Listening to the Bells

“When was the last time you heard the bells of your Great High Priest?”

And when the men of that place recognized Jesus, they sent word to all the surrounding country. People brought all their sick to him and begged him to let the sick just touch the edge of his cloak, and all who touched him were healed. Matthew 14:35-36 

She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped. Luke 8:44 

These verses prompted me to wonder, what is the significance of “the edge of his cloak” or the hem of a garment or mantle? What I found is amazing hidden treasure! 

In the New Testament the word translated “edge” is kraspedon (κράσπεδον). It means the extremity, edge, skirt, margin, the fringe or tassel of a garment, border, hem. In the New Testament it is the little appendage hanging down from the edge of the mantle or cloak, made of twisted wool, that Jews wore to remind them of the commandments.  

“The edge of his cloak refers to the kraspedon, the blue tassel on the garment that symbolized a Jewish man’s obedience to the law (cf. Num 15:37-41). The woman thus touched the very part of Jesus’ clothing that indicated his ritual purity.” — The NetBible Study Notes   

In the Old Testament the corresponding Hebrew word, kanaph, includes the meaning of wing. Its definition is wing, extremity, edge, winged, border, corner, skirt, corner of garment. 

It is the same word as here in Psalms: 

Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings (kanaph) from the wicked who assail me, from my mortal enemies who surround me. Psalm 17:8-9  

How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! And the children of men take refuge in the shadow of Your wings (kanaph). Psalm 36:7 (NASB) 

There are three areas of truth revealed in the cultural meaning and symbolism found in the Bible occurrences of these two words. All three point to Messiah and form a beautiful portrait of Jesus. Jesus the Bridegroom, Jesus the King, and Jesus our High Priest. 

Marriage – Jesus is the Bridegroom.  

Spread the corner (kanaph) of your garment over me, since you are a kinsman-redeemer.  Ruth 3:9 

Spreading the corner, hem, or wing of a garment over a woman was a euphemism for marriage – another way of saying that you marry or take responsibility for a person’s care and protection. When Ruth asks Boaz to spread the kanaph of his garment over her, she is asking him to marry her, and so take care of and protect her and Naomi.  

Again, in Ezekiel 16:8, God says to Israel, speaking of their beginnings, “Later I passed by, and when I looked at you and saw that you were old enough for love (or old enough to be married), I spread the corner (kanaph) of my garment over you and covered your nakedness. I gave you my solemn oath and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Sovereign LORD, and you became mine.” 

Jesus is the Bridegroom, come to be the kinsman-redeemer, who wants to take us under his wing. “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing” (Matthew 23:37). 
 

Authority – Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train (hem) of his robe filled the temple. Isaiah 6:1 

The second truth revealed through the symbolism of the edge, or hem, of the garment is authority.  

“In ancient times, tassels were part of the hem of a garment, and the hem symbolized the wearer’s authority.” — Rich Robinsoni 

In the book of Ruth, Boaz had the legal authority as kinsman-redeemer to help her. Jesus is our kinsman-redeemer and has the legal authority to heal, help, protect, redeem and marry us – the Bride of Christ.  

Another example of the hem of the garment symbolizing authority is in 1 Samuel 24:4-20. It tells of David hiding in a cave from Saul when Saul comes into the cave to relieve himself. David sneaks up and cuts off the edge or corner (kanaph) of Saul’s robe, symbolically cutting off his authority as king. Later Saul says about it, “Now, behold, I know that you will surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel will be established in your hand.” 

As King of Kings and Lord of Lords, all authority has been given to Jesus (Matthew 28:18). In Revelation the hem of his garment, symbolizing his authority, fills the Temple. We, as his temple here on earth, have been granted to share in this authority (Luke 10:19; Matthew 16:19). 

Mission and Selfless Service – Jesus is our High Priest. 

Make pomegranates of blue, purple and scarlet yarn around the hem of the robe, with gold bells between them. The gold bells and the pomegranates are to alternate around the hem of the robe. Exodus 28:33-34 

In the same way that you gave me a mission in the world, I give them a mission in the world. John 17:18-19 (Message) 

This is the part that amazed and blessed me the most. The bells and the pomegranates on the hem of the High Priest’s robe. What could they mean?  

