Notes on the Tabernacle: The Ephod and Plate of Gold

 •  9 min. read  •  grade level: 8
This robe, which was "all of blue," presents to us the heavenly character of the priest, which was according to the holy place in which he ministered. It symbolizes the heavenly character of the One who was "made higher than the heavens" (Heb. 7:2626For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; (Hebrews 7:26)). Instructions are given that the hole made in the top of this garment be bound, that it "be not rent." Nothing which would admit of imperfection must be allowed in that which symbolizes Christ. On the hem of this robe were placed golden bells and pomegranates. These alternated, and were equal in number, though no mention is made of their number. The position of the fruit on this garment is significant: it hung low, near to the earth, and it is fruit from the earth that is mentioned; also it is fruit that belonged specially to the "holy land" (Numb. 13:2323And they came unto the brook of Eshcol, and cut down from thence a branch with one cluster of grapes, and they bare it between two upon a staff; and they brought of the pomegranates, and of the figs. (Numbers 13:23); Deut. 8:88A land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates; a land of oil olive, and honey; (Deuteronomy 8:8)). This fruit was not found in Egypt. We may look upon it as a symbol of those who are saved—fruit that Christ, as the great High Priest, has carried into heaven from this earth. The character of the pomegranate is also significant, being a fruit full of seeds contained in a red fluid. The Lord Jesus Christ has brought every believer to God as the fruit of His shed blood; this fruit is from the earth, and is without number. "He shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied." Isa. 53:1111He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. (Isaiah 53:11).
The bells were for the purpose of giving forth a sound, that Aaron might be heard when he went into the holy place, and when he came out. A heavenly melody thus sounded out at each step. This melody was connected with the rich fruit that was carried on the person of the high priest, for it was a pomegranate and a bell alternating all around the garment. But note that these sounds were given forth "that he die not" (or lest he should die). What sounds had he left behind in the camp from which he proceeded? Murmuring, complaint, discord is what marked Israel. Shall Aaron carry these fleshly sounds into the sanctuary? No; heavenly sounds must mark the footsteps of the one who approaches God; his walk must be a heavenly walk. Such must be the walk of Aaron lest he should die. When returning to the camp, his footsteps must be known as from heaven. "How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!" Rom. 10:1515And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! (Romans 10:15). Were not Aaron's feet thus beautiful as he came forth to the people with heavenly melody at every step and, standing before them in his robes of glory and beauty, brought them glad tidings of good things—acceptance, security, power, love! When Christ our great High Priest entered the sanctuary above, was it not with heavenly melody: a people redeemed (fruit thus borne to God); glory to God thus sounding from the cross, and ringing through the highest heavens. How blessedly God the Spirit made known to man acceptance through Christ when sent from the Father. To listening ears, how sweetly comes the sound, Christ in heaven, "now to appear in the presence of God for us" (Heb. 9:2424For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: (Hebrews 9:24)). When Christ comes forth from the sanctuary above to call His loved people to Himself, what heavenly melody will mark the scene! And how closely associated is this melody with the fruit that is borne to God.
Those who have been made priests to God (Rev. 1:5, 65And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, 6And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. (Revelation 1:5‑6)) should represent Christ on earth—"Christ in you"—while Christ represents them before God. A heavenly walk and "glad tidings of good things" sounded out, will be attended with sweet melody. And the beautifully blended colors of the fruit which ornamented the priest's garment, will be seen in the fruit of the Spirit, which is "love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, faith, meekness, temperance."
What pleasure must have been afforded to the heart of God as He gave instructions for the making of these symbols which spoke of the One in whom was all His delight. They can neither be understood nor appreciated apart from seeing their fulfillment in Christ. And how God's heart of love toward His people is told out in His marking beforehand each detail in this way rather than waiting until His Son should come and accomplish these things.
Dear reader, what to you is this One who is the delight of God? Do you find beauty in Him, or is there no beauty that you should desire Him? If you are still far from God, why not turn to Jesus who will receive all who come to Him.
"The Redeemer now calls; will you still turn away?
Is it nothing to you—nothing to you?
There is danger in doubting, and death in delay;
Is it nothing to you—nothing to you?
O then flee to the Savior, respond to His call;
He will save from the sins that now chain and enthrall;
He will welcome you gladly, and pardon you all.
Is this nothing to you—nothing to you?"
As has been noticed, the golden bells were heard not only when the high priest went into the holy place, but also when he came out; and for the believer, a "shout" will be heard when the Lord descends from heaven. To that shout, living and sleeping saints will respond by rising to "meet Him in the air." He will take these ransomed ones to His Father's house, and later will come with them to reign over the earth. A blessed prospect for believers—to see the One who has died for them, and who has represented them before God during the whole of their path down here, and to be forever with Him!
"What will it be to dwell above,
And with the Lord of glory reign,
Since the blest knowledge of His love
So brightens all this dreary plain!
No heart can think, no tongue can tell,
What joy 'twill be with Christ to dwell."
The Plate of Gold
In this plate we get another mark of God's grace toward His people. Only that which was suited to His presence could be accepted by Him. All that was offered must be stamped with holiness. The inscription on this plate—"HOLINESS TO THE LORD"—speaks of this. Christ, as our High Priest, bears "the iniquity of the holy things" (precious thought, that even our failures in drawing near to God are met by Him!), and He Himself is holiness. Thus the worship of the Christian, presented through Him, is acceptable to God.
