Making the Priestly Garments
Open Your Bible
Exodus 39:1-43, Psalm 110:1-4, Hebrews 5:1-10
BY Erin Davis
I believe with all my heart that these detailed descriptions of the construction of the tabernacle in Exodus are as much the inspired Word of God as my favorite psalm. But for a free-spirited, color-outside-the-lines kind of girl like me, the sheer number of details recorded in these chapters gives me flashbacks to my freshman accounting class.
Why did the Lord instruct Moses to build altars and tables, lampstands and basins, tunics and turbans with such extreme attention to detail? Why were these details recorded so meticulously? All these centuries later, what do they have to teach us about the character of God and our relationship with Him?
Let’s zero in for a moment on Exodus 39, where we find the description of the priestly garments. This was more than a garment. With gold and stones, bells and crowns, this was an ensemble made to take our breath away. But why? Aaron’s robes weren’t designed to turn heads at Fashion Week. They wouldn’t be sold to the highest bidder. So why was such detailed extravagance needed?
Peel away the layers, and we find the answer in a single thread. The scarlet thread mentioned over and over in Exodus 39 is the same thread that is stitched throughout all of God’s Word. It is the thread God used to sew together garments of grace for Adam and Eve after the fall (Genesis 3:21). It is the thread that signaled salvation from Rahab’s window (Joshua 2:18). And most significantly, we see it at the cross, as trails of blood stream down our Savior’s face as evidence of His atonement for our sins.
Aaron’s priestly garments were woven with red thread, a picture of the gospel illustrated by the thread of salvation woven throughout all of God’s Word. The weight of the robe covered with stones was symbolic of the burden of sin; as Aaron slipped it on, I imagine its heaviness reminded him of the weight of his own sin and of ours. The crown on the priest’s head was a shadow of the crown of salvation purchased for us at Christ’s cross.
The garment maker couldn’t have known it, but he was preaching the gospel. Stitch by meticulous stitch, he was proclaiming salvation was near. Through the lens of the cross we see these extravagant robes showcase an extravagant gospel.
It’s possible the craftsmen tasked with the minutiae of the tabernacle felt overwhelmed and even belabored by the tedium of so many details. Obedience can often feel like that. As we shepherd our own children, or serve in other often thankless ways, or pull out our Bibles listening for God’s voice again and again, there are times when we all wonder, Why does all of this matter?
The answer rarely seems to come in the moment, but in hindsight we see that routine obedience to the Lord always reveals the gospel thread. He is using our seemingly small acts of surrender to transform these filthy rags into robes of righteousness. As we trust and obey, we can look back and sigh with gratitude saying we have “done just as the LORD commanded” (Exodus 39:43).