A Meditation on Exodus 28:1-4

Kevin J Youngblood

“Then bring near to you Aaron your brother, and his sons with him, from among the people of Israel, to serve me as priests—Aaron and Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar. And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty. You shall speak to all the skillful, whom I have filled with a spirit of skill, that they make Aaron’s garments to consecrate him for my priesthood. These are the garments that they shall make: a breastpiece, an ephod, a robe, a coat of checker work, a turban, and a sash. They shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother and his sons to serve me as priests. (Exodus 28:1-4)

When YHWH instructs Moses regarding preparations for the ordination of Aaron and his sons as priests, he gives some pretty specific criteria for their official clothing. These are precisely the kinds of details that I usually skip over in my Bible reading, but tonight, thankfully, I didn’t and I received an unexpected blessing. I noticed the emphasis God placed on the glory and beauty of these garments. God told Moses to make holy garments “for glory and for beauty.” YHWH goes on to instruct Moses to speak to “all the skillful, whom I have filled with a spirit of skill.” God actually had a team of tailors and seamstresses to whom the Spirit had given special skill and artistry for the designing and production of priestly vestments!

First, this underscores the fact that God cares about quality and beauty. It should not be necessary to emphasize this, but I find that in many Christian circles today, it is. Seldom do we talk about God’s concern for aesthetic quality. We treat it as a superficial concern and tend to underestimate the importance of those who serve God through their artistry and craftsmanship. God, however, has an eye for aesthetics and commissions those with such skills, even enhancing those skills by his Spirit!

Second, this implies that artistic gifts are spiritual gifts every bit as much prophesying, healing, and speaking in tongues. Of course, the catalogues of such gifts that we find in 1 Cor 12-14 and Eph 4 were never meant to be exhaustive. Nonetheless, I tend to limit my scope of spiritual gifts exclusively to those explicitly mentioned in these two NT texts, completely forgetting the additional spiritual gifts already mentioned in the OT, including the artistic ones mentioned here and earlier in Exodus 25-27. God blesses and enhances human creativity by anointing it with the Holy Spirit. The result is a synergy of divine and human creativity endeavoring to enhance creation’s beauty and thus facilitate its flourishing and the realization of its potential.

What a tremendous calling for artists! Any artist who will, by faith, allow it, can participate in this remarkable synergism with the Spirit. Perhaps any creative moment can receive such an anointing when the Spirit’s presence is acknowledged and welcomed by a heart that is open to the holy. What would happen if the church recaptured this biblical appreciation for the artistic vocations, no longer viewing them as superficial or a misallocation of funds (see John 12:4-6), but as an intrinsic part of the life of faith, an essential aspects of the church’s calling. Is anyone really prepared to say that beauty is optional, a nice perk, but not essential to life? What if beauty is in fact a divine attribute, a necessary part of God’s necessary being (Ps 29:2; 96:9; 1 Chron 16:29)? Then surely no one could dare say that beauty is optional. No! It is eternal and transcendent, one of the ways we can commune with God and participate in his attributes.


Forgive me for losing my sense of the importance of beauty in your divine nature and economy. Restore to me a right understanding of its importance, indeed of its essentiality. I confess that the world’s confusion about and desecration of beauty has resulted in my swinging on a pendulum back and forth between outright rejection of beauty as a theological category and uncritical acceptance of the world’s cheap imitations of it. Lord Jesus, thank you for valuing the beauty of Mary’s act of anointing your feet with costly, quality perfume and in so doing ascribing worth to all aesthetic acts dedicated to the glory of God. Holy Spirit, thank you for imparting artistic gifts to those in the church whom you choose and then partnering with them in generating beauty in this world. Make your church once again the chief patron of all worthy art. Make your church once again truly beautiful in every sense of the word.