Exodus 28

Sunday Morning Bible Study

September 28, 2008


Moses has gone up to Mount Sinai to get instructions on how to built the portable worship center we call the “Tabernacle.  We’ve looked at the Ark of the Covenant, the Table of showbread, the golden candlestick known as the Menorah, the actual tent structure itself, and the bronze altar where the sacrifices were made.

:1-4  Holy Garments

:1 "Now take Aaron your brother, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel, that he may minister to Me as priest, Aaron and Aaron's sons: Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar.

:2 "And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty.

Three words are used to describe the clothes that will be made for the priests.

holyqodesh – apartness, holiness, sacredness, separateness

glorykabowd – honor, glorious, abundance

beautytiph’arah – splendor, glory; finery (of garments, jewels)

It would seem that there’s a “dress code” for priests.

God dresses with beauty and holiness:

(2 Chr 20:21 NLT)  …the king appointed singers to walk ahead of the army, singing to the LORD and praising him for his holy splendor.

The priests are to dress like the God they represent:

(Psa 29:2 NKJV)  Give unto the LORD the glory due to His name; Worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.

A priest learns to dress appropriately

The folks at the Temple Institute in Jerusalem have already made the garments for the high priest for the Temple they hope will be built one day.  I particularly like this picture, it looks like something on a Paris modeling runway, except that the high priest would undoubtedly be a bit older and have a long grey beard.

:3 "So you shall speak to all who are gifted artisans, whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom, that they may make Aaron's garments, to consecrate him, that he may minister to Me as priest.

priestkahan – to act as a priest, minister in a priest’s office; the last name “Cohen” is a form of this word.

A priest is a “go-between”, a mediator.

He represents the people before God.  He represents God before the people.

:4 "And these are the garments which they shall make: a breastplate, an ephod, a robe, a skillfully woven tunic, a turban, and a sash. So they shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother and his sons, that he may minister to Me as priest.

We’ll be looking at all these various pieces of the priest’s uniform as they’re described in this chapter.  There’s a reason we ought to pay attention.

The word “priest” comes with some built-in baggage for some of us.  Some of you were raised in churches where the guy up front was called a “priest”.

Some of you think that the priest is the one that does those special things in church, whether listening to someone in the confessional, serving the eucharist, or baptizing your baby.

From time to time some of you have accidentally called my “father”  And though I would never want to embarrass you or correct you, there are only three people in our church that should be calling me “father” – my sons.

The truth is, the term “priest” changes from the Old Testament to the New Testament.

In the Old Testament, it was the descendants of Aaron that served as high priest and as priests.

In the New Testament, the term “priest” is used in two ways.

Jesus has become our “high priest”. (Heb. 9:11)
(Heb 9:11 NKJV)  But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation.
We are now the “other” priests.
(Rev 1:5b-6 NKJV)  To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, {6} and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father…
The technical term for this truth is “the priesthood of all believers”.


I am a priest

What does it mean to be a priest?
I guess it could mean you could wear one of those funny collars.
It means that you are now a “go-between”.

You have the privilege of representing people before God.

As a believer in Jesus Christ, God will hear your prayers.

There are people who need someone representing them before God – that’s you.

You have the privilege of representing God before people.

(2 Cor 3:3 NLT)  Clearly, you are a letter from Christ prepared by us. It is written not with pen and ink, but with the Spirit of the living God. It is carved not on stone, but on human hearts.

You may be the closest that some people ever get to God.  You may be the only one they know who actually knows God and knows what He’s like.


Learn the equipment

We are going to be studying the garments that the priests wore when they did their job.  We might call it their “uniform” or their “gear”.
A football player is given a uniform, equipment, something designed to help him do his job.  What we’re looking at is the team “uniform” for the priests, their “equipment”.
The Bible says that one of my jobs as a pastor-teacher is to help you learn about your “gear”, your “equipment”.
(Eph 4: 12 NKJV)  for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry

:5-14 The Ephod

:5 "They shall take the gold, blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine linen,

Do these colors sound familiar?  They’re the colors of the inner tent of the Tabernacle, the colors of heaven.

When the priest enters into the Tabernacle, he fits in with heaven.

When the priest leaves the Tabernacle, his clothes are a reminder of where he’s been.

Look at these pictures.  If you met someone wearing clothes like these, could you tell where they were from?  Japan.  Hawaii.  Alaska.

I wonder if people can tell where we’ve been by the clothes we wear?

:6 "and they shall make the ephod of gold, blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine woven linen, artistically worked.

ephod‘ephowd – ephod; priestly garment, shoulder-cape or mantle, outer garment

An ordinary priest wore a white ephod.  It’s the high priest’s ephod that we’ll be looking at, having these different colors woven into it.

