To this day my grandmother still puts out the Christmas throw pillows that I made for her when I was a kid. When my mom taught me how to use the sewing machine, everyone got a pillow because it was the only thing I could make. Sew four straight lines; add batting; adorn with sparkly puff paint. Done. I was very proud. Alas, that’s about where my sewing prowess ended.
I don’t think anything I produced was much in the way of either glory or beauty. But it was made with enthusiasm and enough nearly-straight seams to hold it together.
The skilled artisans called on in Exodus 28 not only had skill, but a spirit of wisdom given by God. Needless to say, these weren’t any old clothes they were tasked to make.
But why did it even matter what the priests wore? After all, God doesn’t care what packaging we wrap ourselves in. He sees the heart, not the outer trappings. Here, God’s holy, set-apart people were represented with these holy, set-apart garments.
Every piece of the priests’ garments had a specific purpose. The ephod was made to carry the names of the tribes of Israel before the Lord. The breastpiece was designed to help the priest make decisions as he carried the twelve tribes symbolically over his heart. The robe would be lined with bells, so the priest could be heard at all times, and retrieved if he died in God’s presence. The turban, worn on the head, was to represent an offering “HOLY TO THE LORD” (Exodus 28:36) for the sins of all of Israel. Every thread and stitch was designed for a reason—for glory and for beauty.
What a beautiful example of what it means to bring God our very best. Not because He needs it. Not because He wants to see us all dressed up. It’s because the priests putting on these garments was a physical act of “ascrib[ing] to the LORD the glory due his name” (Psalm 29:2). Theirs was a high and holy calling, and everything from their head down to their toes was supposed to reflect that. The splendor of these garments wasn’t to glorify the priests. They pointed to God’s glory and God’s beauty.
The problem occurs when we take God-given gifts that are supposed to point us to Him and use them to shine a spotlight on ourselves. We’ve adorned ourselves with the gifts and glory that were never ours to begin with. We’ve longed to be beautiful to the world instead of reflecting back to God His own beauty that He put within us.
Those homemade pillows don’t still have a place of prominence because of their intrinsic beauty. My grandmother loves the one who made them. They point to another. So too, did the beautiful and intricately crafted priestly garments lift the eyes of Israel to another—the most glorious and beautiful One Himself.