Monday, July 1, 2013

Aaron: The name bearer

By unspoken agreement, they had saved these two particular stones to the end. Bezalel looked down at the turquoise before him and began the task of engraving his name. He completed a letter and paused to look over at Oholiab, who was fully absorbed in his work. Bezalel's eyes caught a flash of blue when Oholiab re-positioned the stone. Back to my work, he thought, and returned to his own stone and his own name.

It was not, of course, his name. No more that it was his stone. The name he was engraving was the name of his tribe: Judah. The stone would be placed in the second row of the breastplate they were creating for the Aaron the high priest. The stone for Dan —the sapphire Oholiab was completing— would be its neighbour.

It struck Bezalel as appropriate that their two tribes should be forever set beside one another on the high priestly garments considering how much time they had spent together. Moses had told them that the Lord himself had chosen them to oversee the craftsmen charged with creating the tent of meeting, its furnishings, and all the sacred garments the priests would wear. After so many weeks of construction and administration that work would soon be completed. And then most of it they would never see again...

Perhaps that was why they had saved their tribe-stones for themselves. Once everything was prepared, it would be Aaron's responsibility go directly into the presence of God. He and Oholiab could never dare do the same; they were not Levites and they were not the high priest. But when Aaron did so, it would be like they were entering with him. He would bear their names on his shoulders and carry them over his heart. And there he would offer sacrifices to God for the people. And for them.

The high priest's garments included, on his shoulders, two onyx stones upon which were engraved the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. On his breastplate were twelve stones. Each bore the name of one of the tribes. Exodus tells us that whenever Aaron entered the Holy Place he was to bear those names as a memorial. They were to be a reminder of the people he represented collectively and of the people he was to care for individually.

We see these two roles outlined at the start of Hebrews 5. The high priest is represent the people to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices on their behalf. He is also to deal gently with those who are ignorant and going astray. The shoulders and the heart. The collective and the individual.

Jesus is also a name bearer. He is our representative to God. He has offered himself as a sacrifice on our behalf. Yet he also deals gently with each of us in our unique blends of ignorance and wandering. He is our high priest. And he is my high priest.

(Exodus 28, 39; Hebrew 5:1-5)