Last week, I talked about those times when I see a need but don’t feel like I’ve got what it takes to meet it. There are lots of times when I feel overwhelmed. Whatever it is, I feel like I can’t do it. But there are other times when I feel overconfident. I’ll take on a new opportunity or start a new ministry and, at first, I feel desperate and in need of God. But soon that desperation changes into complacency. I become confident and switch into auto-pilot, feeling like I’ve got it covered. I assure myself that I know what I’m doing and implicitly send the message that I don’t need God. God’s exchange with Moses in Exodus helps me in those times when I’m feeling inadequate, but His instructions to the high priest in Exodus helps in the times when I’m feeling overconfident.
In Exodus 28, God describes the holy garments that Aaron is to wear as high priest. They’re really impressive. Made of expensive gold, blue, purple and scarlet yarns with fine linen, the high priest’s clothes were designed “for glory and for beauty” (v. 2). He wore onyx stones with the names of the tribes of Israel engraved on them (v. 9) as well as a breastplate with a dozen precious stones in gold settings, attached to it (vv. 17-21). My favourite part of the outfit is the turban he wore. It was woven from fine linen (v. 39) and had a pure gold plate on it with the engraving, “Holy to the LORD” (v. 36). I picture the high priest overwhelmed, at first, at the idea of going to serve in God’s presence. But if there was any sense that the clothes make the man, putting on such a rich and elaborate outfit would certainly give him a sense of divine calling. It would be clear to him that he was, in fact, the one set apart to serve God. That may have led to overconfidence though. He could have been prone to complacency and serve without a sense of reliance on God. And so, God did something that would make it impossible for him to forget how much he needed Him.
After describing the high priest’s clothing, in Exodus 29 God describes the ritual that was to be performed whenever a priest was consecrated to His service. Various sacrifices and offerings are prescribed. But the most unforgettable part of the ceremony may have been what was done to the priests’ clothing. Standing wearing the beautiful robe and turban (vv. 5-9) that had been detailed in the previous chapter, the priest is then sprinkled with blood from the altar and anointing oil. I can’t help but imagine the emotional impact of this. When you first put on a new outfit, the last things you want spilled on it are blood and oil. Because it was such an unexpected command, the priest would be moved to ponder its significance. Surely, God’s trying to make a point here! As he reflected on the strange ritual, the priest would have an unforgettable visual reminder that to serve God, confidence and the right outfit aren’t enough – the cleansing of blood and the power of the Spirit’s anointing are crucial to service in the presence of God.
Thinking about this ritual as a Christian helps me to know when I’m overconfident and tells me what to do about it. It shows me that if I’m going to do something of significance for God – if I want to serve Him – I need the cleansing of Christ’s blood and the empowering of the Holy Spirit. Just doing what I know how to do is not enough. If I don’t ask God to give me clean hands and a pure heart, and seek Him for the Spirit’s anointing in what I do, I’ll probably just go through the motions. There’ll be overconfidence in myself and under-reliance on God. There will be a lot of activity but very little impact. Next time, I feel this, I want to remember the priests’ beautiful robe that got stained by blood and oil. And having remembered it, I want to call on Christ’s cleansing and the Spirit’s power to serve God in a way that would glorify Him. May God give us all grace to do the same.
In awe of Him,