For Glory and For Beauty

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.

for glory and for beauty

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. 

8 comments on “For Glory and For Beauty

  1. I don’t know you, Anne; but I saw a tweet you wrote and had to “discover” your blog today. I absolutely love this post. I’ve been focusing on the word “wonder” (as in wonder of God) and as I have, I’ve considered the beauty and glory our Father God has, as well as the beauty and glory He bestows on us in Christ.

    I loved this: “…when we are clothed in the righteousness of Christ we display another beauty, one that goes much deeper.” Oh that we would embrace that with our hearts, not just our minds.

    • Amen, Dawn! I love that the Lord continues to show us more of HImself through His Word, don’t you? Thanks for clicking through to read. I love connecting with others who are seeking Him with all their hearts! I don’t think I think of God’s “wonder” enough, so thanks for sharing that, too!

  2. Thank you for this post, Anne. I love how the word of God is alive. The more we read, the more we see, even when we’ve read it many times! Thank you, Mary, for taking the time to shed insight into the passage in Exodus.

  3. I love this, Anne. Love it! I think walking the Christian walk sometimes can feel like such a routine of “I wish I was more this way” or “I need to be more like that” or “I’m not doing enough”…but the life God has given us IS for his glory and for beauty. And if I can just remember that and really believe it, then it lends so much significance to everyday life. When I know I’m clothed in Christ, even the littlest details can mean glory and beauty…

    • I completely agree, Melissa! And it’s nice to know that these garments that were for glory and for beauty were not jus the outer, seen ones, but the underneath ones, too! 🙂

  4. How can I refuse such a lovely endorsement or such a interesting topic.

    I love how your heart has expressed your interpretation of the Scripture. I’m sure the Lord is pleased as well, since His goal is ever and always to draw our hearts to Himself.

    There are several reasons they were told to wear these specific items. The Rabbis have spent 1000s of years discussing these points of detail. (Just an aside: I don’t skip these chapters ever…the tabernacle descriptions, construction and set up are well over 50 chapters. No other single topic is covered more specifically than this one. I assume it is very important to Him and have spent many years delighting in the discoveries within). Welcome to the endless pleasures of uncovering His heart – the only physically places on earth that He choose to inhabit.

    I am going to copy an article that I wrote a good while ago but also make a few comments as well. Disclaimer: THIS WILL BE A LONG POST!

    The priests of other cultures in that time period – if they wore anything at all – were clothed to entice and to sensually lure the worshiper into sexual gratification. If fact, in one part of the description of the priest’s clothing it mentions modesty as they go up the stairs…that juxtaposed to priests with little or no clothing is a huge statement. As if to underscore: “The priests of the Most High God will be different in many ways from what you have known before.”

    I love how you have seen the connection to our current expression of the system of worship that is still in place. We don’t have a physical Tabernacle anymore – WE ARE THE TABERNACLE!!! All the underlying concepts of holiness and purity, of God’s presence and His protection around and in the Tabernacle/Temple still are expected of us. We should keep ourselves from defilement, we should let His light shine forth, we should be available to assist others with their worship, we should offer ourselves as a living sacrifice…
    So too, what we “wear,” both physically and spiritually, should reflect His presence in our lives. Modest dress, fruits of the spirit, and constantly communing with the Lord as the priests did then; we should still do today.

    For beauty and for glory…our job is to magnify His glory throughout the whole earth. We need to let His Holy Spirit, and the others He allows, polish us up and provide a true reflection of the worship our Tabernacle enjoys.

    Here is the article: it focuses more on the commanded clothing for all the children of Israel but you might enjoy its content anyway.

    Godly Garments

    Few things identify the Orthodox Jew more than their dress. Those Jews who wear the fringes on their garments do so in honor to God since it was God who commanded them to be worn. The Scriptural passage in Numbers 15:37-41 gives God’s intentions for their use. They were to be a reminder to anyone who saw them that whenever and wherever the person was that they were set apart to serve God by keeping His commandments. It was a witness to others and a reminder to themselves.