The High Priest went into the Holy of Holies once a year carrying the blood of the Atonement and the incense of intercession for the people. This mission was life and death to the nation. As the kraspedon reminds of the commandments, the bells reminded the priest of this vital mission. Rabbi Moshe Kempinski writes that “the ringing bells help the Kohen Gadol be consistently aware of his mission and purpose. In addition it reminded the other Kohanim that he was in the Heichal (the Holy) on their behalf.”ii  

Hebrews says that Jesus, our High Priest, offered his own blood as the atonement sacrifice and is continually interceding for us (Hebrews 7:23-27). J. Vernon McGee urges us to be reminded of what Jesus did and is doing for us by “listening to the bells.” 

“When the high priest went into the holy place to function, the people could not see him; but because they could hear the bells, they knew he was busy ministering on their behalf. When was the last time you heard the bells of your Great High Priest? No wonder today many believers are confused; they haven’t been listening to the bells. Our Lord is in yonder at the throne of the Father, busy for us today, and the bells are on His garment.” — J. Vernon McGeeiii  

Interspersed between the bells on the hem of the robe were wool pomegranates. The symbolism of the pomegranates is breathtaking. Pomegranates were generally symbolic in ancient times of life because of all the seeds. But Rabbi Kempinski points out a further, wonderful, meaning. 

“The Pomegranate is a Biblical sign of blessing. Most fruits are made up of pulp and seeds. The pulp of the fruit is what the fruit uses to sustain and ‘feed’ itself. The seeds of the fruit are what the fruit uses to bring new fruit into the world. The seeds, then, are all about granting further blessing. 

The pomegranate is a fruit that is made up mostly of seeds and contains very little pulp. Therefore it symbolizes a fruit with the unselfish desire to grant further blessing in the world without being too concerned with itself and its own needs.”iv 

Doesn’t that sound like our Great High Priest? Unselfish, not concerned about self-preservation, but intent on giving his life away? Unconcerned with his own needs, but determined to serve unreservedly? Completely focused on his saving, redeeming mission? 

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Mark 10:45 

Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. Such a high priest meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. Hebrews 7:25-27 

i Rich Robinson, The Tallit and the Tzitzit https://jewsforjesus.org/publications/newsletter/newsletter-sep-1993/the-tallit-and-tzitzit/ 

ii Rabbi Moshe Kempinski, A Bell and a Pomegranate (https://www.israelnationalnews.com/Articles/Article.aspx/18543

iii Dr. J. Vernon McGee, Golden Bells and Pomegranates https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/mcgee_j_vernon/eBooks/golden-bells-and-pomegranates.cfm 

iv Rabbi Moshe Kempinski, A Bell and a Pomegranate 

Photo of pomegranate by Psyberartist https://flic.kr/p/BffZS1  

Knots in the Cord

We may cut the cord ourselves by giving into fear and doubt, but each time we come back He binds us to himself again, tying another knot, shortening the cord, drawing us ever closer.

Surely there is a future (or a reward), and your hope will not be cut off. Proverbs 23:18 (NASB)

I was intrigued to find that word translated “hope” in the above verse is the Hebrew word tiqvah (תִּקְוָה), and that it literally means “cord.” Figuratively, it means expectancy, hope, a thing that I long for, but literally it is a cord. It is the same word that is used for the scarlet cord the Israelite spies told Rahab to tie in her window in this verse:

“Agreed,” she replied. “Let it be as you say.” So she sent them away and they departed. And she tied the scarlet cord (tiqvah) in the window. Joshua 2:21 (NIV)

Her scarlet tiqvah was a literal cord, but it was also a hope and expectation of salvation. I think hope is like a cord because it is a firm attachment to God, like an umbilical cord, from which we draw the strength to keep going, to keep growing.

Tiqvah comes from the Hebrew word qavah (קָוָה) which means to wait, look for, hope, expect, but also means to bind together. We are bound to God through our faith and hope in him, and he promises that he will not cut the cord, our tiqvah. I can cut the cord myself, and I have many times, by giving into fear, despair, hopelessness and doubt. But each time he has proven himself ever faithful again, and each time I come back to his loving arms. And each time he reties the cord, tying another knot, binding himself to me again. And each time those knots of love and grace shorten the cord, drawing me ever closer to his heart.

