Sermon for Sunday, January 9th, 2022 at First Presbyterian Church at Unionville, NY (BPC)
Old Testament reading:
[Exo 27:9-21 ESV] 9 “You shall make the court of the tabernacle. On the south side the court shall have hangings of fine twined linen a hundred cubits long for one side. 10 Its twenty pillars and their twenty bases shall be of bronze, but the hooks of the pillars and their fillets shall be of silver. 11 And likewise for its length on the north side there shall be hangings a hundred cubits long, its pillars twenty and their bases twenty, of bronze, but the hooks of the pillars and their fillets shall be of silver. 12 And for the breadth of the court on the west side there shall be hangings for fifty cubits, with ten pillars and ten bases. 13 The breadth of the court on the front to the east shall be fifty cubits. 14 The hangings for the one side of the gate shall be fifteen cubits, with their three pillars and three bases. 15 On the other side the hangings shall be fifteen cubits, with their three pillars and three bases. 16 For the gate of the court there shall be a screen twenty cubits long, of blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen, embroidered with needlework. It shall have four pillars and with them four bases. 17 All the pillars around the court shall be filleted with silver. Their hooks shall be of silver, and their bases of bronze. 18 The length of the court shall be a hundred cubits, the breadth fifty, and the height five cubits, with hangings of fine twined linen and bases of bronze. 19 All the utensils of the tabernacle for every use, and all its pegs and all the pegs of the court, shall be of bronze. 20 “You shall command the people of Israel that they bring to you pure beaten olive oil for the light, that a lamp may regularly be set up to burn. 21 In the tent of meeting, outside the veil that is before the testimony, Aaron and his sons shall tend it from evening to morning before the LORD. It shall be a statute forever to be observed throughout their generations by the people of Israel.
New Testament reading:
[Heb 5:1-5 ESV] 1 For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. 2 He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness. 3 Because of this he is obligated to offer sacrifice for his own sins just as he does for those of the people. 4 And no one takes this honor for himself, but only when called by God, just as Aaron was. 5 So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”;
[Jhn 19:23-24 ESV] 23 When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom, 24 so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfill the Scripture which says, “They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.” So the soldiers did these things,
[Exo 28:1-43 ESV] 1 “Then bring near to you Aaron your brother, and his sons with him, from among the people of Israel, to serve me as priests–Aaron and Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar. 2 And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty. 3 You shall speak to all the skillful, whom I have filled with a spirit of skill, that they make Aaron’s garments to consecrate him for my priesthood. 4 These are the garments that they shall make: a breastpiece, an ephod, a robe, a coat of checker work, a turban, and a sash. They shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother and his sons to serve me as priests. 5 They shall receive gold, blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and fine twined linen. 6 “And they shall make the ephod of gold, of blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and of fine twined linen, skillfully worked. 7 It shall have two shoulder pieces attached to its two edges, so that it may be joined together. 8 And the skillfully woven band on it shall be made like it and be of one piece with it, of gold, blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and fine twined linen. 9 You shall take two onyx stones, and engrave on them the names of the sons of Israel, 10 six of their names on the one stone, and the names of the remaining six on the other stone, in the order of their birth. 11 As a jeweler engraves signets, so shall you engrave the two stones with the names of the sons of Israel. You shall enclose them in settings of gold filigree. 12 And you shall set the two stones on the shoulder pieces of the ephod, as stones of remembrance for the sons of Israel. And Aaron shall bear their names before the LORD on his two shoulders for remembrance. 13 You shall make settings of gold filigree, 14 and two chains of pure gold, twisted like cords; and you shall attach the corded chains to the settings. 