    What identifying element is there in your life that sets you apart for God’s service? Josh McDowell has been quoted, as saying, “if you were arrested for being a Christian would there be enough evidence to convict you?”

    “Throughout all your generations to come you are to make tassels on the corners of your garments, with a blue cord on each tassel. You will have these tassels to look at and so you will remember all the commands of the Lord, that you may obey them…”

    Sounds like God is telling them to “tie a string” around their fingers to remember to do something. Only He is commanding them to remember it daily because it is so important that they be “consecrated” to Him.

    Like many other commandments that God directed it is not explicit as to how it should be done. Therefore, traditions were added concerning the use of the Tzitziyot. God did say that one cord had to be blue. Which tradition says was to focus their attention on heavenly things. This longer cord was bound together with three shorter lengths making four threads on each corner of their garments. The cords were doubled and tied in a series of five double knots to add up to thirteen. Adding this number to the numerical value of the word “tzitzit” (600) equals the number of commandments found in the Torah. In this way the tassels are a reminder to follow all of God’s commandments.

    The threads of the tassels were also bound together by winding (qavah) them between the knots. (Isaiah 40:31) These were significant because each fringe has a total of 39 windings. This corresponds to the numerical value of “ADONAI Echad.” They therefore also bring to mind that God is One. (Deuteronomy 6:4)

    These four tassels were originally worn on their garments as a part of everyday life. However, during the Middle Ages, when Jews were scattered among all the nations this very clear identifying symbol lead to persecution and danger. Therefore, the custom was modified so that these fringes were worn only in the synagogue. Orthodox Jews still fulfill the commandment by wearing an undergarment that carries fringes (tallit katan). This is worn only during waking hours since the Scripture says that “you will look on them” and since you sleep with your eyes closed you can’t see them at night.

    Today the prayer shawl has become the expression of this commandment. Observant Jews wrap themselves in the prayer shawl to pray. It is as if they enfold themselves in the Torah and it’s commandments to get alone with God and to be set apart to His will. Yet, one important element is missing from the modern tassels – the blue thread. This custom was changed after the destruction of the temple. Without a functioning priesthood the practice of making and using the traditional dye fell into disuse and was forgotten. Also the sea snail that was the source of the blue dye disappeared and until recently was unavailable. Still the prayer shawl is a link to the customs that were present during the Biblical era.

    The Bible gives us several insights into the practice of these tassels. In Malachi 4:2 it says, “the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in his wings.” The word that is translated as “wings” means corner. This is just were God specified that the tassels should be attached. In Israel the tassels came to represent authority, both the authority of God through the Commandments and also a person’s authority by a life lived in open submission to those laws. Therefore, ripping them off, cutting them away or grasping them could have deep implications. Remember when David was hiding in the caves from King Saul, (see 1 Samuel 24) he cut the corner off of Saul’s cloak – in essence David was saying, your authority is gone, you are as a dead man. Observe too his great remorse for his actions. Compare this to Matthew 9:20-22. When this woman reached out to grasp the edge of His garment she was very clearly stating that she believed that He was a righteous man with the authority of God’s word and that because of Malachi’s prophecy she expected to be healed by her connection through His fringes.

    This woman’s story is significant for other reasons also. This day in Jesus’ life is also told in Mark 5. Jarius’ daughter is ill. He is a leader in a local synagogue and is desperate to have Yeshua, a righteous Jewish Rabbi, come and bless his daughter that she might be made whole. On the way the woman mentioned above creates a problem. She makes Jesus unclean. Leviticus 15:19-28 specifies that anyone with an issue of blood should be separated from others because she would defile them. This leader in the synagogue would have known that it was impossible for Jesus to enter his house after this. Jesus knew that something happened the moment she touched Him. The Power (Greek – dunimis; Hebrew – gevorah) went out from Him through the tzitziyot. No wonder she was trembling and afraid. She had publicly broken the law by making someone unclean. She was in trouble. But, Jesus validates her and confirms the healing He knows has taken place. However, He is still unclean. At that moment a servant arrives to tell Jarius the bad news. Jesus tells this grieving man not to be afraid, only to keep trusting. Since the girl is dead His condition of being unclean is no longer a problem, so they continue to Jarius’ home. When they arrive the mourners ridicule Jesus for His comment that she is only sleeping. Everyone there knows that she is dead. Non-the-less Jesus takes only the parents and a few disciples into the room. While there Jesus performs a miracle and restores this child to her parents.

