THE BREASTPLATE OF PRECIOUS STONES
"And Aaron shall bear the names of the children of Israel in the breastplate of judgment upon his heart, when he goeth in unto the holy place, for a memorial before the Lord continually. And thou shalt put in the breastplate of judgment the Urim and the Thummim j and they shall be upon Aaron's heart, when he goeth in before the Lord: and Aaron shall bear the judgment of the children of Israel upon his heart before the Lord continually."-Exodus XXVIII. 29, 30.
IN the course of the chapter before us there are three portions, which in their general bearings, and in their spiritual meaning, seem at first consideration to be very much alike. These are the general description of the garments, the account of the ephod with the names of the twelve tribes on the shoulder stones; and thirdly, the breastplate with the names of the twelve tribes again, under the twelve precious stones.
Since general principles are very simple in themselves, but extremely numerous and varied in their applications, it not infrequently happens that many objects mentioned in the Word seem to have the same signification. This arises, however, from no tautology or repetition in the Word, but from the same general principles being applied in some new form, or in some new department of life. Justice and judgment are universal principles which should pervade the whole of life, but in how many varied forms they appear! Justice and judgment in our personal characters are in one form, in our domestic circles in another, in our business life in another; and in our worship in another. Yet are they justice and judgment in all.
It is the same in nature. The twofold arrangement pervades the human body. In the head it exists in the two departments of the brain; in the chest it is visible in there being heart and lungs; in the rest of the body as right and left in everything. The same twofold arrangement exists in sex everywhere. All things in the universe have relation to goodness and truth, yet in what an infinitude of varied forms does that relation manifest itself!
When, therefore, we see in the Word what occasionally appears as repetition, we must not conclude that it is really so, but that the application of the same great principles in some new degree of the soul, or some new department of life, or new spheres of operation, is being brought definitely before us.
Thus, in the case now under consideration, we have the general description of the garments which represent the principles of religion, the description of the ephod and the names of the tribes on the onyx stones, commanded to be placed on the shoulders, which describe the principles of religion as they exist in the inner memory before the Lord and as the springs of real life; and lastly, the Breastplate with the same twelve names under the precious stones, which describe the principles of religion as they exist in worship. "They shall be upon Aaron's heart when he goeth in before the Lord."-30.
When we remember that precious stones represent precious truths, we shall see that the general lesson afforded by a contemplation of this Breastplate of precious stones is, that we ought to worship the Lord from an intelligent and enlightened state of mind. On the heart should be precious stones, covering the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. The Lord desires that the mind should be illuminated by truths, as well as the heart be warmed by love, when we appear before Him. That precious stones represent truths, seen in clearness, is manifest from many portions of the Divine Word. Thus, it is said in Isaiah, of the Lord's Church, " O thou afflicted tossed with tempest, and not comforted, behold I will lay thy stones with fair colours, and lay thy foundations with sapphires and I will make thy windows of agates, and thy gates of carbuncles, and all thy borders of pleasant stones. And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord: and great shall be the peace of thy children."-LIV. 11-13. Our Lord speaks in the Gospel of the kingdom of heaven being like unto a merchantman seeking goodly pearls, who when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it."-Matt. XIII. 45, 46. Evidently goodly pearls mean goodly truths; and the pearl of great price the true doctrine of the Lord. In the Book of Revelation, the Lord says, also, that" to him that overcometh I will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name which no man knoweth, saving he that receiveth it."-II. 17.
The white stone can be no other than the inward assurance which tells us of victory and peace, and imparts a new, heavenly quality known only to ourselves, and to the Divine Giver. The gates of the New Jerusalem are said to consist of twelve pearls (Rev. XXI. 21), and her foundations of twelve precious stones (19), where, as here, by the twelve jewels of the Breastplate, all the truths of the Church are represented.
The lesson, that we should worship our Heavenly Father, not in blindness but in states of enlightened truth, glowing with heavenly love, is one of unspeakable importance. How devout, yet how dark are the millions who crowd the churches In many lands! There is an earnest groping for God, yet for want of truth there is neither progress nor peace. “Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart.” But they who grope in darkness are weak, and stumble. They are alarmed at shadows. The blind lead the blind, and both fall into the ditch. When we see the blind, but zealous devotion of minds shrouded in superstition, earnest, but dark, how does the heart long to say, " Arise, shine for thy light is come, an the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee:"
Worship without truth is crouching, unintelligent, and unprogressive. It is truth united to adoration which gives courage, strength, purity, humility, order, and beauty in divine things. Hence we are to worship God in spirit and in truth. "Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness." "Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him and bless his name. For the Lord is good: his mercy is everlasting, and his TRUTH endureth to all generations."
This lesson was taught, in the magnificent symbol of the Breastplate of precious stones being borne of on the heart of the High Priest, when He went in to worship the or Lord of Hosts.
