With the ‘new normal’ created by Covid-19, many of us have become used to wearing ultra casual clothing from day to day. How many co-workers joke about being dressed professionally from the waist up for Zoom meetings, only to have on PJs and slippers below the camera’s view? Even online church services have given us a totally different Sunday morning routine. Many of us no longer take Saturday nights to get our (and our family’s) church clothes ready. We now just wake up and attend virtual services in true ‘come as you are’ fashion.
Do clothes really matter? The Bible has a lot to say about them. In honesty God isn’t too concerned with whether or not we are fashionable, but in His wisdom the Scriptures teach us some eternal truths by using the topic of clothing because of how important clothes are in our daily lives here on Earth.
Adam and Eve learned in quickly how sin demands a covering. “And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew they that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.” (Genesis 3:7)
From the moment sin was practiced, mankind became exposed in the worst way. Shame and guilt were immediate consequences as well as a new vulnerability to the elements of nature. The glory of God that had been more than enough for the first man and woman was taken away, leaving them stark naked and afraid. Their own attempt to fix their situation was inadequate, so God intervened by killing an animal to provide better clothing for them. This was the first picture of the high price of sin–a life for a life, and a foreshadowing of the Lamb of God who would die to take away our sin.
We’re familiar with Joseph’s colorful coat that was given to him by his beloved, aged father Jacob (Israel). The coat was an outward sign of favor for Joseph, and anyone who saw him with it on would automatically know that the young man was special. Coats or cloaks were necessary clothing in Joseph’s day, so his father’s gift to him wasn’t frivolous or luxurious. However, the added care that Jacob took to beautify Joseph’s coat is a beautiful picture of how our heavenly Father loves us so lavishly. Even the ordinary elements of our lives become extra special as a result of His favor upon us. When the Lord adds His ‘super’ to our ‘natural’, our whole lives become a sign and a wonder to testify of Him.
Centuries later when the Children of Israel were leaving Egypt, God made sure they were clothed like royalty as He miraculously delivered them from generations of being enslaved. “And the children of Israel…borrowed of the Egyptians jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment.” (Exodus 12:35) Regardless of how cruel their existence had been, when the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob left the land of Pharaoh, they were dressed like kings. It was an object lesson to the Egyptians and to the surrounding nations showing them how God takes care of his own.
When the Lord was establishing the priesthood a major portion of the instructions given to Moses had to do with what Aaron and his sons would wear. There were specific fabrics and jewels required and each part of the priestly garments was described in detail. Nearly the entire 39th chapter of Exodus deals with the required holy garments of the priests “…garments for Aaron the priest, and his sons’ garments, to minister in the priest’s office. According to all that the Lord commanded…” (Exodus 39:41,42)
The Old Testament is full of many more stories about clothing: Elijah’s mantle, Saul’s armor, Nineveh’s sackcloth, and Jeremiah’s girdle, just to mention a few.
In the New Testament, many of the symbols used in the Old Testament are clearly revealed in the fulness of their meaning. God is such an awesome teacher that He knows how to give us natural examples which point to a greater spiritual truth. Jesus showed us this wisdom when He taught using parables.
Paul writes to the Believers in Galatia, “And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes.” (Galatians 3:27 NIV)
We are commanded to dress ourselves in Christlike qualities: “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; (Colossians 3:12 NKJV)
When Jesus announced the beginning of His ministry in Luke chapter four, He quoted from Isaiah’s prophetic message to give a description of His calling which included giving us a holy wardrobe change. Jesus was declaring that He had come to “to console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; (Isaiah 61:3, Luke 4:18 KJV)
Finally, John’s vision of the culmination of this age included a glorious description of the fully redeemed Church, the Bride of Christ. Her awesome clothing got the exiled apostle’s attention, for sure as he heard the heavenly host proclaiming:
Let us rejoice and exult
and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and his Bride has made herself ready;
it was granted her to clothe herself
with fine linen, bright and pure”—
for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. (Revelation 19:7-9)
From the Garden to the Marriage Supper, God has been intimately involved in the clothing of those He loves. Although His concern is infinitely greater than our outward appearance, He chose to illustrate so many truths about Himself to us through the use of stories and descriptions of physical clothing. Ultimately the holiness that Jesus’ blood attained for us will be the garment we wear throughout endless eternity. The difficult and uncomfortable choices we make now to take off the old man and his ways and to put on the new man, created in the likeness of Christ (see Ephesians 4:22-24) will benefit us forever and ever if we don’t grow bored and weary with serving the Lord. Let’s keep looking to Jesus and with the help of His Word and His Spirit, remain all dressed up in a way that pleases the Father’s loving eyes.