15 “You shall make a breastpiece of judgment, in skilled work. In the style of the ephod you shall make it–of gold, blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and fine twined linen shall you make it. 16 It shall be square and doubled, a span its length and a span its breadth. 17 You shall set in it four rows of stones. A row of sardius, topaz, and carbuncle shall be the first row; 18 and the second row an emerald, a sapphire, and a diamond; 19 and the third row a jacinth, an agate, and an amethyst; 20 and the fourth row a beryl, an onyx, and a jasper. They shall be set in gold filigree. 21 There shall be twelve stones with their names according to the names of the sons of Israel. They shall be like signets, each engraved with its name, for the twelve tribes. 22 You shall make for the breastpiece twisted chains like cords, of pure gold. 23 And you shall make for the breastpiece two rings of gold, and put the two rings on the two edges of the breastpiece. 24 And you shall put the two cords of gold in the two rings at the edges of the breastpiece. 25 The two ends of the two cords you shall attach to the two settings of filigree, and so attach it in front to the shoulder pieces of the ephod. 26 You shall make two rings of gold, and put them at the two ends of the breastpiece, on its inside edge next to the ephod. 27 And you shall make two rings of gold, and attach them in front to the lower part of the two shoulder pieces of the ephod, at its seam above the skillfully woven band of the ephod. 28 And they shall bind the breastpiece by its rings to the rings of the ephod with a lace of blue, so that it may lie on the skillfully woven band of the ephod, so that the breastpiece shall not come loose from the ephod. 29 So Aaron shall bear the names of the sons of Israel in the breastpiece of judgment on his heart, when he goes into the Holy Place, to bring them to regular remembrance before the LORD. 30 And in the breastpiece of judgment you shall put the Urim and the Thummim, and they shall be on Aaron’s heart, when he goes in before the LORD. Thus Aaron shall bear the judgment of the people of Israel on his heart before the LORD regularly. 31 “You shall make the robe of the ephod all of blue. 32 It shall have an opening for the head in the middle of it, with a woven binding around the opening, like the opening in a garment, so that it may not tear. 33 On its hem you shall make pomegranates of blue and purple and scarlet yarns, around its hem, with bells of gold between them, 34 a golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate, around the hem of the robe. 35 And it shall be on Aaron when he ministers, and its sound shall be heard when he goes into the Holy Place before the LORD, and when he comes out, so that he does not die. 36 “You shall make a plate of pure gold and engrave on it, like the engraving of a signet, ‘Holy to the LORD.’ 37 And you shall fasten it on the turban by a cord of blue. It shall be on the front of the turban. 38 It shall be on Aaron’s forehead, and Aaron shall bear any guilt from the holy things that the people of Israel consecrate as their holy gifts. It shall regularly be on his forehead, that they may be accepted before the LORD. 39 “You shall weave the coat in checker work of fine linen, and you shall make a turban of fine linen, and you shall make a sash embroidered with needlework. 40 “For Aaron’s sons you shall make coats and sashes and caps. You shall make them for glory and beauty. 41 And you shall put them on Aaron your brother, and on his sons with him, and shall anoint them and ordain them and consecrate them, that they may serve me as priests. 42 You shall make for them linen undergarments to cover their naked flesh. They shall reach from the hips to the thighs; 43 and they shall be on Aaron and on his sons when they go into the tent of meeting or when they come near the altar to minister in the Holy Place, lest they bear guilt and die. This shall be a statute forever for him and for his offspring after him.
Now that God has given plans for the Tabernacle to be built and for all of the furnishings of the Tabernacle, He continues in telling Moses directions for the clothing of the High Priest who is to minister at the Tabernacle.
There are six items of clothing detailed in our text: the breastpiece, the ephod, the robe, the coat of checker work, a turban, and a sash. And these items combined show us that the high priest was a glorious and beautifully arrayed figure.
I. The High Priest was a glorious and beautifully arrayed figure.
1. Breastpiece (v. 15, 22-30)
Just like with the furnishings of the temple, we find that God spares no expense with the dress of the High Priest. The breastpiece is made of blue and purple and scarlet yarns and with pure gold. It has twisted chains of gold and rings or gold.
