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Jun 12 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

June 10, 2018 – Exodus Chapters 28-29

Dressing Up to Serve God

Call for your brother, Aaron, and his sons, Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar. Set them apart from the rest of the people of Israel so they may minister to me and be my priests. Make sacred garments for Aaron that are glorious and beautiful. Instruct all the skilled craftsmen whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom. Have them make garments for Aaron that will distinguish him as a priest set apart for my service. Exodus Chapters 28-29 [read 28:1-3]

Intro: Last week we rushed through God’s instructions for gathering materials and assembling the sacred tent

Today we’ll run through God’s instructions for preparing his priests to serve in his tent
– a special class of ministers were needed to maintain the tent and perform its services
• these chapters have to do mostly with their clothing and ordination
glorious and beautiful – tells us something about worship
◦ glory refers to God’s radiant presence
beauty refers to what is proportionate and visually appealing
– making sacred garments for the priests required talented people
• “skilled” translates a Hebrew word meaning “wise of heart”
• a kind of practical wisdom that is developed through practice
◦ people who have perfected their craft

God chose Aaron to be the high priest and his four sons to be ordinary priests
– what it meant to be a priest is immediately spelled out:

  1. They were set apart from the rest of the people
  2. They were to minister to God (“to me”)
  3. They were to be God’s priests

• they were always to remember and observe these conditions
• God’s presence in his tent radiated holiness into every square inch
◦ they were not allowed to forget the energy present in that environment
◦ imagine it being like working in nuclear power plant

The sacred clothes worn by the high priest (Ex. 28:6-39)

An Ephod – we do not know what this was; perhaps an apron of sorts
– two swaths of material, one worn on the front the other on the back
• top of each part was connected by straps over the shoulders
◦ the bottom of each swath was held together by a sash or belt
• two stones were mounted on straps above the shoulders
◦ the names of six of the tribes were engraved on each one

in the same way a jeweler engraves a seal (v. 11)
A person’s seal (or “signet”) was unique and served like their signature or personal identification (e.g., Gen. 38:18, 25-26). To have the signet ID of the people indicated their endorsement of the priest and his authority to represent them before God. It was sort of like having what we know today as “power of attorney.” So the stones were there as a reminder that Aaron represents the people of Israel. Aaron will carry these names on his shoulders as a constant reminder whenever he goes before the LORD (v. 12).

– Aaron’s shoulders are the first of several significant body parts mentioned in these chapters
• there are a ton of shoulder idioms in the English language:

Some people have a good head on their shoulders
Others have a chip on their shoulders
While others carry the weight of the world on their shoulders
A successful person may be standing on the shoulders of someone else
Have you ever needed a shoulder to cry on?
What about someone giving you the cold shoulder?

• in the Old Testament, the shoulder has to do with work and carrying burdens (Isa. 46:7)
◦ or an unwillingness to help with burdens (cf. Neh. 9:29)
◦ the high priest would always carry the burden of the people on his shoulders

A “Chestpiece of judgment” – a piece of cloth folded in half to form a pocket
– decorated with twelve gems – here, each of the tribes had their own gemstone
• this was attached to the front of the ephod
• “judgment” is translated “seeking a decision” in the New Living Translation
◦ the Urim and Thummim were placed in the pocket
◦ no one knows what these were or how they were used
◦ somehow, the priests could use them to consult God for discernment and decision-making
– the body part covered by the chestpiece was Aaron’s heart
• three times we are told that when Aaron went before God he carried the people over his heart in verses 29-30
• the people are not only a burden on his shoulders, they are also a concern on his heart

This is something the Apostle Paul knew well, not as a metaphor but in lived experience. He told the Corinthians that, besides all of his other hardships, I have the daily burden of my concern for all the churches (2 Cor. 11:28)

A Robe – the unique feature of the robe was found on the hem
– it was encircled with alternating cloth pomegranates and golden bells
• the New Living Translation misses the music of the Hebrew wording

a golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate

◦ we can almost hear the sound of wind chimes as he moved around in the holy place
• from childhood I was taught that a rope was tied around the high priest’s ankle
◦ that way, without entering the most holy place themselves, other priests could pull him out should he be struck dead while in there
◦ however, there is no truth to this teaching — there was no rope
– the sound from his hem announced his arrival and movement in the Holy Place

A turban with a Gold Insignia
– the insignia defined everything else,
• it is the one reason the sacred tent existed,
◦ and why the services of the priests were needed
• the engraving on this gold plate was

Holy to the LORD

◦ the body part mentioned here is his forehead

A decorative tunic
– this was the basic garment everyone wore
• their daily work clothes
• although this too was different — more exquisite, because it was holy

The sacred clothing for the regular priests (28:40-43)

Tunics, sashes, headbands, and linen undergarments
– verse 41, when they first dressed in their sacred clothes they would be:

