Good Monday Morning to this week 48/2018
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 his righteousness. Isaiah 61.10a
This past Sunday I was honored to speak in wonderful church in Segbe, Lomé. Speaking about being important in the plan of God we looked at Jochebed, the mother of Moses.
Her courage to give away her son twice laid the path for Moses to grow up and lead Israel out of exile. She applied the following quote: If God asks you to give up something, trust him and release it. Shortly after the sermon, there was a dedication of a newborn then following was a prayer for a widow in mourning. Before the prayer she received new clothes, was accompanied outside to put them on, with the new clothes she returned and received the prayer of the pastor and the elders. There was something very beautiful and graceful in this.
Scripture uses metaphor all the time in order to illustrate spiritual concepts and one such metaphor is clothing. This metaphor can be easy to miss because there are also many instances in Scripture where clothing means exactly that: literal clothing. However, careful reading reveals that clothing is a frequent biblical metaphor and as such it is rich with meaning. Therefore, it is critical us to recognize the instances where this metaphor appears and to understand its implications. First, let us look at one Old Testament instances of the use of clothing as a metaphor.
After the exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt, we again find clothing being cleansed prior to making a covenant with God:
When Moses told the words of the people to the LORD, the LORD said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow and let them wash their garments and be ready for the third day. For on the third day the LORD will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. So Moses went down from the mountain to the people and consecrated the people, and they washed their garments. Exodus 19:10-14
God told the people of Israel to wash their garments as part of the preparation for His arrival at Mount Sinai and for the establishment of the Covenant of Moses. Without clean garments which symbolized their right standing, the covenant could not have been established.
Then once the Mosaic Covenant was established, we find extensive and repeated instructions regarding the clothing of the priests.
In Zechariah, we read the account of Joshua the high priest whose filthy garments are removed from him and he is left standing in “pure vestments.” In the midst of this clothing change, Joshua is told by the angel of the Lord that his iniquity has been taken away from him. Once his clothes are pure, symbolizing the removal of his iniquity, God says to him:
Thus says the LORD of hosts: If you will walk in my ways and keep my charge, then you shall rule my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you the right of access among those who are standing here. – Zechariah 3:6-7
While his garments were filthy, Joshua could have no relationship with God. Once his garments were cleansed, God granted him access as long as he walked in God’s ways.
The function and scope of the clothing metaphor symbolizing one’s standing with God finds even greater evidence in the New Testament.
Clothing as a picture of one’s standing before God in the New Testament.
One of the first mentions of clothing as representative of something truly important occurs in the parable of the wedding feast. Here, Christ tells of a man in attendance at the wedding, but when the host spotted him, he orders the man to be thrown out into outer darkness for apparently no other reason than that he was without a wedding garment (Matthew 22:1-14). Clearly, a right standing was required to attend the feast and this wedding garment was essential to that right standing.
In Corinthians, Paul further connects the dots of the clothing metaphor when he writes:
For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.
Paul’s point was not that the Corinthians needed physical clothing of some kind, rather he was telling them to make sure that they were in a right standing with God.
The metaphor of garments as representative of one’s standing with God is carried on into Revelation where we find a host of allusions to garments, clothing or robes. As a result, is in the book of Revelation where the clothing metaphor finds its fullest expression.
Clearly, the state of one’s clothing is a big deal in the book of Revelation. It also becomes easy to understand the picture given to us in Genesis 3: the clothing worn by Adam and Eve signified the atonement that had been made on their behalf and their restored standing with God. In Genesis, this clothing was necessary for entrance into a covenant with God. In Revelation, one must be clothed in a similar, though now even more clearly metaphorical garment.
Isaiah 61:3 – To grant those who mourn in Zion, Giving them a garland instead of ashes, The oil of gladness instead of mourning, The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting So they will be called oaks of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.
I wish you “new clothes” this week, as you seek Him and are confirmed of your “standing” with the God Almighty.