When Jesus went to the cross, He had already been beaten to the extent that the prophet Jeremiah prophesied that He was completely unrecognizable. Traditionally a Roman crucifixion victim was supposed to be beaten in order to accelerate the death process once crucified, but the beating was not to be so severe that the victim would be unable to bear his own cross. The testimony of Jesus' crucifixion showed that He was beaten so severely that He required help to carry His cross. In spite of these truths, when Jesus was mounted to the cross and hung from the tree in pain that people will never know, Jesus was offered a drink to numb the pain. He rejected the offer. It was common for women to attend crucifixions to offer the victims sour wine mixed with gall as an antiseptic of sorts as a form of mercy. Jesus did not accept this offer.
The testimony of Jesus' life and death (especially His death) reveals that Jesus didn't cut corners. Having perfect understanding of the work that needed to be accomplished to offer forgiveness of sins to the world, Jesus embraced the fully amount of discomfort, pain, and suffering in order to ensure the job was done to perfection. Jesus was totally committed to the will of the Father. Jesus was completely consumed by the purpose of the Father. The testimony of Jesus reveals that He lived a life that most would consider radical and extreme, but the Bible would refer to as holy and righteous. In Genesis chapter 22, Abraham was commanded to offer his son Isaac as an offering to the Lord. The testimony of Genesis chapter 22 serves as a prophetic picture of the work Jesus would later do on the cross as the only begotten Son of God. Genesis chapter 22 explains that Abraham made preparations to give Isaac to the Lord as a burnt offering; an offering that involved total and complete consumption by fire. Therefore, while the crucifixion of Jesus did not involve fire, the death of Jesus most certainly resembled a "burnt offering" unto the Father since Jesus was completely consumed in offering Himself for the will of the Father.
The Bible explains that the apostle Peter was witness of these things and later wrote that the life and sacrifice of Jesus was demonstrated publically to serve as an example for His people. Jesus gave Himself up for the will of the Father in ways that were to be the fulfillment of God's promises, but also exemplary of proper conduct for the people of God. Hence, as Jesus offered Himself as a "burnt offering," the apostle Peter later explained that those who follow Jesus by faith to inherit the promises of God, should seek to present themselves as "burnt offerings." The Apostle Paul even mentioned that believers should desire and strive to present themselves as "living sacrifices" unto the Lord. In that Jesus presented Himself as a "burnt offering" and was totally consumed by the will of the Father, the quality of sacrifice that one should seek to present to the Lord should be equally intense.
In Exodus 29:15-18 the Bible explains that God commanded Moses to offer another sacrifice for the consecration of the priests and the high priest. The ceremony was supposed to begin with a sin offering in order to signify the cleansing of the sins of the priests. The Lord commanded that another sacrifice was to be given in addition to the sin offering. God was certainly interested in the removal of sins of His people having the expectation for His people to live holy lives. Additionally, God wanted the priests to be completely committed and consumed by their work and service as priests. Thus, God commanded the priests to also offer a "burnt offering."
Exodus 29:15-18 explains that the priests were to take a ram (instead of a bull) and lay their hands upon the ram. The ram was to be slaughtered so that its blood was sprinkled around the altar, signifying the judgment of God against the ram rather than the people. Once the blood was sprinkled, God commanded that the priests were to butcher the ram and throw all of its limbs, insides, and head into the altar to be burned. The "burnt offering" was considered such because the animal was to be totally consumed by fire. While the sin offering called for the head, skin, and waste to be taken outside of the camp and burnt elsewhere, the burnt offering called for the animal to be totally consumed on the spot at the altar. The essence of the burnt offering was not necessarily the fire aspect of the offering, but the totality of the sacrifice. Nothing of the animal was to remain. God demanded complete consumption.
Since the Bible compares the death of Jesus to the sacrifice that Abraham presented of Isaac as a burnt offering, one can assume that Jesus was completely consumed by the will and purpose of the Father, and offered Himself totally to the Father's business. The apostle Peter testified that His sacrifice was the standard and example that all believers should strive to follow by the power of His Spirit. Yet this is not a New Testament teaching. The consecration ceremony of the priests in Exodus 29:15-18 shows that God required complete commitment from His people long before Jesus served as the example of what complete commitment is. God commanded the priests to offer a burnt offering in order to show the priests as well as the people that He expected the priests to be completely committed to their duties as priests. God wanted the priests to be consumed with their responsibility to lead the people in worship through sacrifices and offerings. God wanted the priests to be completely committed to their responsibility to live as examples of Godliness, holiness, and righteousness. God wanted the priests to be totally and absolutely given over to His ways instead of the ways of the world. As the animal was to be totally consumed by the fire as a sacrifice, God wanted His people totally consumed by Him as a "consuming fire" since He burns with jealousy for His people (Deuteronomy 4:24). For these reasons, the Bible teaches in both the Old Testament and the New Testament that God desires total and complete commitment from His people to His ways according to His Word as exemplified by His Son through the empowerment of His Spirit.
The Bible teaches plainly and simply that God is intolerant to sin. He is patient with sinners and is merciful to those who sin, but is absolutely intolerant to sin. The Bible explains that before the universe was created, and darkness dwelt in the midst as a result of the devil and his rebellion, God immediately responded against him with the revelation of the Messiah as "light." When Adam sinned in the Garden of Eden, God immediately responded against the devil promising that the Messiah would put an end to his existence. When the wickedness in the world had reached God's incredibly high threshold of patience, God judged the world with the flood. When the people of Nimrod began to rebel against God seeking to build their own way into heaven with the Tower of Babel, God destroyed their work and confused the language of the people. The Bible goes on and on to show that God is not okay with sin and expects His people to live apart from it.
In Exodus 29:10-14 the Bible provides another example of God's expectation for His people to live apart from sin. God commanded His priests to live holy lives. God commanded Moses to hold a ceremony to consecrate the priests in their position as examples of God's holiness and righteousness. One of the main focuses of the consecration ceremony involved the sacrifices that needed to take place. Exodus 29:10-14 explains that God first required a sin offering on behalf of the priest. God wanted a sacrifice that symbolically dealt with the sins of the priests, because as sinners, the sins of the priests would not be excused and needed to be judged.
