The Linen Coat and Girdle
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Open your Bibles, please, to the book of Leviticus, chapter 8:

Leviticus 8

1And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
2Take Aaron and his sons with him, and the garments, and the anointing oil, and a bullock for the sin offering, and two rams, and a basket of unleavened bread;
3And gather thou all the congregation together unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.
4And Moses did as the LORD commanded him; and the assembly was gathered together unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.
5And Moses said unto the congregation, This is the thing which the LORD commanded to be done.
6And Moses brought Aaron and his sons, and washed them with water.
7And he put upon him the coat, and girded him with the girdle, and clothed him with the robe, and put the ephod upon him, and he girded him with the curious girdle of the ephod, and bound it unto him therewith.
8And he put the breastplate upon him: also he put in the breastplate the Urim and the Thummim.
9And he put the mitre upon his head; also upon the mitre, even upon his forefront, did he put the golden plate, the holy crown; as the LORD commanded Moses.

We will be thinking together about the first part of verse 7:

Leviticus 8

7And he put upon him the coat, and girded him with the girdle,…

We have been spending much time in a detailed study of the tabernacle. In connection with the tabernacle, we have been studying the garments of the high priest. The passage of Scripture we just read describes the order in which Moses clothed the high priest with the garments he had made. We have shown you from the Scriptures that the record of these garments was preserved in the Scriptures in order that we might understand the spiritual significance of each piece of furniture.

We have looked at the only part of the clothing that was placed upon the high priest and the priest by himself, the linen underbreeches. All the other garments were placed upon the high priest by Moses. It was necessary for the priest to place upon himself the linen underbreeches because those linen underbreeches were typical of the personal appropriation of righteousness which is the responsibility of each individual.

Appropriation of Righteousness

Turn with me, please, to the book of Romans, chapter 3, that we may remind ourselves vividly that the appropriation of righteousness personally is a must if we are to be in right relationship to God:

Romans 3

20Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
21But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;
22Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:
23For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

Notice particularly verse 22:

Romans 3

22Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:

Notice two words in that verse particularly. One of them is “unseen” and the other is “open”. The righteousness of God is revealed unto all men. That is, it is available to anyone. Whosoever will may come. The word “upon” suggests that even though it is revealed unto all, not all take advantage of it. It is upon only them who believe.

We are reminded that linen is a type of righteousness in the Word of God. Just as certainly as the high priest has to put on the linen underbreeches himself, so the individual today must don the righteousness of Christ himself. Christ has provided it, but you must appropriate it.

A Covering for Sin

You recognize the portion of the priest's garments that we consider now from the emphasis we have already placed upon verse 7 when we read it from chapter 8 of the book of Leviticus:

Leviticus 8

7And he put upon him the coat, and girded him with the girdle,…

Turn, please, to the book of Exodus, chapter 28, for a description of the coat and the girdle which were made for the high priest:

Exodus 28

39And thou shalt embroider the coat of fine linen, and thou shalt make the mitre of fine linen, and thou shalt make the girdle of needlework.

In view of the fact that we are discussing these garments not as they were made, but as they were donned, we are especially interested in the statement, “thou shalt embroider the coat of fine linen,” and in the last statement, “thou shalt make the girdle of needlework.” The first thing that attracts our attention about these garments which the high priest was to wear is the word “coat”, because it is a translation of the Hebrew word koot-to-neth . If you will turn to the book of Genesis, chapter 3, you will find the first place it is used in the Bible; and in noticing the first place it is used, you will be able to recognize its significance. Notice the statement of how God made Adam and Even acceptable in His sight after they had sinned:

Genesis 3

21Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them.

Notice the word “coats”. In our English translation. it is in the plural. In the original text, it is in the singular which I think is important because it indicated that Adam and Eve were both clothed out of the same thing. God made for them a coat, and this word “coat” is our Hebrew word koot-to-neth , which tells us exactly what this coat was intended to do.

