30 April 2012

Exodus 28:1-5, 31-38

"And you shall speak to all who have ability, whom I have endowed with skill, that they make Aaron's vestments to consecrate him for my priesthood." (v. 3)


Today's passage asks us to ponder the relationship between beautiful objects and the glory of God. The passage is addressed to Moses and comes in the context of long and detailed instructions for the construction of the tabernacle, a sanctuary where God will dwell (Exodus 25:8). Already, at the beginning of chapter 25, the Israelites have been asked to give freely of their most precious possessions. Now, we read that the Israelites are to make clothing for their great priest out of the very best and most extravagant materials they have available. The language of verse 3 is not entirely clear but appears to imply that the creation of proper clothing for Aaron contributes to his consecration in service to the holy God. It is important that the one leading the Israelites in worship is dressed as impressively and attractively as possible. The reference to the bell in verses 34-35 is a little difficult to interpret, but apparently it was important that the movements of the priest be marked out. Perhaps this was at least partly so that the Israelites might hear him moving around when he was the hidden away in the holy place. However the very end of verse 35 hints at the danger of going into God's presence; it must be clear when the priest is going into and coming out of the presence of God "so that he may not die".

It is important to remember the lives of the people who made these clothes. We should imagine this image of loveliness and extravagance in contrast to the Israelites' life in the desert, which was presumably often dirty, difficult and less than inspiring. Did the difficulty of their everyday lives make beauty in worship even more important for them? Clearly the priest's clothing was meant to evoke a sense of the glory and splendour of God.


To Ponder

Think of your normal experience of worship. What is there which evokes a sense of God's beauty and glory? Do you wish there was more?

Do you find it helpful if those leading worship wear special clothing? To what extent does this enhance worship or deny 'the priesthood of all believers'?

What does help you to reflect on God's beauty?


Bible notes author

The Revd Judith Rossall

Judith Rossall is a Methodist tutor at Queen's Foundation in Birmingham. Before moving to Queen's, she was a circuit minister and taught at STETS in Salisbury.