love
Why, indeed? Why do any of us bother? Why do we dress nicely for church? Why do we bow our heads and fold our hands when we pray? Why do we go to church on the Sabbath or obey God’s words or volunteer our time in outreach? At the end of the day, the best we can do is still like the tiniest water droplets in a world-sized bucket. It’s pathetic.
But check out verse 2: “Make sacred garments for your brother Aaron to give him dignity and honor”. This verse stuck out to me because looking at the list of items – a breastpiece, an ephod, a robe, a tunic, a turban, and a sash – there’s nothing sacred about them. And that gold plate on that turban, inscribed with “HOLY TO THE LORD” (verse 36)? Gold is cool and all, but it’s not holy. The things, the actions, and the service we give to God are not special or holy in and of themselves. To some people they’re ridiculous and laughable. Objectively, they’re just sad. But all of this changes as soon as God opens His lips to call it “Holy”. Our prayers, our tithe, and our sacrifices. The Israelites’ tabernacle, their burnt offerings, and their priestly garments. All of these things become holy, precious, and worthy when they are transformed by a Father’s love. So we continue. Because He sees us and accepts us.
God’s Message To Us:
“I am holy.” From every angle and perspective, God is holy. He’s so holy and we’re so unholy that we barely understand what those words mean, the cosmic truth they indicate. He’s so holy and we’re so unholy that we don’t know instinctively to bow our heads when we come near Him or to tremble when He looks at us. Yes, God is holy. He is so holy that we should all be dead. No offering or chant or prayer or sacrifice is enough to make that statement false. But God’s word is enough. I am not dead and you are not dead not because we tried our best or we really did a good thing by giving Him our hearts – it’s because He saw us and loved us and declared what we gave “Holy”. It’s because He saved us. We can be certain that there is nothing in a million thousand centuries that we can do to pay that grace back. But praise our holy, heavenly Father because we do not have to.
What do you think? How does this chapter make you feel about your relationship to God? What truth did God weave into this chapter just for you?
There Are Always Questions:
- In verses 33-35, God instructs that the priests’ robes should have pomegranates and bells sewed onto the hems so that when the priests moved into the presence of God, they would make noise, keeping them from dying. What was it about the sound of the bells that kept the priests from dying?