Exploring Ancient Paths Clothing in Scripture, continued…

The Priestly Garments reflected attributes of God and set the wearer apart for his special role.

Photo by Prashant Gautam on Pexels.com

Let’s go back to the beautiful concept we looked at in the first  lesson – in Gan Eden/the Garden of Eden when the LORD covered the nakedness of Adam and Chava/Eve with animal skins.  God is the Divine Dresser!

We move on past the drama of calling out a people to Himself, redeeming them from slavery and establishing a nation which would reflect His holiness to the world. The standards He gave them to live by were high, but grace was extended to the one who fell short of the mark.  A channel of redemption was provided through the sacrificial system of the tabernacle and later the temple, and a priesthood was established to help the repentant sinner find forgiveness. Every detail of that system of grace was spelled out to Moshe/Moses including the priests’ clothing. Later in Leviticus 8:13 the priests were clothed by Moshe as God’s representative.  The Talmud (Zevochim 19) states: ‘that nothing was permitted between the prescribed garments and the flesh, not even a bandage.  He and his garments were one vessel performing the Divine will’.

Adornments were added to the high priest’s attire in accordance with the commandments given to Moshe. An ephod, a skillfully woven tunic, a turban, and a sash and he bore gemstones on his breast and shoulders that represented the twelve tribes when he went before the LORD.

The tunics, breeches, sashes and caps were made from fine linen. Sometimes described as ‘shining linen’ because of its whiteness and smooth look, like marble, which bears the same Hebrew word. And like Aaron’s garments, those of his sons were for the same reason, for glory and splendour.

The term kavod/glory is found many times in the Torah, and generally refers to God’s manifestation on earth, especially in the Tabernacle. However, tiferet/splendour appears only one other time in the Torah (Deuteronomy 26:19) but is used in other books of the Tanakh. The clothing of the priests which reflected something of the attributes of God, set them apart as His representatives.  In Matthew 17:2 in the heavenly encounter which the disciples were privileged to witness, Yeshua was “…transfigured before them, and his face did shine as the sun; and his raiment was white as the light.”
His shining garment is in line with appearances of heavenly messengers in Scripture, including at the end of the age in Revelation 19:14, “And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.”

White garments in the Bible also speak of purity and in Revelation 19:8, our Divine Dresser grants that the wife of the Lamb be “… be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.”

Our Father dictated the physical clothing of Adam and Chava/Eve, and His Levitical priests. Each painted a picture. And just as physical clothing set a person apart and usually spoke of his role in the community, spiritual ‘clothing’ is essential to fit us for the roles to which we have been called.

Exploring Ancient Paths Clothing in Scripture, continued.

As we continue this theme, we see we have a responsibility to ‘clothe the naked’.

The account of Noah lying drunk and naked confirms that physical nakedness is a picture of spiritual nakedness. In this case it teaches a lesson about the exposure of another’s shame and humiliation. His younger son looked at him and gloated to his brothers about their father. We are told that Shem and Japheth/Yafet, covered their father’s shame by draping a garment over him as they walked in backwards.  “And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father’s nakedness.”  And as Shem is mentioned first and the verb ‘took’- is in the singular, it seems that it was he who initiated it.  Therefore, say the Jewish Sages, it is his descendants to whom was given the honour of attaching tassels to their garments that spoke of God’s commandments, (Numbers 15:38 and Deuteronomy 22:12). On realising what had happened, Noah blessed his older sons and cursed the line of Ham. A principle was established. We are not to look on, to gloat, or expose someone else’s shame and vulnerability. Joseph in Matthew 1:19 assumed that Mary’s pregnancy was a result of infidelity, therefore, a moral lapse. However, although according to the law she deserved death, he was willing to quietly divorce her so as not to add to her shame.  [Note that betrothal was as legally binding as marriage except it was not consummated.]

In the poignant passage of scripture found in the 16th chapter of Ezekiel, we have the picture of God as a husband to Israel, clothing her with costly garments in her helplessness and shame as a rejected nation.

The principle of not shaming others is seen in Deuteronomy 24:10-11 when going to claim a debt.  The lender had to stay outside his house in order to avoid humiliating him in front of his family. Later in the chapter, 19-22 the rules at harvest-time not to harvest the corners of a field and let some sheaves drop, gave dignity to the poor, giving them the opportunity to gather food for the family without humiliatingly asking for handouts.  

