Tassels of Grace

Every command that God gave Israel came in the context of what He had promised in previous covenantal revelation, what He had done in bringing them out of the bondage of Egypt and what He would do in fulfilling all of the Old Covenant types and shadows in Christ.

Garments find their place in redemptive history in the Garden of Eden. There is a rich biblical theology of clothing in the very first chapters of the Bible. Adam was to be God’s prophet, priest and king in the Garden. He was to live, move and carry out the commission God gave him, clothed in that holiness. When Adam sinned, his spiritual nakedness was symbolized by his physical nakedness. The clothing God provided our first parents from the skin of the animal sacrifice pointed forward to the righteousness of Christ imputed to the believer (Gen. 3:21; Zech 3:4).

 

Among the many seemingly confusing commands that God gave to Israel in redemptive history is the statute concerning the tassels and the violet thread in Numbers 15:37-41. After giving the people of God the distinction between unintentional and high-handed sins, the Lord commanded them to sew tassels with blue (lit. violet) thread on the corners of their garments. The Lord then told them, “You shall have the tassel, that you may look upon it and remember all the commandments of the Lord and do them, and that you may not follow the harlotry to which your own heart and your own eyes are inclined, and that you may remember and do all My commandments, and be holy for your God.” No sooner do we read this command that we are compelled to ask, “In what ways did tassels on a garment assist the people of God in obeying the Lord and turning from the wicked inclinations of their hearts? How in the world could tassels help advance sanctification of heart?

As with so much in the Law of God, we must seek to understand this precept in light of redemptive history and the previous revelation of God. Every command that God gave Israel came in the context of what He had promised in previous covenantal revelation, what He had done in bringing them out of the bondage of Egypt and what He would do in fulfilling all of the Old Covenant types and shadows in Christ.

Garments find their place in redemptive history in the Garden of Eden. There is a rich biblical theology of clothing in the very first chapters of the Bible. Adam was to be God’s prophet, priest and king in the Garden. He was to live, move and carry out the commission God gave him, clothed in that holiness. When Adam sinned, his spiritual nakedness was symbolized by his physical nakedness. The clothing God provided our first parents from the skin of the animal sacrifice pointed forward to the righteousness of Christ imputed to the believer (Gen. 3:21; Zech 3:4).

In the progress of revelation, God intimated that He was restoring what Adam had lost in the Garden. As Adam was to bear offspring who were to be holy priests to the Lord, so God appointed a priesthood in Israel as a type of the great High Priest Jesus Christ. In Exodus 20, we are told something of the importance of the priestly garments, when we read, “You shall not go up by steps to my altar, that your nakedness be not exposed on it.’  Then, in Exodus 28, God gave very specific instruction about the priestly garments and the fact that part of their purpose was to cover the nakedness of the priest when he went to minister in the sanctuary. This was all symbolizing and foreshadowing the need to have our spiritual nakedness covered with the righteous robes of Jesus Christ.

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