“Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” — John 7:38
Our Great High Priest, by Randall D. Kittle

In the Old Testament, the high priest was set apart for God’s service as the only one who could enter the Holy of Holies, and then, only once a year on the Day of Atonement. Even the very garments of the high priest were prescribed by God in intricate detail. Two of these special articles of clothing were the ephod and the breastplate, each symbolized the high priest bringing the people of Israel into the presence of the Lord.

The ephod was a two-piece apron reaching to the high priest’s hips, made of royal colors (blue, purple, and scarlet), and sewed with gold thread. Two onyx stones bearing the names of the twelve tribes of Israel were fastened to the shoulders of the ephod. “And they shall make the ephod of gold blue purple, and scarlet thread, and fine woven linen, artistically worked … Then 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 six names on the other stone, in order of their birth. … And you shall put the two stones on the shoulders of the ephod as memorial stones for the sons of Israel. So Aaron shall bear their names before the Lord on his two shoulders as a memorial” (Exodus 28:6-12).

The high priest also wore a
“breastplate of judgment.” It was made of the same material as the ephod and was attached to its front. On the front of the breastplate were twelve precious stones engraved with the names of the twelve tribes. “You shall make the breastplate of judgment. … And you shall put settings of stones in it, four rows of stones: … And the stones shall have the names of the sons of Israel, twelve according to their names, like the engravings of a signet, each one with its own name; they shall be according to the twelve tribes. So Aaron shall bear the names of the sons of Israel on the breastplate of judgment over his heart, when he goes into the holy place, as a memorial before the Lord continually” (Exodus 28:15-29). The name of each tribe was engraved in a precious stone, to signify how precious, in God’s sight, each tribe was to Him. “‘They shall be Mine,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘On the day that I make them My jewels’” (Malachi 3:17). No matter how small or poor a tribe was, it was a precious stone in the breastplate of the high priest.

In like manner, every part of the body of Christ — each expression or “tribe” of believers — is dear to our Lord, and He delights in them, no matter how little or great men may esteem them.

The high priest brought the whole nation before God in all his priestly acts. He had the names of the tribes both on his shoulders and on his breast, showing that he both symbolically carried the burdens of the whole nation and brought the heart of all into the presence of God. The high priest would literally bear them up upon his heart, and carry them upon his shoulders.

The high priest served as
“… a copy and shadow of the heavenly things” (Hebrews 8:5). Jesus Christ was, is, and forever will be our true High Priest who always appears in the presence of God for us. “We have such a High Priest, 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 which the Lord erected, and not man” (Hebrews 8:12). If the shadow, or copy, was to bring all of the people of God into His presence, think how much more Jesus, the true and original High Priest, desires to bring all of His people into the presence of God today.

The Scriptures tell us that when Jesus returns, we shall be like Him (1 John 3:2). If the Father is conforming us into the image of His Son, we must take on Jesus’ high priestly character of carrying others, both in our hearts and upon our shoulders, into the very presence of God through prayer and intercession. We cannot be satisfied with carrying only our own “tribe” into communion with Him. Let us press on to be all that Christ would have us to be. May our heart say with the psalmist
“I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness” (Psalm 17:15).

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