We should take notice of this principle. We need to give the same dignity to all.  After hearing of a disgraceful gathering in the church at Corinth where one may eat even getting drunk, while another has nothing to eat, Paul asks in 1 Corinthians 11:22, “What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing…” 
1 Peter 4:8 reminds us, “And above all things have fervent love for one another, for love will cover a multitude of sins.”  This was not about ignoring or accepting sinful behaviour. Not to do that, is clearly spelt out in other scriptures and belongs to another theme. It is about not exposing someone’s shame, someone’s humiliation whether it is the shame of poverty or status or making mistakes.

In Isaiah 58:7 (NIV) the prophet says that fasting without any compassion for those in need is merely a religious exercise and does not honour God who says the fast He has chosen – “Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?” Although this is a literal, practical act of mercy, I believe there is a spiritual equivalent, to conceal the vulnerability and shame when we have that opportunity and especially, to point them to the Divine Dresser who will, ‘clothe them ‘with the garments of salvation, and robe of righteousness‘, Isaiah 61:10.

Exploring Ancient Paths – what does clothing in Scripture say to us?

In ‘Gleaning in Ancient Fields’ I emphasis the Principles, Patterns and Pictures that God has embedded in the Torah. I want to look more closely at some of those themes.

If we were looking for the first mention of clothing in the Bible, we could find it in Genesis 1:11, “Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds”. For those who have seen the reality, or pictures, of earth in the grip of extreme drought, the covering of vegetation mentioned in the above verse on the dry land is not unlike clothing. It protects its ‘nakedness’, its vulnerability. Otherwise, the land lies dry and hard, with the rich topsoil released to drift away with the hot wind. When the rain comes, there is firstly, a faint smear of green and then layers are added, until the earth is again cloaked in its rightful raiment displaying its true purpose – to bring forth nourishment for man and beast. Psalm 65 especially verses 10-13 seems to uphold this picture. “the meadows clothe themselves with flocks, the valleys deck themselves with grain, they shout and sing together for joy. (ESV). Yeshua spoke in a similar fashion when he urged his listeners not to give in to anxiety, “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.” Matthew 6:28-29.

Mt Gilboa

We wonder of the covering of Adam and Eve. Was it of the glory of the LORD? Glory that could sometimes be seen in later times when God allowed His people to glimpse His Presence during His dealings with them. Was it that that was removed when the flesh took over – ignoring the one commandment they had been given? ‘Who told you that you were naked?’ asked the LORD as He looked on their pathetic attempts to cover their shame. Who indeed? They knew! They knew they stood exposed and vulnerable before their Creator. And they did what many have tried to do from then until the present time, cover themselves by their own efforts. They dare to stand before a holy God dressed in what they think is adequate.

The prophet Isaiah in 59:6 (NIV) disdained the efforts of a people whose iniquities had separated them from their God, to rely on their works to cover their sin, “Their cobwebs are useless for clothing; they cannot cover themselves with what they make. Their deeds are evil deeds, and acts of violence are in their hands.”  The message to the church of Laodicea in Revelation 3:17-18, also gave a serious warning about ignorance of their true spiritual state. “Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.

So, we have a powerful picture beginning to be painted in the early verses of the Torah. Nakedness represents standing with our sinfulness exposed before a holy God and trying to cover that shame and vulnerability by our own ideas of what the covering should be. But it does not work. The covering must be provided for by God Himself, as the account of man’s fall clearly shows in Genesis 3:21 where the LORD God Himself clothed them with skins. There was a cost. Most likely, Adam and Chava (Eve) saw blood spilt in paradise, as an innocent creature gave its life to provide them with the right covering.


That was just the beginning of the picture that clothing gives us – to be continued….

The Rising of the Sap

In the northern hemisphere the sap is rising in the trees and winter sluggishness is giving way to renewed life. Blossoms begin to appear and in Israel, the dullness of winter is now relieved by splashes of pink and white almond trees.  The fifteenth of the Hebrew month of Shevat, the new year for the trees, is Arbour Day in Israel and tree planting is a family/community/school activity, digging in the cold wet soil to place a small sapling. Gift packets featuring dried fruits are on display in shops and a special seder in the evening may be observed by families. Well, that’s what it was in the ‘old days’ before lockdowns and lockouts. What this year will be like I don’t know. I know I’’m not there this year to see the almond trees bloom. But I was thinking – about sap rising – something unseen and unfelt by us non-trees. New energy, making its way up to the top branches so the buds burst out as programmed by their Creator. And I’m thinking, there is a lesson in it.

