If you’ve got a fully mobile worship center with all of the implements of sacrifice, what else do you need? You need people to staff it. You need security, maintenance, helpers, teachers, fire-builders, and someone to be in charge of this whole thing. You need, if you’re in Ancient Israel, priests. And one High Priest who is in charge of the whole lot.
The High Priest, though, is not chosen simply for his looks. In fact, he’s going to come from the same family as most of the other priests. He’s not going to stand out based on looks alone. He needs something to identify him.
So, God commanded in Exodus 28 that the High Priest be clothed in a specific way, and I touched on this issue when we looked at that chapter (link to that post). Here in Exodus 39 (link) we see that those instructions were followed.
I do not, personally, have the artistic ability to render a drawing of what this completed outfit would have looked like, but I can tell you this from the description: the High Priest would have looked funny. Funny may not be the appropriate word. Odd would work, or strange, or different--
But if you saw someone walking the streets today in that garb, you’d call the nice folks at Chumley’s Rest Home to come and get him.
The point of the outfit, though, was to signify the priest and to remind both the priest and the people just exactly who the priest was there to serve: the Lord God Almighty. The goal was not to be fashionable or even comfortable, as I don’t think this would have been either cool or relaxing to wear. Aaron, and his sons after him, were there to serve God, not to garner the approval of Sinai Today readers or make the Mid-East Best Dressed List.
Looking down at the end of the chapter, a spot that’s often easy to miss when the first parts are so detail-oriented, we see how the construction narrative finishes up. Moses inspects the work, pronounces that it has been done correctly, and blesses the workers.
What do we take from this?
First: Just because you are trustworthy does not make you above inspection. Bezalel and Oholiab were named explicitly by God to handle the work. Moses double-checks them anyway. It was necessary to be obedient to God’s commands and so a verification was helpful. Being willing to be examined.
Second: Admit when other people have done well. This is a hard one for people in leadership, it seems. The people who report to you, they deserve the praise when they do the work properly. Do not withhold approval when the work meets the standards that have been set.
Second (Part B): Set high standards and expect them to be met. Do not set low standards and then express frustration when they are not met. That’s nonsense. Also, do not set high standards and then waffle them away. Hold it. Require it to be redone if necessary.
Third: Bless those who do good work. The idea here conveys that Moses publicly praised the work of the workmen. This was the appropriate response.
Finally: Do not expect to be blessed if you do not do things “just as the Lord had commanded.” That is where the success of the workers of God is: obedience to what has been commanded.
That is how we dress for success as God’s people: through full and total obedience.
Today’s Nerd Note: These items would make for a great archaeological find, but no one can find them. It appears that they are lost to us in the ravages of time and warfare. However, it leads to this question: Would it be appropriate to simply remake the robe, ephod, and other garments simply by following these directions? Or was there something specific about the sources used then that could not be copied now?
And what happened to these things? Was the breastpiece taken as spoils of war, the linen disposed of and the jewels reset? That is entirely possible. Who knows, one of those jewels could be in the Tower of London.