When we looked earlier at this passage of Scripture, we found Adam and Eve bereft of the glory of God, standing naked before the Lord, unable to fellowship with Him; so God clothed them, not with His glory, for we will not be clothed with His glory until we stand in His presence someday with a coat that was made possible through sacrifice, a coat of skin. That coat was intended to cover their nakedness and make them acceptable to God. That coat was intended to provide fellowship with God. We have pointed out in our study of the Word of God that the significance and typical meaning of a word when it is used for the first time will be the same all through the Bible. So the word “coat” interests us. This coat which the priest was to wear and which Moses, mind you, was to place upon him, was typical of that divine righteousness which makes us acceptable to God. The embroidered linen coat, then, is typical of that which will cover our sins and our shortcomings and make us acceptable in God's sight.

The Robe of Righteousness

Hold that thought in your mind as we notice how the details that are given to us in this portion of the Word bears this out. The first thing that we will notice, and we will go back to Exodus, chapter 28, is the material of which the coat was made. Notice verse 39:

Exodus 28

39And thou shalt embroider the coat of fine linen, and thou shalt make the mitre of fine linen, and thou shalt make the girdle of needlework.

Fine linen, as we have already pointed out, is typical of righteousness. The coat which the priest wore, the coat which Moses placed upon the priest, was typical of that divine righteousness (notice that I am saying “divine righteousness”) which made him acceptable unto God.

Turn, please, to the book of Isaiah, chapter 61, where this fact is definitely emphasized; we are not drawing upon our imagination or overexerting a passage of Scripture. In the book of Isaiah, there is the story concerning the Lord Jesus Christ. You will remember that He read this passage of Scripture in the synagogue at Nazareth one day (Luke 4:16-21) and He said, “This day is the Scripture fulfilled in your ears.” You will remember that He did not read all the passage and say all of it was fulfilled at that time, but only part of it was. However, we are interested in verse 10 of this chapter now:

Isaiah 61

10I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.

These are the words of Israel redeemed:

Isaiah 61

10…he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness,…

You will remember that when the prodigal son returned home, the first thing the father said was, “Bring forth the best robe and put it on him.” That was the robe of righteousness. Turn, please, to Psalm 132, which even more definitely emphasizes this fact. David said:

Psalms 132

1Lord, remember David, and all his afflictions:
2How he sware unto the LORD, and vowed unto the mighty God of Jacob;
3Surely I will not come into the tabernacle of my house, nor go up into my bed;
4I will not give sleep to mine eyes, or slumber to mine eyelids,
5Until I find out a place for the LORD, an habitation for the mighty God of Jacob.
6Lo, we heard of it at Ephratah: we found it in the fields of the wood.
7We will go into his tabernacles: we will worship at his footstool.
8Arise, O LORD, into thy rest; thou, and the ark of thy strength.
9[Notice this verse particularly] Let thy priests be clothed with righteousness; and let thy saints shout for joy.

Notice the phrase, “Let thy priests be clothed with righteousness”. Psalm 132 is the song that was sung when David determined to build a house for the Ark of God, this same Ark that we have been studying about in the tabernacle. The tabernacle had long since been destroyed and the Ark had been lost. David was concerned about it. He said, “It is not right for me to live in a nice house when God's Ark has no place in which to dwell.” So he searched out the Ark. He made an effort to find it, and he did find it. When he built the place where the Ark was to be kept, he said, “Let thy priests be clothed with righteousness; and let thy saints shout for joy.”

Provided By the Lord Jesus Christ

Turn, please, to the book of Zechariah, chapter 3, for perhaps the clearest illustration of what I am speaking about when I say that the linen coat with which Moses clothed Aaron the high priest was typical of that righteousness with which every servant of God must be clothed if he is to please the Lord in his service. Zechariah was given a vision. The curtain of Heaven was drawn back, so to speak, and he saw Joshua, the high priest of his day, standing in the presence of the Lord. He relates what he saw:

Zechariah 3

1And he shewed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD [the ”Angel of the Lord” is an Old Testament name for the Lord Jesus Christ] , and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him.

We have learned that the Devil is constantly engaged in that business. He is accusing the brethren. He is resisting the saints of God continually.

Zechariah 3

2And the LORD said unto Satan, The LORD rebuke thee, O Satan; even the LORD that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?