It appears that the wearing of the ephod had something to do with hearing God’s voice, with trying to find out what God’s will was. (1Sam. 30:7-8)

(1 Sam 30:7-8 NLT)  Then he said to Abiathar the priest, "Bring me the ephod!" So Abiathar brought it. {8} Then David asked the LORD, "Should I chase them? Will I catch them?" And the LORD told him, "Yes, go after them. You will surely recover everything that was taken from you!"

Play the “Ephod” video

:7 "It shall have two shoulder straps joined at its two edges, and so it shall be joined together.

:8 "And the intricately woven band of the ephod, which is on it, shall be of the same workmanship, made of gold, blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine woven linen.

:9 "Then you shall take two onyx stones and engrave on them the names of the sons of Israel:

:10 "six of their names on one stone, and six names on the other stone, in order of their birth.

:11 "With the work of an engraver in stone, like the engravings of a signet, you shall engrave the two stones with the names of the sons of Israel. You shall set them in settings of gold.

:12 "And you shall put the two stones on the shoulders of the ephod as memorial stones for the sons of Israel. So Aaron shall bear their names before the LORD on his two shoulders as a memorial.

:13 "You shall also make settings of gold,

:14 "and you shall make two chains of pure gold like braided cords, and fasten the braided chains to the settings.

:12 …So Aaron shall bear their names before the LORD on his two shoulders as a memorial.


Burdens and loads

Having the names on Aarons shoulders speaks of him “carrying” the people and their needs into God’s presence.
The Bible says
(Gal 6:2 NKJV)  Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
burdensbaros – heaviness, weight, burden, trouble
The Bible also says
 (Gal 6:5 NKJV)  For each one shall bear his own load.

loadphortion – a burden, load; it’s literally a “smaller load” (diminutive)

From Boundaries (Cloud & Townsend, pg. 33): 
“The Greek words for burden and load give us insight into the meaning of these texts.  The Greek word for burden means “excess burdens,” or burdens that are so heavy that they weigh us down.  These burdens are like boulders.  They can crush us.  We shouldn’t be expected to carry a boulder by ourselves!  It would break our backs.  We need help with the boulders – those times of crisis and tragedy in our lives.
“In contrast, the Greek word for load means “cargo,” or “the burden of daily toil.”  This word describes the everyday things we all need to do.  These loads are like knapsacks.  Knapsacks are possible to carry.  We are expected to carry our own.  We are expected to deal with our own feelings, attitudes, and behaviors, as well as the responsibilities God has given to each one of us, even though it takes effort.
“Problems arise when people act as if their “boulders” are daily loads, and refuse help, or as if their “daily loads” are boulders they shouldn’t have to carry.  The results of these two instances are either perpetual pain or irresponsibility.”
One of the responsibilities that we have as priests is to care for others, to help with their “burdens”
We might help a person financially, with our time, or with physical effort.

When Jesus told the story of the “Good Samaritan” (Luke 10), the priest didn’t help the man who had been beaten up and left for dead.  That was a burden.

As a good priest, one of the greatest ways we can help carry a burden is to bear the burden on our shoulders before God in prayer.
One of the traps we can fall into as priests though, is not learning to say “no” to carrying another person’s “load”.
When an able-bodied person refuses to get a job and work, we’re not helping them when we give them money.  We’re carrying their “load”, the thing they need to learn to carry.
This is why the Bible says,

(2 Th 3:10 NKJV)  For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.

May God give us the wisdom to tell the burdens from the loads.  May He help us to help carry the burdens.

:15-30 The Breastplate

The next piece of equipment is called the “breastplate of judgment”, or one of the ways that the nation would be able to determine God’s will.  It would be a pouch worn on top of the ephod.

Play the description of the breastplate.

:15 "You shall make the breastplate of judgment. Artistically woven according to the workmanship of the ephod you shall make it: of gold, blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine woven linen, you shall make it.

:16 "It shall be doubled into a square: a span shall be its length, and a span shall be its width.

:17 "And you shall put settings of stones in it, four rows of stones: The first row shall be a sardius, a topaz, and an emerald; this shall be the first row;

:18 "the second row shall be a turquoise, a sapphire, and a diamond;

:19 "the third row, a jacinth, an agate, and an amethyst;

:20 "and the fourth row, a beryl, an onyx, and a jasper. They shall be set in gold settings.

:21 "And the stones shall have the names of the sons of Israel, twelve according to their names, like the engravings of a signet, each one with its own name; they shall be according to the twelve tribes.

