Chapter 28:31-43 (ESV) - “You shall make the robe of the ephod all of blue. It shall have an opening for the head in the middle of it, with a woven binding around the opening, like the opening in a garment, so that it may not tear. On its hem you shall make pomegranates of blue and purple and scarlet yarns, around its hem, with bells of gold between them, a golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate, around the hem of the robe. And it shall be on Aaron when he ministers, and its sound shall be heard when he goes into the Holy Place before the LORD, and when he comes out, so that he does not die.
“You shall make a plate of pure gold and engrave on it, like the engraving of a signet, ‘Holy to the LORD.’ And you shall fasten it on the turban by a cord of blue. It shall be on the front of the turban. It shall be on Aaron's forehead, and Aaron shall bear any guilt from the holy things that the people of Israel consecrate as their holy gifts. It shall regularly be on his forehead, that they may be accepted before the LORD.
“You shall weave the coat in checker work of fine linen, and you shall make a turban of fine linen, and you shall make a sash embroidered with needlework.
“For Aaron's sons you shall make coats and sashes and caps. You shall make them for glory and beauty. And you shall put them on Aaron your brother, and on his sons with him, and shall anoint them and ordain them and consecrate them, that they may serve me as priests. You shall make for them linen undergarments to cover their naked flesh. They shall reach from the hips to the thighs; and they shall be on Aaron and on his sons when they go into the tent of meeting or when they come near the altar to minister in the Holy Place, lest they bear guilt and die. This shall be a statute forever for him and for his offspring after him.
Question to consider: Why did the high priest wear a plate of gold inscribed with the words, “Holy to the LORD?”
Everything the high priest wore in fulfilling his duties in the tabernacle was filled with meaning. The outer garments like the breastplate related to the outward ministry of mercy and judgment for the people of Israel whereas the inner garments dealt with the holiness of the priest. By “holiness,” I am referring to the priest being set apart by God to do the work of reconciliation for the people of Israel, not that a priest was somehow morally superior by his own merit to the rest of the nation.
The robe was woven with deep blue yarn which symbolized its heavenly origin and purpose. The opening was reinforced so that it could not be torn. The rending of a garment was a sanctified expression of anger, usually done in mourning for death, especially when it was unjust. The priesthood was a vocation of reconciliation, and the rending of the priestly garment was the antithesis of this calling so the garment was reinforced to prevent this occurrence. The pomegranates embroidered into the hem of the robe may have been a symbol of the fruit of God’s word in the life of the priest, and the bells were so that those on the other side of the curtain would know that the high priest was correctly fulfilling his duties and had not been struck down.
The marking of the head and hands throughout scripture was symbolic of a person's thoughts and actions. When the LORD defined how the people should love and worship Him in Deuteronomy 6, the response was to tie God’s Law to their forehead and hands as a way of reminding them that every thought and action should be motivated by that which pleases the LORD. The linen turban was a pure covering for a sinful head. The Targum describes it as a covering for the "pride of man." It was then decorated with a gold plate with the inscription “Holy to the LORD.” This designation was given by God to consecrate the high priest for his work of reconciliation.
Similarly, in the Christian church, when someone has been baptized, the pastor marks their forehead with the sign of the cross and says, “You, child of God, have been sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ forever.” It is the sign and seal that they have been welcomed into the New Covenant of Christ’s kingdom, not by their own works but by the grace of God. God consecrates us for salvation by the precious blood of Christ who was given into death for our sins.
The final instruction was for the people of Israel to provide coverings and vestments for all of the priests who were set apart to represent the people. After the Babylonian exile had ended, there was no tabernacle or temple for which priests could do the work of reconciliation. While the temple was being rebuilt, Zechariah was given a prophetic vision in which their high priest, Joshua, was standing before the LORD in garments that had been stained with his sin. Satan started accusing Joshua before the LORD, but the LORD rebuked Satan and ordered clean linens be given to Joshua. It is the LORD who sanctifies us and makes us clean.
There is no earthly temple today by which the high priest can do the work of reconciliation. This is because Jesus is our great high priest who serves us from the heavenly temple. He is the only one who can make us clean.
Dear heavenly father, thank You for clothing us in the clean robes of Christ’s righteousness, and thank You LORD for taking our filthy garments upon Yourself and nailing them to the cross. Please help us to be about the vocation You have given us for reconciliation. Amen.