Of Bells and Leadership

31 “Make the robe of the ephod entirely of blue cloth, 32 with an opening for the head in its center. There shall be a woven edge like a collar around this opening, so that it will not tear. 33 Make pomegranates of blue, purple and scarlet yarn around the hem of the robe, with gold bells between them. 34 The gold bells and the pomegranates are to alternate around the hem of the robe. 35 Aaron must wear it when he ministers. The sound of the bells will be heard when he enters the Holy Place before the Lord and when he comes out, so that he will not die.

36 “Make a plate of pure gold and engrave on it as on a seal: holy to the Lord. 37 Fasten a blue cord to it to attach it to the turban; it is to be on the front of the turban. 38 It will be on Aaron’s forehead, and he will bear the guilt involved in the sacred gifts the Israelites consecrate, whatever their gifts may be. It will be on Aaron’s forehead continually so that they will be acceptable to the Lord.

39 “Weave the tunic of fine linen and make the turban of fine linen. The sash is to be the work of an embroiderer. 40 Make tunics, sashes and caps for Aaron’s sons to give them dignity and honor. 41 After you put these clothes on your brother Aaron and his sons, anoint and ordain them. Consecrate them so they may serve me as priests.

42 “Make linen undergarments as a covering for the body, reaching from the waist to the thigh. 43 Aaron and his sons must wear them whenever they enter the tent of meeting or approach the altar to minister in the Holy Place, so that they will not incur guilt and die.

“This is to be a lasting ordinance for Aaron and his descendants. Exodus 28:31-43

The robe of the priests was to have gold bells around the hem of the garment. When he went in to offer incense, the people would know where he was and what he was doing in the process of sacrifice. The people would also know when he was leaving the altar area. The Lord wanted an intimate connection between the people and the priest, as well as the priest and the Lord Himself, so much so that it was a death penalty not to have the bells jangling.

As the priest entered the Holy Place, the people would know where he was and could offer their own prayers on his behalf. It also made the priest more accountable to the people, not that he needed to be, especially since he was sacrificing to the Lord, who would know his every moment – and thought before he did or said anything. The people also had an unwritten responsibility while the priest was in the Holy Place offering sacrifices: to pray for him as well.

We have just turned an interesting corner in the world. The CoronaVirus crisis was merely the catalyst to a lot of uncertainty and turmoil. Churches canceled their services or put them online for people to watch. As the virus continues to spread, more churches will follow suit.

Church leadership, much like these High Priests, need your prayers for wisdom and discernment. There’s quite a bit of disinformation floating around about the virus and the economy as a whole. Leadership needs to be able to sort out fact from fiction, and it’s not always easy to do with conflicting data.

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He Still Speaks To Us

15 “Fashion a breastpiece for making decisions—the work of skilled hands. Make it like the ephod: of gold, and of blue, purple and scarlet yarn, and of finely twisted linen. 16 It is to be square—a span long and a span wide—and folded double. 17 Then mount four rows of precious stones on it. The first row shall be carnelian, chrysolite and beryl; 18 the second row shall be turquoise, lapis lazuli and emerald; 19 the third row shall be jacinth, agate and amethyst; 20 the fourth row shall be topaz, onyx and jasper. Mount them in gold filigree settings. 21 There are to be 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.

22 “For the breastpiece make braided chains of pure gold, like a rope. 23 Make two gold rings for it and fasten them to two corners of the breastpiece. 24 Fasten the two gold chains to the rings at the corners of the breastpiece, 25 and the other ends of the chains to the two settings, attaching them to the shoulder pieces of the ephod at the front. 26 Make two gold rings and attach them to the other two corners of the breastpiece on the inside edge next to the ephod. 27 Make two more gold rings and attach 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. 28 The rings of the breastpiece are to be tied to the rings of the ephod with blue cord, connecting it to the waistband, so that the breastpiece will not swing out from the ephod.

29 “Whenever Aaron enters the Holy Place, he will bear the names of the sons of Israel over his heart on the breastpiece of decision as a continuing memorial before the Lord. 30 Also put the Urim and the Thummim in the breastpiece, so they may be over Aaron’s heart whenever he enters the presence of the Lord. Thus Aaron will always bear the means of making decisions for the Israelites over his heart before the Lord. Exodus 28:15-30

There is a lot of debate regarding the Urim and Thummin. Suffice to say that Moses probably knew about this before the Lord commanded it (since he didn’t inquired about it), and this method of the Lord speaking to the High Priest preceded the role of Prophet. In other words, after the prophets were introduced there is little mention of this method of the Lord’s direction. 1 Samuel 28:6 seems to support that.

“So Saul inquired of the Lord, but the Lord did not answer him – not by dreams nor by Urim nor by the prophets.”

1 Samuel 28:6

In fact, God has spoken to His people in a variety of ways.

“In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by His Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe…”

Hebrews 1:1

He speaks to us in a variety of ways too.

  • Sometimes it’s the still small voice (as Elijah experienced).
  • Sometimes He speaks through the thunder and roar of a situation.
  • He’ll obviously speak through His word through illumination and insight.
  • He’ll speak to us through others.
  • And of course He’ll speak to us as we pray.

The bottom line is He’ll speak to us if we’re willing to listen.

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The Golden Ephod

6 “Make the ephod of gold, and of blue, purple and scarlet yarn, and of finely twisted linen—the work of skilled hands. 7 It is to have two shoulder pieces attached to two of its corners, so it can be fastened. 8 Its skillfully woven waistband is to be like it—of one piece with the ephod and made with gold, and with blue, purple and scarlet yarn, and with finely twisted linen.

