Exodus 28:2-5. 2 And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty. 3 You shall speak to all the skillful, whom I have filled with a spirit of skill, that they make Aaron’s garments to consecrate him for my priesthood. 4 These are the garments that they shall make: a breastpiece, an ephod, a robe, a coat of checker work, a turban, and a sash. They shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother and his sons to serve me as priests. 5 They shall receive gold, blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and fine twined linen.
God’s instructions to Moses have moved us from the tabernacle to the priests. All priests will be set apart from the tribe of Levi (Moses and Aaron’s tribe). These are holy men wearing holy garments. Clothes that reflect the glory and beauty of God. No priest would dare to approach the Lord without these holy vestments.
Clothes are a big deal in the Bible. Adam and Eve started out naked without shame, but when they sinned God gave them clothes to cover up the shame of their nakedness. They tried to make aprons of leaves, but God made them robes of animal skins. So clothes are important for covering up shame and guilt. “Uncovering nakedness” is a big no-no in the Torah. If we keep reading in Exodus we will eventually get to the holy underwear for priests, essential for modesty. And of course, as we saw back in Exodus 20, the altar can not have steps lest anyone see up the priests ephod.
But clothes do more than just cover up nakedness. They create a whole new identity for the wearer. Like a uniform or a superhero’s costume, clothes tell us exactly who we’re dealing with. They literally give a person authority, status, and power.
The priest’s clothes were made out of the same materials as the tabernacle itself. They were dressed for the specific purpose that they were given by God. Their clothes left no doubt who and whose they were. Their clothes left no doubt as to their purity and their purpose.
Notice the prophet Zechariah’s vision of the high priest Joshua and his clothes:
Zechariah 3:1-5. Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. 2 And the Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, O Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?” 3 Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. 4 And the angel said to those who were standing before him, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” And to him he said, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.” 5 And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the Lord was standing by.
In Christ we too are clothed with priestly garments. The clothes of Christ’s life. His beauty and glory. His purity and purpose. All our shame removed and all our iniquity gone. Only when clothed in him can we enter the presence of God.
And clothed in him is what we are.
Galatians 3:26-27. 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
Like the story of Joshua the high priest, Jesus (same name) our high priest has taken our filthy garments and traded them in for pure vestments. Now we are the new self.
Ephesians 4:21-24. 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
We were (past tense) taught to put off the old self and put on the new. That’s our salvation. That’s our new garments. That’s our new identity as priests before God.
And that’s our new motivation to constantly day by day put off sin and put on Christ – our new identity. We are the product of our new position in Christ. If our uniform looks like Christ why not live like it? Why not strive to live up to this new identity that we’ve been given in Christ?
But what if we fail?
Then praise God we have a Savior who has already succeeded in our place. A great high priest who has already offered the final sacrifice for sins.
“To live is Christ” has clothed you in the pure priestly garments of Jesus Christ. His cross has taken your shame and his resurrection has clothed you in eternal robes of righteousness. Having put on the life of Christ, may we now daily put on the love of Christ as we serve today as priests in the kingdom of God.
Colossians 3:12-14. 12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.