“The trees of the LORD are full (of sap)” declares Psalm 104:16 in a song delighting in the LORD’s goodness and bounty. Actually the ‘of sap’ doesn’t appear in the Hebrew. Sap is implied in the particular Hebrew word used in this case for ‘full’. The kind of fullness that means satisfaction, replete with goodness. This is the energy we need to feel in our spirits to lift us out of sluggishness and to bloom in the bleakness around us. The pandemic continues in this bright new year for which we couldn’t wait. The strange restrictions over our lives, the suffering of so many, and on top of that, changes in the society and the culture around us that are hard to make sense of. We need to be satiated with His sap, “To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.”  

There are amazing areas of growth in the Kingdom God from which to take heart. And it is a new era, a daunting one maybe, a depressing one in many ways, but, a new one.  So, we equip ourselves to be ready for it by being sure of the truth of His Word.  Warriors in new battles. And by the way…the first five books of the Bible are a firm foundation on which the rest of the scriptures are built. Not quite understanding them? Gleaning in Ancient Fields will help…

Who Runs the World?

The Torah reading cycle has moved into Exodus. That great Book of the drama of redemption. In spite of the 49 levels of corruption that God’s chosen people had sunk to according to the Jewish sages, God heard their desperate cry of suffering and He began to move as their Redeemer. A baby of Hebrew slaves is born, an unlikely happening sees him raised as a prince. Identifying as an adult with his own people and horror at their suffering results in doing it his way to bring about change – and – fleeing for his life only to languish in obscurity. He lives the solitary life of caring for sheep and that diligence leads him to witness an incredible sight that is a life transforming experience. The God of Israel asks him to do the impossible. He questions, he protests, he almost refuses but he learns in dramatic ways that it will not be through his effort but through the God whose Name is, ‘I Will Be What I Will Be’. Things go from bad to worse for the people Moses is trying to help, but still God promises deliverance, and still Moses chooses to believe that promise.

In chapter 8 of Exodus, verse 1, the English translation is usually ‘Go to Pharaoh…’ but the Hebrew is actually ‘Come to Pharaoh…’. Pharaoh thought he was in control but God was already there in the Throne Room!

Gleaning in Ancient Fields: The Elegance of Exodus.

And it hasn’t changed since the days of the Pharaoh. Leaders, even good leaders, think they are in control. People with evil agendas think they are in control. We think we are in control. But only God is in real control.

In the chaos of much of the world at the moment, that’s a comfort, not a cop out. We continue to pray, work to make a difference in our spheres of influence. We continue to believe in the promise of full redemption. Our trust is not in persons or politics, our trust is the One who will be what He will be.

Standing at the Gate

“I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year,

‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.’

And he replied, ‘Go out into the darkness, and put your hand into the Hand of God.

That shall be better than light, and safer than a known way’.”

This year as I approach 2021, with some apprehension, I keep thinking about this poem which was part of King George the 6th Christmas broadcast to Britain in 1939. Actually, it hung in a frame on a wall of my childhood home and I was often drawn to it. The king’s nation, and indeed the empire, faced a new year that held an evil and formidable enemy.

There is no other solution but for this kingly advice. At the beginning of last year in our part of the world, deadly bushfires raged. The New Year’s first day produced one of the deadliest days. The forest close to our house lost their beauty and became menacing – it was just a matter of time before this unbelievable monster found them, and us. Then it was over, the rains came. But who would have thought? Who predicted, hinted, that another disaster loomed that would engulf the world. A different kind of world war, one that saw us all on the same side. And just when some of us could happily enjoy near normal for a while, it attacked again, in the holiday season, in the family reunion season, so plans unravel and disappointments reign, right on the eve of a new year…

 Moses spoke to his nation as they stood together on the threshold of a new era for them and an unknown future. It was a long speech, taking up the whole book of Deuteronomy. It was inspiring, challenging, rebuking, reminding and could be good to read through as we step into a new beginning.

In Deuteronomy 29:10 he listed all who were listening to him. It included those with authority to those who served, old and young, men and women, everyone! No matter what their place in society, all shared the responsibility to live out the calling on their lives and to step through the gate into the unknown.