The sin offering consisted of the sacrifice of a bull. The priests were to lay their hands upon the head of the bull, confess their sins, and then slaughter the bull. The priests were commanded to sprinkle some of the blood of the bull on the horns of the altar and then pour out the rest on the floor next to the altar. The Bible explains that the wages of sin is death. Since God desired for His people to repent and live, God commanded that the bull be slaughtered on behalf of the priests. The death of the bull in the sin offering was supposed to be substitutionary for the priests. Since God is holy and righteous as Judge, and is required to judge sin, God preferred to judge the sins of the priest through the slaughter of the bull.
The Lord was also particular in how the body of the sacrificial bull was to be disposed of. The bull was to be butchered so that the fat of the bull along with its digestive entrails and liver were burnt on the altar. The burning of the fat and these organs was supposed to signify the destruction of "the flesh." The fat of the animal was representative of "excess" to the animal showing that God does not desire His people to possess "excess" in regards to desires of the flesh and worldliness. As the excess fat of a person can be damaging and hindering to a human body, so too can the "excess" of fleshly appetites and worldliness for the soul of a person. Therefore, God sought to have the "excess" of the sacrifice burnt up as a way to signify one's willingness to deny self in sin in order to live holy according to the Lord.
Exodus 29:10-14 also explains that God wanted the skin and waste of the bull taken outside of the camp and burned away from the camp. God did not desire for defilement of any kind to be kept in the camp, and so wanted the outward skin and inward waste of the sacrifice destroyed outside of the tabernacle, outside of the camp, and away from the people. This command was to signify God's desire for His people to keep defilement out of the camp. God wanted His people to live set apart from the defilement of the world that causes harm and sickness. God didn't want His people piling up waste in the camp in physical and spiritual terms. Thus, the priests were consecrated in the sin offering by removing waste and defilement from their dwelling place.
The Bible is clear to show that the sin offering was representative of God's desire for His people to not just live set apart from sin, but to seek to utterly destroy it and ensure that anything resembling sin, waste, and defilement was kept out of the camp of His people. God didn't want compromise. God wanted the people to see the offering of the priests and learn that God does not want His people allowing darkness, wickedness, or sin of any kind to come into the land. The Bible teaches that a little leaven, leavens the whole lump. In other words, it only takes a little sin to cause massive problems. God, knowing this, commanded the priests to offer their sin offering before the people in order to teach this lesson, thereby leading the people in holy living.
God demands that His people live according to His ways in order to protect them from the destruction of sin, evil, and death, and also so that His people can serve as righteous witnesses of God to others who do not know God. Therefore, God is very specific in terms of what He expects His people to look like as His children. God tells His people to be holy as He is holy, but also provides illustrations and examples of what holiness should look like. While the holiness of God is sometimes abstract and difficult to define since the spirit of God cannot be seen, the Lord used certain practices and processes in the Law to communicate important details describe what holy living should look like.
In Exodus 29:1-9 the Bible explains that God desired the priests, including the high priest, to be "consecrated." The word consecrated refers to something that is set apart or set a side for extra special, religious, or holy purpose. Thus the priests were to be set apart from the general population of Israel because of their duties to facilitate the nation's worship through sacrifices and offerings. God had special plans for the priest and desired to use them as examples to the rest of the people in order to show the people what holy living looked like. As people dedicated the intercession through worship, the priests were to resemble God's own character and nature, thereby giving the rest of the people someone to look up to in regards to righteous examples according to the Law.
The Bible explains that there were four principle things that the Lord wanted executed to consecrate the priests. These four things were to resemble how God wanted the priests to live as holy. These four things were to be outward demonstrations of fundamental spiritual principals that the people of God were to learn to understand and mimic. The first of the four things that God wanted done was in regards to sacrifice. Exodus 29:1-9 explains that God wanted Moses and the priests to prepare special sacrifices for the consecration and ordination of the priests. God specifically stated that He wanted a young bull, two rams without blemish, and unleavened bread baked especially for this sacrifice. Thus, one of the key elements of the consecration of the priests was sacrifice and offering. The Bible teaches that God's people are to live as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1). This means that a believer is supposed to surrender one's life over to the Living God in response to the life that Jesus surrendered in order that the world could be forgiven of sin. Thus, the consecration of the priests was predicated on sacrifice; meaning that the priests were supposed to live holy lives by dedicating their lives to their purposes as priests - those who intercede on behalf of the people to connect them to the Living God.
Exodus 29:1-9 explains that the priests were to be washed at the door of the tabernacle when consecrated. This explains that the priests were expected to be clean while performing their duties. The outward washing of the priests was intended to signify an inward cleansing that would take place later through the Messiah, but the obedience of the priests was supposed to signify the priests' desire to be cleansed from sin. The Bible repeatedly explains that God does not desire sacrifices, offerings, or service from practitioners of sin. Though all people sin, God does not desire His people to be comfortable and accepting of one's sinful condition. God expects His people to desire the same pureness of heart that God has. Thus, God commanded that the priests be washed at the door of the tabernacle to demonstrate that holy living is based on one's desire to live cleansed from sin.
The Bible then explains that the priests were to be consecrated by having anointing oil poured upon them. The Bible contains various symbols that are tied to certain substances. The Bible often uses anointing oil to refer to the anointing of the Spirit of God - the Holy Spirit. Hence, as the priests were to have anointing oil poured over them, God wanted the people to understand that His Spirit is required if one expects to live in a holy manner. One cannot be holy and set apart from sin without possessing the Spirit of the Living God. Since holiness and righteousness come exclusively from God, one must possess His Spirit to be holy and righteous since He is the source and distributor. The Bible explains that there is only one way to receive the Spirit of God - faith in Jesus Christ through repentance. The Bible explains that the Spirit of God enters the heart of the humble and contrite in order to restore the spirit of a person and revive the soul of a person that is dead in sin. When a person repents in humility and turns to Jesus, trusting that He is the Son of God and Messiah, that person will receive the Holy Spirit and then become fully equipped to live in a holy and righteous manner.
