You shall make a breastpiece of judgment, the work of a skillful workman; like the work of the ephod you shall make it: of gold, of blue and purple and scarlet [material] and fine twisted linen you shall make it.
Chapter 28 is the high priest’s garments. While I feel that I am missing more than a bit in what everything is meant to symbolize, there are a few items that stand out to me.
In verses 9-14, God describes a pair of shoulder pieces that are attached to the ephod. These two are to have onyx stones inlaid to them with the names of six of the tribes engraved on each. This, taken alone, did not really seem to mean anything to me, but taken together with the breastpiece (vv 15-30), it makes me think. The breastpiece, partially described in this morning’s verse, includes one precious stone per tribe of the Israelites. Why have the names twice?
My thought is that there is some sort of message that God is trying to convey by having the names in the high priest’s garments twice. Hebrews tells me that Jesus is my high priest, so I am looking for parallels between the work and character of Christ and what is typified in these garments.
The only thing that comes to mind is the color of the onyx stone: black. Black is often associated with death. If this is the symbolism intended and the high priest is bearing the death of the tribes on his shoulders, that could be a type of Christ bearing our deaths on His shoulders; carrying our cross. Then the names being on his chest individually — over his heart as verse 29 says it — might be a picture of how we are individually saved. Our death was borne corporately, but our salvation is individual. Christ paid the price for all, but each individual must make their own choice.
It is also interesting to me that the urim and thummim — lights and perfections or lights and glories — are placed within the breastpiece. The urim and thummim are thought to have been how the high priest would receive guidance from God. He would ask God his question and the urim and thummim were somehow involved in the response. It seems like a picture showing that God’s guidance for those He has redeemed is not something outside, but inside.
The last thing that I find interesting is the plate of pure gold engraved with the words Holy to the LORD (vv 36-38). Does that statement apply to the high priest or his thoughts or everything on him? Verse 38 seems to indicate that it is everything he receives. The verse says that he shall take away the iniquity of the holy things which the sons of Israel consecrate, with regard to all their holy gifts; and it shall always be on his forehead, that they may be accepted before the LORD. It seems that God looks at the words on the high priest and is reminded (not that He needs reminding) that everything the high priest has received is holy; sacred; set apart to Him.
There are other garments — a robe and tunic and turban and other things — but the things that seemed the most interesting and worthy of thought were those that God said served as a memorial before the LORD. These are the things that seemed to me might have parallels in Christ. Christ’s shoulders and torso and head are all scarred by what He did to save us. These scars are a memorial before the LORD and a reminder to all who see them that those whom the Son has redeemed are holy. One of my favorite verses in The Bible is God speaking to the Israelites, He says Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms [of My hands] (Isaiah 49:16).
If I am understanding this correctly, then the garments of the high priest are type, a picture of the scars of Christ. They both serve a similar function, they are a memorial before the LORD. They are not a memorial to the LORD, but before Him; in His presence. The garments of the high priest, like the scars of Christ, are there to remind we who see them of what God has done and that we are Holy to the LORD.
While all of this seems to fit, I could be mistaken. It would not be the first time and will certainly not be the last.
Father, thank You for what You did in sending Your Son. Thank You that He is my High Priest and that He can understand my weakness as One Who has endured much of the same weakness. Thank You that His scars remain to remind me of what it cost to make me holy to You. Please guide me in the way of living a life that is holy to You and please continue to change my heart so that it desires more to walk in Your ways.