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Exodus 28:13-30 - Homiletics

The Teachings of the Breast-plate.

The breast-plate of judgment has many aspects, and teaches us several important truths— e.g. :—

I. THE PRECIOUSNESS OF SOULS IN GOD 'S SIGHT . The tribes of Israel are represented by gems—gems of the most precious kinds known to, and workable by the engravers of the day—sard, and onyx, and carbuncle, and lapis lazuli, and chrysolite, and perhaps turquoise. We are reminded by this of the saying of the Lord recorded by the prophet Malachi—"They (that fear me) shall be mine in that day when I make up my jewels " ( Malachi 3:17 ). His own elect are the "jewels" of Christ, wherewith he decks himself as a bridegroom with his ornaments ( Isaiah 61:10 ). As Israel was of old, not only his "special people," but his "peculiar treasure" ( Exodus 19:5 ), so are Christians now—each one of them dear to him; each one of them purchased with his blood; each one of them a stone in that glorious temple whereof he is the chief corner stone—a "white stone," having on it "a new name written" ( Revelation 2:17 ; Revelation 3:12 ).

II. THE VARIETY IN THEIR GIFTS . Each stone in the breast-plate was different from all the rest—each had its own peculiar beauty. One was more brilliant, one more lovely in its hue, one more curious from its complexity. Yet the breast-plate needed all, would not have been perfect without all. None could say to its neighbour—" I have no need of thee." Contrast with its neighbours heightened the effect of each and so added to its beauty. It is the same with Christ's "jewels"—no two are alike—each has his own peculiar characteristics, his idiosyncrasy. And the crown in which the jewels are set is rendered more beautiful than it would otherwise have been by this diversity and variety. An endless repetition of even that which is most lovely pails. Of the thousands upon thousands whom Christ has saved and will save, no two but will be different; no one but will add somewhat to the majesty and beauty of the Church in heaven by its peculiar and distinctive character.

III. THE HIGH VALUE OF HIDDEN GIFTS OF WISDOM AND KNOWLEDGE . It was not from its external beauty—from the gold and purple, and scarlet, and blue, and fine linen of its main fabric, or from its ouches and its golden chains of wreathed work; or even from the dazzling brilliancy and varied hues of its twelve gems—that the breast-plate of the high priest drew either its main value or its honourable title. It was "the breast-plate of judgment;" and this "judgment" was wholly unconnected with the external beauty and gorgeous appearance of the breast-plate. Hidden away in the treasury of its innermost folds lay the mysterious objects, known as "light" and "perfection," by means of which the priest pronounced his "judgments," and declared the will of God to the people. These constituted the true glory of the breastplate. While the twelve stones symbolised the twelve tribes, with their varied gifts and faculties ( Genesis 49:3-27 ; Deuteronomy 33:6-25 ), the Urim and the Thummim symbolised light and perfection—intellectual and moral excellence—those best gifts of wisdom and moral knowledge which are the crowning graces of the regenerate human being ( Ephesians 1:8 , Ephesians 1:17 ; Philippians 1:9 ; Colossians 1:9 , Colossians 1:10 ; etc.).

IV. THE PROPRIETY OF REFERRING ALL OUR DOUBTS TO GOD FOR DECISION . Though the Christian Church does not enjoy, any more than did the post-captivity Jewish Church ( Ezra 2:63 ), the advantage of oracular responses from on high, though our High Priest is gone before us into the holiest, and has taken with him the light and perfection, which are his alone, yet it is still possible to refer doubts to God, and so obtain light enough to serve as a guide to conduct. If we take our difficulties to God on our knees, and ask his counsel upon them in a faithful spirit, we have full reason to trust that we shall receive illumination from him. What after prayerful communion with God appears to us the best course to take, we may accept as his decision, his voice speaking to us. How consoling and encouraging the thought that we can, each one for himself, in the solitude of our chambers cast the burthen of our cares upon One who is perfectly good and perfectly wise, and who has promised to be our guide unto death!

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