Life-Study of Exodusby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In this message we come to the breastplate. Exodus 28:15 and 16 say, “And you shall make a breastplate of judgment, the work of a skillful workman, like the work of the ephod you shall make it; of gold, blue and purple, and scarlet, and fine-twined linen you shall make it. It shall be squared and doubled; a span its length, and a span its width.” Have you ever thought that the breastplate here is a very fine, even the finest, revelation concerning the church? The ephod refers to Christ, and the breastplate refers to the church. This means that the ephod with the breastplate gives us a picture of Christ with the church, a picture that is very fine. Here I do not speak of Christ and the church, but of Christ with the church, for we do not have the ephod and the breastplate, but the ephod with the breastplate. If we speak in a general way, we may speak of the ephod and the breastplate. Actually what we have here is not two equal items. Rather, one item, the ephod, is basic, and the other item, the breastplate, is subordinate. As the subordinate item, the breastplate belongs to the ephod.
We have pointed out that the ephod depicts, portrays, Christ. Upon Christ, as depicted by the ephod, there is a breastplate, the church.
According to Exodus 28, the central item of the priestly garments is the breastplate, not the ephod. Of course, this central item belongs to the ephod. In the description of the priestly garments, the first thing mentioned is the breastplate.
We have seen that the priestly garments were for glory and for beauty and not merely for the purpose of covering one’s nakedness or for preserving one’s health. Now we need to see that these priestly garments are basically for the breastplate. Why did God want the priests to wear certain garments? In particular, why was it necessary for the high priest to wear certain garments? The purpose of the various priestly garments was to have the breastplate.
What was the function of the breastplate? According to verse 15, the breastplate was called the breastplate of judgment. We know that the word judgment is related to judging. Furthermore, judgment is often concerned with the difference between right and wrong. However, the judgment here is not mainly to determine what is right or wrong, what is just or unjust. Instead, this judgment is so that God’s people could know His leading. Hence, the breastplate of judgment is actually the breastplate of leading. Why, then, does verse 15 use the word judgment with respect to the breastplate? The answer is that if we would know God’s leading, we must have a great deal of judgment. We must judge whatever is of the flesh, the self, the old man, and the world. We must judge the things of the flesh and the mind set on the flesh. This judgment clears the way for us to know God’s leading.
In a forthcoming message we shall see that the breastplate of judgment actually functioned as a heavenly typewriter. If you use a typewriter when you compose a letter, you will press the typewriter keys in order to impress certain letters on the paper. With the different letters of the typewriter you are able to compose any word you need. The breastplate functions as a heavenly, divine, and spiritual typewriter. Of the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet, eighteen were contained in the names of the twelve tribes inscribed in the stones set on the breastplate. The remaining four letters were contained in the Thummim attached to the breastplate. Therefore, with the breastplate there were all the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. This made it possible for the breastplate to function as a divine typewriter. As we shall see, the Lord’s leading could be obtained through the breastplate with the Urim and the Thummim much like a word, or a sentence, is composed one letter at a time by using a typewriter.
We shall see that the function of the breastplate depended on the transparency of the stones shining with light. However, if some of the twelve stones on the breastplate were opaque or the letters inscribed on them were not clear, the breastplate could not function properly. Whenever that happened, there was a need to cleanse away whatever caused the opaqueness. Thus, first there was a need for judgment and cleansing. Then it could be possible to obtain a decision concerning God’s leading in a positive way.
Strictly speaking, the priestly garments were not merely for covering nakedness, for health, or for glory and beauty. The main purpose of these garments was for the Lord’s leading. After the tabernacle was built up and after the priestly garments were made, the children of Israel journeyed in the wilderness according to God’s leading. After the death of Moses, the high priest obtained this leading through the breastplate. He would put on the priestly garments with the breastplate and go into the tabernacle. In this way, the children of Israel could act according to God’s leading made known through the breastplate.
Much of the talk among Christians today concerning the Lord’s leading is very inaccurate, even nonsensical. Many speak about the leading without having any idea what they are talking about. In Romans 8:14 Paul says that as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. In Romans 8 we find the reality of the breastplate. Have you ever thought that the breastplate can be seen in Romans 8?
In typology the breastplate was related to the Lord’s leading. Immediately some may say: “You are not being consistent. First you said that the breastplate typifies the church. Now you are saying that the breastplate is a matter of God’s leading. What does the church have to do with the leading?” I would reply that if we do not know the church, we do not know what the Lord’s leading is. Actually God’s leading and the church are one.
I doubt that during the past fifty years any other Christians have spoken as much concerning the church as we have. I have even received a bad name for talking about the church. But even though we have given so many messages on the church and have published a number of books regarding the church, in this message we have something new to say about the church. We shall cover an aspect of the church typified by the breastplate.
Not only is the breastplate the first item of the priestly garments; it is also the central item of all these garments. First the high priest wore a long robe to cover his entire body. Then over the robe he wore a tunic. This tunic was perhaps the length of a coat that reached to the knee. Upon the tunic the high priest wore the ephod. As we have indicated, we can easily understand what the robe and the tunic are, but the ephod is unique. There is nothing like it in our culture, and thus we have no word to describe it. For this reason, translators of the Bible have found it difficult to translate the Hebrew word for ephod. Therefore, they actually transliterate it. This means that ephod is an anglicized form of a Hebrew word. The ephod was over the tunic, and the tunic was over the robe. In foregoing messages we pointed out that with the ephod there were two shoulder plates, onyx stones, on which were engraved the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel. Finally, the high priest wore the breastplate comprising twelve precious stones, each of which was engraved with one of the names of the twelve tribes. We have seen that the breastplate of judgment functioned as a heavenly, divine, and spiritual typewriter to make known God’s leading. This heavenly typewriter is the very center of the priestly garments.
We have seen that the breastplate typifies the church, and the ephod typifies Christ. Thus, the breastplate on the ephod signifies that the church is borne by Christ upon His breast. Furthermore, the fact that God’s leading was made known by means of the breastplate indicates that today God reveals what we should do through the church, by the church, and with the church. The church is God’s leading, for the church bears the divine alphabet by which God makes known His leading. Once again we see that the types in the Old Testament reveal details that are not found in the New Testament. I can testify that I have come to know God, Christ, the church, and the leading of God not only through what is revealed in the New Testament, but also through the types in the Old Testament.
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