Exodus 28:9-21, 29
If you weren’t raised in the Catholic Church, then the word “priest” might not be too important to you. In the atmosphere of American Protestant Christianity, which tends to emphasize the nearness of God a lot more than the transcendence of him, the idea that we need a Priest might seem foreign to us. To the ancient Hebrew, however, the priesthood was vital. You would have no problem convincing him that the priest was a very important person. Especially after the display on Mount Sinai during the giving of the Ten Commandments, most thinking people would not be all that anxious to approach the Lord and initiate an intimate relationship with him. They were perfectly happy to have Moses be their mediator as far as giving them the Law, and Aaron and his descendants were appointed to be the “go-betweens” for everyday average Israelites on a permanent basis.
If you've read the book of Hebrews, then you know that the Aaronic priesthood was a shadow of the final and ultimate High Priest, namely our Lord Jesus. What the priests couldn’t accomplish under the Old Covenant, Jesus did. He ascended to Heaven, sat down at the right hand of God, and even now intercedes for us before the Father.
If we believe that the priesthood of Aaron was a type (remember that word?), a foreshadowing, an illustration of the Lord Jesus, then why would we ignore what the Old Testament says about it? Today’s passage is one of the most beautiful illustrations I’ve ever seen of the Lord Jesus as our High Priest and what that entails, and a lot of Christians miss it.
The Aaronic priest had very detailed instructions about every aspect of his service, and this of course included his “work uniform.” They made his robe, his turban, his belt, and his undergarments, but what interests me here are his shoulder pieces and his breastplate. They inscribed on two separate onyx stones the names of the tribes of Israel (Reuben, Simeon, Judah, etc.) and placed these stones on the shoulder pieces for the priest. They also fashioned a breast-piece and mounted upon it twelve stones, each stone again representing a tribe of Israel. In this way, every time the priest entered the presence of God, offered the sacrifices, and interceded for the people, he literally carried their names on his shoulders and heart.
That, my friend, is what our High Priest does for us. When he ascended up to the right hand of God the Father, he carried our names on his heart and on his shoulders. He bore the burden of our sins, and he even now carries the weight of our concerns, our fears, our heartaches, our pains. We're always on his heart, and he knows each of us by name. Yes, even you.
Lord Jesus, thank you.