Lastly, Exodus 29:1-9 explains that the priests were to be dressed in their special attire during their consecration. In other words, the priests were to be in uniform in order to be recognizable as priests and high priest. The consecration of the priests was dependent on their willingness to be outwardly identified as God's anointed. The Apostle Paul instructed the church that all believers should "put on Christ Jesus" as one's uniform. The Apostle Paul also wrote that the people of God should endure the process of sanctification in order that they would be transformed into the image of Christ. These ideas express God's desire for people to see the life of Jesus flowing through His people. God wants His people to resemble His righteous and holy Son, not the sinful nature of the world and the flesh. The Bible teaches that believers are to become new creations in Jesus instead of remain in the condition that one was born into. Jesus taught the disciples that the Father expects the maturation of believers to produce fruit, which serves as outwardly observable evidence of the inward work of the Holy Spirit. People should literally see the characteristics and qualities of Jesus when examining the life of a Christian. Thus, one must surrender to the work of God and allow one's life to outwardly reflect the inward work of God before others as one's confession of one's faith in Jesus as the Son of God and Messiah. One must put on the Lord Jesus in order to live a consecrated, holy, and righteous life.
The Bible teaches that one's fear of the Lord is directly related to one's distaste for sin. Those who fear the Lord should hate sin, not be tolerant to it. The Bible repeatedly shows ways that God communicated this message to His people. God, understanding the destructive and deadly nature of sin, warned His people to stay away from sin and seek to live as distant from sin as possible. The Lord wanted His leaders in ministry to convey His expectations regarding sin so that He even fashioned the priests of Israel with garments that were intended to teach the people about holy living. God was so focused on teaching His people about the dangers of sin and the shame that comes with it, that He repeatedly commanded the priests to live as examples, and even provided uniforms that communicated these messages as well.
In Exodus 28:39-43 the Bible explains that the priests were to be clothed in uniforms that communicated holiness just like the high priest. While the clothing of Aaron's sons was intended to be far less elaborate, the items that that God commanded Moses to make was intended on speaking the same types of messages as the high priest. This means that God intended for both the high priests, and all of the other serving priests to be identified by holiness. The scriptures first explain that the priests were to wear sashes that were intended to convey "glory and beauty." God commanded Moses to make sashes for the sons of Aaron so that they could be seen as glorious and beautiful. Since the priests were to serve as assistants to the high priest, and were responsible for the upkeep of the tabernacle to ensure that the sacrifices and offerings were conducted properly, then one must consider that it was the work of the priests that identified them as glorious and beautiful. The Lord wanted to see the people have hearts focused on sacrifices and offerings in response to the mercy and grace the Lord had shown to the Israelites. Thus, the Lord equipped the priests with sashes that were intended to show that those who obey the commands of the Lord in heart-felt sacrifice were seen as glorious and beautiful to the Lord.
The scriptures also explained that the priests were to be equally set apart from the general population of people like the high priest. Exodus 28:39-43 explains that God expected the sons of Aaron (the assistant priests) were to be anointed, consecrated, and sanctified according to the purpose that God had ordained for them. The priests were to be set apart by their purpose to serve the Lord. The priests were to be set apart by their conduct while serving the Lord. The priests were to be set apart in their efforts to lead the people through the giving of sacrifices and offerings as appropriate responses to the Lord's favor. The priests were to be set apart in their desire to obey the commands of the Living God. The priests were to be set apart from the sin and darkness of the world around them. The priests were to be set apart as examples of God's righteousness and holiness according to the Law.
Lastly, the scriptures make an interesting mention about the priests being specially equipped to do their work with trousers. Exodus 28:39-43 makes a notable mention that Aaron and his sons were to have special pants made. The scriptures state that Aaron and his sons were to wear these trousers while performing their work, lest they die! Considering the consequence associated with disobedience regarding some pants, it is important that one examine the purpose of these special pants. One must understand that most people back in the days of the Exodus did not wear trousers as described for the priest. Instead, the people would wear long robes to cover themselves and the people considered that as sufficient covering. God explained that He desired further covering for the priests and commanded Moses to produce trousers that went from the waist to the knees for the priests. The Lord specifically stated that He intended the priests to "cover their nakedness" by these trousers.
The Bible teaches that nakedness is typically associated with the shame that sin causes as documented in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve sinned. The Bible teaches that when Adam and Eve sinned, they immediately recognized their nakedness, were shameful, and desired to cover themselves. Sin was the cause of shame. The same concept is applied to the command of God in Exodus 28:39-43. This means that God desired the shame of the priests to be covered. God did not want the priests to be "exposed" in any sort of shame. In other words, the trousers of the priests were to communicate the "blameless" nature of the priests. The extra covering of the priest was supposed to show that the priests were set apart from the shame of sin so long as they obeyed the command of God to wear the covering. The extra covering of the high priest was intended to speak an additional message of holiness. The priests were to be completely separated and set apart from sin, and even the effects of sin dealing with shame. God provided special garments for the priests to cover their shame in nakedness.
The scriptures repeatedly show God's desire for His people to be set apart and distant from sin, darkness, perversion, corruption, and worldliness that causes shame before the Living God. The Bible explains that God is so serious about these issues that He commanded Moses and the people to create special articles of clothing that were intended to teach the servants of the Lord that sacrifice and offerings given to the Lord must be given with clean and pure hearts. God is patient, but intolerant to sin. The clothing of the priests explains that the people who serve the Lord should be equally intolerant and separated from the ways of sin. While the nature of all human beings is sinful, the lessons that God taught through the uniforms of the priests show that God does not want His people to be accepting to sin, does not want His people to grow comfortable in sin, and does not want His people to be associated with sin, lest the sacrifices and offerings given to Him be tainted and unacceptable. While the people of God are not expected to give the blood of animals as sacrifices and offerings today, the Bible clearly communicates that believers are expected to give their own selves as living sacrifices as a reasonable service to the Lord Jesus. Thus, any sacrifice that is covered with one's tolerance to sin would be considered a corrupted sacrifice to the Lord and requires repentance. God is holy, and so the people of God should desire to be holy as well - intolerant to sin and the ways of the world, longing for the sanctification and purity of the Living God to define one's life.