:22 "You shall make chains for the breastplate at the end, like braided cords of pure gold.

:23 "And you shall make two rings of gold for the breastplate, and put the two rings on the two ends of the breastplate.

:24 "Then you shall put the two braided chains of gold in the two rings which are on the ends of the breastplate;

:25 "and the other two ends of the two braided chains you shall fasten to the two settings, and put them on the shoulder straps of the ephod in the front.

:26 "You shall make two rings of gold, and put them on the two ends of the breastplate, on the edge of it, which is on the inner side of the ephod.

:27 "And two other rings of gold you shall make, and put them on the two shoulder straps, underneath the ephod toward its front, right at the seam above the intricately woven band of the ephod.

:28 "They shall bind the breastplate by means of its rings to the rings of the ephod, using a blue cord, so that it is above the intricately woven band of the ephod, and so that the breastplate does not come loose from the ephod.

:17-21 the stones…

On the front of this breastplate would be twelve jewels in gold settings.

If you look carefully at the list of twelve stones that were put on the breastplate, you will find a parallel with the twelve foundation stones in the city of New Jerusalem in heaven. (Rev. 21:19-20)

(Rev 21:19-20 NKJV)  The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with all kinds of precious stones: the first foundation was (12) jasper, the second (5) sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth (3) emerald, {20} the fifth (11) sardonyx, the sixth (1) sardius, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth (10) beryl, the ninth (2) topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh (7) jacinth, and the twelfth (9) amethyst.

I can match all but three of the stones between the two lists, and knowing the differences in the original languages, differences between ancient Hebrew and ancient Greek, I feel pretty confident that they are the same stones.

It’s as if the priests are wearing bits and pieces of heaven.


God's people: Priceless.

Don't forget that these stones were again another representation of the tribes of Israel before the Lord.
Each tribe represented by a precious stone.  Each stone had the name of a tribe engraved on it.
What do you think of God's people?  Too much trouble?  Are they garbage?  Or precious stones?  It all depends on your heart, not their actions.
Cheerleading, tumbling lessons and camps since age 3: $30,000
Annual cost of attending USC: $ 50,000
Annual cost for staying just the right shade of blonde: $10,000
Cheering when the other team scores: Priceless

:29 "So Aaron shall bear the names … over his heart


Ministry is a labor of love.

Do you have a “heart” for the people you represent before God?
Look at Paul’s heart towards the people he worked with:
(1 Th 2:7-8 NKJV)  But we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children. {8} So, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us.
Serving without love is wrong.
(1 Cor 13:3 NKJV)  And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.

:30 …put in the breastplate of judgment the Urim and the Thummim…

judgment – the idea is about finding out God’s will, His judgment on certain decisions.

(Exo 28:30 NLT)  …Thus, Aaron will always carry the objects used to determine the Lord's will for his people whenever he goes in before the LORD.

Urim‘Uwriym – “lights”; plural of ‘uwr – flame, light of fire

ThummimTummiym – “perfection”; plural of tom – integrity, completeness

Joseph Smith thought these were magical glasses.

Truthfully, we really don't know what they are.  Some suggestions:

1. White stone, black stone.

The priest asks God a question, reaches into the pouch, and if the white stone came out then the answer was “yes”, the black meant “no”.
The problem with this theory is that sometimes the answers were a little more complicated than just “yes” or “no”.

2. Sparkling gems

Perhaps these objects somehow caused the jewels in the breastplate to light up in a manner that would give God’s answer to a question.

3.  A picture of God giving enlightenment (“lights”) and perfect knowledge (“perfections”) in answer to the priest’s prayers.

:31-43 Additional Clothing

Play “Robe/additional clothing” video.

:31 "You shall make the robe of the ephod all of blue.

:32 "There shall be an opening for his head in the middle of it; it shall have a woven binding all around its opening, like the opening in a coat of mail, so that it does not tear.

:33 "And upon its hem you shall make pomegranates of blue, purple, and scarlet, all around its hem, and bells of gold between them all around:

:34 "a golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate, upon the hem of the robe all around.

:35 "And it shall be upon Aaron when he ministers, and its sound will be heard when he goes into the holy place before the LORD and when he comes out, that he may not die.

:34 "a golden bell and a pomegranate

The robe was decorated with:

pomegranates – it speaks of fruitfulness

Jon Courson notes:  Of all the fruits in the world, none has more seeds than the blood-red interior of a pomegranate. On the Cross, Jesus shed His blood in order that His Spirit might bear much fruit through seeds like you and me.

bells – I wonder if the bells didn’t have a practical aspect to them.

