Bible reading for March 17: Exodus 28; John 7.
"So Aaron shall bear the names of the sons of Israel in the breastpiece of judgment on his heart, when he goes into the Holy Place, to bring them to regular remembrance before the LORD." (Exodus 28:29)
In Exodus we are in a section dealing with the priests (Ex 28-31). There is a remarkable parallel between the role of the high priest in the OT and the high priesthood of Lord Jesus revealed in the NT. For example, compare Ex 28 with Jesus' priestly prayer in John 17...
The High Priest's work is..
1) A sanctifying work. The high priest's concern was for the purity of God's people. "Holy to the Lord" applied not just to the priest but to the people he represented (Ex 28:2, 36-38). The Lord Jesus, as our High Priest, prays for our sanctification, our growth in holiness (Jn 17:14-19).
2) A unifying work. The names written on the onyx stones upon Aaron's shoulders (28:9-12) and the twelve stones in the breastpiece over his heart (28:15-22, 29) represented the one people of God in twelve tribes. This is why Psalm 133 speaks of the unity of God's people being like the anointing oil upon Aaron, the high priest who wore all those gems together on his person. Likewise, our Lord Jesus prays for the unity of his people, that they "may be one even as we are one," with the Father and the Son (Jn 17:20-23).
3) A beautifying work. The priests were to be dressed in beautiful clothing (28:2, 40). The breastpiece with its twelve gems, along with the gold and colorful embroidery, must have been stunning to see. These stones, set in a square, foreshadowed the glory of the New Jerusalem (Rev 21:10-16). Likewise, Jesus as our High Priest, prays that we will be with him to share his glory forever (Jn 17:5, 24).
These are not three separate works, but three dimensions of the priestly work. Christ's work for us, and in us, is to purify us (grow us in holiness), to unify us (in truth and reconciliation), and to beautify us (with his glory forever). We must not think of Christ's priestly work as merely removing the guilt and shame of sin. There is much more. He removes the ugliness of our marred condition in order to restore us to his beautiful image. He gives glory and beauty to us. Isaiah 61:3 says,
"...to grant to those who mourn in Zion - to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified."
So our salvation, like the beautiful creation he first made, is a work of glorious beauty. There is glory in learning God's ways of holiness. There is glory in a unified community, living and loving truth together. And there is glory in his eternal presence, seeing and reflecting his goodness forever. "They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads" (Rev 22:4). What a destiny!
The Urim and Thummim (28:20) were likely sacred lots used for determining God's will in matters of judgment. See ISBE or the NET Bible notes for more information.
"If anyone's will is to do God's will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority." (John 7:17)
Living water. John chapter 7 contains that wonderful invitation and promise from Jesus, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, 'Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water'" (Jn 7:37b-38). Water in the Middle-east was quite literally, life itself. It meant life for plants, crops, livestock, wildlife, and people of every station and age. Without water, everything died. Here our Lord promises a source of water (life) that will not dry up. Jesus invites all ("anyone") to come and drink. Now, what conditions must be true of us before we come to Christ to receive this living water? Only that we are thirsty. Are you parched from your weary attempts at doing life in your own way? Have all your inner resources and answers and strength and perceived goodness dried up with the hot, dry wind of reality? Are you thirsty now for the life that only God can provide, which he freely promises to provide? Do you want the life, the eternal life, that God gives? If so, Jesus says, "come to me and drink."
Confused minds. One of the things that stands out to me from John 7 -- and it is a recurrent theme -- is the people's inability to understand Jesus. One after the other, his brothers (7:1-9), the crowds (7:10-13; 20-24), and then the Pharisees (7:32, 40-52) all demonstrate their confused thinking about how to deal with Jesus. The Pharisees, along with the chief priests, were educated in the Scriptures, and yet seem to have conveniently forgotten that the Messiah would minister in Galilee (Isa 9). Some were correct in their assertion that the Messiah would come from Bethlehem (Micah 5). But it seemed nobody took the time to actually ask Jesus where he was born! The point is, these very educated, very religious, very privileged people were unable to think clearly, and to judge correctly, because they were not really interested in doing God's will (7:17). Jesus told them, "Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment" (7:24). Even today, how many well-educated people reject Christ for the silliest of reasons. (I know I did.) The Apostle Paul speaks of such willful obtuseness: "They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart" (Eph 4:18), and "... they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools..." (Rom 1:21-22).
Image credit: At top: ceramic replica of breastpiece of high priest by Dr. Avishai Teicher, from Wikimedia Commons. At bottom: my photo of waterfall at Hahn Horticultural Garden, Virginia Tech.
We are following the Robert Murray M'Cheyne (RMM) two-year reading schedule, as arranged by D. A. Carson.
Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.