Holiness is a critical concept for a Christian to understand. The Bible explains that God is holy and expects His people to be holy like Him. The holiness of God refers to God's uniqueness as impeccable. In other words, God is set apart from the world and the people that live in it because He is not a sinner, has no resemblance of darkness in Him, and does not experience limitations of any kind as a result. While there are other important facets to God's holiness, His separation from sin defines the essence of it. Thus, when God gave the command to be holy as He is holy, God communicated His expectation for His people to be set apart from sin and the dark practices of the world.
God's focus on the holiness of His people was strongly communicated in Exodus 28:31-38. The Bible explains that God wanted the high priest to be outwardly labeled as "Holiness to the Lord." The scriptures show that God commanded Moses to fashion a few items that were unique to the high priest. First, the high priest was to be fashioned with a rob that would go over the ephod and it was to functionally serve as a work monitor. The robe was to have pomegranates and bells hanging from the bottom of the robe so that the high priest could be heard working while behind the veil of the sanctuary in the Holy of Holies. Since only the high priest as allowed to go behind the veil, the Lord made it so that his work could be heard while he was behind the veil so that as long as the other priests heard the bells as the high priest moved and did his work, they knew he was alive.
Secondly, the Lord commanded Moses to make an engraved plate that would be fixed upon the turban of the high priest. The plate was supposed to have the inscription, "Holiness to the Lord." God explained to Moses that this plate was to be placed upon the forehead of the high priest, being fixed to the turban, so that the people could recognize the purpose and position of the high priest. The high priest was supposed to serve as an intercessor for the people. The high priest was supposed to be God's specially appointed person to stand between the children of Israel and the Living God as the method by which God would commune with His people and His people commune with Him through offerings and sacrifices facilitated by the high priest. Since the high priest was supposed to be God's special representative, the high priest was to be holy like God was holy, and the Lord wanted the people to be continually reminded of this truth.
The placard that the high priest was supposed to wear served a few different purposes. First, it was a reminder to the people that, as the high priest was God's representative, and God's representative was labeled as "holy," that God was holy. God wanted His people to always remember that He is not like others in terms of His relationship to sin. As God His essence is light and there is no darkness in Him of any kind. Secondly, God wanted to remind the people that the high priest was supposed to be holy as well. The placard was to hold the high priest accountable to holy conduct like God. He too was to live apart from sin and perform His duties in the manner that the Living God would be pleased with, having the motives of the Lord to cleanse the people of sin through the practices of the Law.
Lastly, Exodus 28:31-38 explains that the placard of the high priest was supposed to remind the children of Israel about the quality of their own sacrifices. Since God is holy, and the high priest was supposed to be holy, then the sacrifices and offerings of the people were to be given in a heart condition that reflected holiness. For example, it is possible to give an offering and have a bad attitude about it. Many people reluctantly give with bitter hearts. Many people give in pride in order to receive praises from other people. The Bible explains that both of these motives are wicked in the eyes of God. The Bible explains that when a person gives an offering, it should be done with faith and with joy - trusting that God will use the offering according to His good purpose, allowing one to rejoice in that truth.
Sacrifices were to be done with similar intent. Since the sacrifices and offerings of the people were supposed to be conducted to atone for sin, then God expected the people to provide their sacrifices and offerings with the motives to have their sins purged. God did not want people giving sacrifices and offerings just because they were told to, or because the generation before them practiced that tradition. God wanted the people to provide sacrifices with the motives to be holy. God wanted the sacrifices and offerings of the people to be given with genuine hearts of repentance from people that honestly desired to be forgiven of their transgressions against God.
The truth of the matter is that it is easy to say, "Father forgive me." It is far more difficult to live a life reflective of daily repentance. There is a requirement for the people of God to live in daily sacrifice - dying to self in order to live holy unto God. The placard that read "Holiness to the Lord" was supposed to remind the people that their motives in life should have been predicated on their desire to live holy unto the Lord - apart from sin. God wanted the sacrifices of the people to be meaningful. God wanted the offerings of the people to be meaningful. God did not want His people going to the tabernacle and giving just because they were told or because someone else was going. God wanted His people to be reminded about who He is so that they would aspire to be the same.
Though the Lord has heavy and difficult expectations that He places upon His people, the Bible teaches that God does this intentionally to teach His people important lessons in dependency. When Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount, He said that one should seek to be perfect as the Father in heaven is perfect. This statement means exactly what it says. Yet it is also important to consider that perfection in the Bible refers to "completion." In other words, Jesus taught that one should seek to be "complete" like the Father in heaven is complete. This suggests that all people are incomplete and are in need of a change of condition. Sin causes this condition. Thus, all people are ill-equipped to perform the work and meet the expectations of the Living God. Nevertheless, the Bible shows that God spoke His commands and expectations anyway. Therefore, it is important to recognize how the Bible explains that God equips His people to perform the impossible works that He commands.
In Exodus 28:30 the Bible explains that God commanded Moses to add tools to the breastplate of judgment that were to functionally help the high priests do their job. The scriptures state that God commanded Moses to ensure that the breastplate of the high priest was equipped with the "Urim and Thummim." The Bible explains that these were two stone items that were supposed to be kept on the breastplate, specifically over the heart of the high priest. These tools were meant to be used in a way similar to casting lots so that the high priest could use these tools as a way to make difficult decisions.
