Exodus is an interesting book. On the one hand, the storyline moves quickly as it describes the actual exodus from Egypt. There’s a lot of action to follow, and interesting characters to which we can relate. On the other hand, it’s like reading a very detailed book of directions for assembling something quite complicated, as God gives Moses the instructions for the Tabernacle, the priestly garments, and the sacrifices. These details aren’t quite as relatable, and it’s easy to slip into “skim” mode when reading them.
If, however, we are faithful to study all of scripture, what appears mundane and disconnected from our twenty-first-century culture can be a source of great encouragement and understanding of our salvation. The New Testament books we love take on a fuller and deeper meaning when read in the context of Old Testament truths.
Today I ran across two particular passages that immediately took my thoughts to other scriptures. Exodus 28 describes the garments that were to be made for the high priest, in this case, the very first one, Aaron. Here are the two items that caught my attention.
Exodus 28:9-12 – You shall take two onyx stones and engrave on them the names of the sons of Israel, six of their names on one stone and the names of the remaining six on the other stone, according to their birth. As a jeweler engraves a signet, you shall engrave the two stones according to the sons of Israel; you shall set them in filigree settings of gold. You shall put the two stones on the shoulder pieces of the ephod, as stones of memorial for the sons of Israel, and Aaron shall bear their names before the Lord on his two shoulders for a memorial.
The second description is of the breastplate; they were to mount on it four rows of stones, each a different precious gem representing each of the twelve tribes.
Exodus 28:29-30 – Aaron shall carry the names of the sons of Israel in the breastplate of judgment over his heart when he enters the holy place, for a memorial before the Lord continually. You shall put in the breastplate of judgment the Urim and the Thummim, and they shall be over Aaron’s heart when he goes in before the Lord; and Aaron shall carry the judgment of the sons of Israel over his heart before the Lord continually.
Urim means “lights” and Thummim means “perfection.” These were two gemstones used in some way to determine the will and decision of God. The Bible doesn’t tell us exactly how they were used; I imagine it was similar to casting lots. In any case, God used them to speak His will about His people, and they represented God’s judgment.
When Aaron entered the holy of holies on the Day of Atonement, carrying the blood of a sacrifice into God’s presence, he was carrying his people on his shoulders and over his heart. When God looked at Aaron, He saw ALL of His people, and the sacrifice was sufficient for ALL.
Now read these scriptures in light of the picture we have in Exodus.
Isaiah 9:6 – For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
Hebrews 2:17 – Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.
Hebrews 4:14-16 – Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Hebrews 9:27-28 – And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.
Psalm 68:18-20 – You have ascended on high, You have led captive Your captives; You have received gifts among men, even among the rebellious also, that the Lord God may dwell there. Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears our burden, the God who is our salvation. Selah. God is to us a God of deliverances; and to God the Lord belong escapes from death.
Luke 15:4-6 – “What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’
Isaiah 49:16 – Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; your walls are continually before Me.
Jesus is our High Priest, the Son of God who laid aside His glory and became like us, made in human flesh yet without sin so that He could offer Himself as our perfect atoning sacrifice on the cross. He bears us on His shoulders and carries us over His heart, having born the judgment of God against sin on our behalf. God has made His will known concerning His people; our salvation is secure. Jesus now sits at the right hand of the Father and in the scars on His hands, He sees the names of every one of the redeemed.
Jesus carried our burden of sin to the cross, and He daily bears our burdens on His shoulders. He seeks after us – the lost lamb – and bears us on His shoulders, bringing us home.
Every single (to us, seemingly mundane) detail in God’s Word has meaning. No passage is without purpose, and all of it points to Jesus. As New Testament believers, we are grafted into the root; we are spiritual Israel, children of Abraham by faith. We have not replaced Israel, and God still has promises to fulfill for His chosen nation, but in New Testament passages like Hebrews 7-9, we clearly see ourselves in the story.
Jesus carries us on His shoulders, and bears us over His heart today, in the presence of God, as He intercedes on our behalf (Romans 8:34). Sin has been judged; God has spoken. Our citizenship is in heaven, where our lives are hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:1-3).
If you know Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior, you can walk out of your house today with the confident assurance that you belong to God and are secure in Him. If you do not know Him, your day is uncertain, and you are not ready for what may come. Ask God to show you His salvation. I pray this is the day your name is revealed in heaven, engraved on the palms of the Savior’s hands.