  • anointed (next chapter)
  • ordained – the Hebrew word means to “fill the hand”
    Imagine carrying a notebook, cup of coffee and a box of doughnuts for coworkers when someone asks you to hold their phone. You might say, “I can’t. My hands are full.”
    ◦ the idea is that the priests were completely occupied with their service to God
    ◦ there was no room in their lives for anything else
    ◦ soon, Moses would literally fill their hands (with sacrificial offerings)
  • consecrated – made holy or sacred

Chapter 29 describes the ordination ritual

To begin, Moses would present Aaron and sons to God at the entrance of the sacred tent
– there they would be bathed and clothed
• then Aaron would be anointed with sacred oil – the body part being his head
• next came several sacrificial offerings
◦ body parts play a role here as they would lay their hands on the head of each animal offered
– the first sacrifice was a sin offering, the second a burnt offering and the third an ordination offering
• Moses would take some of the blood from the third offering
◦ and apply it to right ear lobe, thumb of right hand, and big toe of the right foot on each priest
• this would consecrate their listening to God, then their response in actions and movements
◦ worship was never supposed to fall into a routine
◦ never to be mechanical but always responsive
– after mixing the anointing oil with some of the blood, Moses would sprinkle their sacred clothing

Moses would take pieces of the final sacrifice and put them in the hands of the priests
– some of it was all theirs to eat
• but the breast they were to lift up to Yahweh in his presence
• that portion they shared with Yahweh
◦ a covenant meal in which they bonded with God
◦ and in this meal, all the people of Israel shared this bond
– a footnote is inserted here — Aaron’s outfit was to be stored for future high priests (vv. 29-30)
• the ritual was concluded with the sacred meal
◦ compare Passover sacrifice and Moses and elders on mountain
– to complete the entire ritual would require seven days (of purification)
• and another seven to purify the altar

The chapter ends daily routines the priests would perform
– a lamb every morning and every evening
• with it two quarts of flour mixed with one quart of oil,
◦ and one quart of wine
• all this at entrance of the tent of meeting

These burnt offerings are to be made each day from generation to generation. Offer them in the LORD’s presence at the Tabernacle [literally, “tent of meeting”] entrance; there I will meet with you and speak with you. I will meet the people of Israel there, in the place made holy by my glorious presence. Yes, I will consecrate the Tabernacle and the altar, and I will consecrate Aaron and his sons to serve me as priests. Then I will live among the people of Israel and be their God, and they will know that I am the LORD their God. I am the one who brought them out of the land of Egypt so that I could live among them. I am the LORD their God. (Ex. 29:42-46)

Conclusion: Alright, let’s take a cleansing breath

Through the years I have heard many people say something like,
– “My family knows how to push my buttons”
(or “My mom knows . . .,” or “My brothers know . . . .”
• which buttons are those? – the ones those people use to

◦ get you upset
◦ cause you to lose your temper
◦ make you feel worthless
◦ load you with guilt
◦ manipulate you

• the ones that no matter what, you cannot ignore
– some of us have succumbed to chronic grouchiness
• or chronic stress, chronic irritability, chronic anxiety, chronic resentment
• we fall into chronic bad moods, or chronic sad moods
◦ or chronic attitudes of being down on ourselves or others

Every thought, emotion and mood is memorized in the nervous system
– they’ve been programmed into the body’s operating system
• and they all have triggers (“buttons”)
◦ an event, word, sight, sound–whatever–starts them running automatically
◦ you may find yourself in bad mood before you feel it coming on
• we need help – we need to change all of this
– God is willing to meet us – he provides times and places
• he provides thresholds:
◦ in time – every morning and evening
◦ in space – the entrance of the tent of meeting

Every day when the sun rises or sets, we come to a threshold
– every doorway or gate we enter is a threshold
• and God is waiting in each threshold to meet with us
• when ever we pause and meet God in a threshold,
◦ it is because he was already there

These two chapters of Exodus are all about awareness 
– the awareness that what we are and all we do is Holy to the LORD 
• imagine that plaque hanging over your forehead, partly visible
• even slightly obstructing your vision, it is a constant reminder
– last week we learned that the sacred tent was about presence
• today we learn that we are to wake up to that presence
◦ and to do so, we use “reminders”
◦ Ex. 28:12, a constant reminder; Ex. 28:29, a continual reminder
• everything the priest wore pointed to something

It may help if we set alarm clocks – not just in the morning
When someone has pushed our button, that can be an alarm
Of course, we can write “Holy to the LORD” on post-it notes
and stick them in different places as reminders
Some of us have phones that we can set to give us reminders several times a day
Crossing thresholds in space and time are reminders
All of these reminders can wake us up to God,
the Lord who is setting us free
and creating space for himself in our lives

God himself has given us reminders:
Your shoulders and hearts — and whatever we carry on and in them
Your ears, hands and feet — reminders
Your head, your forehead and eyes,
your whole body, which is God’s temple,
reminders that God is near,
that his love for you is eternal and his grace is infinite

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