The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may all do the words of this Torah.” Deuteronomy 29:29 ends the chapter emphasising our personal responsibility before God.  There may be things we will never understand – or are not meant to understand.  But that which He has revealed to us is to enable us to live in obedience to His word. 

And so, we shoulder the responsibility and no matter how much we don’t understand, how crazy, or dark, things may be, we step through New Year’s gate with our hand in the Hand of God.

Light and Darkness

Isaiah 21:11-12, “Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night? The watchman said, The morning cometh, and also the night..” 

This year has been memorable – for everyone – for all the wrong reasons! The remark I read from someone that he will stay up new years eve, not to welcome the new year in but to ensure the old one leaves…would be the sentiment of everyone. But will next year be better? We have no idea. The pandemic is still laying low scores of people and decimating economies. Famine is the reality in many parts of the world and won’t be stopping on the 31st December! And even in First World countries [are you still allowed to use that term?] people are out of work and desperate. And as well as the physical health of the world in being in such a precarious state, the spiritual health is not too good in parts either. In the West we are busy discarding old values, messing up our children’s minds with gender madness, passing laws that makes the womb a very dangerous place for the unborn and laws that could result in followers of the God of Israel being law breakers.  There is talk of a great Reset to result in a global utopia that along with other ‘signs of the times’ have set off alarm bells for Christians.

The term, End Times, which has been around since Pentecost, is certainly on many Christian minds these days, some dogmatically, sure in their knowledge that this time the End really is beginning. Hard not to wonder though, so many scenarios already in place. However, I will stick with my mantra, wait and see – and stay alert. Something I am sure about is, God is sovereign! He will bring about what He has planned, in His time.

So now its Hanukah, the festival that celebrates light in the darkness, victory over evil forces, God’s provision and protection.  And soon Christmas, which celebrates the Light of the world entering history. Our God reigns!

Have blessed Festive Season!

God’s Choice’s

This week’s Torah Portion is Toldot-Generations. The family of Abraham is forming but not without complications. In a complicated world, God’s choices are for His reasons so I have simply posted a chapter from my book, Gleaning in Ancient Fields.

Like the story of Noah, the Christian perception of Jacob/Yakov we read in Genesis 25:26-28:4, differs from the Jewish one.  Usually in Christian teaching, the emphasis is on ‘Jacob the Deceiver’, but a softer picture is painted when the text is explored.   Yakov is described in English as a mild man, in Genesis 25:27.  But that is translated from ‘tam’ which means, ‘unblemished’.  It is the same word that is applied to the sacrifices – they had to be unblemished/tam.  A hunter in Jewish thought, has negative connotations, while someone ‘dwelling in tents’, implies that they were studiers of God’s word.  Esau/Esaf seemed to live for the moment and possibly killed for pleasure; after all, where was the game and why was he hungry in 25:29-34 when he carelessly traded his birthright for food?

Genesis 27:12, “Perhaps my Father will feel me, and I shall seem to be a deceiver?”

While there are a lot of details and depth to this story, we will skip over to the so-called deception and note a few things from the drama. 

Firstly, Rivka knew the prophetic statements about her younger twin son (Genesis 25:23).  Secondly, there was hesitancy on the part of Yakov.  From the Hebrew text we know that he approached his father with politeness, (Genesis 27:18) unlike Esaf’s character, giving his father reason to be suspicious.  Thirdly, Yitzak did not actually pass on the Abrahamic blessing while he thought it was Esaf, showing that he also knew the character of his firstborn.  Genesis 25:28 is speaking perhaps, of a conditional love!  That important Abrahamic blessing was bestowed later upon Yakov when he was leaving for Padan Aram.  

Lastly, a very poignant and thought provoking question was asked by Yakov.  One we need to ask sometimes.  Genesis 27:12, “Perhaps my Father will feel me, and I shall seem to be a deceiver?”  Psalms 51 and 139 are good starting points as we ask God to examine our inner lives.

The ‘brave’ hunter might have seemed to us a better choice than a ‘homebody’ but God knows the hearts and does His own choosing.  His choice is confirmed dramatically in Malachi 1:2-3 and Romans 9:13.  Refer back to Genesis chapter 13 of this study, to see how ‘love’ and ‘hate’ are juxtaposed to make a point. [Remember that in accordance with the style of the Hebrew language, ‘love’ and ‘hate’ are juxtaposed to make a point.  The Hebrew word soneh often translated ‘hate’ does not have the same meaning as in modern English.  It is more to describe loving something or someone less, or in a different way, than the other.]