The Breastplate was to be suspended by two chains of pure gold coming from the golden ouches, or sockets, In which the onyx stones of the shoulders were. This was a beautiful representation of the fact that work and worship should be united together. The same portions ---the shoulders, from which power went forth to the hands, were also the points from which the golden chains went forth to support the Breastplate. He who is the most zealous worker should also be the most zealous worshipper. The two things in order are. connected by golden chains, or in other words, by loving affections, seeking strength and blessing from Him, from whom all power and peace descend.
The Breastplate indeed, was not a plate, but an embroidered cloth ten inches square, doubled, and formed of the same material as the ephod. "And thou shalt make the breastplate of judgment with cunning work; after the work of the ephod thou shalt make it; of gold, of blue, and of purple, an scarlet, and of fine twined linen, shalt thou make it."-Ex. XXVIII. 15.
Hence we learn that as we obtain the heavenly virtues, which are meant by the gold, and fine twined linen, the blue, the purple, and the scarlet, so will our worship consist of the same things, What a man is in his essential character that he is on Sunday in his worship, as well as on weekdays in worldly affairs, or in his workshop. Only when his life consists of the gold of Christian love, and the purple and scarlet of Christian wisdom both in relation to God and man, will his worship of the Lord be seen to proceed from the same pure ground, and he be enabled to realize the great blessing pronounced by the Lord, "Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God."
The stones were to be each set in gold, with the name of a tribe under each stone, and then fixed each one in its place, with little chains from one to the other. It is said to be done with cunning work, but it would be better rendered by the work of an embroiderer. The intention of the Divine Word is doubtless, to teach us that in the acquisition of Christian graces we must intelligently co-operate with the Lord. He gives the materials, the skill, and the strength, but we must use them.
The intellect is a spiritual embroiderer. It is skilfully and busily arranging the secret tissues of our inner being, and making the character beautiful or otherwise. Happy is it when it is covering the affections by a tissue of blessed principles, all in fixed in the golden settings of heavenly goodness. Thrice happy is he who, when he appears before the Lord, appears with an orderly arrangement of heavenly truths, like the jewels of the Breastplate, and all embedded in the golden affections of a devoted heart; "for with the heart man believeth unto righteousness."
The order of the stones is an interesting subject of contemplation. The order of the names of the tribes is not given, but is probably that of the arrangement for encampment given in Num. II. beginning with Judah.
The order of the stones is exactly given, and that will amply serve for the purposes of our discourse. We must regard that order from right to left. There were six stones on the right side and SIX stones on the left. Thus two threes on each side numbering from the top to the bottom stone. Thus the first row on the right, reckoning from the top downwards, consisted of a ruby, a topaz, and a carbuncle. The first stone is called a sardius in the ordinary English Bible, but it ought to be rendered ruby; the word indeed signifies redness, and is now well known to mean the ruby.
The second row consisted of a chrysoprasus, a sapphire and a diamond.
The first three stones derive their peculiar lustre from their warm red glow. The second three take a warm blue shade, down to the bluish white dazzle of the diamond.
These two rows on the right side represented the thoughts on divine things of those Christians who may be called men of love -right-hand Christians. Their thoughts respecting the Lord and their neighbour are all grounded in love. They delight to think that the Lord is Love itself: that His Wisdom is the wisdom of Love: that His works are the works of love. They regard their neighbour also from the same ground. The warm blue of the second row of stones denotes the depth of their thought; the diamond, its clearness. They are greatly intelligent, but they value intelligence least of all. It is goodness they prize. Hence, the diamond was the last of their second row.
These are they whom the Lord describes as being on His right hand in heaven (Matt. xx. 23), and hence their state as to perception of divine things is described by the stones on the -right side of the Breastplate.
The third row consisted of a ligure (or lapis lazuli), an agate, and an amethyst; and the fourth row, of a beryl, an onyx, and a jasper.
These two rows, of far less valuable stones than the former, represent the same truths as before, but as they are apprehended by men, who are Christians more of the head and of faith, than of the heart and love. These regard the Lord and their neighbour: they revere the one and cherish the other, but neither with that warmth, nor that depth, which is experienced by the men of love. They are those whom the Lord describes as sitting on the left hand in heaven. They commence with a blue stone which is not transparent, and end with the pale jasper, clear like crystal, but not sparkling like the diamond: men rather of thought than of love. They have not the burning glow of celestial feeling, but still they are within the kingdom of the Lord. They are borne on His breast, and they bear on their breasts the precious stones, if not of the highest, yet of an order far superior to self and the world, and they are not forgotten in the day when the Lord makes up His Jewels (Mal. III. 17).
