portion deals a lot with the Garments and Consecration of the
Kohanim—the Priests. In great detail it describes the intricacies behind
the attire specifically for the “Kohen Gadol—High Priest.” With all of
these instructions concerning the outfit and vestments of the High
Priest, it begs the question…Does God only look at the heart? Most
of us have been taught the axiom “Come as you are.” Yet often, this
phrase seems to be translated by the culture as, “stay as you are.”|
In this portion I want to delve into some of the meaning behind the High Priest’s garments and the significance they have for us in our daily lives. As the writer of Hebrews wrote, the meaning of the Tabernacle is a “…shadow of the heavenly things…” If we can understand the garments of the Priests, then we gain understanding into Heavenly realm.
In the Talmud, Avodah Zarah (“Foreign Worship—Idolatry”) 3a, we read the following, “Rabbi Meir would say: From where is it derived that even a gentile who engages in Torah study is considered like a High Priest? The verse states: ‘You shall therefore keep My statutes and My ordinances, which if a person do, [they] shall live by them’ (Leviticus 18:5). It is not stated: Priests, Levites, and Israelites, but rather the general term person. From here you learn that even a gentile who engages in the study of Torah is like a High Priest.” Here we find that a non-Jew who delves into the depths of Torah; it is as if this person became a High Priest. Therefore, if when one studies Torah, they become as a High Priest; don’t you think the clothing, regulations and duties of a High Priest are important for us to understand?
If we go back to the book of Hebrews, chapter 4 and then chapter 8, we read these verses, “…we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Yeshua the Son of God…Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” And “We have such a High Priest (Yeshua), who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle…” In 1 Timothy it says, “…There is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Messiah Yeshua.” And lastly, from Romans 8, “Who is he who condemns? It is Messiah who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.” From these verses we realize that Yeshua is in the heavenlies, seated at the right hand of the throne of God, as High Priest and Mediator who makes intercession for us.
The order of the Priesthood, as we see laid out in the Torah, were the mediators between God and His people. Yeshua, our Messiah, is also a Mediator and Intercessor between God and mankind. Priests are those who stand in the gap for others. Priests represent God to the people and the people to God.
But what need do we have for priests or intermediaries when the study of Torah equates us with the status of a High Priest?|
Let’s go back to the verse we looked at from the Talmud and read the last line again. “From here you learn that even a gentile who engages in the study of Torah is like a High Priest.” In Hebrew, the last 3 words are “Hu K’Kohen Gadol.” What we’re interested in is the word “K’Kohen” which is literally translated as “like a Priest.” Studying the Torah makes us “K’Kohen Gadol—Like a High Priest,” but it does not make us literal High Priests. We do not replace or usurp the Priesthood of Israel or the High Priest of Heaven. But we can become like them. In Romans 8 we read that we are being “conformed to the image of [God’s] Son.” The Son of God is Yeshua. Yeshua is the High Priest of the Heavenlies. If we are becoming more like Yeshua, then we are becoming more like a High Priest. The Torah tells us that Israel was to be a “Mamlechet Kohanim—A Kingdom of Priests.” Peter, one of Yeshua’s disciples, added to this idea in 1 Peter 2, “…you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people.” From these verses we understand that, God’s people are to become a nation of priests, who are being conformed to the image of the great High Priest, Yeshua.
Last week, I wrote about the idea of each one of us being “a Mikdash—a Sanctuary” for God. This week I want to write about each of us becoming priests for God. A sanctuary is a place where God dwells, a priest is one who does God’s service. Many people want God to dwell inside them, but they don’t want to do the service of God around them. Yet, these two go together. Being a dwelling place for God means that you are a priest and intermediary between God and the world.
I started off by asking the question, “Does God only look at the heart?” But before I started into this topic, I wanted us to understand our place as priests, even like High Priests in the Kingdom of God. If we recognize ourselves as priests of God, then I think asking the question “Does God only look at the heart?” changes the way we think about this question.
In Exodus 28, God instructs garments to be made, “holy garments for Aaron… for glory and for beauty.” In Hebrew it says “You shall make ‘Bigdei-Kodesh—Holy Garments’ for Aaron… ‘l’kavod ul’tiferet—for honor and for splendor.’” A good definition for a priest could be “a servant of God.” The “Mishkan—Tabernacle” was God’s palace where He could reside, like a King among His subjects. Even as the kings of the world dressed their servants to represent themselves, so too, God wanted His servants = His priests to dress as representatives of Him.
If we are becoming more like Yeshua, then we are becoming more like a High Priest; and if we are becoming more like a High Priest, then we begin to dress the way a High Priest would dress. “…Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” God always takes things to the “heart of the matter” because our hearts do matter. Yet, the outward appearance is either a reflection or mirage of the heart. Our outward appearance shouldn’t be an illusion to camouflage our imperfection. Instead, our outward appearance ought to be a reflection of who we are as priests of the Living God.