The Devil was there to accuse Joshua the high priest and, as we shall see in the next few verses, there was plenty of which to accuse him; but the Angel of the Lord said, “God rebuke thee, Satan. This is a man who is saved. This is a brand plucked out of the burning.” The reason Satan could accuse him is found in verse 3:

Zechariah 3

3Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the angel.

Every man in his own strength is clothed in just that fashion, clothed in righteousness of his own making, unless God has done something for him. In verse 4 God does something:

Zechariah 3

4And he answered and spake unto those that stood before him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment.

What He did for Joshua, he does for every believer. Just as Moses provided a robe for Aaron, so the Lord Jesus Christ has provided a robe for us.

Go back to the book of Exodus, chapter 28, and notice another detail or two about the linen coat which Moses placed upon the high priest:

Exodus 28

39And thou shalt embroider the coat of fine linen,…

As we read this statement, the word “embroider” is brought to our attention. This was an embroidered coat. What comes to your mind when you think of something embroidered? You may think of a piece of material that has figures stitched on it. You may think of a piece of material that has a border with needlework around the edges. This word “embroider” is the translation of the Hebrew word shaw-vak , and this is the only place in the Bible where it is used. It is a word that has very special meaning. It speaks of interweaving colored threads in squares in a piece of cloth. If our interest is whetted and we are interested in knowing more, we can know exactly how this linen coat was made if we will turn to chapter 39 of the book of Exodus. This chapter describes how the process of interweaving is carried on, not only with the linen coat, but with some other things as well:

Exodus 39

1And of the blue, and purple, and scarlet, they made cloths of service, to do service in the holy place, and made the holy garments for Aaron; as the LORD commanded Moses.
2And he made the ephod of gold, blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen.

Look at verse 3 because this is the verse we are interested in:

Exodus 39

3And they did beat the gold into thin plates, and cut it into wires, to work it in the blue, and in the purple, and in the scarlet, and in the fine linen, with cunning work.

The artisans took plates of gold, beat them very thin, cut them into very thin wires, and wove those thin wires into the linen coat. So this linen coat was interwoven with gold so intricately and delicately that you would think the metal was part of the cloth itself. It was woven so intricately that it would be difficult to separate the two, the linen and the gold.

We have already learned in our study of the tabernacle that gold is a symbol of deity. That this gold was interwoven with the linen indicates what I have tried to emphasize repeatedly–divine righteousness, for the righteousness out of which this robe was made was not human effort. It was all made possible through the suffering and death of Christ. I believe that is why we are told that the gold was beaten into thin sheets and the thin sheets cut into the thin wires. All of this could not have been done without suffering and death.

Washing Typical of Regeneration

Another thing I would like for you to notice is not related to the garment itself, but is related to an act in connection with the garment. Turn back to the book of Leviticus, chapter 8, and notice what happened before Moses placed the linen coat upon Aaron:

Leviticus 8

6And Moses brought Aaron and his sons, and washed them with water.
7And he put upon him the coat, and girded him with the girdle,…

The coat was placed upon Aaron only after he had been washed in water. Washing is typical of regeneration. Washing is typical of the experience of the new birth. Washing is typical of salvation. Some of you might wonder about that, but look with me at a few passages of Scripture where the truth is borne out. Turn with me, please, to Titus, chapter 3, verse 5:

Titus 3

5Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;

Notice the last part of that statement, “the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Spirit”. The washing of regeneration is an instantaneous act that is completed once and for all. The renewing of the Holy Spirit is a constant thing without which we could not live.

I will not ask you to turn to the Gospel of John, chapter 13, because it is a fairly familiar passage of Scripture. In that chapter the matter of washing as typical of regeneration is brought to our attention. When the Lord Jesus Christ spoke about washing Peter's feet in order that he might have fellowship with Him, Peter said, “If it is a matter of fellowship, don't stop with my feet; give me a bath all over.” The Lord Jesus Christ said, “Peter, he that has been washed [an act in the past] need not save to wash his feet.” The washing is a type of salvation.

Turn, please, to chapter 22 of Acts, verse 16, a very controversial verse, but a good illustration of what we are talking about. You will recognize this as a testimony of the Apostle Paul concerning his conversion and the incident related to that conversion:

Acts 22

16And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.

