Who is a saint? We disclaim any claim to sainthood when we mess up; “I’m no saint, you know.” This seems to imply that saints don’t mess up. They don’t struggle with sin. They don’t wrestle with doubts. And hey, are saints dead people who lived an otherwise unobtainable existence for us normal slugs – larger than life super spiritual heroes of the faith? Biblically speaking, saints are those who are set apart, not for common use, dedicated to God, disciples. Every follower of Jesus is a saint. I mean, even those sinning, fighting over everything, Corinthians are called saints. So what shall we say then? Are saints less than average folks who pick up the name of Christian and drag it through the mud with their careless stumblings; their saved by cheap grace antics? Or is there something in between; something a tad more balanced?
Exodus 39:1-31 is all about the making of the holy garments; the clothes for ministering in the Holy Place. The instructions are found in Exodus 28. Our passage is a shorter recap; the account of the actual making of these garments. In verse three we are told that they hammered the gold into sheets and then cut the sheets into thread which was woven in with the other materials. This is the only new information. And apparently this is how they made gold thread in Egypt. Well, okay then. This is interesting, but does it really add anything to the account? Maybe it does. Even though Egypt was a “house of slavery” – a place of idol worship and arrogance – the Israelites learned some skills that they were able to apply to their service of God. I’m not saying that the information is recorded to make this point. I am saying that we may learn things from dark pasts that can be used for good. It is the recovering addict who turns around and helps others in their recovery. It is the little child who is neglected and left to take care of their even younger siblings who grows to be a nurturer in the lives of hurting children.
Okay, back to the garments. They are clothes specifically for ministering in the holy place and they are holy clothes. The word holy means “sacred, set apart.” So, the clothes are not common every day clothes; they are set apart for service in the not common every day place – the sacred place. This is about ministering in the Presence of Yahweh. This is about a physical symbol of a spiritual reality. The holy presence demands a holy approach. At the end of this passage, in verse 30, we are told of a gold band that was worn on the priestly turban. This gold plate had the inscription “Holy to Yahweh” on it. You kind of get the idea the God wanted them to remember that they were set apart to serve in God’s presence. I know this is not new; I know I covered this when I dealt with chapter 28. But sometimes we need reminders of important things. Serving in the presence of Yahweh demands holiness, sacredness, set apartness. I believe that this is just as true for all Christians as it was for the priests living under the Law of Moses. We are disciples of Jesus. We are not intended to be common or average. We are set apart. We are saints. Everyone of us. Put your holy garments on and minister in Yahweh’s Presence then.
Seven times in our passage we have the phrase “just as the Lord had commanded Moses” (cf. vv. 1, 5, 7, 21, 26, 29, 31) woven throughout the passage. These garments were not open to interpretation. The skilled laborers were not encouraged to put their own stamp on them; to style them up; to give them individual flair. They were woven according to the instructions God had given to Moses. I wonder if the workers felt constrained or limited. Did they long to express their individuality? Or did they rejoice to serve; to follow Yahweh’s instructions in this holy project? And don’t we have a similar phrase weaving itself throughout our existence? You know, “just as Jesus commanded.” You and I do not have specific clothes we have to don in order to serve God. That is not how we are set apart in our approach. But we do have a specific cross to pick up. We do have a specific Lord to follow. Jesus came and showed us love. We don’t get to alter what love is. We don’t put our individual spin on the definition. We follow our Lord. We do our best to become love.
So, what makes a saint? The person who is set apart and dedicated to the service of God. The person who has picked up their cross and is following Jesus. The person who has donned the wedding clothes. The person who is putting their hope, not in their own ability, but in power of God who raised Jesus from the dead. You are set apart, sacred, not for common use, dedicated to God, saints. Live it! Walter