Exodus 39:1-31

17 Mar 2024

Exodus 39:1-31

Passage Exodus 39:1-31

Speaker Claire Rose

Series Exodus in Lent


Passage: Exodus 39:1-31
Transcript (Auto-generated)

This transcript has been automatically generated, and therefore may not be 100% accurate.

Thank you.

We've reached Exodus, chapter 39. Say, when I was reading this at home, I couldn't help having a picture of Vivian in my mind, embroidering all this wonderful golden thread and colours, scarlet, blue and purple. So I think this has been chosen especially for Vivian today. From the beginning, from the blue, purple and scarlet yarn, they made woven garments for ministering in the sanctuary. They also made sacred garments for Aaron, as the lord commanded, Moses.

They made the ephod of gold and of blue, purple and scarlet yarn, and of twisted linen. They hammered out thin sheets of gold and cut strands to be worn into the blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen, the work of spilled hands. They made shoulder pieces for the ephod, which were attached to two of its corners so that it could be fastened. Its skilfully woven waistband was like it of one piece with the ephod and made with gold, and with blue, purple and scarlet yarn, and with finely twisted linen. As the lord commanded, Moses, they mounted the onyx stones in gold filigree settings and engraved them like a seal with the names of the sons of Israel.

Then they fastened them on the shoulder pieces of the ephod as memorial stones for the sons of Israel. As the lord commanded, Moses fashioned the breast piece, the work of a skilled craftsman. They made it like the ephod of gold and of blue, purple and scarlet yarn, and of finely twisted linen. It was square, a span long and a span wide and folded double. Then they mounted four rows of precious stones on it.

The first row was carnelian, chrysolites and a beryl. The second row was turquoise, lapis, loop, lazuli and emerald. The third row was jacinth, Agate and amethyst, and the fourth row was Topaz, onyx, and Jasper. They were mounted in gold filigree settings. There were twelve stones, one for each of the names of the sons of Israel, each engraved like a seal with the name of one of the twelve tribes.

For the breast piece, they made braided chains of pure gold. Like a rope. They made two gold filigree settings and two gold rings, and fastened the rings to two of the corners of the breast piece. They fastened the two gold chains to the rings at the corners of the breast piece and the other ends of the chains to the two settings, attaching them to the shoulder pieces of the ephod. At the front, they made two gold rings and attached them to the other two corners of the breast piece on the inside edge next to the ephod.

Then they made two more gold rings and attached them to the bottom of the shoulder pieces on the front of the ephod, close to the seam, just above the waistband of the ephod. They tied the rings of the breast piece to the rings of the ephod, with blue cord connecting it to the waistband so that the breast piece would not swing out from the ephod, as the lord commanded Moses. They made the robe of the ephod entirely of blue cloth, the work of a weaver, with an opening in the centre of the robe, like the opening of a collar, and a band around this opening so that it wouldn't tear. They made pomegranates of blue, purple and scarlet yarn and finely twisted linen around the hem of the robe. And they made bells of pure gold and attached them around the hem between the pomegranates.

The bells and pomegranates alternated around the hem of the robe to be worn for ministering, as the lord commanded Moses. For Aaron and his sons, they made tunics of fine linen, the work of a weaver, and the turban of linen, the linen caps and the undergarments of finely twisted linen. The sash was made of finely twisted linen and blue, purple and scarlet yarn, the work of an embroiderer. As the lord commanded Moses. They made the plate, the sacred emblem, out of pure gold and engraved on it, like an inscription on a seal, holy to the Lord.

Then they fastened a blue cord to it to attach it to the turban, as the lord commanded Moses. And this is the word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

These days, I'm afraid I can either see the words or I can see you. So.

So, let's begin. So, over the last few weeks, we've been continuing our journey through Exodus, and we're looking at the construction of the tabernacle. I don't know where the model is now. Oh, it's there at the back of the church. Do take a look at it if you've not already seen it.