The New Testament calls this hope an anchor of the soul. You don’t throw an anchor overboard without attaching it to your boat with a rope or a cord. And the other end of the cord has been knotted firmly for us by our Lord Jesus in the Holy of Holies, the very Presence of God.

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf. Hebrews 6:19-20 (NIV)

Yes, Lord I choose to tie your anchor to my little, drifting, tossing boat. I choose to hope in your word, hope in your promise, hope in your name, in your very character. Give me strength to hope no matter what is happening around me. I come back to you again. Forgive me for the doubts and fears. Tie another knot in the cord. Draw me ever closer to you.

I drew them with gentle cords, with bands of love, And I was to them as those who take the yoke from their neck. I stooped and fed them. Hosea 11:4 (NKJV)

For the law made nothing perfect, and now a better hope has taken its place. And that is how we draw near to God. Hebrews 7:19 (NLT)

And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. Romans 5:5 (NIV)

 

Image is free from Pixabay

Mercy Seat

The ark was full of responses to doubt and fear and rebellion, but God covered it all over with His mercy.

Behind the second curtain was a room called the Most Holy Place, which had the golden altar of incense and the gold-covered ark of the covenant. This ark contained the gold jar of manna, Aaron’s staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant. Above the ark were the cherubim of the Glory, overshadowing the atonement cover (Mercy Seat). Hebrews 9:3-5 (NIV)

In the heart of the Israelite’s Tent of Meeting, behind a veil in the room called the Holy of Holies, or Most Holy Place, was a box covered with sheets of beaten gold which was called the Ark of the Covenant. Its lid, the Mercy Seat, was solid gold and depicted two angels in an attitude of worship. Inside the ark were three things:

1) a jar of manna, the “bread of heaven” or bread of angels which was given to the Israelites to eat in the desert

2) a dead wooden staff made from a branch of an almond tree which had come alive and produced flowers and almonds

3) the ten commandments written on stone tablets

I recently realized that all those things in the Ark were put there in a direct response to rebellion. The manna was given to the Israelites in response to their grumbling about having nothing to eat (Exodus 16: 3-4). God commanded Moses to put some in the ark as a reminder of His provision (Exodus 16:32).

Korah and company rebelled against Moses and Aaron as God’s chosen authority – “What right do you have to act as though you are greater than anyone else among all these people of the LORD?” they asked. Kind of like, “who made you the boss of me?” (Numbers 16:3). Aaron’s rod budded and produced fruit in direct response to the rebellion to confirm God’s choice, and God commanded Moses to include it in the ark as a sign (Numbers 17:1-10).

The stone tablets containing the ten commandments were the most important response, a life-preserver thrown out to all of us people flailing about trying to be our own god. His word is an anchor dropped into the world’s chaotic sea of sin and rebellion – an anchor that holds within the veil (Hebrews 6:19-20).

The ark was full of responses to doubt and fear and rebellion, but God covered it all over with His mercy and told Moses He would meet with him there.

“You shall put the mercy seat on top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the testimony which I will give to you. There I will meet with you; and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony, I will speak to you about all that I will give you in commandment for the sons of Israel. Exodus 25:21-22 (NASB)

The Mercy Seat is where the blood of the sacrifice was sprinkled as an atonement for sin of the people by the High Priest once a year. This foreshadowed the death of Jesus, the Lamb of God, the final sacrifice for the sin of the world. It also foreshadowed Jesus as High Priest offering his own blood one final time in the heavenly Temple (Hebrews 9:11-28).

I also have been realizing that all those things in the ark represented Jesus, the Savior who was to come. He is the manna, the Bread of Life (John 6:48-51). He is the chosen High Priest (Hebrews 4:14), the Branch (Isaiah 11:1) that was dead and came back to fruitful life. He is the Word of God made flesh (John 1:14). God knew from the beginning how things would go and had a plan for our redemption. God’s response to the sin and rebellion of the world was Mercy. His response was Jesus.

