Behold a Certain Man Clothed in Linen

When the high priest appeared before the people in his garments of glory and beauty, all his clothing was of linen, and consisted of the ephod and girdle (all of which could be seen), the robe of the ephod (very little of which was exposed), and the mitre or turban with the gold plate inscribed “Holiness to the Lord”. It would appear that the linen coat and linen breeches formed a separate outfit to be used on the day of atonement, for these garments were then left in the holy place when Aaron changed into his garments of glory and beauty, Lev. 16. 23 What is the typical teaching of this?

Firstly let us notice that Aaron is never described as the “high priest” in Exodus. How strange! - perhaps not when we consider that here a type is being introduced. It is as though the Spirit of God is telling us to understand the imagery, but in no wise to place the earthly high priest on any level of parity with God’s High Priest. The Lord must never be compared with anyone; He is God’s unique Son.

We might at first have expected that the high priest should have been dressed in woollen garments that came from the sheep, perhaps speaking of the sacrifice on the cross; not so, however, for Aaron must be clothed entirely in linen. Now linen comes from the earth; it is not an animal product but comes from flax or its equivalent, and as such the linen speaks to us of the perfect unsullied humanity of the Lord. When we consider the fine twined linen in relation to Him we are at the fountain source of all righteousness. Here was God s perfect Man, bearing on His brow “Holiness to the Lord”, unique in His walk and conduct. The linen was fine and it was twined or woven, suggesting to us the immaculate perfection of His Manhood. This was something not conceived on the spur of the moment, but had been woven thread by thread in the eternal counsels of God stretching from eternity into time, and culminating in that wonderful night in Bethlehem when “the hopes and fears of all the years” were met together, and God was manifest in the flesh.

Remember that the types in the tabernacle tell us of God dwelling among men. and when God was manifest in flesh, He appeared as perfect Man; as the Lord walked here, men beheld, as it were, the linen ephod, pure, white and finely woven. But the linen ephod was ornamented with gold, blue, purple and scarlet, and as the Lord moved among men there were occasions when the wonderful colours and patterns were seen.

John evidently saw the gold, speaking to us of glory, and he writes, “we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father”, John 1. 14. Blue is the heavenly colour (this is why so little of the robe of the ephod, which was all of blue, was visible; His full glory as the Son of God was veiled by His sojourn here as the Son of man). The centurion at the foot of the cross saw this, even when the Lord was stripped of earthly garments, and he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God”, Mark 15. 39. How about the purple? Purple is a mixture of red (the colour pertaining to the man Adam) and blue (the heavenly colour). Here is the second man, the Lord from heaven. 1 Cor. 15. 47. Purple is the colour of Mark’s Gospel with the emphasis on the red, “And they clothed him with purple”. Mark 15. 17. Mark depicts the Lord as Jehovah’s perfect Servant, the One who “made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men … and became obedient unto death”. Hence Mark writes, “he held his peace, and answered nothing”, 14. 61, the submissive Servant dumb as a sheep before its shearers. Scarlet is the colour of earthly kingship. It was used to identify the firstborn son of Tamar in order to preserve the royal line. Rahab tied a scarlet thread in the window, and she is one of the four women mentioned in the royal genealogy in Matthew 1. Matthew is the Gospel of the earthly King, and the Lord is clothed in a scarlet robe. Matt. 27. 28. In type Pilate caught a glimpse of the scarlet embroidery of the linen garment when he set up this accusation over the cross, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews”, v. 37.

The girdle which went round the ephod was of a curious work, carefully designed and richly embroidered. It restrained and kept the ephod in place, speaking to us of certain experiences of the Lord when here as Son of man. He who “neither slumbers nor sleeps” knew what it was to be tired and weary at Sychar’s well. He who was the repository of divine peace was troubled in His soul. He who was the Lord of life wept in the presence of death at the tomb of Lazarus.

And what of the mitre on the head of the high priest? The thought here is, I believe, that when God looked down upon His Son, He saw all these perfections summarized in the nameplate “Holiness to the Lord”. This was God’s view when He said, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased”. There was a higher and fuller appreciation of the Son, separate from the ephod and separate from what man could see: “Behold my servant” who became obedient unto death and that the death of the cross.

We now come to the day of atonement, when the high priest had to set aside the garments of glory and beauty, and put on the holy linen garments, the coat, the breeches, the mitre and the linen girdle. The time had come for the atoning sacrifice. John records that “Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God; he riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments,” John 13. 3, 4. Here is the Son of God assuming the servant’s role, and Mark, viewing Jehovah’s perfect Servant, says, “they took off the purple from him, and put his own clothes on him, and led him out to crucify him”, Mark 15. 20.

The high priest, clad in the holy linen garments, then had to enter the Holy of Holies with burning coals of fire from off the altar, and with his hands full of sweet incense beaten small which he had to put on the fire, that the cloud may cover the mercy seat, and the fragrance ascend before God. The high priest also took the blood of the bullock, and sprinkled it upon the mercy seat eastward, and before the mercy seat seven times. It is true that Aaron had to make an atonement for himself, so that he could be accepted before God ere he could present the blood on behalf of the people. In the antitype, the Lord was sinless and therefore it was certainly not necessary for Him to make an atonement for Himself. But it was still necessary that He and the finished work of Calvary should be approved by Jehovah. The bullock typifies the serving character of the Lord, for this was the beast that carried the burdens, that drew the plough and pulled the cart. As Jehovah’s servant the value of His blood must be taken into the Holiest so as to be accepted by God, before the blood could be efficacious for the sins of the people. The priest sprinkled it upon the mercy seat eastward. The entrance to the tabernacle and to the holy and most holy places was to the east, and therefore as the high priest faced the mercy seat he would sprinkle it towards himself saying in typical language that this was blood identified with him and awaiting Jehovah’s acceptance. Having accomplished all of this, the high priest shall ‘‘put off the linen garments, which he put on when he went into the holy place, and shall leave them there”; he then put on his garments of glory and beauty.

How wonderful it is that John records that Simon Peter came to the sepulchre and “seeth the linen clothes lie, and the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself”, John 20. 6, 7. The High Priest has entered glory. God s perfect Servant has finished the work, Jehovah has accepted the sacrifice, the Servant’s linen clothes are left in a holy place - the sepulchre, the head covering being set apart from the other clothes even as God’s appreciation of His Son is something apart, something special, something unique. Our great High Priest has now donned His garments of glory and beauty, and “is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens”, Heb. 8. 1, for “by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us”, 9. 12.

Hallelujah, what a Saviour!


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