Friday, January 01, 2016

What Our Pastors, Priests, and Ministers Could Learn From What God Wanted of the Israelite Priests

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Exodus 28: Aaron’s Garments, Breastplate, Robe of the Ephod, Golden Plate, Tunic, and the garments of the Priests’

Exodus 28:1-43: In chapter 28 of Exodus, God gives detailed instructions for each of the items listed in our heading. Please read your preferred version of Scripture in parallel. Below we simply highlight some of the key features of the chapter for our study.
The first thing that we note here (in verse 1 in fact) is that God Himself selects those that would be His priests, His ministers and He does so from among the people.  David Guzik writes, “The priesthood of Israel was not ‘earned’ nor aspired to. It could only be inherited by birthright. One must be born into a priestly family. The priesthood was no place for ambition or self-glory. It was only entered into by God's call and invitation.” Not only is this critical in the selection of our ministers in our churches, but it is also important to us a laity. Guzik says, “In the New Covenant, our priesthood is also not earned nor aspired to. We are priests because of our new birth into Jesus' priestly family.”
We would do well to remember both these points when it is time for us to replace our spiritual leaders in our congregations.  We need to make sure it is God’s choice and perhaps rather than going thousands of miles away to find our man (or woman as the case may be), we need to look right within our own “people” as they too qualify.
In verse 2 we see that it is the congregation’s responsibility (with their special skills as per verse 3) to provide God’s selected priests or ministers with the needs of their office (here represented by their priestly garments). Today this may include their library, means of transportation, and even a residence. And it is here we also learn that it is the peoples’ responsibility to “consecrate” (bless, dedicate, or devote) the priests to enable them to minister (not so much to them) as to God Himself.
Much is said in the chapter about an ephod – this is the apron that the priest wore to perform their formal duties. God wanted two onyx stones to be set in the apron, one on each shoulder. On the stones, the names of the sons of Israel (or Jacob) would be engraved, six on each one, in order of birth. These are to be borne by the priests before God as a memorial. Matthew Henry suggests that by having the names of the twelve sons of Israel on them, that justified all the people of all the tribes to approach God through the priests.
Verses 15 to 31 tell us about the “breastplate” and there too, twelve stones represented the twelve sons of Israel, this time located over the heart of Aaron to be carried by him as a continuous memorial. Inside the breastplate, also over the heart, were placed the Urim and the Thummim. The reference to the heart some believe is symbolic of the priests’ need not to just “serve God by serving the people” but also to love the people they serve. How often is our service to God solely out of duty without true love for those whom we serve “for” God?
Robert Jamieson says these two words signify "lights" and "perfections". He writes, “They received the name because the bearing of them qualified the high priest to consult the divine oracle on all public or national emergencies, by going into the holy place--standing close before the veil and putting his hand upon the Urim and Thummim, he conveyed a petition from the people and asked counsel of God, who, as the Sovereign of Israel, gave response from the midst of His glory. Little, however, is known about them.” He goes on, “But it may be remarked that Egyptian judges wore on the breast of their official robes a representation of Justice, and the high priest in Israel long officiated also as a judge; so that some think the Urim and Thummim had a reference to his judicial functions.
Chuck Smith writes this about the Urim and the Thummim: “Now some believe that the Urim and the Thummim were actually two stones, a black stone and a white stone; that in the inquiring of the Lord, the priest would reach in and pull out one of the stones. If he pulled out the white stone, it was God saying yes. If he pulled out the black stone, it was God saying no. That is one of the most prominent theories of what the Urim and the Thummim actually were. Two stones by which the priest would say, "God show us, shall we go now?", and he'd pull [out a stone] and if the white stone would [come] out, "Yes, we go now", [if] the black stone would [come] out, "No, we wait". Then they would keep asking questions that could be answered by yes and no, inquiring of the Lord for directions and guidance.” In the New Testament the apostles tried to discern God’s will by drawing straws and casting lots. The problem with this is that it only allows the Infinite God two possible answers to our questions and keeps from us anything “different” God may want to say to us.
Matthew Henry suggests that whatever they were, they were directly made by God. And goes on to suggest that having these, given their meaning, “ . . . the High Priest was endued with a power of knowing and making known the mind of God in all difficult doubtful cases, relating either to the civil or ecclesiastical state of the nation. Their government was a theocracy: God was their King, the high priest was, under God, their ruler, the Urim and Thummim were his cabinet-council . . .”
Around the hem of the robe were golden bells alternating with pomegranates.  The tinkling of the bells would let the people know whenever Aaron was in the holy of holies performing his duties in accordance with God’s instructions. If the bells stopped ringing something had gone wrong and the priest had been “wiped out” by God. Thus there would be a rope tied on his foot, the end of which was left outside the veil, and if the bells were no longer heard, the other priests would drag his body out.
The chapter also describes Aaron’s plate (fastened to his turban, headgear) and inscribed with the words, “Holy to the Lord”. In verse 38 we read that through this plate Aaron was able to take away the iniquity (sin) of the holy things that people consecrated to God, making them acceptable or holy unto Him.
For Aaron’s sons, the people were to make tunics and caps.  Interestingly, these were simply for “glory and for beauty”. From that I take that God does not mind that we go to some extremes of adornment for Him (which I might add is considerably different than adornment for ourselves). This may also say something to us with respect to the dismal black (as Guzik calls it) that many of our priests and ministers wear today.  Guzik quotes Clarke who writes,
"Is then the dismal black, now worn by almost all kinds of priests and ministers, for glory and for beauty? Is it emblematic of any thing that is good, glorious, or excellent? How unbecoming the glad tidings announced by Christian ministers is a color emblematical of nothing but mourning and woe, sin, desolation, and death!"
Certainly this, along with many other things in this chapter, is worthy of our consideration today.

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Sign up (on the right) to receive free updates. We bring you relevant information from all sorts of sources. Subscribe for free to this blog or follow us by clicking on the appropriate link in the right side bar. And please share this blog with your friends and while you’re here, why not check out some more of our recent blogs shown in the right hand column.

Also, I’ve read some good books and make some great recommendations for you at http://astore.amazon.com/accorconsu-20 which you can purchase right from there.

Check our firm out at Accord Consulting.

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