While it might seem foolish to rely on a "pulling straws" process for making difficult decisions and judgments, one must understand the meaning of the Urim and Thummim to understand how God was teaching the high priest to be dependent on Him to make tough decisions. The word "Urim" in Hebrew actually translates into the English word "lights." The word "Thummim" in Hebrew translates into the English word "perfection." Thus, the two stones were functional tools, but symbolic of bigger issues. The Bible uses the word and concept of "light" to refer to God's revelation of Himself. Thus, light is often associated with righteousness, wisdom, and holiness. The Urim was supposed to be symbolic of God's own righteous wisdom. As previously mentioned, "perfection" in the Bible usually references "completion." When one associates these two things together, one can see that the decision stones were reflective of God's perfect and complete righteous wisdom.
The job of the high priest was a difficult job. The high priest was supposed to be a holy representative and ambassador of the Living God. His conduct was to be defined in Godly righteousness. The high priest was to point to the Living God and His holiness through every action he performed, and lead the people of Israel in proper worship through sacrifices and offerings. This high priest was expected to serve as judge amongst the people so that his wisdom and judgments were to be reflective of God's own wisdom and judgments. These are heavy burdens for one that is a sinner. Yet the Urim and Thummim show that God did not expect the high priest to perform these duties on his own. Instead, the Urim and the Thummim show that God expected the high priest to rely on the righteous wisdom of the Living God to do his job. The use of the Urim and the Thummim was intended to be a demonstration of faith - that one was seeking the righteous perfection and wisdom of Yahweh. The stones within themselves were nothing special. Instead, the use of them was a reflection of one's humility in that they were confessing inability to make good judgment and were seeking the perfect judgment of the Living God.
Exodus 28:30 explains that the Urim and the Thummim were to be kept on the breastplate of judgment, specifically over the heart of the high priest. This was a symbolic image that was supposed to represent the dependency of the high priest. The high priest was supposed to have the perfect righteousness and wisdom of God on his heart. The high priest was supposed to have the revelation of the Living God on his heart at all times - especially while performing his priestly duties. The high priest was supposed to have his heart set on doing things God's way and relying on Him to do those things by exercising obedience and the tools that God provided to accomplish his work. The high priest was supposed to exercise faith in the commands, processes, and tools that God provided, in obedience, surrendering his own will and ideas trusting that God's ways were better. Hence, while God does expect perfection, the Urim and the Thummim are a powerful illustration that show that God also equips His people to be perfect and complete as He is. One must simply deny the desires of one's flesh, trust in the words and commands of God, depend on His righteous wisdom, and obey the things that He says, thereby allowing the Spirit of God to reproduce the image of Jesus Christ in the lives of His people.
The Bible teaches that God is primarily interested in the motives of His people. He is concerned with what His people do and is also interested in why His people do those things. God desires for His people to have pure motives and the Bible explains that "pure motives" are motives that reflect a person's desire to glorify God according to His Word in humility rather than glorify self. It is for this reason that the Bible teaches that God examines the hearts of people instead of judging purely on outward appearance. Jesus taught that while the Jewish religious leaders looked like good and righteous men on the outside, doing noble deeds and such, He stated that they were like white washed tombs possessing dead men's bones. In other words, they might have looked like good men on the outside, but Jesus could see that those men had wicked hearts, focused only on receiving the praises of people and lording over the people of God instead of serving Him in humble obedience.
The teaching of Jesus regarding these types of matters was not a New Testament teaching. The Bible explains that God sought for His people to know about His concern for the hearts of His people. The Old Testament reveals, just as much as the New Testament, that God wanted His people to know that He was primarily concerned and focused on matters of the heart and the motives of His people. In Exodus 28:15-29 the Bible explains that God commanded His people to produce a breastplate for the high priest to wear as part of his uniform in order to do his job for the people. God referred to the breastplate as "the breastplate of judgment," which means that the breastplate was to signify important matters concerning the judgment of God's people in regards to sin. Therefore, when examining the instructions to build the high priest's breastplate, one must examine each item through the lens of God's judgment upon sin.
Exodus 28:15-29 explains that God wanted a square breastplate constructed that was supposed to hang over the ephod of the high priest. The breastplate was to be mounted to the ephod by gold chains and hoops so that it was securely fastened to the chest of the high priest, leaving him free to perform his duties of sacrifice and offerings without restriction. The scriptures explain that the breastplate was supposed to be designed in the same manner as the ephod - in blue, purple, and scarlet thread. The scriptures also explain that the breastplate was supposed to contain twelve gold sockets that were supposed to house twelve different types of precious stones. God commanded Moses that the twelve precious stones were to be fastened to the breastplate by the gold sockets so that they were permanently mounted to the breastplate.
The Bible explains that each stone was significant in symbolic meaning. God explained to Moses that His purpose for the twelve stones was to symbolize the twelve tribes of Israel. Thus, the precious stones mounted to the breastplate of judgment were to symbolize all of the children of Israel. God commanded that the stones should be organized in four rows of three. The breastplate was supposed to have a sardius stone, a topaz stone, an emerald stone, a turquoise stone, a sapphire stone, a diamond, a jacinth stone, an agate stone, an amethyst stone, a beryl stone, an onyx stone, and a jasper stone. God commanded Moses that each stone should have one of the names of the twelve tribes inscribed on it and then permanently fastened on the breastplate.
Exodus 28:15-29 explains that God made His purpose clear for this specific design of the breastplate. God explained to Moses that Aaron, and all other future high priests, were to wear the breastplate of judgment at all times while performing their duties in order to bear the names of the children of Israel over their hearts. The children of Israel were to be represented and presented on the breastplate of judgment and then placed over the heart of the high priest as a symbol of the motives that God desired. God explained to Moses that the breastplate of judgment upon the high priest was supposed to serve as a memorial before the Lord as an everlasting process.
