'And thou shalt make a plate of pure gold, and grave upon it, HOLINESS TO THE LORD. And it shall be upon Aaron's forehead, that Aaron may bear the iniquity of the holy
things, which the children of Israel shall hallow
in all their holy
gifts; and it shall always be upon his forehead, that they may be accepted before the Lord.' -- Ex. xxviii.36, 38.
God's house was to be the dwelling-place of His Holiness, the place where He was to reveal Himself; as the Holy One, not to be approached but with fear and trembling; as the Holy-making One, drawing to Himself all who would be made partakers of His Holiness. Of the revelation of His Holy and His Holy-making Presence, the centre is found in the person of the high priest, in his double capacity of representing God with man, and man with God. He is the embodiment of the Divine Holiness in human form, and of human holiness as a Divine gift, as far as the dispensation of symbol and shadow could offer and express it. In him God came near to sanctify and bless the people. In him the people came their very nearest to God. And yet the very Day of Atonement, in which he might enter into the Most Holy, was but the proof of how unholy man was, and how unfit to abide in God's Presence. In himself a proof of Israel's unholiness, he yet was a type and picture of the coming Saviour, our blessed Lord Jesus, a wondrous exhibition of the way in which hereafter the holiness of God should become the portion of His people.
Among the many points in which the high priest typified Christ as our sanctification, there is, perhaps, none more suggestive or beautiful than the holy crown he wore on his forehead. Everything about him was to be holy. His garments were holy garments. But there was to be one thing in which this holiness reached its fullest manifestation. On his forehead he was always to wear a plate of gold, with the words engraved on it, HOLINESS TO THE LORD. Every one was to read there that the whole object of his existence, the one thing he lived for, was, to be the embodiment and the bearer of the Divine holiness, the chosen one through whom God's holiness might flow out in blessing upon the people.
The way in which the blessing of the holy crown was to act was a most remarkable one. In bearing HOLINESS TO THE LORD on his forehead, he is, we read, 'to bear the iniquity of the holy things which the children of Israel hallow; that they may be accepted before the Lord.' For every sin some sacrifice or way of atonement had been devised. But how about the sin that cleaves to the very sacrifice and religious service itself? 'Thou desirest truth in the inward parts.' How painfully the worshipper might be oppressed by the consciousness that his penitence, his faith, his love, his obedience, his consecration, were all imperfect and defiled! For this need, too, of the worshipper, God had provided. The holiness of the high priest covered the sin and the unholiness of his holy things. The holy crown was God's pledge that the holiness of the high priest rendered the worshipper acceptable. If he was unholy, there was one among his brethren who was holy, who had a holiness that could avail for him too, a holiness he could trust in. He could look to the high priest not only to effect atonement by his blood-sprinkling, but in his person to secure a holiness too that made him and his gifts most acceptable. In the consciousness of personal unholiness he might rejoice in a mediator, in the holiness of Another than himself, the priest whom God had provided.
Have we not here a most precious lesson, leading us a step farther on in the way of holiness? To our question, How God makes holy, we have the Divine answer: Through a man whom the Divine Holiness has chosen to rest upon, and whose holiness belongs to us, as His brethren, the very members of His own body. Through a holiness which is of such efficacy, that the very sins of our holy things disappear, and we can enter the Holy Presence with the assurance of being altogether well-pleasing.
And is not just this the lesson that many earnest seekers after holiness need? They know all that the Word teaches of the blessed Atonement, and the full pardon it has brought. They believe in the Father's wonderful love, and what He is ready to do for them. And yet, when they hear of the childlike simplicity, the assurance of faith, the loving obedience, and the blessed surrender with which the Father expects them to come and receive the blessing, their heart fails for fear. It is as if the blessing were all beyond their reach. What avails that the Holy One is said to come so nigh? their unholiness renders them incapable of claiming or grasping the Presence that offers itself to them. Just see how the Holy One here reveals His way of making holy, and preparing for the fellowship of His Holiness. In His Elect One as Mediator, holiness is prepared and treasured up enough for all who come through Him. As I bow to pray or worship, and feel how much there is still wanting of that humility, and fervency, and faith, that God has a right to demand, I may look up to the High Priest in His Holiness, to the holy crown upon His forehead, and believe that the iniquity of my holy things is borne and taken away. I may, with all my deficiency and unworthiness, know most assuredly that my prayer is acceptable, a sweet-smelling savour. I may look up to the Holy One to see Him smiling on me, for the sake of His Anointed One. 'The holy crown shall always be on His forehead, that they may be accepted before the Lord.' It is the blessed truth of Substitution -- One for all -- of Mediatorship; God's way of making us holy. The sacrifice of the worshipping Israelite is holy and acceptable in virtue of the holiness of Another.