I say this is controversial because there are folk who say that this verse teaches that baptism is the washing away of sins, and if you have not been baptized, then your sins have not been washed away. Then there are others of us–I place myself among the latter group–who say the verse does not mean that at all. It will not and cannot mean it if you recognize that in the original text there are no punctuation marks as there are in our English translation and the verse must be punctuated according to the truth of the verse and not according to the grammar of our English language. That being true, you would read the verse this way, “And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, washing away thy sins by calling on the name of the Lord.” That is how the verse reads. You don't wash away your sins by being baptized; you wash away your sins by calling upon the name of the Lord. Whosoever calleth upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. But you see, that washing is a type of regeneration.

Turn, please, to Revelation, chapter 1, and notice the dedication to the book of Revelation which you find in verse 4:

Revelation 1

4John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne;
5And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. [Notice this] Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,

Here is incontrovertible proof that washing is typical of salvation. I have pointed out to you these verses of Scripture so you will see this vitally important fact in relation to the linen coat that is placed upon the high priest. Moses did not place it there until after the high priest has been washed, for divine righteousness is never the possession of any individual till after he has been born again, only after he has been washed.

The Girdle - Symbolic of Service

Turn back, please, to Leviticus, chapter 8, as we notice one thing remaining to be noticed in connection with the coat:

Leviticus 8

7And he put upon him the coat, and girded him with the girdle,…

It is important to notice that the coat was not complete without the girdle. Turn to Exodus, chapter 12, please. You will remember that this chapter describes the preparation of the children of Israel to leave the land of Egypt on the night of the Passover. In verse 11 we find instructions given concerning the eating of the Passover:

Exodus 12

11And thus shall ye eat it; with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste: it is the LORD's passover.

This is the first place in the Bible where a girdle is mentioned. You will notice that the girdle in this instance spoke of being ready for action, ready for service, ready to move at the Lord's command. You will find the girdle always symbolizes the readiness for action or for service.

In chapter 13 of John we have a good illustration of the girdle being used as a symbol for service. The Lord Jesus Christ girded Himself with a towel and began immediately to serve the disciples who were in that upper room. So when we speak of the girdle of the high priest, we recognize that this girdle was symbolic of the service which the high priest was to render.

The girdle was made of needlework. We must not pass over that simple statement if we are interested in the significance of these various garments. The word that is translated “needlework” is very interesting, as is indicated by subsequent translations. This word comes from the Hebrew word mah-as-eh , and it is translated various ways in the Word of God. We will point out a few of them. Turn, please, to chapter 30 of the book of Exodus, verse 25:

Exodus 30

25And thou shalt make it an oil of holy ointment, an ointment compound after the art of the apothecary: it shall be an holy anointing oil.

Notice the word “art” in verse 25. It is a translation of the Hebrew word which is translated “needlework”. So the suggestion concerning this girdle is not that it was made with a lot of fancy stitching, so to speak, but that it was made with real skill, the skill of an artisan. What did the girdle represent? It represented service. If our service is to be pleasing to the Lord, then it must be the service of a skilled artisan. Remember what is recorded in Paul's letter to Timothy in chapter 2, verse 15:

II Timothy 2

15Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

A better translation of the word “workman” would be “a skilled artisan”. You are to be eager to handle the Word of God in such a fashion that you will be a skilled artisan; slipshod service for our Christ most certainly will not do. If the girdle represents service, it is fitting that the word for “needlework” should symbolize skill and craftsmanship.

Service as an Offering to the Lord

Turn, please, to II Chronicles, chapter 4, verse 6:

II Chronicles 4

6He made also ten lavers, and put five on the right hand, and five on the left, to wash in them: such things as they offered for the burnt offering they washed in them; but the sea was for the priests to wash in.

Notice the word “offered”. It is a translation of our Hebrew word that is translated “needlework”, that is translated “art”. These are the only three places in the Scriptures where the word is used. You can see the significance of it. Our service to the Lord should be an offering to the Lord, and it is not acceptable service unless it is.

