The Shoulders and Hearts of Priests

While there are many insights one can come to by studying the giving of the law, this particular one stood out to me as I meditated on the Isabella River in Minnesota. Actually, I wasn’t ON the river, but on the campsite which overlooks the river. I was reminded of Minnesota yesterday when the rainstorms came through. Since I already own postal rain gear, I didn’t bother buying a different set for my camping trip. I simply packed my postal rain gear in case it rained. My ONE FRIENDS Jim commented, "If it rains, Darrin’s going postal." We had five days of great weather, and one day of cold, rainy weather where we just stood around a campfire which Jim put much time and effort into maintaining due to the wetness of the wood. Since I was wearing my rain gear when I stood around the campfire, it soaked in the smell of the campfire smoke. So when I pulled my rain gear out to wear on my route yesterday, guess what I smelled? Here is the insight in Exodus 28 which really spoke to me.

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Priests always have the burdens of others on their shoulders and the cares of others on their hearts.

When Moses went up into the mount for 40 days and 40 nights, he wasn’t receiving the law, but the pattern for the tabernacle. In addition to the pattern for the tabernacle, he also received the pattern for the sacred clothing for the high priest and other priests. The way I read the articles of clothing, the high priest had seven things that he was to wear. Six are outlined in Exodus 28:4 and a seventh is mentioned in 28:42. The six are a breastplate, an ephod (ornamented vest), a robe, a skillfully woven tunic (a coat of checker work), a turban, and a sash. The seventh is trousers which were sort of like an undergarment. Seven is a nice number to remember.

The two that stand out to me were to be chained together so they would not come loose from each other, Exodus 39:21. The breastplate and the ephod both contain symbolism which shows the essence of what being a priest is all about. Remember, God had said that Israel would be a kingdom of priests unto them. While being a priest was not something that was completely unknown, they had no official reference of what it meant to be priests before a holy God. So God established the Aaronic priesthood to show them how to be priests.

The ephod was to have two onyx stones set in gold filigree situated right on the shoulders of this vest type piece of clothing. The two onyx stones were to have the names of the twelve tribes of Israel engraved onto them in birth order; six on one, and six on the other. Exodus 28:12 tells us that the stones are for a memorial for the sons of Israel. In other words, the stones are to remember the twelve tribes of Israel. The verse continues that Aaron shall bear their names before the LORD on his shoulders as a memorial.

What does it mean to be a priest? To be a priest means to have the names of others on your shoulders. Shoulders were meant to bear burdens, the burdens of others. The high priest was not to be a priest for himself, but for others. He was to carry the names which represented the entire nation on his shoulders. Priests represent and remember others before the LORD.

The breastplate of judgement was to have four rows of precious stones set in gold filigree, each row having three stones apiece. This meant twelve stones were to be set in a certain order in the breastplate. Each stone was to represent one of the twelve tribes of Israel and would have the name of the tribe engraved like a signet, which sometimes denoted the authority of the clan. It doesn’t say here that they are to be in birth order, but that would make sense. I don’t know for sure which jewels match up with which tribe of Israel. The breastplate of judgement was to be fastened to the ephod in such a way that the names of the twelve tribes of Israel would be directly over the heart of the high priest. Exodus 28:29-30 shows that the high priest was to bear the judgement of the children over his heart as a memorial before the LORD continually. The twelve tribes of Israel were to literally be on his heart at all times when he performed his priestly duties.

What does it mean to be a priest? A priest is someone who takes the names of others upon his heart. When he goes before the LORD, he is not there for himself, but for others. The things that are on his heart to bring before the LORD should be cares of others. The high priest was to carry the names which represented the entire nation of Israel upon his heart. Priests represent and remember others before the LORD.

If you are in Christ, you have been made both a king and a priest. You are now to perform the duties of a priest in the way that God is calling you to. But remember the Word is there to teach of what it means to be a priest. Priests carry the names of others before the LORD upon their shoulders and upon their hearts. We are to remember those names that God has given us to write on our own breastplates.

I also see the gold plate for the turban to be quite significant. The turban was to have a gold plate with the words HOLINESS TO THE LORD inscribed on it. God’s holiness was to be on the head of the high priest at all times. This allowed him to bear the sinfulness of others before the LORD, Exodus 28:38. As priests, we also must have the holiness of God upon us at all times that we might bear the sinfulness of those around us before the LORD. We cannot represent other sinners before the LORD unless we have the holiness of God engraved into our foreheads. We must abide in Christ who possesses all righteousness.

Christ is our high priest. We, as little Christs, or Christians, must imitate Him. We function as priests within the kingdom of priests that He has established. His purpose of establishing a kingdom of priests has not changed. As you enter into the presence of the LORD today, imagine yourself putting on the ephod with the names of others on your shoulders. Then imagine the breastplate on your heart with the names of others engraved upon it. Then imagine the turban on your head with the gold plate upon which is engraved HOLINESS TO THE LORD. Then begin performing your priestly duties in the holy of holies.

Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

-The Orange Mailman

sardius           topaz             emerald

turquoise       sapphire        diamond

jacinth           agate             amethyst

beryl              onyx              jasper

What are the names of the people engraved on the jewels you wear on your heart?

Aren’t they precious to you? They certainly are precious to God.

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