“Fashion for a reason” is seen throughout the Bible. It starts in Genesis 3 after Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of good and evil and realized that they were naked. They chose leaves from the fig tree to cover themselves but the Lord God “made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.” (Genesis 3:21.) They created the need for shame when they were not satisfied with the bounty of other trees that the Lord had created that were “pleasing to the eyes and good for food”. (Genesis 2:9.) Whether they were under the influence of the crafty serpent or not, I can’t help but wonder what it would have been like to have the option to be naked without the negative associations.
What I find interesting is that the Lord God sacrificed the life of an animal to atone for the sins that they had done. Remission of sin in both the Old and New Testament is dependent upon the sacrifice of blood. In the Old, it is the blood of unblemished animals. In the New, it is the blood of Jesus Christ. The difference is that the blood of the animal only atoned for sin until the ‘real’ sacrifice came to earth—Jesus Christ. As told in Exodus 19, when life expanded and the nation of Israel found themselves freed from slavery from Egypt-God promised Moses from Mt. Sinai that they would be a ‘kingdom of priests and a holy nation’ (Exodus 19:5), on one condition. That condition was that they were “...to obey (God) fully and keep my covenant”. Basically, he said that they must “wash their clothes” (Exodus 19:10) so that they are prepared to come before Him. So, they washed their clothes and understood that only the selected few (Moses & Aaron), could actually go to the mountain when told to do so, all others—beast and man, would be put to death. Further, not even the priests could come before Him without being prepared. It was then the Ten Commandments were issued and the covenant was confirmed through the sprinkling of the blood of animals properly selected and prepared for the Lord God (Exodus 24).
When the tabernacle was built (Exodus 25), the people were given strict instructions to aid with all of the materials needed to build it from precious metals to linen and spices. None of the directions were to be taken lightly and all were honored from the building of the Ark and it’s Table and Lampstand. The Tabernacle itself was ‘built to spec’, too. Even the number of loops for the curtains were counted and the color and shape of the materials were created to exact specifications. (Exodus 27).
But what draws my further attention is the detail in the garments of the priests (Exodus 28). They include, “...a breastpiece, an ephod, a robe, a woven tunic, a turban and a sash.” (Exodus 28:4). Sounds more life a beauty pageant to me, but I digress. Engraved with the names of the sons of Israel, gemstones and gold embellished the garments to honor the sons who represent Israel’s 12 tribes. So, their dress was not for pomp or self-honoring. “Whenever Aaron enters the Holy Place, he will bear the names of the sons of Israel over his heart on the breastplate of decision as a continuing memorial before the Lord.” (Exodus 27:29.)
The sound of bells ringing to announce modern Christian services may be familiar to you. Or, at least have awakened you from sleep on the weekend. But, the origination of bells in the first tabernacle started with them sewn to the garments of the Priests as Aaron was directed to wear it when he ministers. “The sound of the bells will be heard when he enters the Holy Place before the Lord and when he comes out, so that he will not die!” (Exodus 28:35.) Even a blue chord fastened to the front of the turban on Aaron’s forehead represented the guilt he must bear on behalf of the sins of the people of Israel so that the sacrifices offered through the Priest would be “...acceptable to the Lord.” (Exodus 28:38). Of course, this may remind you of the tassel worn on the graduation caps today. But, the significance of the meaning behind the two are completely opposite. Or, at least should be unless you consider the probable amount of confessing that should be done by college or other students!
The balance of Exodus foreshadows ultimate sacrifice and atonement of sin. Leviticus spells out details of the law evolving from the Ten Commandments revealed to the people of Israel. These include the roles of the offering for sin and the definitions of acceptable sacrifices. Bit in Numbers, the fourth of the five Old Testament books called the Pentatuch, Moses continues to lead the people of Israel while complying with garment directives. The wearing of tassels with a blue chord on the corners of the garments of the people of Israel was commanded by the Lord through Moses. (Number 15:37-38.) “You will have these tassels to look at and so you will remember all the commands of the Lord, that you may obey them and not prostitute yourselves by going after the lusts of you own hearts and eyes. Then you will remember to obey all my commands and will be consecrated to your God.” (Numbers 15:39-40). This certainly gives a new twist to the use of ‘fringe’ in the 1960’s era!
In Deuteronomy, the Lord God brings His people to the banks of the Jordan River with the final objective to cross into the land of Canaan where He expects nothing less than obedience. Of course, this does not happen despite His provisions and the manmade temple is destroyed and rebuilt across several generations. However, there is much more to be said throughout the Bible regarding the rebuilding of the temple and honoring the Lord God. The Old Testament Book of Ezra tells how a foreign King of Persia helps the people of Israel to regain plundered items and begins to rebuild the altar and the temple. The restoration of the temple included every thing from bowls made of gold (Ezra 1:10) to 100 priestly garments (Ezra 2:69). The importance of garments reappeared and references to the tearing of clothing from the body represent submission to bring forth proper recognition of the need to serve the Lord in an appropriate manner (Ezra 9:5-15) and led to the confession of the people of Israel. This strikes me as odd that the removal of clothes represents the steps toward remission of sin especially since the wearing of clothes started from sin. However, it does make sense since it is with clean clothes that you must come forth...so taking off the ‘muck’ can be the beginning of submission. Ultimately, how we adorn ourselves or dis-adorn? ourselves, plays a powerful role in what we honor and how we represent our beliefs.
In the Book of Job, a man mightily blessed and loved by the Lord God, he is reduced to ashes because of the loss of all that was given to him by the Lord. In this seemingly apparent defeat of His will through the painful test by Satan which called for the removal of his blessings from God and emptied him completely of his acquired wealth, family and all possessions, he remained loyal to God. Job says,
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will depart.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
may the name of the Lord be praised.”
(Job 1:21, NIV)
In his literal nakedness, torn clothing and ashes, he did not “...sin by charging God with wrongdoing.” (Job 1:22.)
The Book of Proverbs-written by Solomon who enjoyed riches and a great kingdom from the hand of God, showed his wisdom in these writings but failed at the end of his life to adhere to them himself. But, after being led astray by his own wives from foreign lands, he does give good advice on the wife of noble character and how she is clothed with strength and dignity. The New International Version of the Bible states in Proverbs 31:1-31: A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands. She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar. She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls. She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks. She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night. In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers. She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy. When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet. She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple. Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land. She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes. She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: "Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all." Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.
Though I will detail only some of it here,in the Old Testament Book of Isaiah in Chapter 59, it is told how the Lord will redeem His people and what He “puts on” to do so. I will just say “WOW” to what He does and thank Him for sacrifice. The people lacked a representative of peace, truth and justice. So, He provided a way. Specifically, Isaiah 59:16-17: “He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm worked salvation for Him, and his own righteousness sustained Him. He put on righteousness as his breastplate and the helmet of salvation on His head; He put on the garments of vengeance and wrapped Himself in zeal as in a cloak”.
There are so many other clothing references that implore us to remember. However, it is the New Testament that offers some more light regarding being properly clothed and what is necessary to sacrifice. In Romans 12, we become living sacrifices because Jesus was our final atonement. Through Him, we are saved. Because of this—we can “put on” His righteousness and are clothed in the Armor of God. Ephesians 6:10-18— “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.”
Now this is fashion for a reason-dressing to remember!