Tetzaveh: Clothed in Righteousness
The Scriptures tell us that we as believers form a sort of spiritual priesthood. This week’s portion speaks of the garments of the high priest as well as the other priests who were to serve before God in the tabernacle. Let’s look at these garments and how they relate to our spiritual priestly service.
After going into great detail describing the garments which are to be made for the high priest Aaron, God instructs Moses, “For Aaron’s sons you shall make tunics; you shall also make sashes for them, and you shall make caps for them, for glory and for beauty” (Exodus 28:40). The first thing mentioned is the tunic. This was a generic garment, woven from fine linen (verse 39). Next is the sash, which was also made of linen, and was likely wrapped around the waist. The last article mentioned in the verse is the cap, which was also made of linen, and was a type of turban or head wrapping. The close of the verse tells us that the purpose of these garments was for glory and for beauty.
The first purpose of the garments is for glory. While neither the priests nor their garments were to be an object of worship or praise, since they were connected to the service of God in His tabernacle they were to be glorious. The priests garments would separate them as holy and elevate them above the rest of the nation so that everyone would know that these people were in the service of God. While to us today it may seem strange to ascribe holiness or glory to a set of clothes, God reveals to us here that even clothing can be a form of worship when it is used to bring honor to His Name.
The second purpose of the garments is for beauty. Again, this was not to elevate the priest or his garments as something to be worshipped, but to highlight the beauty of God and of all that He has created. Since God is beautiful, the worship of Him must draw attention to this fact. God has given human beings the ability to recognize and appreciate beauty as well as a desire to create beautiful things ourselves. When we see something beautiful, especially something within God’s creation, it brings us a feeling of awe and gives us a strong desire to worship Him. The priestly garments, specifically ordained by God Himself, were for this very purpose.
God further explains to Moses, “You shall make for them linen breeches to cover their bare flesh; they shall reach from the loins even to the thighs. They shall be on Aaron and on his sons when they enter the tent of meeting, or when they approach the altar to minister in the holy place, so that they do not incur guilt and die. It shall be a statute forever to him and to his descendants after him” (Exodus 28:42-43). The breeches were like a pair of trousers or undergarments which were worn underneath the tunic. While the other garments are for glory and for beauty, the breeches are “to cover their bare flesh,” and therefore are designed for modesty.
Just as the priests served God in the tabernacle, so too we have been called to be priests: “You also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Yeshua Messiah” (1 Peter 2:5). In regard to the physical priesthood, we are unable to serve. But as a matter of analogy, we are all called to serve as priests, in the sense that we are to worship God and make it our duty to worship Him in every aspect of our life. This is not a new idea, but even at Mt. Sinai God tells the entire nation of Israel that they are to be priests to Him (Exodus 19:6). With the work of Yeshua, we of the nations who have put our faith in Yeshua are now joined to them in that work: “And He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father–to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen” (Revelation 1:6).
Since this is the case, are we supposed to walk around in linen tunics and turbans? No, because those are reserved only for the service of the physical tabernacle. Instead, we have been called to serve God in the manner which is befitting to us. John tells us that fine linen represents the righteous acts of the saints (Revelation 19:8). The symbolism of clothing oneself with righteousness is found throughout Scripture (Job 29:14, Psalm 132:9, Isaiah 61:10). We can choose to put off or take on clothing as we please. It is not a part of who we are or an essential part of our character, although it often is used to express one’s inner self. In the same way, we have the choice whether we will serve God daily by clothing ourselves with His righteousness or if we will clothe ourselves in the pursuit of our own desires and our own glory. In the end, this will express who we are on the inside. The purpose of our deeds is not to emphasize the glory and beauty of our own actions, but rather to reflect the glory and beauty of God and bring praise to His Name (Matthew 5:16, 1 Peter 2:12). The way we do this is by clothing ourselves with the breeches of modesty and humility (1 Peter 5:5).
Let us clothe ourselves with the garments of our service as we “Worship the LORD in holy array” (Psalm 29:2).