The Old Testament shadow can never adequately set forth the New Testament reality with its fulness of grace and truth. As we proceed in our study, we shall find that the holiness of Jesus our sanctification is not only imputed but imparted, because we are in Him; the new man we have put on is created in true holiness. We are not only counted holy; we are holy, we have received a new holy nature in Christ Jesus. 'He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of One; therefore He is not ashamed to call them brethren.' It is our living union with Jesus, God's Holy One, that has given us the new and holy nature, and with that a claim and a share in all the holiness there is in Jesus. And so, as often as we are conscious of how unholy we are, we have only to come under the covering of the Holiness of Jesus, to enjoy the full assurance that we and our gifts are most acceptable. However great be the weakness of our faith, the shortcoming in our desire for God's glory, the lack in our love or zeal, as we see Jesus, with Holiness to the Lord on His forehead, we lift up our faces to receive the Divine smile of full approval and perfect acceptance.
This is God's way of making holy. Not only with the holy place, as we have seen, but with the holy persons too, He begins with a centre, and from that in ever-widening circle makes holy. And that this Divine method will be crowned with success we may be sure. In the Word we find a most remarkable illustration of the extent to which it will be realized. We find the words on the holy crown once again in the Old Testament at its close. In the day of the Lord, 'there shall be upon the bells of the horses, HOLINESS TO THE LORD.' The high priest's motto shall then have become the watchword of daily life; every article of beauty or of service shall be holy too; from the head it shall have extended to the skirts of the garments. Let us begin with realizing the Holiness of Jesus in its power to cover the iniquity of our holy things; let us make proof of it, and no longer suffer our unworthiness to keep us back or make us doubt; let us believe that we and our holy things are acceptable, because in Christ holy to the Lord; let us live in this consciousness of acceptance, and enter into fellowship with the Holy One. As we enter in and abide in the holiness of Jesus, it will enter in and abide in us. It will take possession and spread its conquering power through our whole life, until with us too upon everything that belongs to us the word shall shine, HOLINESS TO THE LORD. And we shall again find how God's way of holiness is ever from a centre, here the centre of our renewed nature, throughout the whole circumference of our being, to make His Holiness prove its power. Let us but dwell under the covering of the Holiness of Jesus, as He takes away the iniquity of our holy things, He will make us and our life holy to the Lord.
BE YE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.
O my God and Father! my soul doth bless Thee for this wondrous revelation of what Thy way and Thy grace is with those whom Thou hast called 'Holy in Christ.' Thou knowest, O Lord, how continually our hearts have limited our acceptance with Thee by our attainments, and conscious shortcoming has wrought condemnation. We knew too little how, in the Holiness of Him who makes us holy, there is a Divinely infinite efficacy to cover our iniquities, and give us the assurance of perfect acceptance. Blessed Father! open our eyes to see, and our hearts to understand this holy crown of our blessed Jesus, with its wondrous and most blessed, HOLINESS TO THE LORD.
And when our hearts condemn us, because our prayers are so little consciously according to the will or to the glory of God, or truly in the name of Jesus, O most Holy Father, be pleased by Thy Spirit to show us how bright the smile and how hearty the welcome is we still have with Thee. Teach us to come in the Holiness of our High Priest, and enter into Thine, until it take possession of us, and permeate our whole being, and all that is in us be holy to the Lord. Amen.
1. Holiness is not something I can see or admire in myself: it is covering myself, losing myself, in the Holiness of Jesus. How wonderfully this is typified in Aaron and the holy crown. And the more I see and have apprehended of the Holiness of Jesus, the less shall I see or seek of holiness in myself.
2. He will make me holy: my tempers and dispositions will be renewed; my heart and mind cleansed and sanctified; holiness will be a new nature; and yet there will be all along the consciousness, humbling and yet full of joy: it is not I; Christ liveth in me.
3. Let us lie very low and tender before God, that the Holy Spirit may reveal to us what it is to be holy in the Holiness of Another, in the Holiness of Jesus, that is, in the Holiness of God.
4. Do not trouble or weary too much to grasp this with the intellect. Just believe it, and look in simplicity and trust to Jesus to make it all right for you.
5. Holy in Christ. In childlike faith I take Christ's holiness afresh as my covering before God. In loving obedience I take it into my will and life. I trust and I follow Jesus: this is the path of holiness.
6. If we gather up the lessons we have found in the Word from Paradise downward, we see that the elements of holiness in us are these, each corresponding to some special aspect of God's holiness: deep Restfulness (ch.3), humble Reverence (ch.4), entire Surrender (ch.5), joyful Adoration (ch.6), simple Obedience (ch.7). These all prepare for the Divine Indwelling (ch.8), and this again we have through the Abiding in Jesus with the Crown of Holiness on His head.