The High Priest
Old Covenant – High Priestly Garments
The central figure of the Old Covenant system was the High Priest.
He was the most important person in the entire nation because he represented the entire nation before God.
He stood above everyone else not just because of his position but also because of what he was required to wear.
As we look at his garments, understand that together they paint a picture of the High Priest that was to come.
- He wore white breeches of fine linen next to his body. Over the linen breeches, he wore a white tunic of fine linen that hung to his feet. This outfit was the same as all of the other priests and therefore was ordinary.
- In the Bible, fine white linen represents perfect righteousness.
- So from within the High Priest was symbolically clothed in perfect righteousness.
- The High Priest wore a blue robe over his coat.
- The color blue speaks of heaven. It represents a heavenly appointment by God Himself Who select Aaron as the High Priest.
- Embroidered on the bottom of the robe were golden bells alternating with pomegranates of blue, purple and scarlet. Gold represents deity. The purple and scarlet refer to royalty and blood sacrifice.
- These colors pointed ahead to the time when God Himself would come and establish His Kingdom with His own blood.
- Over his robe the priest wore a short sleeveless jacket called an ephod. The ephod was made of beaten gold that had been cut into thin wires and woven into fine linen of blue, purple and scarlet. It consisted of two pieces, front and back that were joined at the shoulders by two gold chains.
- The ephod reached from the shoulders to below the waist, hanging slightly above the blue robe. A sash of fine linen fastened around the ephod. The sash served as a reminder that the priest was a servant of God and a servant of Israel.
- A gold breastplate, also of blue, purple and scarlet was attached to the ephod. Twelve beautiful stones were attached to the breastplate. The name of one of the twelve tribes was engraved with a seal on each stone. The stones were attached in four rows with three stones to a row.
- As the High Priest interceded for the people, he symbolically carried the entire covenant nation into the presence of God.
- Two onyx stones were set in gold and fastened to the ephod at the shoulders. The names of the 12 tribes were engraved with a seal on these stones, six names on each stone.
- The stones on his shoulders represented his strength and the stones over his heart represented his love.
- The seventh article of clothing was a turban made of fine linen worn as a headpiece. A gold plate was attached to the turban with a blue ribbon. The words, “Holiness To The Lord” were engraved with a seal on the gold plate. This was the crowning piece of the garments of glory and beauty. By wearing it on his forehead, the High Priest would symbolically bear the guilt of any unclean sacrifices made to God, and it also made him acceptable to God.
The High Priest had many responsibilities but his most important was the duties he performed on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). This is the one day of the year, when the High Priest would beyond the veil into the Holy of holies.
The pressure was on him. If he made a mistake, the whole nation would be without forgiveness. So God gave detailed instructions to the High Priest. They not only told the High Priest what to do, but also pointed the nation to a priest who would come as one greater then Aaron. When He came, everyone would be able to recognize Him because He so perfectly would fulfill every detail of the instructions Himself.
Let’s walk through what the High Priest was to do on the Day of Atonement:
- The first thing the High Priest would do is to wash himself. This was symbolic cleansing of any defilement. He was clean so that he could then minister on behalf of the people.
- After washing, he would then get dressed for service. He would put on his white robe, his sash and his turban. These are the clothes that he would wear to represent the people in the presence of God. These are NOT the garments of glory and beauty. He dressed very plainly in his white coat of linen. He looks just like everyone else.
- He then sacrifices a bull for his own sin offering.
- He carries the blood from this sacrifice into the Holy of Holies and sprinkles it on the mercy seat.
- One of the reasons for the cloud of incense that was generated by the golden censer was to shield his eyes from the bright light that emanated from the presence of God that was seated on the Ark of the Covenant.
- Seven times he sprinkles the mercy seat indicating that there was coming a perfect sacrifice that would complete this.
- Each time the priest enters into the Holy of Holies, there is no place to sit down. That is because his work was never finished.