Neil was preaching about the golden calf. And then last week, Ben was speaking about a people yearning for their relationship with God to be restored. And today our passage is about the priestly robes. Now, I have to admit, when I first read this passage, my first thought was, thanks, Ben. How on earth do I make this relevant to us today?

Because that's the whole point. It's no use just looking at the Bible. We have to see how it applies to us today. But as I found many times, when you start looking deeper into some of these Old Testament passages, you can see just how relevant they are. And in this time of Lent, as we prepare for Easter and think about Christ's sacrifice, they can tell us a lot about Jesus and our high priest.

Now, for most of us, I would imagine the image we have of the high priest of Israel is what we've seen in traumatised versions of Christ's life, Jesus of Nazareth, risen, the passion of the Christ. And actually, some of them are pretty good because we have a fantastic description in the scriptures for them to work to. But lots of us are visual learners, and so we're going to look at some pictures of some of these garments. Some of these are kind of modern reproductions. We don't have the original ones, obviously.

Look at what they were, what they signified, examine the role and the purpose of the high priest and what relationship that has to us today. Now, our passage in Exodus 39 largely repeats what is in Exodus 28 with some minor changes, and Exodus 28 has a lot more detail in it. So I will be referring to that as well. You'll also find some references in Leviticus, not surprisingly. And so some of my comments are based on what's in these other verses.

The first thing to note, as was pointed out, is that the furnishings for the tabernacle and the furnishings for this, the quality of the materials, the skill of the work that went into the making of these robes, it was extraordinary. The offerings to create the tabernacle came from readers and people. And it says, every skilled woman spun with her hands and brought what she had. Blue, purple or scarlet yarn or fine linen. It's the same fine fabrics that are used to create the priestly garments.

It's the same skill of the goldsmiths that created other elements of the robes. I mean, can you imagine the skill to be able to hammer the gold and then to cut it and still have it pliable enough to be woven? I mean, it's extraordinary. The good question is, why make them? Well, basically, God told them to.

Simple as that. God told them to. In chapter 28 of Exodus, we read, make sacred garments for your brother Aaron to give him dignity and honour. They were also to bring glory and beauty. Now, the two passages in Exodus go into extreme detail of how they should be made.

It obviously mattered a great deal. The robes of the high priest, known as the golden garments, were made up of two sets of clothing, the white clothing and then the coloured, vibrant clothing and the coronet. Now, 39 goes backwards and 28 goes forwards in the making of these. But first of all, there are the four white garments. These are the standard dress for all the priests, there was undergarments, a type of long shorts.

Priests didn't go commando. Tunic, which was made in one piece, other than the sleeves that were sewn in a sash, then a turban to cover the head. In Leviticus 16 four, we read a passage about the day of atonement, and there's a reason for talking about this. After the initial mourning offerings, the high priest would divest himself of his coloured robes and enter the holy of holies with new white robes. It says he is to put on the sacred linen Tunic with linen undergarments next to his body.

He is to tie the linen sash around him and put on the linen turban. These are sacred garments, so he must bathe himself with water before he puts them on. So on this one particular day of the year for this sacrifice, he did not wear the other priestly robes and interestingly, they were never worn again. That was the only time they were worn and he had to have a fresh set the following year. So what was the purpose?

What did they symbolise? Well, we know that white symbolises purity or sinlessness. It wasn't that the priest himself was sinless, far from it. He was ministering before God and it was important that what he wore to cover him symbolise this. It also symbolised reverence and humility in the presence of God.

They were made of linen, fine linen, expensive stuff. Most of it you didn't see for most of the year, other than the turban. But did you notice he also had to wash himself first to make himself clean before appearing before God.

