The curtains surrounding the tabernacle’s compound, in stark contrast to the rocks and sand in the wilderness, were made of “finely spun linen” (Exodus 27:9). The bronze altar, standing just inside the courtyard was imposing, “7 ½ feet long, and 7 ½ feet wide; … 4 ½ feet high” (Exodus 27:1). Between the altar and the Tabernacle, the laver, of unknown dimension (Exodus 30:17), allowed the priests limitless cleansing, both physical and spiritual. And the interior of the Tabernacle glistened with gold. The menorah was gold (Exodus 25:31). The table was gold (Exodus 25:23) and incense burned on the golden altar (Exodus 30:1).
To serve the Holy Lord and minister in such a holy environment, the priest had to dress accordingly. God instructed Moses to “make holy garments for your brother Aaron, for glory and beauty. You are to instruct all the skilled artisans, whom I have filled with a spirit of wisdom, to make Aaron’s garments for consecrating him to serve me as priest. These are the garments that they must make: a breastpiece, an ephod, a robe, a specially woven tunic, a turban, and a sash. They are to make holy garments for your brother Aaron and his sons so that they may serve me as priests. They should use gold; blue, purple, and scarlet yarn; and fine linen”(Exodus 28:2–5).
From head to toe, the priest was outfitted with extravagant clothing, “for glory and beauty”
(Exodus 28:2). To cap off the ensemble, the priest was to wear a turban equipped with “a pure gold medallion and engrave it, like the engraving of a seal: Holy to the Lord. Fasten it to a cord of blue yarn so it can be placed on the turban; the medallion is to be on the front of the turban” (Exodus 28:36–37). Just above the priest’s forehead, for all to see, the tag read, “Holy to the Lord.”
Why did God choose the Levites as the priestly tribe? Levi, the son of Jacob, had two older brothers (Genesis 29:32-34) who might have been chosen to stand before the Lord. But after the golden calf episode (Exodus 32), only the Levites stood with Moses (Exodus 32:26-28). “Afterward Moses said, ‘Today you have been dedicated to the Lord… Therefore you have brought a blessing on yourselves today’ ” (Exodus 32:29).
Moses and Aaron were Levites, members of the priestly tribe, and God chose Aaron as the first high priest. “Have your brother Aaron, with his sons, come to you from the Israelites to serve me as priest—Aaron, his sons Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar” (Exodus 28:1).
Sadly, the two oldest sons of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, sinned and God justly put them to death. “Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu each took his own firepan, put fire in it, placed incense on it, and presented unauthorized fire before the Lord, which he had not commanded them to do. Then fire came from the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord” (Leviticus 10:1-2). Afterward, Aaron’s two younger sons were called as priests to serve in their brother’s place. “So Eleazar and Ithamar served as priests under the direction of Aaron their father” (Numbers 3:4)
Aaron and his sons had a holy calling, to stand in the presence of God, ministering in His holy dwelling. So “the Lord said to Moses, ‘Speak to Aaron’s sons, the priests, and tell them: A priest is not to make himself ceremonially unclean … He will be holy to you because I, the Lord who sets you apart, am holy’ ” (Leviticus 21:1, 8).
Today, every born-again believer is a priest before God. Like the Levites’, ours is a holy calling! “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the one who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:9–10).