Upon the breastpiece are precious stones set in four rows.
Sardius – a red precious stone, possible ruby or carnelian.
Carbuncle – likely being a red garnet
Jacinth – a yellow-brown gemstone
Beryl – could be an emerald or aquamarine
An amazing display of colors, especially in that day and in that place in the desert.
The names then of the twelves tribes of Israel are inscribed on the stones; one name per stone, so that when the High Priest goes to the Lord, God will remember each of the twelve tribes.
It is called the breastpiece of judgement because in it, by Aaron’s heart, it will hold the Urim and Thummin, those stones by which judgments are made. The idea is that there is a stone of innocence and a stone of guilt. And, for certain questions, the priest is reach into breastpiece and pull out one of the two stones without looking. And the stone that arises will be the one the Lord has chosen, and the judgment of God then is known and to be followed.
The breastpiece itself — with all these stones — hangs upon another garments, the ephod.
2. Ephod (v. 6-14)
The ephod is a sleeveless garment. Think perhaps like an apron that covers both the front of the body and the back.
It is also made of gold and of blue, purple, and scarlet yarns.
And, as the breastpiece has 12 engraved stones, the ephod has 2 engraved stones. Each of the two has engraved on it the names of 6 of the tribes of Israel. These onyx stones are then sewn into the shoulder of the ephod and are to remind Aaron, the High Priest of the people.
3. Robe (v. 31-35)
Then, adding to the glorious appearance of the High Priest is a blue robe. And this just isn’t a color you’d see in those days. When you’re out in the desert and 1 million people walked passed you and you see brown robe, brown robe, brown robe, over and over, and then you a blue robe, you might be pretty shocked, like seeing a purple cow or a green cat.
Even though this robe is partially covered by the ephod, it is still visible.
On the hem was sewn in the designs of pomegranates. And then fastened to it are golden bells, so not only is the High Priest a sight to be a seen, he is a harmony(?) to be heard. (or a Sound to be sensed)
But it also to make sound to notify God that Aaron is entering the Holy of Holies. That is why it is said “its sound shall be heard when he goes into the Holy Place before the LORD, and when he comes out, so that he does not die.”
4. Coat of checker work (v. 39)
Then there is the coat of checker work.
We think of putting a coat on over and above our clothing. This coat however is under the robe and ephod and breastpiece.
We just have a single verse description of it.
39 “You shall weave the coat in checker work of fine linen, and you shall make a turban of fine linen, and you shall make a sash embroidered with needlework.
Perhaps this fine linen coat is to give some comfortability to the whole ensemble. Otherwise, clothing with rocks in them doesn’t sound so comfortable.
And when it says “checkerwork” this doesn’t mean that the coat is black and white like a checkerboard, but it simply means that the linen is weaved. And that is how the New King James translates it: “You shall skillfully wave the tunic of fine linen thread.”
5. Turban (v. 36-38)
Then there is the turban, also made of fine linen.
And fastened to the turban is a plate of pure gold with the word engraved on it “Holy to the Lord.”
We see that the High Priest is decked out head to almost toe. I say “almost toe” because there are no shoes described. He is apparently barefoot, walking on holy ground just as Moses went barefoot at the burning bush in the presence of the Lord.
Finally, there is the sash. And all we hear is that it is embroidered with needlework.
II. Of God’s Choosing
What we see is that nothing is left out. The full set of clothing is designed BY GOD. Just like with the tabernacle and its furniture, God defines precisely how the priests garments are to look. God does not leave the worship of him up to the imagination of man. He clearly defines how he is to be worshipped and how all things are to be done in the tabernacle.
God even chooses who the High Priest is to be. Aaron and his sons after him.
And it is always wrong and dangerous to go against God’s choosing. The priesthood cannot be purchased.
In 2 Chronicles 13:9 we read of Abijah who has gone against the lord in choosing his own priests.
