“And Aaron shall bear the names of the children of Israel in the breastplate of judgment upon his heart, when he goeth in unto the holy place, for a memorial before the LORD continually.” (Exodus 28:29)
The clothing of the high priest was made according to very specific instructions. Each piece of the garment both symbolized and preshadowed a ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ as the “one mediator between God and man” (1 Timothy 2:5).
The names of the tribes of Israel were engraved upon two stones (six names per stone), and they were to be mounted upon the shoulders of the ephod. The broad shoulders of a man are often used as a symbol of strength, particularly in carrying a heavy load. Illustrating His perfect faithfulness and capability, the burden-bearing work of Christ weighted with the sins and needs of His people is pictured through Aaron, who would “bear their names before the LORD upon his two shoulders for a memorial” (Exodus 28:12). It is with great confidence in that capability that His people can therefore turn to Him, “casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (1 Peter 5:7).
As seen from the text verse, this work is not a drudgery but a labor of love. The names of the children of Israel were not only on the high priest’s shoulders but also carried “upon his heart.” In one sense this was a visible token of what He had said of old: “Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee” (Jeremiah 31:3). For believers today, Christ’s high priestly ministry is explained more fully in the book of Hebrews, where believers are assured that “because he continueth ever, [he] hath an unchangeable priesthood” (Hebrews 7:24). Therefore, “let not your heart be troubled” (John 14:1), for He has your name upon His own heart “for a memorial before the LORD continually.” RJG