They seem to me to be a bit like a warning system.  As long as you could hear Aaron’s bells tinkling behind the curtain, you knew he was still alive.

But when the bells stopped making their noise … “Houston, we have a problem”

Tradition tells us that the priests eventually developed a system of tying a rope to the high priest’s ankle.  If he died inside the Holy of Holies (like being struck by fire from God for being unholy), no one had to go in and get him, you just pulled on the rope.

:36-38 The Turban

:36 "You shall also make a plate of pure gold and engrave on it, like the engraving of a signet: HOLINESS TO THE LORD.

Holinessqodesh – apartness, sacredness, separateness.  It’s the concept of being set apart for a special use, being set apart for God’s use.

The high priest had this stamped on his head.


Holiness on the brain

I wonder if any of us would live our lives any differently than we do if we had a gold plate stuck on our foreheads that read, “For God’s Exclusive Use”.
I did a quick unscientific search of the songs we sing at church – nearly 200 of our songs contain the word “holy” or “holiness”.  That’s a lot of songs.
When you hear that word in a song, it’s usually talking about God being holy.
I would challenge you and I to listen to that word when we sing and think about it being stamped on our foreheads.
I’m not trying to make us feel guilty for not being holy – we’re already guilty of that.
My desire is that we learn to let God change us, cleaning us, transforming our minds and lives that we might be more like Him.
How do we grow in holiness?
1. Change your thinking
(Rom 12:2 NLT)  Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is.

One of the ways that God can change our “thoughts” is by changing the things we put into our heads.

There used to be an old computer programming term – GIGO – Garbage in, Garbage out.  The computer is only as good as the programming you put into it.

I bet that if you cut out some of the garbage you feed your brain, your thoughts would change.  I bet if you spent a little more time feeding your head good stuff, your thoughts would change.

2. Train with discipline
(Heb 12:11 NLT)  No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening--it is painful! But afterward there will be a quiet harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.

I have been learning about diet and exercise.  I’m eating less.  I’m eating better.  I exercise every day.  You know what happens when you keep that up every day for six months?  You lose weight.  You feel better.  Your pants and shirts get bigger.

Is dieting and exercising fun? I don’t think so.  But when I turned the corner on doing it anyway, things change.

Discipline in holiness works the same way.  Change your diet.  Exercise.

3. Lean on the Holy Spirit
(1 Th 4:7-8 NLT)  God has called us to be holy, not to live impure lives. {8} Anyone who refuses to live by these rules is not disobeying human rules but is rejecting God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.

The context of this passage is about holiness, especially when it comes to living a pure life, not an immoral life.

The Holy Spirit wants to produce “holy-ness” in us.  We need to lean on Him and let Him do that.

This is the true key to holiness – what comes from the Holy Spirit.


Put on your gear

Carry burdens
Love God’s people


:37 "And you shall put it on a blue cord, that it may be on the turban; it shall be on the front of the turban.

:38 "So it shall be on Aaron's forehead, that Aaron may bear the iniquity of the holy things which the children of Israel hallow in all their holy gifts; and it shall always be on his forehead, that they may be accepted before the LORD.

bear the iniquity –

Exodus 28:38 (NLT) Aaron must wear it on his forehead so he may take on himself any guilt of the people of Israel when they consecrate their sacred offerings. He must always wear it on his forehead so the Lord will accept the people.

Exodus 28:38 (The Message) It is to rest there on Aaron’s forehead. He’ll take on any guilt involved in the sacred offerings that the Israelites consecrate, no matter what they bring. It will always be on Aaron’s forehead so that the offerings will be acceptable before God.

As representative of the people, he bore their guilt when presenting their gifts. . . . to the Lord.

hallowqadash – to consecrate, sanctify, prepare, dedicate, be hallowed, be holy, be sanctified, be separate

(Hiphil) to set apart, devote, consecrate; to regard or treat as sacred or hallow; to consecrate

:39 "You shall skillfully weave the tunic of fine linen thread, you shall make the turban of fine linen, and you shall make the sash of woven work.

:40-43 For the sons

:40 "For Aaron's sons you shall make tunics, and you shall make sashes for them. And you shall make hats for them, for glory and beauty.

:41 "So you shall put them on Aaron your brother and on his sons with him. You shall anoint them, consecrate them, and sanctify them, that they may minister to Me as priests.

:42 "And you shall make for them linen trousers to cover their nakedness; they shall reach from the waist to the thighs.

:43 "They shall be on Aaron and on his sons when they come into the tabernacle of meeting, or when they come near the altar to minister in the holy place, that they do not incur iniquity and die. It shall be a statute forever to him and his descendants after him.