Thursday, May 19, 2011

“Garments of Splendor”

Second Quarter 2011 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
Garments of Splendor”
For the week of May 15-21, 2011
“I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels” (Isaiah 61:10, NIV).
A symbol is an object which, through visual similarity or common agreement between users, represents something other than itself.  In other words, a symbol is something that stands for or suggests something else by reason of relationship, association, convention, or even accidental resemblance.  The most common group of symbols is the alphabet.  While each letter represents a sound or sounds, combined together, these letters and sounds make words, representing the thoughts of the speaker or writer.  Symbols are also used in mathematics and in music, and represent specific operations, elements, quantities, qualities, or relations.  The point is that symbols are utilized for varying reasons, sometimes to simplify a complex idea or formula, and other times to conceal meaning or to inform us to take a specific action. 
The Bible is full of symbols such as prophetic beasts, parables and garments.  While garments typically represent character, they may also represent function.  Our memory text likens garments to symbols of salvation and righteousness, referencing both bridal and priestly attire.  In fact, in the King James Version of the scriptures, the expression used for the “bridegroom adorns his head…” is “as a bridegroom decks himself.”   The verb translated “decks himself” comes from a Hebrew word that means to “do the work of a priest,”
God’s desire to make all of the children of Israel priests, and not just the Levites, is obvious in Exodus 19 and 20.  God says to Moses in Exodus 19: 4 – 6,
4Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself.
 5Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine:
 6And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.
God told Moses to prepare and sanctify the people so the Lord could “ordain” them as His priests.  But, as we see in chapter 20, they refused God’s gift.  We read in Exodus 20: 15 - 21,
18And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off.
 19And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die.
 20And Moses said unto the people, Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not.
 21And the people stood afar off, and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was.
God desired to relate to the people as He related to Moses, face to face and heart to heart.  But the people were afraid that the thunder, lightning, and noise, meant that God would kill them, therefore they would not come close.  They told Moses, “Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die.”  Moses replied, “Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not.”  But, they stood afar off.  In contrast, Moses drew near to God and was unharmed, twice climbing the mountain in the thick dark cloud.  Despite this evidence of God’s intention not to harm them, out of fear,the people kept their distance.  
Their rejection of God’s plan for them to be a “kingdom of priests and an holy nation,” led God to institute His contingency plan.  Since His people would not permit Him to establish Himself in their hearts, He would live among them instead (Exodus 25:8).  Thus, God ordered Moses to build the “portable” Sanctuary and establish the priesthood. This symbolic living parable became God’s method of teaching the people about Himself (Exodus 28:1–2).  But the Hebrews corrupted their understanding and by making literal what was symbolic, they effectively steeled themselves in their old covenant beliefs.  Thus, they used the Sanctuary system as a method of salvation, despite the fact that neither the Sanctuary nor the services had merit (Hebrews 10:4). 
Had the children of Israel, in reality the children of God, accepted His original plan, they would have delighted greatly in the Lord, and been found rejoicing in God.  Their garments or characters would have been splendorous and they would have been properly attired for the royal marriage of the Lamb. By allowing God to write His law in their hearts and minds, and dwell in them, they would have had such an intimacy with God as to be His priests, interceding for others, pleading for their salvation, as well as their growth in grace, truth and love.
What a pity they missed their high calling to be covered by God.  How is it with you?  Are you covered?  If you are reading this, chances are that it’s not yet too late.  He is willing, how about you?   
--Raul Diaz