    Most Bibles translate this portion of Scripture leaving some of the passage unaccounted for. Two words are difficult to communicate in English and so they are usually left out. “Taking her by the hand, he said to her “Talitha, kumi!” (Mark 5:41) So how should we interpret the missing words? In an article for “Restore!” magazine Dr. Doug Wheeler has provided an in depth explanation for consideration. It is his understanding that the Hebrew Jesus spoke could be rendered more like, “He grasped the hand belonging to the girl and said ‘I am God’s authority speaking to a girl under a tallit, get up.’” Moments later He tells those present not to speak about this. This is not because the girl was raised from the dead, everyone knew she was dead and would have seen that miracle. Dr. Wheeler thinks that it is because of how He identified Himself as having God’s authority so clearly. Jesus was very openly proclaiming Himself as the Messiah. Since it was not time yet for this to be revealed, this was the fact that he wanted those present to keep silent about.

    Yet, isn’t this the very knowledge that drove the woman with the issue of blood to grab His tzitziyot? Someday everyone will see it clearly, “AdonaiI T-sav’ot says, ‘When that time comes, ten men will take hold – speaking all the languages of the nations – will grab hold of the cloak of a Jew and say, “We want to go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.’” Zechariah 8:23. People will recognize that it is only by serving God that they can be saved. It is only through the pathway that He establishes that they will find safety and peace. It is only through personally binding with God through Jesus that they will be brought into the kingdom.

    Another garment that observant Jews wear is rather identifying. It is called a Kippah. The Scriptural mandate for this head covering comes from Exodus 28:1-4. The priests represented God to the people and among their holy clothing was a turban with “Holy to the LORD” written on the front. Although originally just required of the priests the Jewish community at large determined that if the priests should wear it than all of God’s servants should also be required to wear coverings on their heads has a sign of submission to God. It also showed humility before an almighty God so that, as the Babylonian Talmud says, “the fear of God will be upon you.” It could also be said that a reminder that “someone” watches over would be an effective way to focus attention on our relationship to God.

    Historically this custom did not become universally accepted until the 1700’s. It is interesting to note that the Yiddish word “yarmulke” is an acronym for the Hebrew expression “yirey m’Elohim.” (the “fear of God”) Therefore, Jews are always to walk in submission and humility before the God who is always watching over them. This issue of authority is the concept in question in the passage that Paul writes to the Corinthians. 1 Corinthians 11:2-12 discusses a cultural challenge being faced by the congregation. As with many other letters that Paul wrote he is dealing with a specific issue that this fellowship of believers faced. He told men to uncover their heads to be different from the male temple prostitutes and he told the women to cover their heads to identify them as unlike the female pagan temple priestesses who often shaved their heads. (Some of them may have been members and Paul wanted to make sure that no one thought that they continued in their previous occupations.) What Paul’s is focusing them on is that no matter what society you are part of be set apart to God. The real issue is one of public submission to God and His authority in your life. Later in this same letter Paul says that the greatest mandate to a life submitted to God is LOVE. (1 Corinthians 13) It is not the wearing, or not wearing, of the Kippah or Tallith that shows others of your submissive relationship to God, but rather the life of love that you live openly before others.

    • Wow. I knew you’d have lots of cool information, Mary! Thank you for taking the time to post it here! I’m sure others will find it as fascinating as I did. (And yes, I knew you didn’t gloss over those parts! And I’ve been learning not to, either!)

Comments are closed.