READ: Exodus 27-28
THINK: The Old Testament sacrificial system was pretty incredible. And sometimes it seems really odd to us as we back at all of God’s detailed instructions for the Tabernacle and the garments for the priests. But here’s the thing: We have a whole lot of history and we have Jesus and we have the Holy Spirit to enlighten us to the truths about who God is and how he loves and forgives us. Israel didn’t. They didn’t even have the words of the Bible written down for them yet. And also, they’d been enslaved for 4 centuries and exposed to all kinds of Egyptian and Mesopotamian mythology that gave them a wrong image of God (or gods) and what he was like. So, all of this stuff is to help them get a right picture of who God is – of his incredible and radical holiness – and of the depths of their own need for forgiveness and for repentance for their rebellion against him. I think that many Christians could do with a serious dose of that message today, myself included!
So often we take God for granted, and we treat his grace as though it comes free or cheap though it certainly didn’t – it cost Jesus his life! And though God gives it to us freely, he doesn’t do so to equip our sin or to allow us to minimize his holiness. One of the things that jumps out of this passage to me as I read it is Exodus 28:36-38, “Make a plate of pure gold and engrave on it as on a seal: holy to the Lord. Fasten a blue cord to it to attach it to the turban; it is to be on the front of the turban. It will be on Aaron’s forehead, and he will bear the guilt involved in the sacred gifts the Israelites consecrate, whatever their gifts may be. It will be on Aaron’s forehead continually so that they will be acceptable to the Lord.” That phrase, “the guilt involved in the sacred gifts [they] consecrate” is an interesting one. It is God’s acknowledgement that even in our following and in our best efforts we fall far short of his holiness.
That’s a pretty sobering thought. God lifts up the veil of our own hearts and allows us to see ourselves for what we really are. How often is our worship lukewarm? How often is our service self-serving? How often is our giving prideful? How often is our public persona a hypocritical cover for the person we are behind closed doors? How often is our devotional life slack? How often do we read the Bible coldly, just to check it off the list? How often do we fall asleep while we’re praying? They’re rhetorical questions, of course, and the list could go on an on. The answer to all of them is “too often.” If we’re honest, our failure to live up to God’s holiness is greater than we’d like to admit. Even our holiest desires and actions are polluted.
But we can take great confidence in this: just as Aaron, in his duties as Israel’s high priest wore the plate upon his turban that said “Holy to the LORD” to represent God’s grace for their shortcomings, so also the great High Priest bore those words upon his brow as he gave his life on the cross for us. Jesus Christ bore our sin – all of it. And so he presents us – frail and fallen as we are – before the Father marked not by our own unholiness but by his holiness. Thank God for his mercy and for our great High Priest!
PRAY: The great reformer Martin Luther used to spend time repenting of his good deeds because of his deep understanding of the way his sin corrupted him and wrong motives that lay somewhere behind all that he did. I encourage you to follow in his footsteps today. Not to be overcome with guilt – as Luther sometimes was – but to be honest before the Lord about your unholiness in the face of his unspeakable holiness. And in that moment of honest, just express the deep gratitude you have for his grace!