They made the robe of the ephod entirely of blue cloth — the work of a weaver — with an opening in the center of the robe like the opening of a collar, and a band around this opening, so that it would not tear. They made pomegranates of blue, purple and scarlet yarn and finely twisted linen around the hem of the robe. And they made bells of pure gold and attached them around the hem between the pomegranates. The bells and pomegranates alternated around the hem of the robe to be worn for ministering, as the LORD commanded Moses. Exodus 39:22-26.
It is tempting, perhaps, to skim over passages like the one from which this morning’s text is taken, on the grounds that the days of tabernacle and temple worship are long past and that it can now be of no concern whatsoever to Christians what the high priest wore or what he didn’t wear when he ministered before the Lord. But we miss much if we take that attitude. It is a true saying (based on something St Augustine wrote) that “The New is in the Old concealed, the Old is by the New revealed”; and there is significance for Christians in everything in the Old Testament if we will let the Holy Spirit show it to us. In my Brethren days, we called it “type and antitype”. Things like the High Priest’s garments were a “type” of something that would one day feature of the Christian life, and that something is the “antitype” — the truth to which the type pointed forward and illustrated.
So what is the antitype of the bells and pomegranates round the hem of the high priest’s garment? What do those point forward to and provide an illustration for in my life today?
Well, first, I note that this garment with its bells and pomegranates is a garment for ministry. God’s instruction was that “Aaron must wear it when he ministers” (Exodus 28:35). And it is blue — the colour of heaven, the colour of the spiritual realm (colours are of great significance in scripture — particularly in everything to do with the tabernacle). So there is the first application. God’s people are now a “royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9) and as a member of that “priesthood” I am called to “minister” to the Lord and to his people; and when I do it is to be in a spiritual garment marked by bells and pomegranates.
Pomegranates are clearly fruit. So surely the presence of this fruit on the garment points to the fruit of the Spirit that must be manifested in my life as a minister of Christ? “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galations 5:22-23). Without that there can be no ministry.
But fruit is not enough. I need the gifts of the Spirit too if my ministry is to be real and effective (1 Corinthians 12). And surely this is what the golden bells are pointing to. They were to be heard when Aaron ministered (Exodus 28:35). And when I minister there should be words of knowledge, prophetic words, healing words, words that encourage and edify and in their very goldenness speak of the God who gives them.
And the important truth here is that I cannot opt for one but not the other. And I must not cultivate the one and neglect the other. It is to be bell, pomegranate, bell, pomegranate all around the garment. My life of ministry is to be a perfect balance of gifts and fruit; and both are there to bless the Lord and to bless his people. May it always be so.