Holiness Is Essential

Exodus 28:1-43

Is a good and profitable exercise to periodically take stock of how our way of thinking about self and world around compares with Bible. Things like what is important, what determines value of someone or something, how to relate to God and one another. Constantly seeing / hearing what appears good, often very appealing, but… how does that match up with what God’s word says? Sadly, is true within the church… applies to everything from choosing next pastor to… well, will leave it at that. Something you don’t hear much about these days is need for holiness. Happiness, satisfaction, that’s different story. But holiness… few talk about it, even fewer talk about wanting it for others. “Just want kids / friends / spouse to be happy”.

Variations on word appear several hundred times in Bible, both Old and New Testaments. Learn most about what it means from OT, certainly find out from OT what God thinks about holiness… both ours and his. In present book of Exodus, God’s holiness and man’s lack addressed throughout… chapter 3 on – “take off your sandals, you are standing on holy ground”. Are told about God’s intention to make children of Israel “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation”. Ex. 19:6 Not limited to Jewish people, Peter applies same kind of description to NT believers:

1 Pet. 2:9-10 “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.”

None of us start out “set apart for God’s use”, fully devoted to him. Yet if we are to please God, worship God in way acceptable to him, must be holy. Not just OT priests, all people of God need what cannot provide for themselves. God graciously, lovingly changes all that. So what’s up with this chapter? Seems to be mostly about uniform priests were supposed to wear, especially the high priest.

Since is God making rules here, dress code for priests tells something about God, his character and expectations. And btw, although much of chapter relates to details specific to Israel – principles apply to other situations. Remember who we are according to 1 Peter: “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, his own special people”.

If God has set us free to worship and serve him, we must be holy to be fit for worship – must first be set apart, then Spirit-filled. Is purpose of servant to act for others, they cannot be silent or secret.

A. servants are set apart v.1-2

taken from among the people

was not Aaron’s idea to go into ministry – did not take the honor for himself, was called to it by God (Heb. 5:4), call was confirmed by God (Num. 17), rod that budded

had to follow specific rules regarding ceremonial purity but… important point: acceptable holiness requires distinction, not isolation

and… God’s choice of representative one of us. not one of them – not God, god-like being, angel, but human being warts and all

devoted to serving God

had some pretty common, mundane tasks… along with more significant duties – polishing brass, filling lamps, killing sacrifices, baking bread

wasn’t particular job that was inherently holy – was where tasks were performed, for whose benefit and to whose glory, with what attitude and intent

distinguished by outward appearance

wasn’t clothes that made them holy, was God who did that; outward appearance intended to show they were holy

would have been certain activities priests would not have done while wearing uniform… certain things expected of them when were wearing priestly garments

important for Christian to remember: clothed with Christ’s righteousness, set apart for service to God, distinguished by appearance

B. servants are Spirit-filled v.3-4a

natural talent important but not sufficient

much work to be done, required skilled labor – people gifted with skill of making fine fabric and tailoring clothes… other skills needed later on for construction project

congregation supplied by God with those having natural abilities, probably learned skills in various trades practiced in Egypt

those in the pew must be equipped by Spirit for service

various skills and abilities needed for work of ministry / service in all ages – requires Holy Spirit supplied wisdom and understanding

to serve God by serving one another cannot be done with full effectiveness apart from ongoing help of Holy Spirit

“common” vocation just as much service to God as “priestly duties”

tailors, jewelers, engravers just as vital to God’s work as those offering sacrifices, mediating on behalf of people – God doesn’t distinguish between sacred and secular the way many do

C. servants act for others v.4b-32

continual reminder that priest is representative

on shoulders of ephod, also in breastplate, worn whenever priest carrying out his duties – acting on behalf of others, not just himself

if true of Aaron, definitely true of Lord Jesus and his great priestly sacrificial act – offered himself as sacrifice for his people, mediates now on behalf of his people

names engraved in stone, not simply embroidered

not just common stones picked up at base of Sinai – were precious gemstones enclosed in settings of gold filigree – beautiful, valuable

engraved gemstones endure, do not need replacing – names never lost, what is represented has value and significance

nothing left to chance or innovation

“Worship is an engagement with God on the terms He proposes, and in the way He alone makes possible.” David Peterson, Engaging with God

D. servants cannot be silent v.33-35

gave notice to the people

people could not see what priest was doing esp. inside Holy of Holies – could tell by sound of bells priest was doing divinely appointed task of representing them

reminder to the high priest

priest there by God’s invitation, under God’s supervision, nothing he does on own initiative will be tolerated – v.35, 43 “that he may not die” 2x

tent of meeting not soundproof

people could hear not only bells, also voice of high priest interceding on their behalf – is right and good for people to know / hear

current high priest, Lord Jesus, has absolute right and all necessary qualities to serve in God’s presence – cannot hear him, still assured he is interceding for us (Heb. 7:25)

E. servants cannot be secret v.36-39

specifically identified

no question here who high priest was devoted to: in bold letters for all to see on front of turban – devoted to YHWH

completely clear who he was praying to, who he was sacrificing to, who was to be sole object of worship: YHWH alone

have added privilege now: “whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” John 14:13

required for acceptance

not just high priest’s acceptance in view here, applied to people he represents – no holiness, no identification, no acceptance for anyone or anything

our situation totally hopeless… apart from Lord Jesus – is on Jesus merit alone as our high priest that we “may be accepted before the Lord”

F. holiness is beautiful v.40-43

clothing the symbol, not the source

priestly garments rich, costly, beautiful… but did not give holiness to one wearing them – they do help us know what God considers important and beautiful

outward reflection of inward reality

is only as God calls us and fills us with his Spirit, converts and cleanses us, loves us so we love him in return that we become fully devoted to God’s use

that inward reality brought about solely by grace of God – only merit involved is that of Lord Jesus; because of what God makes us that we have eternal value and significance

for both priest and people

what world considers beautiful is external and temporary, rapidly fading away – what God considers beautiful is “the hidden person of the heart” devoted to his service and use

Holiness still essential today for people of God – God is holy, requires his people to be. Is just as impossible for us to achieve on our own. Means we are totally dependent on another… the Lord Jesus to provide what we lack. Expects us to do our part – pursue it, encourage it, value it.

Has been great pressure to keep matters of faith private, not to be seen or heard in public. By God’s grace, may we pursue holiness so our outward appearance accurately reflects heart and life devoted to God.


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