There is a great deal of service being performed in our day and time in the energy of the flesh. The Spirit does not recognize it, and therefore it could not be acceptable unto the Lord. I am never greatly impressed when people tell me how busy they are. I believe that the average church today, in the effort to keep people interested in the church program, is teaching people to perform services in the energy of the flesh; it is not done at the instigation of the Spirit.

One other thing I would like to say to you about the Hebrew word mah-as-eh before we leave it is that it is also translated in current Hebrew–not in the Word of God–by the word “poem”. I think that is significant that the Holy Spirit uses such a word to describe the kind of service that we need to perform for the Lord. Remember what Paul said in his letter to the Ephesians, chapter 2:

Ephesians 2

10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works,…

It is only when the Lord works upon us that we are able to work for Him. The word “workmanship” in the Greek is a word that elsewhere is translated “poem”. Perhaps it is because I am interested in poetry that that appeals to me, but I love to think that by the grace of God I am a poem, you are a poem that God is writing; we have a beautiful message to convey to the world.

Service Rightly Related to Righteousness

May I remind you that the girdle is inseparably related to the linen coat; the linen coat is not complete with the girdle, and the girdle is not complete with the linen coat. The linen coat stands for righteousness. The girdle stands for service. We have before us a very important truth; it is that our service must always be rightly related to our righteousness. When you have time, read in chapter 52 of Isaiah the requirements of the servant of the Lord. I have always tried to keep it before me that they who bear the vessels of the Lord must be clean. Service is related to righteousness. Speaking of the same thing in chapter 6 of the book of Ephesians, verse 14, the Apostle Paul reminds us that our loins must be girded about with truth and righteousness.

In chapter 17 of the book of Isaiah, there is a picture of the Lord Jesus Christ. There are many pictures of the Lord Jesus Christ in the Word. None of them looks like the pictures we see in frames hanging on the walls of homes and churches, but they are lovely pictures. In chapter 11 of the book of Isaiah, there is a picture which speaks of His wearing a girdle. Do you know what that girdle is? The girdle is righteousness. Surely we could not expect less of a servant of the Lord than of the Lord Himself. If His service was to be inseparably related to righteousness, should not ours be?

An Inner Manifestation of Righteousness

We have looked at only the first garment that was placed on the high priest by Moses. This garment was covered with successive garments so that the people on the outside would never see it. We might be inclined to say, “Well, if no one is to see this garment but Moses, why do we need to be so particular about it?” Our answer is found in the fact that on the day of atonement the priest took every other garment off except this one, and this garment was open to the view of God. Aaron might have been careless about this garment before the people and no one would ever know it, but when he stood in the presence of God on the day of atonement, God would know it.

So we would remind you of what the Spirit of God says in Psalm 51, verse 6, where David, living carelessly, convicted of sin, acknowledging it before the Lord, came to the realization that God desireth truth in the inward parts. The reason this lesson is presented to us, though the coat will be covered up by all of the other garments, is that God is interested not only in your outward manifestation of righteousness, He is interested in the inner manifestation as well.

There are any number of servants of the Lord who are saying, “I don't want to be caught doing so and so. But if no one knows about it, it won't make any difference.” Well, it surely will. Even though the outward appearance may be beautiful, as we will see with the ephod and the breastplate and the others, if that inner garment is soiled, God knows it whether anyone else does or not.

Conclusion

We have been looking at these garments as they were placed upon Aaron, typical of the garments that are placed upon me and upon you for our service of the Lord. Have you had the experience of which we are speaking? Have you been washed in the blood of the Lamb? Do you recognize that you are clothed with the linen garment and the linen girdle, that you are clothed with the righteousness of Christ, and thus are prepared for whatever service God may have for you?

Every time I meditate along this line, I think of the words I heard dear old Dr. Ironside quote some time before he died. Dr. Ironside was speaking about our being covered with the righteousness of Christ and he quoted:

Near, so very near to God,

I can no nearer be,

For in the Person of His Son,

I'm just as near as He.

Then He said, “I want to add another verse.” He repeated these words:

Dear, so very dear to God,

I can no dearer be,

For in the Person of His Son,

I'm just as dear as He.


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