Most of us are familiar with Ephesians 6, where it lists out the spiritual “Armor of God” we all must put on “…that [we] may be able to withstand in the evil day.” Most often this armor is described as the armor of a Roman soldier. This is a plausible explanation being that the Romans were the World Power of that time period. But, we must remember that the Apostle Paul was also, Rav Shaul—Rabbi Saul. He had studied under Gamaliel, a great Torah teacher of the time. Rav Shaul wrote about very deep Torah mysteries and accompanied his letters with Midrashic style stories. Why would he suddenly switch to Roman armor and compare God’s word to the sword of those who eventually slaughter his people and destroy the whole of Jerusalem, including the Holy Temple?
Maybe, the Apostle Paul, when he wrote the last chapter of Ephesians was thinking about the “Priestly Soldier” who served in the Holy Temple.
There were two kinds of warriors in the Temple. The first were the literal “security guards” of the Temple complex. In Exodus 32, we read about the story of the worship of the “Egel Masecha—Molten Calf,” where Moses said to the people, “‘Whoever is on the Lord’s side—come to me!’ And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together to him. And he said to them…‘Let every man put his sword on his side…’” The Levites slew the idolaters and set themselves apart for God. Because of this story, God chose the Levites to have a special role in the service of the Tabernacle; one of those services was being guards for the Holy House of God. Paul could have been relating his chapter to the literal “soldiers of God” found in the Temple.
But the other Warriors found in the Temple were the only “soldiers” who wore armor for a spiritual battle rather than a physical battle. Remember, Paul starts the section about the armor of God off as a reminder that we don’t fight “…against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
Why would Paul use the analogy of physical armor that is used for physical battle to describe spiritual warfare, when he could instead talk about physical “armor” that is used to fight spiritual warfare?
The vestments of the High Priest found in Exodus 28, correlate to the armor of God as found in Ephesians 6. I don’t have time to get into all of the armor in depth, but I would like to take 2 and explore what they mean to us as followers of Yeshua, our great High Priest. In the Tanach we read that, God also arrays himself in armor. The two pieces of armor specifically referenced in Isaiah 59 are the pieces we will talk about in depth. Verse 17 says, “For He (God) put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on His head…” Interestingly enough, these are the two armor pieces mentioned by the Torah teacher, the Apostle Paul—Rav Shaul in 1 Thessalonians 5. He wrote, “But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation.”
I want to start with the Helmet of Salvation = The “Mitznefet—the Turban” and the “Tzitz—The crown.” Upon the “tzitz—crown” was an inscription which said “Kadosh L’Hashem—Holy to the Lord.” Psalm 103 tells us that God “crowns [us] with loving-kindness and tender mercies…” Psalm 3 tells us that God is, “[Our] glory and the One who lifts up [our] heads.” It is through the salvation that is found in Yeshua, that we are crowned with mercy and our heads are raised high. He is the one who places His crown of approval upon us. He is the one who calls us “Kadosh L’Hashem—Holy to the Lord.”
The Breastplate of Righteousness = The “Choshen Mishpat—Breastplate of Judgment.” Psalm 89 tells us, “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your (God’s) throne; Mercy and truth go before Your face.” Why is this important? Because while His throne remains unshakeable, His mercy and truth are extended and moving throughout the earth, as it says in James, “Mercy triumphs over judgment.”
The Hebrew word “Choshen—Breastplate” is equal in Gematria to the word “Mashiach—Messiah” which equals 358. In 2 Corinthians 5 we read, “For He (God) made Him (Yeshua) who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” We as believers in Yeshua will often say that we are righteous because of Yeshua’s sacrifice, but that is not what this verse says. It does not say we are righteous in God, it says we are the righteousness of God. These are two different ideas. One is about being righteous; the other is about becoming righteousness. What this verse is saying is, when the world looks for the righteousness of God, we are it!
How do we get to this position? When we put on the breastplate of righteousness given us by God. And if this breastplate is equal to the Messiah, then every time we put on the “Choshen—Breastplate” of righteousness, we are putting on the Messiah. As it tells us in Romans 13 “…put on the Lord Yeshua Messiah…”
are the priests of God. We are His representatives, emissaries and
intermediaries in this world. We must put on Messiah and walk as the
righteousness of God in this world. Paul tells us to “…put on the armor of light…” Remember Yeshua instructs us to “…cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside…may be clean also.” But,
the outside shows the true transformation of what has happened on the
inside. Learn to live life as a priest to God. We are like a
High Priest who intercedes, mediates and conduits God’s presence and
light into this realm. As 1 Corinthians 10 puts it so well, “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Take
everything in life, even the little things to bring glory, honor and
majesty to the King of Kings and Priest above all Priests. Because He is
worthy and because we are His servants—His priests, who have put on Messiah and walk outfitted with the armor of God “…thoroughly equipped for every good work.”|