By Titus Chu
Those who aspire to be New Testament priests must live a sanctified and pure life as they present their riches to those around them. God’s supply to us for this is the priestly garment, as pictured by that worn by Aaron in the Old Testament. This message explores three aspects of this garment: the gold plate worn on the forehead, the five colors making up the garment, and the pomegranates and golden bells on the hem of the skirt.
The Priestly Garment
In revealing His dwelling place to Moses, God first gave him the pattern for the tabernacle with all its furniture so we could know who He is, then later He unveiled the offerings so we would have a way to come to Him. By this picture, we see how we are able to enter into God, enjoy His full salvation, serve Him according to the vision He has given us, and serve our fellow believers to help them into the same. However, God is also concerned with our presentation, and for this He ordained the priestly garments.
There is much to say about these garments. They are complicated and rich in meaning. However we will only concern ourselves with three striking parts: the gold plate worn on the forehead, the five colors making up the garment, and the pomegranates and golden bells on the hem of the skirt.
The Gold Plate
God told Moses, “You shall also make a plate of pure gold and shall engrave on it, like the engravings of a seal, ‘Holy to the Lord’….It shall be on Aaron’s forehead, and Aaron shall take away the iniquity of the holy things which the sons of Israel consecrate, with regard to all their holy gifts; and it shall always be on his forehead, that they may be accepted before the Lord.” (Exo. 28:36, 38).
If we are to be priests, God said that we should wear a gold plate on our forehead carved with the words, “Holy to the Lord.” Such a banner sanctifies us in the eyes of others and keeps us from involving ourselves in unholy things. Once everyone knows we are the Lord’s we will be saved from many things.
When my daughter was going to Harvard she offered to buy me some shirts with Harvard University written on them. I had to turn her down because I belong to the Lord, not to Harvard. It did not seem right to me that a servant of the Lord would walk around advertising Harvard instead of the gospel. Others may be free to do this, but not me. I want to be known by others as one who belongs to the Lord, not to something of the world. My banner as a New Testament priest must be that I am “holy to the Lord.”
This gold plate was to be worn by Aaron on his forehead always. He could not take if off when he wanted to take a side trip to an unholy place to do an unholy thing. Everyone would see it. There are many places we would not go and many things we would not do once we put on such a plate. Other people may have freedom to do as they please, but we who are priests do not.
“They shall take the gold and the blue and the purple and the scarlet material and the fine linen. They shall also make the ephod of gold, of blue and purple and scarlet material and fine twisted linen, the work of the skillful workman” (Exo. 28:5-6). God specifically directed that five colors be used in making the priestly garments: gold, blue, purple, scarlet, and white, the color of fine linen.
Colors can be very meaningful. How we use them tells others a lot about us. Some people dress in wild colors and others with subdued colors. This says a lot about what kind of person each is. Young ladies use colors all the time, adding them to their lips and cheeks to tell others, “Look how lovely I am!” Then they add colorful jewelry to make sure we notice. Of course every young girl is already lovely, and so this kind of added color is totally unnecessary.
The colors God used to cover His priests are very meaningful, starting with gold. As priests we are to wear gold on our forehead, and also in our robe. When people see us serving as priests, they should see that we are unusual—we are golden. In the Bible, gold represents God. People should see that we have God and are one with Him. We display God’s great salvation.
Next we are to wear blue, which represents the heavens. Priests are heavenly beings. As we serve God and man, we are to bear the fragrance of heaven. No earthly or worldly thing should defile us. We do not withdraw from society to go live on a mountain as some have tried to do. We live a very human life among men but our sanctified living bears the heavenly color blue.
After blue comes purple, the color of royalty. When we serve as true New Testament priests, people will respect us as they would a member of a royal family. We are in fact children of the King of Kings. We should not advertise this fact to make demands from others. The purple in our priestly garment says it all, even when we are not aware of it. If our living is that of a serving priest and we continually bring others to Christ, we will automatically have their respect. Their conscience will not allow them to say or do certain things in our presence. They know they are standing before a member of the royal family.
Scarlet is a red color and speaks of our Lord’s redeeming blood. Yes, we have gold, blue, and purple, but scarlet reminds us that we are still sinners saved by grace. Paul wrote, “If anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted” (Gal. 6:1). We serve others with a spirit of gentleness realizing that we too can be tempted. Our living must always present the humility that comes with realizing that we are only the objects of God’s mercy and forgiveness.
Finally, we are robed with the white color of fine linen. Our living is very pure. No doubt there are many things we like and even prefer, but nothing of this world possesses us. We are not taken over by the world and are not ambitious for anything the world offers. We are consumed by the fine linen.
I really respect the leading ones in Cleveland. It is rare to find brothers as gifted as these who remain so pure. They have no thought of building a grand ministry or using the saints to glorify themselves. They just love the Lord and serve the church, and have thus earned the love and respect of everyone. They wear their priestly garments well. All the colors are on display. You can see gold, blue, purple, scarlet, and white in their living, and this causes the church to be healthy.
Pomegranates and Golden Bells
God continued, “You shall make on its hem pomegranates of blue and purple and scarlet material, all around on its hem, and bells of gold between them all around: a golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate, all around on the hem of the robe” (Exo. 28:33-34).
Pomegranates are full of seeds, and represent a rich and abundant life. The Lord wants His priests to wear pomegranates on the hem of their garments, close to their feet. This means that we are to give life everywhere we go. As New Testament priests, we should be full of life and ready to dispense it. I fear that many Christians today walk freely here and there, but have no pomegranates—they have no life to dispense.
With every pomegranate is a golden bell. The bells make noise to announce the presence of the priest. God said that the golden bells “shall be on Aaron when he ministers; and its tinkling shall be heard when he enters and leaves the holy place before the Lord” (v. 35). It’s not enough that we have pomegranates—we must have golden bells also. In other words, it is not enough that we have the seeds of life within—we must speak them out. The highest complement anyone can give New Testament priests is to say that whenever they open their mouths, life comes out. Every time the golden bell rings, a pomegranate comes out. The golden bells and pomegranates are paired up all the way around the hem of the priestly garment, and so they are taken everywhere the priest goes.
If we have the riches of life, the pomegranates, we should speak. We should make some noise by ringing our bells. We should let people hear what we have. It seems that whenever we speak, another pomegranate comes out. The life supply is always ready, waiting for an opportunity. The interesting thing is that, not only do the people who hear us get fed, but we who speak do too. My experience is that whenever I minister something to others, I get an additional supply of life. When we have such riches, we need to speak. When we speak God gives us even more life.
We should not be content to have only one small pomegranate and a tiny, silent bell. If we ring our bell by speaking of what we have, another pomegranate will soon appear. The more we speak, the more life and riches we will receive. Then we will have another bell to ring, another pomegranate, another bell, and so on. Eventually our hem will be full of pomegranates and golden bells. Silence is not our friend. We should fight for opportunities to speak out our riches, whatever they are.
This is to wear the priestly garment. The gold plate sanctifies us and makes us holy to the Lord in our own eyes and in the eyes of others. The robe with its many colors comes from a living that is godly, heavenly, royal, humble and pure. The hem with its pomegranates and golden bells speak of the richness of God’s life in us as we pour out those riches by speaking to others. We should all long to wear such a garment.