We know though that Yakov had much to learn, and later was on the receiving end of deception when his Uncle Laban substituted Leah for his beloved Rachel.  It imitated his deception of Yitzak.  Much later he abhorred his sons’ deception of Hamor and Shekhem as seen in Genesis 34:30 and 49:5.

Patterns and Principles

Within the Jewish community, the Torah reading yearly cycle is back to Genesis, the Book of Beginnings I call it in Gleaning in Ancient Fields.  We open the first page of our Bible and are launched into dramas.

How exactly God swirled the patterns of the stars in the sky and amidst the magnificence and overwhelming vastness, fine-tuned a world with unexplained mathematical precision for the peak of His creation, man, keeps great minds busy. My mind will simply follow the drama that lifts us to the ideal and then, look in vain for Adam who supposed to be fulfilling his God given role as guardian of the Garden and watch sadly as Eve is listens to a twisted version of the truth, finally giving in to her fleshly inclinations.   

Patterns emerge out of those early chapters: with ‘choice and its consequences’ being an immensely important one. But ‘separating and dividing’ is the first, even within moments of creation itself.

Repentance and forgiveness‘ is another incredible, important pattern we see brought forth in the first family. And here I quote from Gleanings in Ancient Fields, Gems in Genesis, Chapter 6:

‘Cain’s (Kayin) name is play on the word ‘to acquire’.  This is reflected in Khava’s statement made at her first son’s birth, ‘I have gained/acquired man’.  His brother’s name was Abel/Hevel and it means, ‘breath or vapour’.  It was Hevel who brought the more acceptable sacrifice.  Genesis 4:3-4, “And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the LORD.  Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the LORD respected Abel and his offering.”  The Jewish sages derive from this passage, that Kayin’s sacrifice may have been from inferior produce as it is implied in the Hebrew that Hevel’s sacrifice was from the firstborn and the choicest.  Note that the word translated ‘…and of their fat’ can mean choicest or finest.   Also, it is possible that Kayin’s offering came from the ground that was cursed (Genesis 3:17) rather than purchasing an animal to offer as a burnt offering.  Kayin’s attitude was also rejected by the LORD who warned him to rule over his sinful inclination.  The principle that man will be forgiven through repentance, was firmly established in this incident.  However, sin unchecked leads to worse behaviour and in this chapter, the first murder was committed.’ 

Order, choice, repentance. Words that shine through the first chapters of Genesis that we long to see worked out in our world and in our family. Instead we see order broken down in society and wrong choices ruin young lives.  But repentance and forgiveness still stands and the Creator waits to restore lives so they can enjoy His presence and guidance through the ups and downs of life.  

God’s Hiding Place

Sometimes in life, problems seem overwhelming.  More so when you are watching loved ones hurting, struggling. You watch on helplessly even while coming before the Father on their behalf. Sometimes the problems in the world are overwhelming, we watch helplessly as governments flounder, people suffer, lawlessness grows, famines begin even while joining our prayers to the chorus of prayer now arising from many nations.  Sometimes you have to come apart, into a shelter, God’s shelter. And this time of the biblical year is a great time to be reminded about His kind of shelter.

So, the sukkah! This flimsy shelter that offers a light, bright cosy invitation to come inside and sit down and eat and…rejoice! That brave little dwelling that may be threatened by wind and rain blowing in through its palm branch roof and with walls that offer only an illusion of protection. Israel will be dotted with these shelters for the next seven days. And along with the commandments to ‘take leafy branches’, to ‘build yourselves sukkot to live in for 7 days’ is the commandment to rejoice.

Is Sukkot to remember the clouds of glory that sheltered the newly released slaves ask the sages, or, their first night out laden with Egyptian treasures spent in a place called…Sukkot! [You may have wealth but God can put you in tents if He wants to]. Or is it to only remember the booths in the wilderness that they were made to dwell in, by the LORD, according to Leviticus 23:43?  The most important thing is what those frail, temporary, shelters tell us – our security is not in the walls that we surround ourselves, nor in circumstances.  God asks the people of Israel to move out of their comfort zone, their homes, the very time the weather pattern changes and rain and wind can threaten – and sit in frail shelters.  That is His shelter – our trust in Him.For He will hide me in His sukkah{Heb} in the day of trouble.Psalm 27:5

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