It is important to consider the purpose of the high priest in connection with the command to wear the breastplate of judgment. The high priest was supposed to be God's representative in intercession for the Israelites. The high priest's job was predicated on him standing between the sinful people and the holy righteous God with sacrifices in offerings in order to atone for the sins of the people. The purpose of the high priest was to facilitate the cleansing of the sins of the people through the sacrifices and offerings he oversaw. The conduct of the high priest was supposed to be righteous, holy, and exemplary of the Living God according to the Law so that the people could look to the person and position of the high priest and see a foreshadowing picture of the promised Messiah. Thus, as the high priest performed this work, he was supposed to carry the children of Israel with him in his heart. His motives were supposed to be focused on the sins of the people so that as he performed his sacrifices and gave his offerings, they were done with a true heart of humility and repentance, with a genuine desire for the sins of the people to be forgiven.
The reason that the high priest was to wear the breastplate of judgment was because the sacrifices and offerings of the high priest were to resemble God's judgment upon sin. Since the wages of sin is death, the blood that was shed by the high priest was supposed to reflect God's judgment upon sin in a substitutionary way. God preferred that animals die instead of His people. Therefore, the breastplate was to serve as a reminder about the reality of sin. Sin requires death, and forgiveness requires blood. The children of Israel were symbolically presented on the chest of the high priest to show that the motives of the high priest were focused on taking the sins of the people upon himself in order to offer atonement through sanctification.
The commands for the breastplate of judgment were simply prophetic pictures that God provided to show the work of Jesus Christ as the Great High Priest from the order of Melchizedek. When Jesus came as the Messiah, His sole purpose was to offer Himself as a sacrifice in order to atone for the sins of His people (the world). As the high priest was to sacrifice animals on behalf of the people, Jesus offered Himself as a sacrifice on behalf of the people, once, and for all, so that whoever trusts in the sufficiency of Jesus' work can receive the benefits of His work through the purging of their sin. As the high priest bore the judgment of the people's sin upon his own chest, having the people of God on his own heart, Jesus bore the Father's judgment of sin upon Himself having the weight of the world upon His own heart.
The testimony of Jesus' life, death, resurrection, ascension, and return is not a New Testament doctrine. The life, death, resurrection, ascension, and return of Jesus is a Biblical doctrine; meaning that the entire Bible teaches these principals throughout from the Book of Genesis all the way through the Book of Revelation. The issue of sin is an important matter to God. God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. Hence, God communicated His plan to deal with sin and death on behalf of all people since no person is equipped to adequately deal with those deadly problems. The plan of God to deal with sin was communicated in the creation account in Genesis chapter 1. The contents of Exodus 28:15-29 simply identifies some of the details to God's plan and work showing that God provided gradual revelation and insight into His plan to fulfill His promise regarding the destruction of sin.
God is intolerant to sin and this truth is powerfully communicated through the breastplate of judgment. As the judgment of the sins of the people was placed upon the heart of the high priest, it served to show the motives of the Living God and His focus to judge sin. Yet God took that judgment upon Himself through the manifestation of Himself in flesh as Jesus so that the work of the Great High Priest from the order of Melchizedek is seen to be successful in His work to destroy sin through the denial of Himself. Hence, the high priests that wore the breastplate of judgment were not to be focused on the desires of their own flesh, but motivated to do the work that needed to be done to ensure the salvation of others through the denial of their own self ambitions. Since the Bible calls the people of God today "priests," then the people of God should be motivated in the same way, symbolically wearing the breastplate of judgment. Today the people of God should be motivated in the same ways as the Messiah - to deny self-ambitions and desires in order to ensure the salvation of others by reflecting the holy and righteous conduct of the Living God.
God's work in Israel and through Israel is a special work. The scriptures are loaded with promises for God towards Israel regarding the special plans He has for them. The Bible testifies that while Israel has repeatedly rejected the Lord, He has remained faithful and continues to work towards the fulfillment of His promises for them as a monumental demonstration of grace and patience. The Bible provides a variety of pictures and illustrations to help people understand the dynamics of the relationship that God has with Israel. The Lord swore upon Himself that He would bear the burdens of the people in order to transform them into a condition worthy of receiving the eternally unconditional promises that were made to them through Abraham.
The Bible provides one of the pictures of God's relationship with Israel in Exodus 28:6-14. The Bible explains that God provided specific details regarding the manufacturing of the priestly garments, and in Exodus 28:6-14 the Lord commanded Moses to create and ephod. An ephod is an outer garment that was to be fitted over the high priests' white linen robe. The ephod was considered a sort of ornamental vest that was not necessarily functional as clothing since it was an over garment, but contained symbolic meaning in the way it was to be designed.
The scriptures explain that God wanted the ephod of the high priest to be made up of blue, purple, and scarlet thread. In this way, the ephod of the priest was to match the linen curtains that were on the walls of the tabernacle itself. As previously mentioned, many scholars suggest that the color selection of the linen curtains was supposed to represented the beaten and battered body of Jesus. Thus, if this is true, then the ephod of the high priest served the same purpose, being designed in the same likeness. Consider the picture that the Lord presented through the high priest. He was first to be covered in his white linen garment, which is symbolic of purity and glory. Most of the angelic or heavenly beings that are described in the Bible are described as wearing white robes or linens. Then, that white robe was to be covered by the ephod that was patterned in blue, purple, and scarlet, showing that the purity of the high priest was covered in a beaten and battered exterior, much like Jesus as the Messiah - the Great High Priest from the order of Melchizedek.
The purpose of the high priest was communicated through the design of the ephod as well. Exodus 28:6-14 explains that God commanded Moses to have two onyx stones fixed into the top of the ephod with gold fixtures, and each stone was to have 6 of the 12 names of the tribes of Israel inscribed into the stones. God commanded that the onyx stones that had the names of the tribes of Israel written on them, were to be placed upon the shoulders of the ephod so that the high priest could bear their names before the Lord. This image explains the purpose of the high priest - especially the Great High Priest (Messiah). The high priest was to bear the burdens of the children of Israel before the Lord. Therefore, God commanded that onyx stones with the names of the tribes be placed upon the ephod as "memorial stones" to remind the high priest and those who served with him of his purpose. The high priest was an intercessor for the people. He was to present the issues and sins of the people before the Living God to make atonement. The high priest was to facilitate an intimate relationship with the Living God through sacrifices, offerings, prayers, and supplications. The stones were to symbolize that purpose.