[2Ch 13:9 ESV] 9 Have you not driven out the priests of the LORD, the sons of Aaron, and the Levites, and made priests for yourselves like the peoples of other lands? Whoever comes for ordination with a young bull or seven rams becomes a priest of what are not gods.
It is always of God’s choosing, not of man’s.
And so in the book of Acts, Simon the Magician was in the wrong to think he could buy from the disciples the miraculous healing powers that the Lord had given them.
There is a name for this and related sins. It is called Simony. You cannot, and should not, buy ecclesiastical privileges. Neither the abilities nor the position of the apostle, the prophet, the elder, the deacon, or the pastor are for sale. They are all position to which a person is called of the Lord.
In church history Simony and the related sin of Nepotism have at times ran rampant.
In some centuries and in some places a man might receive the office of bishop, having bribed his way to the position and perhaps not even doing the work of the bishop or have any knowledge of the Christian faith.
Nepotism occurred when bishops (and other church positions) were awarded not based on merit or calling, but on family connections. This was much of the downfall of the Roman Catholic church. Men in office — even popes — who got in through nepotism. The wealthy Borgia family, for example, remarkably (and suspiciously) produced 3 popes. And of the second one, named Alexander VI, it is said that his election to Pope is notorious for allegations that the family bought the votes of the electors.
The word nepotism actually derives its origins from these troubled time in the church. “Nepos” means nephew, and so it was that because popes and bishops didn’t officially have children, they left their worldly possessions and positions to their “nephews.” Often these were there own illegitimate offspring, and called “nephews” to skirt around the truth.
But these are problems that have plagued not only the Catholic Church but others as well. The Church of England through the years has placed many in authority based on connected more than calling.
Calling to ministry today is not as straightforward as God saying “Aaron, you are High Priest.” But we do well to at least shun Simony and Nepotism.
Now finally, and getting back to our text, we we see how glorious and beautifully arrayed the high priest was.
But he was not sufficient to forgive our sins. We needed a better high priest.
And in Jesus Christ we have such a high priest. More glorious and sinless and able to forgive our sins.
III. Christ, our true high priest, is more glorious.
Indeed, Jesus Christ, our true high priest, is more glorious.
But the does not detail one specific thing about the physical appearance of Christ.
That is likely intentional. So that we do not worship his image. And so that we re not distracted by the physical. Rather, the beauty of Christ is the spiritual: who he is, and what he has done for us.
We see that in Christ we have a faithful minister, a better high priest. Aaron was not without sin. And his sons Nadab and Abihu, mentioned in our text, later are put to death by the Lord for disobedience. But Christ is a faithful minister. Completely so.
People get caught up with celebrity preachers and then all falls apart. Tulian Tchjvidian, Marc Driscoll, Ravi Zacharias, etc. These men proved themselves not to be faithful ministers. In some ways this shouldn’t surprise us – they are human. Only the divine-human Christ was sinless. But it should also remind us to be like the Bereans – always searching the Scriptures. We aren’t to reject everything these men said because they fell into sin. Nor are to we accept everything a minister says because he has not been known for some sin. Everything is always to compared to the Scriptures. That is why it is so important for you to read individually. Don’t rely on the Scriptural knowledge of another, but read and understand. Tolle Lege – take and read it was said to St. Augustine.
In the bulletin is a picture of the high priest and his garments labeled.
For our greater high priest Jesus Christ, we are better to have not a list of his physical clothing, but a list of God’s graces which he covers us with.
and New Life.
These glorious graces of God are our focus. Not idols, relics, images, ornate cathedrals or monasteries. The beauty of the Lord can be known by anyone and in any place merely through hearing the word and believing in the Son. We worship Him in spirit and truth, not for his glorious physical appearance, but for the gloriousness of his essence and his great good works on our behalf.
Jesus is a truly a glorious high priest. And not just a glorious high priest, he is the High priest in glory. Praise be to Jesus Christ, the Son of God.