All these stones may also be regarded in relation to one mind, and then can be conceived as thoughts of love, and thoughts of faith; as the heart side and the intellectual side of the same person. And they only who are thus equipped with truths of every kind, are thoroughly furnished for every good work. They are diligent to know, skilful to divine, and large-hearted to glow with the riches of celestial feeling. They are "wise as serpents? and harmless as doves." The little chains of golden cord which went from one of the stones to another, the chains of gold connecting the Breastplate to the shoulders, and the two golden rings by which it was attached to the girdle of the ephod, represented the union of all heavenly things by love. The same love which forms the very essence of heaven runs through and unites all things in harmony and connection, and surrounds them with a blessed sphere. It is this embosoming of all things in love which was represented by the chains and rings of gold, connecting the Breastplate above and below, and connecting also every part with every other. "How good and how pleasant It is for brethren to dwell together in unity." "Jerusalem is builded as a city which is compacted together." These form the very law of heaven, and of all things heavenly. "He that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him." 1
John IV. 16. This love, however, is everywhere, in all things, and in perfect harmony with spiritual truth. It is not sentimentalism, or blind feeling; but the love, whose companion is high principle, whose views are pure, peaceable, and divinely wise, full of mercy and of good fruits.
Let us next notice the mode and the order in which the Garments of the High Priest were put on. They are described in Leviticus. "This is the thing which the Lord commanded to be done: And Moses brought Aaron and his sons, and washed them with water. And he put upon him the coat, and girded him with the girdle, and clothed him with the robe, and put the ephod upon him, and he girded him with the curious girdle of the ephod, and bound it unto him therewith. And he put the breastplate upon him: also he put in the breastplate the Urim and the Thummim. And he put the mitre upon his head; also upon the mitre, even upon the forefront, did he put the golden plate, the holy crown; as the Lord commanded Moses."---VIII. 5-9.
The Urim and the Thummim, or flames and perfections, which the words signify in Hebrew, mean the precious stones themselves, which were placed in their positions every time the Breastplate was used: those of a warm brilliancy being understood by the flames (Urim), and the rest by the perfections (Thummim).
The spiritual order here indicated is the order even intimated in the whole Word. First, wash, then be clothed with beauty. "Wash you, make you clean, put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes. Cease to do evil, learn to do well.” “If I wash thee not thou hast no part in me." "I will wash mine hands in innocency; so will I compass thine altar, O God." How humbling, and how purifying an effect would it have upon us if we ever remembered the washing, which must precede the adornment of our souls with heavenly beauty, not only the first time, but every time we come into holy states; and thus put on our holy garments and the Breastplate before the Lord. There is, then, first the inner coat put on and girded with the inner girdle. The garments of praise are received, instead of the spirit of heaviness. The inner purity of spiritual religion clothes the soul with holy thoughts, and girds them with heavenly strength, grasping them with the spirit of sacred zeal.
There is next put on the blue robe. Devout meditation brings the mind into a clear perception of heavenly truth, and into the very element of the spiritual sense of the Holy Word. He breathes the atmosphere of angelic thought.
Then " he put on him the ephod, and he girded him with the girdle of the ephod, and girt it to him with it."
As the soul proceeds in the attainment of heavenly graces, it proceeds to complete its internal states, by external ones; that religion may be with it, in fullness. It says with the Psalmist, "I have not hid thy righteousness within my heart: I have declared Thy faithfulness and thy salvation. I have not concealed thy loving-kindness and thy truth from the great congregation." And, lastly, he places upon him the breastplate, and inserts therein the precious stones, the Urimm and the Thummin, each in its place. The truths which show him the love the wisdom and the omnipotence of the Lord, and the affection, the wisdom, and virtue of man, when he is in the image and likeness of the Lord, all these like jewels are resplendent within, shining with holy lustre, and leading the soul in fullest and deepest adoration to say, “O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever."
But we must not forget that the Breastplate was not a thing of beauty only: it was a Breastplate of judgment, by its means the Divine Will was made known, in all times of difficulty and perplexity. The High Priest, with this Breastplate on, laid his own inquiries, and his own sorrows, or those of the people, before the Lord, in the Holy of holies; and received from Him infallible direction. The Divine Light shone upon the precious jewels, and conveyed the instruction of heaven and its sanction as the case might be. “And thou shalt put in the breastplate of judgment the Urimm and Thumimm; an they shall be upon Aaron’s heart when he goeth in before the Lord: and Aaron shall bear the judgment of the children of Israel upon his heart, before the Lord continually."
How pregnant is this divine lesson with wisdom for us. We have our difficulties and perplexities from time to time. The Lord has vouchsafed also the Breastplate of heavenly judgment Let us have the goodly pearls of holy principles written upon our hearts, and desire only to be led of the Lord, and then lay our cares and our difficulties before Him; and He will meet with us, illuminate us, and bless us.
Let us diligently make our heavenly garments, and form the heavenly Breastplate. They will not make themselves. The wise-hearted are commanded to make them. They are the work of the embroiderer. The Lord provides, the purple, and the scarlet; but the true servants of the Lord must weave them and form them into spiritual robes, and put them on. When this is done, they will stand in glory and in beauty: and they will obtain answers of peace.
The Divine High Priest has done all this before us, by His own might, for the whole universe; and to give us power to follow Him in the regeneration. Let us follow Hi divine example, by daily power from Him, and realize His realize His blessed words, “Where I am, there shall also my servant be."
Author: JONATHAN BAYLEY --From From Egypt to Canaan (1867)