… and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. Romans 3:24-26 (NIV)

The word translated “sacrifice of atonement” in the above verse means, in the Greek, both the atoning victim and the Mercy Seat itself. Jesus is our Mercy Seat. But, Jesus isn’t storing up all our sins – or even the reminders of our sin – in a box and covering them over with his blood. At the cross Jesus vanquished sin, he destroyed it, he wiped it out forever – we can be made just as if we had never done anything wrong. Yet we are still crabbing about what we want but don’t have to satisfy our cravings, arguing about who is the boss, who gets to make the rules. We have been doubters, grumblers, rebels from the beginning, but God is still waiting to meet us there, at the Mercy Seat. Come and meet him there.

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:14-16 (NASB)

If you would like, you can learn more about the Mercy Seat here https://www.bible-history.com/tabernacle/TAB4The_Mercy_Seat.htm

 

Photo replica of the Ark of the Covenant in the Royal Arch Room of the George Washington Masonic National Memorial. Photo by Ben Schumin on December 27, 2006

He Will Hold You Together

The older I get the more I know I tend to leak, the more I know I need his frapping.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are-yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:15-16 (NIV)

Mercy and grace. So often I need mercy and grace. Mercy and grace to help right at my time of need – which is really all the time. God’s very throne is a throne of grace. And we can go right up to him as his child that he delights in because of what Jesus did for us on the Cross. And because he has gone through it all before us, and knows what we need, he can empathize with us.  

Mercy is compassion: “kindness or good will towards the miserable and the afflicted (and that I am!), joined with a (or plus the) desire to help them.” He has a deep desire, a passion, to help us.

Grace is unmerited favor: “good will, loving-kindness, favor, the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ (and turns them back to Christ), keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues.”[i]

He helps me, keeps me, strengthens me, keeps turning me back, over and over again, to Jesus. Then there is the word translated “help.” This word contains a breathtaking, and comforting, revelation of God’s compassion and love toward us. The word is boétheia (βοήθεια) and it is only used twice in the New Testament. It means “help, aid, specially, a rope or chain for frapping a vessel.” So then, of course, I had to look up what “frapping a vessel” meant. Elliot’s Commentary of the Bible defines it this way.

“The process described, technically known as ‘frapping,’ consisted in carrying a strong cable several times round the ship from stem to stern, so as to keep the planks from starting (to become loosened or forced out of place), and guard against the consequent leakage. The practice has always been a common one. Thucydides mentions the Corcyreans as having recourse to it. The Russian ships taken in the Tagus in 1808 were kept together in this manner in consequence of their age and unsound condition.” [ii]

Age and unsound condition – I can relate to that! The older I get the more I know I need his frapping. In my storms faith and trust tend to start leaking without his help.  Webster’s Dictionary defines frapping a vessel as: “Lashing or binding a thing tightly or binding things together. (Naut.) To draw together; to bind with a view to secure and strengthen, as a vessel by passing cables around it; to tighten; as a tackle by drawing the lines together.” It was the procedure of passing ropes under the ship to hold it together. In a storm the sailors would wrap cables around the ship’s hull and winch them tight. The ship would then be better able to withstand the severe pounding of wind and sea.

Many believe that the book of Hebrews was written by Paul, and if it was, he may have had some firsthand experience with boétheia, or frapping. The only other place this word is used in the Bible is describing the wreck of the ship which was taking Paul to Rome.

When the men had hoisted it [the lifeboat] aboard, they passed ropes (boétheia) under the ship itself to hold it together. Fearing that they would run aground on the sand-bars of Syrtis, they lowered the sea anchor and let the ship be driven along. Acts 27:17 (NIV)

The ship was bound and lashed tightly with ropes to hold it together long enough for them all to be saved. In like manner, Paul writes here in Hebrews that we can come to God, in the midst of our pounding storm,and he will wrap us tightly in the Arms of mercy and grace that will hold us together.

In your time of need, just when you think you are going to be pounded to pieces or smashed on the rocks – go, trusting, fearlessly, to the one who understands what you’re going through, and receive what He has for you. He will not let you fly apart. Or leak.

The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.  Deuteronomy 33:27 (NIV)

 

Image in the Public Domain: Sailing-ships in a storm, by Pieter Jansz van der Croos http://kokoelmat.fng.fi/app?si=S-1998-166


[i] Thayer’s and Smith’s Bible Dictionary (text in parentheses is mine)

[ii] https://biblehub.com/commentaries/acts/27-17.htm