9 “Take two onyx stones and engrave on them the names of the sons of Israel 10 in the order of their birth—six names on one stone and the remaining six on the other. 11 Engrave the names of the sons of Israel on the two stones the way a gem cutter engraves a seal. Then mount the stones in gold filigree settings 12 and fasten them on the shoulder pieces of the ephod as memorial stones for the sons of Israel. Aaron is to bear the names on his shoulders as a memorial before the Lord. 13 Make gold filigree settings 14 and two braided chains of pure gold, like a rope, and attach the chains to the settings. Exodus 28:6-14

The golden ephod was the outermost garment worn by the High Priest. Other priests merely wore linen ephods (Samuel – 1 Samuel 2:18, and David – 2 Samuel 6:14). The Hebrews evidently had among them weavers of considerable skill to weave it altogether according to God’s specification.

Notice on the shoulders the name of all 12 Tribes of Israel. When the High Priest went in to offer sacrifices, he would be reminded of the people he would be sacrificing on behalf of. The other interesting detail that came up in my research was that the 12 Tribes on the ephod were a foreshadowing of Isaiah’s prophecy,

“And the government will be upon his shoulders.” Isaiah 9:6

It’s easy to gloss over details of these garments and structures. They do give us an insight into what life was like under the Mosaic Covenant, how they interacted with God and their leaders, and how the law revealed the weakness and sin in men and women.

Read these passages and take in the beauty and majesty of the moment. The priesthood and most everything surrounding it would quickly be corrupted and jaded as long as men were selfish and not God fearing.

More often than not, you’ll see glimpses of us. Sure, the clothing, culture, and times are radically different. Sin nature isn’t.

The Hebrews were desperately seeking a better place and someone to lead them to it; that’s also not new.

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Aaron the Priest

“Have Aaron your brother brought to you from among the Israelites, along with his sons Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, so they may serve me as priests. 2 Make sacred garments for your brother Aaron to give him dignity and honor. 3 Tell all the skilled workers to whom I have given wisdom in such matters that they are to make garments for Aaron, for his consecration, so he may serve me as priest. 4 These are the garments they are to make: a breastpiece, an ephod, a robe, a woven tunic, a turban and a sash. They are to make these sacred garments for your brother Aaron and his sons, so they may serve me as priests. 5 Have them use gold, and blue, purple and scarlet yarn, and fine linen. Exodus 28:1-5

God ordained that Aaron and his song should be the first priests. Moses was to present Aaron to the people as a man of dignity. He would be clothed in the finest of linens appropriately.

Being a priest – the first High Priest – must have been a great honor. Aaron and his sons were being set apart for a very specific and special purpose, to stand between God and the people.

We also understand this priesthood of Aaron, but in a different way. in 1 Peter 2:9 Peter wrote “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” As priests we have direct access to God the Father through Jesus Christ.

While Aaron had a great honor among his people, we too are honored to be called sons and daughters of God the Most High.

As written in ligonier.org:

“In Christ, there is a true priesthood of all believers. All of us who trust in Jesus alone for salvation have free access into His presence, and all of our lawful vocations are set apart for true God-honoring service. The janitor who does his work to the Lord is in no worse position spiritually than the most gifted preacher on the planet, for all Christians have been declared righteous servants of the creator God.”

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The Outer Court

9 “Make a courtyard for the tabernacle. The south side shall be a hundred cubits long and is to have curtains of finely twisted linen, 10 with twenty posts and twenty bronze bases and with silver hooks and bands on the posts. 11 The north side shall also be a hundred cubits long and is to have curtains, with twenty posts and twenty bronze bases and with silver hooks and bands on the posts.

12 “The west end of the courtyard shall be fifty cubits wide and have curtains, with ten posts and ten bases. 13 On the east end, toward the sunrise, the courtyard shall also be fifty cubits wide. 14 Curtains fifteen cubits long are to be on one side of the entrance, with three posts and three bases, 15 and curtains fifteen cubits long are to be on the other side, with three posts and three bases.

16 “For the entrance to the courtyard, provide a curtain twenty cubits long, of blue, purple and scarlet yarn and finely twisted linen—the work of an embroiderer—with four posts and four bases. 17 All the posts around the courtyard are to have silver bands and hooks, and bronze bases. 18 The courtyard shall be a hundred cubits long and fifty cubits wide, with curtains of finely twisted linen five cubits high, and with bronze bases. 19 All the other articles used in the service of the tabernacle, whatever their function, including all the tent pegs for it and those for the courtyard, are to be of bronze.

20 “Command the Israelites to bring you clear oil of pressed olives for the light so that the lamps may be kept burning. 21 In the tent of meeting, outside the curtain that shields the ark of the covenant law, Aaron and his sons are to keep the lamps burning before the Lord from evening till morning. This is to be a lasting ordinance among the Israelites for the generations to come. Exodus 27:9-20

This completes the physical barriers of the tabernacle. It was set apart from the rest of the Israelite camp. People knew it was set apart and respected it as such.

I recall a time not too long ago that church “sanctuaries” were much more respected than they are today. They were set apart from the rest of the community.

There seems to be a lot of frivolity on Sunday mornings these days, which sets the tone for worship. Of course, we come to church for any number of reasons, and celebrating the Lord’s goodness could very well be one of those reasons. I could easily be accused of judging others in how they initiate corporate worship, and that’s a fair statement.

How do you view Sunday morning worship?

Would you rather sit and reflect for a few moments in silence before worship starts or listen to praise music while others mill about around you?

Neither way is inherently wrong if they’re done with the sincere motives.

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