How important is it for us to pray for one another? Probably more important than we sometimes wish.
God was busy painting a “This is Us” family portrait in Exodus when He designed His tabernacle in the wilderness. Smack in the middle of the description, He paused to detail the “tent” of clothes His priests would wear. They would apparently be as critical as any other tabernacle element in finishing the picture.
One part of the priestly “uniform” was to be the vest-like ephod that Moses described it in Exodus 39:1-7. Its fabric was woven of plain linen and embroidered with threads of blue and purple and scarlet–the same as the cloth for the courtyard gate and the door to the holy place. Then it was given an extra bit of bling–narrow strips of gold lacing through it. Suddenly, the ephod became another of the many illustrations of Christ in the tabernacle. Heavenly gold mixed with earthly linen, and God and man combined—Emmanuel (God with Us) appeared in one piece of fabric.
Christ’s nature glowed from the ephod, but what God did next was astonishing. He told Moses to drop the glorious vest over the head of Israel’s high priest. When this symbol of Emmanuel touched human skin, Aaron became a picture of the body of Christ clothed with God’s character, power and authority.
Consider how the ephod was fashioned for a moment. Likely assembled from two pieces of fabric, it was sewn together at the shoulders and tied together at the waist. When Aaron wore it, one of the fabric squares would have rested on his chest while the other covered his back. With the gold threads adding some weight to the cloth, the ephod hugged him both fore and aft, reminding the priest of Isaiah 52:12: “For the Lord will go before you, and the God of Israel will be your rear guard.”
A Heavy Epaulette
Gold wasn’t the only element giving heft to the ephod. Two onyx stones, etched with the names of the twelve tribes, were secured in gold settings and attached to the shoulder seams.
Scripture calls us a royal priesthood. The garments we wear are more spiritual than physical these days, but the stones on the high priest’s vest remind us of the responsibility we shoulder to pray for all God’s people.
That can weigh heavy sometimes. We don’t, after all, get to choose which names to carry into the throne room. Twelve tribal names rode those stones–each one embodying every clan and family and individual counted within that tribe. God demanded, in other words, that when His priests step behind the veil in prayer, all His people, His whole family, would be brought before Him at once.
Today, that family consists of both Jewish and Gentile components. In addition to tribes, we now have denominations, sects and factions. The principle to pray for all remains the same.
Now, I have no problem carrying some names into the throne room, but others make me want to spiritually shift my shoulder a bit so the stone with less appealing names slips down.
My heart convicts me, though. I often neglect praying for certain people in my sphere. Though I throw encouraging words and friendly platitudes their way, even toss money into their ministries, do pray for them with any fervency? Not so much. How about you?
It won’t do. God counts each name important enough to etch in stone, frame in precious golden filigree and stitch it to our shoulders.
We are, after all, our brother’s keeper.