Now, one of the key purposes of the priests, not just the high priest, was to make sacrifices and burnt offerings. And the Torah goes into great detail about what they should be. But this levitical passage acknowledges that one of the sacred duties of the high priest was to make an annual sacrifice to atone for the sins of the nation. Now, this is really important when we come to think about our own sin and atonement, the high priest would step into the most sacred and solemn part of the tabernacle, the holy of holies, which is not the same as the holy place. They're different parts.

The fact he was only wearing the white robes emphasised the gravity of the situation and the occasion as he approached the divine presence to seek forgiveness and atonement for the people's sins. It highlights the distinctiveness of the day of atonement. But it didn't work, because every year the same sacrifices had to be made for thousands of years. Every year, bulls, lambs, goats were slaughtered, the temple, the tabernacle. And then the temple would have been awash with blood.

And it must have stunk. Absolutely awful. Something had to be done. And it was. God sent Jesus to be our sacrifice and become what Hebrews calls our high priest.

Now, we've already looked at a bit of Hebrews. And we'll be coming back to that passage later. The Book of Hebrews refers to Christ as high priest 15 times. In fact. I'm going to apologise now if this talk ends up being longer than usual.

It's just that when you start looking at Hebrews and what it's all about, it's hard to know what to keep out. And I went down a lot of diversions and cut it all back a bit because it was brilliant. Let's take a look at it. It's fantastic. Hebrews 924 28 is the passage that Ben read to us.

For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands. That was only a copy of the true one. He entered heaven itself. Now, to appear for us in God's presence. Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again.

The way that high priest enters the most holy place every year. With blood that is not his own. Otherwise, Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But he has appeared once for all at the combination of the age to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgments.

So Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many. And he will appear a second time not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. Let's see that again. So Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many. It is that sacrifice that we will think about on Good Friday.

So let's turn to the other four priestly garments. Which made the high priest stand out from the rest of the other priests. What made him look different? First of all, there's a tunic. It was coloured blue.

Now, for the Israelites, this was associated with the heavenly realm. As a reminder that the high priest had a sacred responsibility. Blue dye was a very rare commodity and often associated with royalty. When I was looking at it, it's actually made from a mollusk of some kind. It was made in one piece, was doubled over at the top to prevent it tearing.

And there's strict instructions about stopping it tearing. And at the bottom, it was doubled over to hold the weight of the bells and the pomegranates. Now, the golden bells alternated between the multicoloured pomegranates. Now, for practical purposes, the tingling of the bells alerted the listener that the high priest was actively involved in his sacred duties, and it may have enabled people to follow the service along on a spiritual level. It reminded the priest he's the mediator between God and man.

So what about the pomegranates, fashioned with blue, purple and scarlet wool? What was the practical purpose and symbolism of these? Seems a bit of a weird thing, actually, to have on a sacred garment. However, the blue, purple and scarlet pomegranates were symbols of fruitfulness, blessing and prosperity, and you'll find them repeated in other parts of the Old Testament. It could have also represented the nation, because the pomegranate, as you know, has many, many seeds.

And so we come to the ephod, which took a while to unpick exactly what the ephod is. It was a kind of an apron with a waistband that tied. That was tied, plus the epaulettes and the fabric for the breastplate. Now, I'm not sure if I did put an extra slide in here, Chris, or not. Let me just have a quick look.

Just bear with me. Yes, there is. There's a slide. That's it. Yes.

Thanks, Chris.

So it's made up of various pieces. So you've got this waistband bit. You've got the epaulettes on the top, and then the same fabric. You've got the foundation for what we talk about later, the breastplate, it's all made of the same fabric. To this, gold fastenings were attached and affixed to the shoulder pieces.

It was made again with all five of the threads, blue, scarlet, purple threads, twisted linen and gold. It was the most splendid of the robes, and with that gold, it must have really sparkled. It must have really stood out. Again, it was a visual reminder of the high priest's role in many respects. His outer garments reflected the inner sanctum of the tabernacle.