The plate of gold was placed on the miter which was made of fine twined linen, and which would speak of the purity that was necessary in one who would stand in the presence of God on behalf of others.
The service of Aaron and his sons, when it was a question of atonement, or putting away of sins on which God's judgment must come, was conducted in the fine linen, or "holy garments." The burnt offering which tells of the acceptance of the worshiper according to the sweet savor of the sacrifice, was a service of different character, and it would seem that Aaron in this service wore the garments "for glory and for beauty," which, as we have been considering, represented the people, and therefore identified them with himself in glory and beauty. Thus is the believer now accepted before God, in Christ. When once a year the sins of the people were numbered and brought before God, Aaron laid aside his garments of glory and beauty and, robed in the garments of fine linen, entered the holiest. Spotless from head to foot in these "holy garments," he presents a fitting picture of the One who stood in His own holiness before God, to make atonement for the sins of others. Aaron seems to have had liberty to enter within the veil at all times, until after the death of two of his sons, Nadab and Abihu. They had offered "strange fire before the LORD," and fire had gone out from the Lord and devoured them (Lev. 10:1, 21And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the Lord, which he commanded them not. 2And there went out fire from the Lord, and devoured them, and they died before the Lord. (Leviticus 10:1‑2)). On other occasions, fire from the Lord had been the unsparing judgment sent upon sinning ones—fire as a symbol, ever speaking of judgment (Numb. 11:11And when the people complained, it displeased the Lord: and the Lord heard it; and his anger was kindled; and the fire of the Lord burnt among them, and consumed them that were in the uttermost parts of the camp. (Numbers 11:1); 2 Kings 1:5-165And when the messengers turned back unto him, he said unto them, Why are ye now turned back? 6And they said unto him, There came a man up to meet us, and said unto us, Go, turn again unto the king that sent you, and say unto him, Thus saith the Lord, Is it not because there is not a God in Israel, that thou sendest to inquire of Baal-zebub the god of Ekron? therefore thou shalt not come down from that bed on which thou art gone up, but shalt surely die. 7And he said unto them, What manner of man was he which came up to meet you, and told you these words? 8And they answered him, He was an hairy man, and girt with a girdle of leather about his loins. And he said, It is Elijah the Tishbite. 9Then the king sent unto him a captain of fifty with his fifty. And he went up to him: and, behold, he sat on the top of an hill. And he spake unto him, Thou man of God, the king hath said, Come down. 10And Elijah answered and said to the captain of fifty, If I be a man of God, then let fire come down from heaven, and consume thee and thy fifty. And there came down fire from heaven, and consumed him and his fifty. 11Again also he sent unto him another captain of fifty with his fifty. And he answered and said unto him, O man of God, thus hath the king said, Come down quickly. 12And Elijah answered and said unto them, If I be a man of God, let fire come down from heaven, and consume thee and thy fifty. And the fire of God came down from heaven, and consumed him and his fifty. 13And he sent again a captain of the third fifty with his fifty. And the third captain of fifty went up, and came and fell on his knees before Elijah, and besought him, and said unto him, O man of God, I pray thee, let my life, and the life of these fifty thy servants, be precious in thy sight. 14Behold, there came fire down from heaven, and burnt up the two captains of the former fifties with their fifties: therefore let my life now be precious in thy sight. 15And the angel of the Lord said unto Elijah, Go down with him: be not afraid of him. And he arose, and went down with him unto the king. 16And he said unto him, Thus saith the Lord, Forasmuch as thou hast sent messengers to inquire of Baal-zebub the god of Ekron, is it not because there is no God in Israel to inquire of his word? therefore thou shalt not come down off that bed on which thou art gone up, but shalt surely die. (2 Kings 1:5‑16)). The case of Nadab and Abihu is very full of significance. Fire from God had come down and consumed the burnt offering upon the altar, showing God's judgment upon the victim, and yet His acceptance, when the fire had done its work, for this was a sweet savor offering. This fire, and no other, must be used in the burning of the incense; the sweet fragrance of Christ must go up to God through the judgment that has fallen upon Him. The bruising brings this out in its fullest sweetness -"bruised for our iniquities."
Nadab and Abihu did not use this fire, and fire from God fell upon them instead of upon the victim. In the words of another, "These two eldest sons of Aaron should have taken coals of burning fire from off the altar—fire which had come from the Lord. But instead of this, they put fire in their censers which was common to them, but strange to the Lord. May we not regard this as another form of Cain worship?... Cain offered an offering without the shedding of blood. His was a religion of works, though the name of the Lord was in it. His was not the worship of a false God, but it was false worship of the true God—worship which was not preceded by salvation. Nadab and Abihu were quite correct as to censer, incense and the holy place, but they did not recognize that it was the fire from God which had fed upon the sacrifice, and that no fragrance could come up to God from the hands even of His priests, unless through the sacrifice consumed in judgment upon the altar. Christ may be owned as the true Christ. He may even be confessed with the lips as the Son of God. Prayer and worship may be conducted in His name, but unless His death be acknowledged and trusted in the way of atonement... the worshiper, whoever he be, is offering strange fire, mingled though it be with the name of Christ."
Sin having thus been brought into the holy place, Aaron was restricted in his entrance into the holiest, and when he went, it must be in the "fine linen" garments. At other times he moved about in the holy place bearing on his shoulders and on his breast the names of Israel engraven on the precious stones, those on the breast and those on the shoulders being inseparably bound together; and the golden plate on behalf of others adorned his forehead.