It is important to recognize that the names of the children of Israel were etched in stone, and then those stones were permanently fixed to the ephod with gold. This shows that God's relationship with Israel was intended to be everlasting because of the work of the high priest. While the high priests of Israel historically proved themselves to be weak and sinful in their work, the illustration that God provided through their garments and uniform show that God's work with Israel was a permanent work nonetheless. It is for this reason that the Book of Hebrews explains that the role of Aaron and his sons as high priests was only a foreshadowing picture of the work that would actually be fulfilled by Messiah as the Great High Priest from the order of Melchizedek. Since Melchizedek came before Aaron, and is stated to be eternal in nature, then the priesthood from His line is one that bears the nature of the Living God. The Book of Hebrews explains that as Melchizedek was an Old Testament appearance of Jesus, it is Jesus who serves to fulfill the role of high priest according to God's purposes.
It is the Messianic identity of Jesus that bears the weight of Israel's issues and sin upon His shoulders. When Jesus died on the cross, He not only died for the sins of the world, but also tore the veil that stood between the Father and the children of Israel (as well as all other believers). The Bible explains that God offers salvation through Jesus to the Jews first, but also the Greeks. The sacrifice that Jesus offered in Himself served as the greatest form of intercession, offering forgiveness of sins once and for all, so that those who confess Jesus as the Son of God and Messiah of Israel, would be saved. The Bible promises that in the end, all of Israel will be saved (the remnant that remains after the Tribulation). This is made possible because the work of Messiah is effective and powerful since Jesus Christ is God in flesh. While Israel may not stand in allegiance to Jesus as the Messiah now, and may not nationally accept Jesus as the Great High Priest from the order of Melchizedek, the ephod of the high priest shows that God is faithful to change that condition and bear His people upon Himself for His glory.
Though God does not focus on outward appearance, He does pay attention to it. It is true that the Bible teaches that God looks not on the outward appearance of a person, but instead a person's heart (1 Samuel 16:7). This verse does not mean that God does not take into consideration the outward appearance. The Bible also teaches that the mouth speaks out of the abundance of the heart. This teaching shows that the outward manifestation of a person is reflective of what lies within the hearts of a person. Jesus taught that it is possible to examine a person's "treasures" so that upon examining those things, it is possible to ascertain where that person's heart is also. The point is that God does not judge according to the outward appearance. God will not permit people into His kingdom or exclude them based on outward appearance. Nevertheless, since one's outward conduct and appearance is reflective of one's spiritual condition, there are some expectations that God expresses for His people showing that God desires a specific outward testimony based on one's inward faith, righteousness, and Godly convictions.
In Exodus 28:1-5 the Bible explains that God desired a specific wardrobe for Aaron and his sons. The Bible testifies that God desired for Aaron to serve as high priest for the people, and for his sons to serve as his assistants. The role of high priest was given in order that the people of God would have a single figure to intercede on behalf of the people. God understood the sinful nature of His people and the need of regular atonement. Thus, the position of high priest was supposed to represent God amongst the people so that he was in charge of taking the sins of the people before God in sacrifice in order that the sins of the people would be covered. The high priest was also supposed to demonstrate the wisdom of God so that the people could be spiritually led by the high priest in Godly wisdom rather than their own flawed wisdom. The high priest was supposed to be holy as God is holy, and God even determined the clothing of the high priest to reflect such a calling.
When God gave Moses the commands regarding the priestly garments, God also stated His purpose for the attire of the priests. The clothing that God ordained was elaborate and consisted of quite a few pieces. The scriptures show that God had powerful purposes for every item that the high priest was supposed to wear. In Exodus 28:1-5 God told Moses that the garments that the high priest was supposed to wear were to be "holy garments." This means that the clothing of the high priest was to set him apart from all other people. The purpose of the clothing was to cause the high priest to be immediately recognizable as the high priest. The clothing of the high priest was supposed to serve as one of the most elaborate uniforms known to mankind.
The Lord instructed Moses to seek out skilled artisans and other people gifted in the making of clothes. This is an important detail to consider. While the high priest was supposed to wear holy garments, Moses had to contract the work to others amongst the children of Israel that were skilled and gifted to follow the specific instructions that God gave in how the clothing was to be made. God told Moses that the people he sought out with skills and gifts would be recognizable because God Himself was the One who provided the wisdom to those people. This means that, knowing the need for the priestly clothing to be produced, God previously equipped certain individuals with special gifts and talents that He desired to accomplish His will. The gifts and talents of those people was considered wisdom from God. God determined that their wisdom was to be used for His glory since the clothing they would produce would clothe the high priest for his duty, thereby facilitating sacrifices and worship. Hence, the scriptures show that any and all special abilities that the Lord gives, He intends to be used in such a way that He is glorified by facilitating sacrifice and worship according to His purposes.
Exodus 28:1-5 explains that the clothing of Aaron and his sons was to be produced in order that upon wearing the holy garments, the high priest would radiate glory and beauty. God desired the high priest to be holy in heart, but also that his holiness could be outwardly seen through his uniform as the high priest. The holiness of the high priest was considered to be both glory and beauty from the perspective of God. While the garments of the high priest were elaborate and intricate, each and every piece was symbolic of the purpose of the high priest, and prophetic regarding the work of Jesus as Messiah. Hence, the children of Israel were to see the high priest as holy, which was a demonstration of the beauty and glory of God since the holy purpose of the high priest was to be prophetic concerning the role and purpose of Jesus as Messiah.