- Now that he has offered the sacrifice for his own sin, he can now minister on behalf of the people.
- Two goats were selected as the sin offering for the nation. One goat will be sacrificed to God while the other goat is set free.
- He casts lots to determine which one would be the sacrifice and then carries is to the brazen altar, leans heavily on it and then kills it. The sins of the nation are symbolically transferred to the animal.
- The High Priest takes the blood of this animal into the Holy of Holies.
- There was no place for the priest to sit down in the Holy of Holies because his work was never going to be completed. He had to do this work all over again in a year.
Hebrews 1:3 NKJV
(3) who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,
- Everyone waits in anticipation to see if the sacrifice is accepted.
- He sprinkles the mercy seat seven times and this place becomes a seat not of judgment but rather one of mercy.
Hebrews 9:20-24 NIV
(20) He said, “This is the blood of the covenant, which God has commanded you to keep.”
(21) In the same way, he sprinkled with the blood both the tabernacle and everything used in its ceremonies.
(22) In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.
(23) It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.
(24) For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence.
- Justice has been administered and God’s wrath has been vindicated.
- He then returns from the Holy of Holies and goes to the altar and smears the blood on the horns of the altar. This cleanses the altar from the sins of the people.
- The High Priest now needs some visible way to show you that your sins have been dealt with. He lays his hands on the scapegoat and transfers on it the sins of the nation and he sends it into the wilderness and your sins symbolically go with it.
- The scapegoat did not have to die; it went free. The second goat could go free only after the blood of the first goat had paid the price and the blood had been applied.
- The first goat represented you. Once you see that second goat is set free, you know that your sins are forgiven and separated from you. That was the best news you could hear for that year.
- The High Priest then goes back into the tabernacle and holy place and washes himself again. He then puts on all of his garments including the garment of glory and beauty. He is carrying you on his shoulders and in his heart. As long as you heard the bells, you knew that all was well and he is coming out soon to meet you.
- As he re-appears, in all of his full garments, there are great shouts of joy from the people because they know that the price had been paid for another year.
- He then offers a burnt offering to the Lord as a sacrifice of praise that the price was paid for another year.
Hebrews 13:15 NIV
15 Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise–the fruit of lips that confess his name.
Revelation 1:5-6 NKJV
(5) and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood,
(6) and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
When criminals were put in jail in Rome, their crimes and the number of years penalty were listed and nailed to their cell door. Each year the jailer would go by the cell door and mark off the time served until the debt had been paid. This paper was called a certificate of debt. It stayed nailed to the door until the debt had been paid in full. Then the jailer would take the certificate to the judge who would stamp it “paid in full”. Then the prisoner would be set free.
Colossians 2:13-14 AMP
(13) And you who were dead in trespasses and in the uncircumcision of your flesh (your sensuality, your sinful carnal nature), [God] brought to life together with [Christ], having [freely] forgiven us all our transgressions,
(14) Having cancelled and blotted out and wiped away the handwriting of the note (bond) with its legal decrees and demands which was in force and stood against us (hostile to us). This [note with its regulations, decrees, and demands] He set aside and cleared completely out of our way by nailing it to [His] cross.
Hebrews 4:14-16 NKJV
(14) Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.
(15) For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.
(16) Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
When Jesus rose from the dead and ascended to Heaven His ministry did not end; it really was just beginning.
1. Jesus is now our mediator.
Hebrews 8:6 NKJV
(6) But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises.
2. Jesus is our Advocate.
Let’s notice something about this courtroom situation. The Judge is your Dad and the defense attorney is your elder Brother, Jesus.
1 John 2:1 NKJV
(1) My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.
3. Jesus is our Intercessor
Hebrews 7:25 NKJV
(25) Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.
4. Jesus is our High Priest.
Everything we send to the Father in prayer, worship, etc. goes through Him and everything we receive from the Father comes through Him.
Philippians 4:19 NKJV
(19) And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.