On the shoulders of ephod were attached two stones, one on each side, made of onyx. On them were carved the twelve tribes of Israel, six on each side. So on his shoulders, Aaron and the high priest after him literally carried the names of the tribes making up the tribe of Israel. On his shoulders. It was a reminder, or, as chapter 28 says, a remembrance of his purpose and responsibility as a spiritual leader and mediator between the Lord and the nation.

Carried them on his shoulders. Does that not remind you of a passage in Isaiah where the prophecy about Jesus says, the government will be on his shoulders?

What about the names carved on the stones again? In Isaiah we can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne, though she may forget? I will not forget. You see, I have engraved you on the palm of my hands. Your walls are ever before me.

And so we turn to the breastplate, which is the most striking element of the robes on this fabric background, twelve stones were put, each inscribed with the name of one of the tribes of Israel, surrounded by gold and fixed on it was then fixed to the gold chain and the waistband with gold chains at the top and then a ribbon at the bottom, basically to stop it falling forward. Every time he leant forward is to hold it in place. Bit practical, really.

Now, if you look at chapter 39, verse ten of our reading, these stones were listed. Now, there's actually some uncertainty about these and their names might change to what we might call them today. But many of these precious and semi precious stones were used in the tabernacle as well. Just to decide. I'm sure I've heard these lists before.

Look at revelation, chapter 21, in the description of the New Jerusalem.

Can you see in the walls are listed these twelve jewels, these twelve stones. Anyone would think that God was in charge of this, doing all this. The breastplate of judgement was worn directly over Aaron's heart. The precious stones, indicating the value that God had for his people. They are placed over the heart because in the ancient Near east, it was also thought to be the place of the will, the decision making centre, but also because it takes the work of the heart to truly intercede for people.

Now, there were some words in there, the Urim and thummim. Well, frankly, we don't know an awful lot about them. They disappeared from use after the exile. They mean light and perfection. Historians surmise there was some form of communication method, a means of mediation, to inquire of God.

We don't actually know these days. Of course, God reveals himself to us through his spirit. And so we come to this final item. It's called a plate. It looks a bit like a diadem attached to the turban, which was made of pure gold and was engraved with the words holy to the Lord.

Now, headwear is important when you have to think about the armed services or clothing, such as a chef's hat or a pilot's cap, it distinguishes you. This headwear, particularly the plate, set Aaron apart. It held a strategic position on his forehead. The engraving confirmed he was set apart, which is the meaning of holy and dedicated to serving the Lord and representing the people. Aaron is actually granted authorities to consecrate the holy gifts of the people.

But it seems this was dependent upon wearing the plate which was engraved with these words. So these are the eight garments worn by the high priest as instructed by God. They served the purpose of demonstrating. Aaron was set apart in order to intercede on behalf of the nation and seek atonement or reparation for the sins of Israel. But Jesus offered forgiveness and reconciliation in himself, not by countless animal sacrifices and burnt offerings, but by offering himself and given his life.

So going back to Hebrews. For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands. There was only a copy of the one entered in. He entered heaven itself. Now to appear for us in God's presence.

Unlike Aaron, who entered the tabernacle that men had constructed to represent the nation, Jesus entered heaven and appears for us, represents us before God.

What the high priest did for Israel foreshadowed what Christ does in fullness and light for the world. As the high priest represented and brought Israel on his shoulders and on his chest and interceded. Christ bears all mankind and intercedes on our behalf. Romans 834 says, Jesus is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. In one John two, we read, Jesus is our advocate with the Father.

And from Hebrews 725, we learn that Jesus always lives to intercede for us. Michael Krueger points out that all of us are in a perilous position. As we stand before God. We need someone to act for us, to intercede for us and represent us. The high priest went before God on behalf of the people.

Jesus is with God on behalf of us all. I'm going to end with some verses from Hebrews, chapter seven.

Because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore, he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. Such a high priest truly meets our need, one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.


Thank you so much, Claire. It's incredible, isn't it?