Priesthood: Exodus 28

Exodus 28  •  9 min. read  •  grade level: 6
Exodus 28
The apostle says, Moses made all things according to the patterns showed to him in the mount; and again, these " things were patterns of the heavenly things." The doctrines themselves are in the New Testament; the details of things connected with them are in the types.
Priesthood supposes accomplished redemption: not to bring us in, but what we get when brought in. " See how I have borne you on eagles' wings, and brought you to myself," the Lord says to Israel. As a people, they were brought to God; but, a feeble and infirm people, they needed this help by the way. We are brought by redemption into the light as God is in the light; but down here we want His priesthood to maintain our walk before Him in the light. The priest is clothed in special garments. These garments are merely figures of that which is real in Christ in the exercise of His priesthood. That which was peculiarly the priest's garment was the ephod. " Doeg turned and fell upon the priests, and slew on that day fourscore and five persons who did wear a linen ephod." David with the ephod "inquired of Jehovah." The ephod was made of two pieces: one before and one behind. There were two shoulder pieces, joined at the two edges; a girdle wound round the body to confine it; above that, a foursquare-double, to be a breastplate, containing the names of the children of Israel. There was to be a holy miter on the head, and upon the skirt of the ephod the bell and the pomegranate.
All was connected with His people in the priests' garments. If it is the breastplate, the names are engraved in it. If it is the shoulder pieces, the names of the children of Israel are there. If it is the Urim and Thummim, the names of the children of Israel are there. Again I say, it was not to acquire righteousness, but to maintain their cause before God. He is there, acting before God on the people's behalf.
It is not true, then, that we have to get some one to go to God for us who believe. Christ is there for us; and grace is exercised, not because we return, but to bring us back. It is not said, " If any man repent," but, " If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father." The love Christ exercises about us springs directly from Himself. With Peter, it was not after he had fallen that Christ says to him, " I have prayed for thee," but before. His intercession for Peter was going on all the time; and it is because of our getting wrong, not because we are right, that it is exercised. Our feebleness and failure become the occasion for the exercise of this grace. When the intercession of Christ answers in the way of warning, chastening is not needed. Christ looked upon Peter, and it was before Peter wept. The look was just at the right moment. We know not what Peter might have done next, but the look causes him to weep.
The priest goes to God for us, not we to the priest. Righteousness and propitiation are there already, and by virtue of His being there, and being what He is there, He can set them right.
Priesthood is Christ undertaking the cause of His people, through the wilderness, maintaining us in the presence of God; keeping us in God's memory, so to speak-" for a memorial." This is a different thing from His shepherd character, strengthening the sheep down here; but it is sustaining them according to the power of inward grace before God. He bears them all in a detailed way, each by name, engraved. As a shepherd He calls His sheep: but also, according to our particular individuality, He bears us on His heart and shoulders. God looks upon us according to the favor He has for Christ Himself. If a person sends his child to me, I receive it according to the affection I have for the father. The priest was there in the garments proper to his office.
When we think of Christ as a priest, we should have in remembrance our individual imperfectness. In one sense we are perfect, but that is in our membership with Him-union with Him our Head.
The breastplate was never to be separate from the ephod, v. 28. " That the breastplate be not loosed from the ephod." Whenever the high priest went into the presence of God, it was in his garments. He could not go without representing the people. It is impossible for Christ to stand there in the presence of God without us.
The girdle was a sign of service; it is the characteristic of a person in service. Christ is a servant forever. When He became a man, He took upon Him the form of a servant. He might have asked for twelve legions of angels, and gone out free; but then He would have gone out alone. No! He says, I have got my work to do, my wife to care for. And thus He chose to be a servant forever. He became a servant when incarnate, but He was bound a servant forever when He gave up His life (Ex. 21). Yes, and He will be the servant; for " He shall gird Himself, and will make them sit down to meat, and come forth to serve them." His divine glory never changes, of course; but He will never give up this character of servant: forever and ever we shall have this " First-born of many brethren," this new Adam head of the family.
Verse 29, " Aaron shall bear the names," etc. Whatever value the Priest has in God's sight, He brings it down upon them. He bears them on His heart. All the love that Christ has for them, He bears them before God, according to this love. Then in answer they get whatever they need: it may be chastening, it may be strength. He obtains for us all the blessing we need, according to the favor that God bears Him. There is not only the personal favor, but the Urim and Thummim, the ground of their favor, which is in God Himself. The blessing is given according to the light and perfections of God (the meaning of the words being lights and perfections). He bears our judgment according to the light and perfections of God. That is where we are as regards daily judgment. We walk in the light as God is in the light: and as we want cleansing, there is the blood. If I commit a fault, what then; am I condemned? No, because Christ the righteous One is there; but then God must deal with an individual according to this light and perfection. He deals with us according to our need and weakness. He will make a way to escape, that we may be able to bear, because Christ is there. He deals with us just where we are, taking into His account our standing as to grace of course. When they have to learn things of God, it is by the Urim and Thummim also. It is according to the light and perfections of God that He instructs and guides me.
The feebleness, failings, and infirmities, instead of being the occasion of condemnation to me, are the occasion of instruction. The names He is bearing are those for whom there is no wrath. Christ bears Peter on His breast, and He does not pray that he should not be sifted, because He saw the self-sufficiency of Peter needed to be broken down; but He bore him on His heart, and obtained for him the thing he needed, that his faith fail not. His priesthood is exercised for me in putting my heart in a right position before God (not on account of wrath), and He bears us continually before the Lord.
There is reference here to another thing we have in virtue of Christ having gone up on high-the Holy Ghost. He received of the Father the gift of the Holy Ghost. He received it alone; but we, the skirts of His garments, get it shed upon us in virtue of His finished work-His accepted work (Psa. 133). The bell and the pomegranate may signify the gifts, testimony and fruit of the Holy Ghost, when Christ went into heaven, and when He will come forth again. " And his sound shall be heard when he goeth into the holy place before the Lord, and when he cometh out, that he die not." The miter is " holiness unto the Lord," and it was to be always upon his forehead.
It is not only when I have failed that Christ intercedes for me, but in holy things; when I go up to worship God, there comes in something that cannot suit the holiness of God-something that has not a bit of sanctified feeling in it; a distracting thought, admiration of fine music, etc., and this for want of habitual communion with the Lord. Well, then, can I say, I have failed, and let it go? There is holiness in Christ for our worship. True, we ought not to be satisfied without the full tide of affection going up to Him from us; but we are accepted because of His work. The iniquity cannot be accepted, but it never goes up. The Christian is always accepted, because in Christ. I may always go to God, because of the continual priesthood exercised. Christ bears my failures that they may be judged; my weakness, that I may get strength; but His heart is always engaged for us. Not merely the abstract love of God for us, which is always true, but this love of Christ ever ready for our necessities. There is evil that wants correction, but He will not put us out of His sight for it: but because you are accepted, He will remedy it.
The object of it all is that our soul should be up there with Christ, walking according to the perfectness of God Himself. When we see Christ for us there, we can venture to apply this light and perfection to our ways. How He has provided for us in love and holiness, for holiness we see stamped in great letters upon it! He is the Apostle and High Priest of our profession. The sinner wants the Apostle, the message from God about acceptance. The saint wants the High Priest.