This is why God was concerned with the outward appearance of the high priest. God was determined to gradually reveal attributes and characteristics of the Messiah to His people so that the people would be able to recognize the Messiah upon His arrival. While the people eventually strayed from the purposes of God regarding the high priest, and rejected Jesus as the Messiah, God's purposes can still be seen in the commands of Exodus 28:1-5. God wanted Aaron and the other high priests to be holy representatives of Him. God wanted the high priest to be a symbol of His own character and nature in righteousness. God wanted the high priest to be sanctified unto Himself so that the people could see the motives and methods of the Living God through the position of high priest, thereby projecting the image of Jesus as the Messiah. God was concerned with the wardrobe of the high priest because God desired for His people to stand out as His people. God wanted His anointed to be immediately recognizable wearing the symbols of the righteousness and purposes of the Living God. The Lord did not want His appointed to blend in with the crowds, but instead to stand out as different; and that difference was to be defined by holiness through the glory and beauty of the Living God. God's desires have not changed.
The apostle John wrote that all believers are considered as "priests (Revelation 5:10)." The apostle Paul said the same thing in a different way by calling believers "ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20)." This means that the people of God are still expected to represent the Living God in holiness to the people. While the Lord has not commanded that His people dress in certain attire any more, the purpose of God should be better understood concerning the outward appearance of God's people as seen in Exodus 28:1-5. The people of God would be holy, but also should look holy in appearance through outward conduct. This does not mean that the people of God should focus on "looking Christian," but that one's outward conduct should match one's inward convictions according to the Word of God. The holiness and righteousness of God are clearly defined in the Bible so that one's outward appearance and conduct should reflect that which one sees in scripture. Since the emphasis of scripture is on Jesus as the Messiah, the fulfillment of the high priest position, then one's outward appearance should resemble that of Jesus Christ in humility, meekness, and as a servant focused on denying the appetites of one's flesh for the purpose of glorifying the Father. If it is possible to communicate one's purpose in Christ through clothing, then so be it. However, one should examine the contents of Exodus 28:1-5 to see that God is interested in one's outward testimony of one's allegiance to Him through Christ by one's actions, attitudes, speech, and overall conduct. Be recognizable as a child of the Living God!
When the Lord gave the tabernacle instructions to Moses, He was very detailed in terms of materials, dimensions, and purposes. God was clear and candid to explain how He wanted the tabernacle and its furnishings built, and also was helpful to explain the purposes for many of those things. God desired to teach Messianic lessons to the people through the tabernacle, through the furnishings, through the construction processes, and through the use of the tabernacle in worship. The instructions that God provided show that it is impossible to examine the work of God once or twice and dismiss it. The tabernacle instructions reveal that those who genuinely desire to know the Lord will need to continuously and regularly pursue understanding.
In Exodus 27:9-21 the Lord provided Moses with the instructions to build the outer court of the tabernacle as well as the oil that was to be used for the lamp in the sanctuary. The scriptures explain that God wanted the tabernacle to have walls that defined its boarders, and then the sanctuary as a separate building inside of the tabernacle so that area outside of the sanctuary was considered the outer court. This was the place where the priests would take care of most of their duties to assist the people.
Exodus 27:9-21 also explains that God desired the priests to make their own oil to ensure that the lamp was lit continuously. The Lord was clear to explain that He wanted the lamp lit at all times, especially since the lamp was to serve as the only source of light for the priests that worked in the sanctuary. Therefore, the scriptures state that God commissioned full time work for some of the Levitical priests to make oil from olives to keep the lamp lit. It is important to recognize the amount of work that would need to be done for this simple task. The task consisted of nothing more than extracting oil from olives, yet when one considers the amount of oil required to keep the lampstand lit 24 hours per day, every day, one must consider the amount of oil that needed to be produced.
The Bible explains that the children of Israel were wandering through the wilderness for 40 years before they entered into the Promised Land. This means that while God gave Moses the instructions for the tabernacle, the children of Israel were left with the resources they brought with them from Egypt to build the things that God commanded. Exodus 27:9-21 clearly states that God wanted the lamp of the sanctuary lit by olive oil at all times. This means that the people had to harvest their own olives while in the wilderness, and then crush them to extract the oil. Today, using modern technology and resources, olive oil producing companies boast they can extract about 22 ounces of olive oil per every 10 pounds of olives. This shows that, even using modern technology, one needs a lot of olives to produce just a little bit of oil.
Thankfully, God's command to use olive oil to keep the lamp burning was an efficient command. Olive oil burns slow, does not smoke, and is fairly effective as a fuel when the right types of wicks are used. Thus, 22 ounces could go a long way. Nevertheless, the priests would have been required to harvest ten whole pounds (or more) to extract a measly 22 ounces of oil. Considering the amount of oil that would have been required to keep the lamp lit every moment of every day, and considering the size of the lamp, the Bible shows that there was always a group of priests that were busy ensuring the oil was prepared.
The Bible explains that God spoke the commands about the oil as an everlasting statute. So long as there was a tabernacle, sanctuary, and lampstand, God expected the lamps to be lit at all times. This means that a group of Levites needed to be appointed to this work at all times. While the work might have been tedious, it was necessary. This process shows that obedience to the Lord, and worship of the Lord is not something that is done once in a while. The Bible reveals that in order to properly worship the Lord, there is work that continuously needs to be done in order to ensure one's lamp is continually lit.
Jesus told His disciples that they should let their lights shine before men so that they would see their good works and glorify God. Examining the processes involved with the tabernacle lamp, one must consider the equally time-consuming processes that one must undergo to ensure that one's "lamp is lit" by the Spirit. Since the process of making oil involved the harvesting and crushing of olives, one can discover a picture of the sanctification process. One must be willing to be crushed by dying to one's self to ensure that one possesses the Spirit of God as "oil," which is the method by which a believer "shines" for the glory of God. While the process of sanctification and denial of self might require regular and tedious work, it is necessary. The work processes of the tabernacle show that the proper worship of the Living God requires regular attention, focus, work, and effort to ensure one's worship is pure, in Spirit and in truth.