I don’t know how many times I read through the book of Exodus as we all do, skimming the eye-crossing details of the tabernacle, the things that don’t quite make sense to us in our day and age and culture. Or jumping from highlight to highlight as if marking off the inventory list. Yep, all the parts are still there.
But one time several years ago as I was reading, I found myself paying attention And when I got to the instructions about the priestly garments in Exodus 28, a phrase struck me that I’d never seen before: for glory and for beauty.
I’ve pondered that phrase a lot in the past few years, especially when my Bible reading takes me back to Exodus. I’m sure my friend Mary Liechty could tell us all kinds of cool things about what that phrase means in the Hebrew and in the whole context of Jewish culture and the tabernacle (and I hope she will in the comments!), but I only know the things that have quickened to my spirit as I’ve read and re-read and meditated on this phrase and its placement within the priestly outfit.
The priests had certain garments they needed to stand before God in worship. Why? “You shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty.” (Exodus 28:2) and “For Aaron’s sons you shall make tunics; you shall also make sashes for them, and you shall make caps for them, for glory and for beauty.” (Exodus 28:40) Don’t you love that their garments both glorified God and displayed beauty?
In the New Testament, we are told that as believers we are a royal priesthood (I Peter 2:9). We are also told we are clothed with Christ (Galatians 3:27) and that Christ is our high priest, our mediator with God (Hebrews 9:11-12). Think about that. We are a priest clothed in the High Priest, standing holy and blameless before God. So when we “put on Christ” (Romans 13:14; Ephesians 4:24), we are arrayed for glory and for beauty, just like those priests of old.
This last time I read through Exodus 28, I thought about the “beauty” part of for glory and for beauty. I had seen it before as an outward beauty, which I think is true. The outfits made for Aaron and his sons were visually beautiful. We know God makes visual beauty. We see it all the time in this world. But I think we miss out when we stop with the physical aspect of beauty, especially in this passage. Can’t you see the “beauty” in God allowing a sinful man to come into His holy presence at all? Or the “beauty” of the way he carries the children of Israel with him on his chest, the names of the tribes etched in stones? There is “beauty” in the service of the priests, not just in their coverings. And so it is with our lives as well. We may or may not display a physical beauty, though I think God has given us all an aspect of that, be it an entire package or just a piece, like fine eyes, a head of hair or a smile that lights up a room. But when we are clothed in the righteousness of Christ we display another beauty, one that goes much deeper. The beauty of redemption. The beauty of new life. The beauty of sanctification. The beauty of love.
I hope next time you and I wonder why we are doing what we’re doing, whether it is visible ministry or intercessory prayer or unloading the dishwasher yet again, we’ll think of being clothed with Jesus and remember He deems it for glory and for beauty.