How do we apply Exodus 28:36-38 to our lives?

Hi friends,

I’ve often thought that what matters - to God, and therefore, for us - is our hearts and our lives. To be distracted by the trivialities of clothing is a vanity. Instead of worrrying about what we wear, it’s more important to focus on how we live.

But I was challenged to reconsider this today. The daily liturgical reading included Exodus 28:36-38.

As I’ve reflected on it, this passage has helped me see an integration between my heart and my clothing.

It’s a bit of a deep dive, but here’s the point: when our hearts are devoted to holiness, this fundamental commitment to God affects what we wear.

Here’s what we read in Exodus 28:36-38,

You are to make a pure gold medallion and engrave it, like the engraving of a seal: Holy to the Lord. Fasten it to a cord of blue yarn so it can be placed on the turban; the medallion is to be on the front of the turban.It will be on Aaron’s forehead so that Aaron may bear the guilt connected with the holy offerings that the Israelites consecrate as all their holy gifts. It is always to be on his forehead, so that they may find acceptance with the Lord.

For the high priest to wear a gold medallion on his forehead with the words “Holy to the Lord”… it’s a striking, solemn requirement!

And how different this is from the peculiar trend of Christian-themed apparel that merges secular logos with faith-based messages! Morphing the Coca-Colo logo to have the words “Enjoy Jesus Christ: Thou Shalt Never Thirst” is a strange fusion of pop culture, Biblical ideas, and consumeristic fashion.

But then I started to wonder: what did God care about? A holy medallion, or a holy heart?

As we know from specific passages like 1 Samuel 16:7, God does not look at the outward appearance but at the heart.

Even more clearly, when Jesus arrived as our true high priest, the gospel writers don’t discuss his clothing very often. Rather, their focus is on his holy character and compassionate way of treating people.

As Hebrews 7:26-28 reads,

For this is the kind of high priest we need: holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. He doesn’t need to offer sacrifices every day, as high priests do—first for their own sins, then for those of the people. He did this once for all time when he offered himself. For the law appoints as high priests men who are weak, but the promise of the oath, which came after the law, appoints a Son, who has been perfected forever.

And the application for us, as it was for the Israelites, is the same: be holy.

As 1 Peter 1:15-16 teaches,

But as the one who called you is holy, you also are to be holy in all your conduct; for it is written, Be holy, because I am holy.

None of us are high priests in Israel. But amazingly, Jew and Gentile, men and women, we are all, by faith in Jesus, made priests of God!

Later in 1 Peter, we read,

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the one who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light (2:9).

The consistent theme?

Aaron was to be holy. But even with a gold medallion, he failed to do so.

Jesus was to be holy. Even without a gold medallion, he was holy.

We are to be holy. But now, the words “Holy to the Lord” are written directly onto our hearts by the Holy Spirit.

As 2 Corinthians 3:3 reads, "It is clear that you are Christ’s letter, produced by us, not written with ink but with the Spirit of the living God — not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” (See also Jeremiah 31:33).

So God’s concern is always for us to BE holy as he is holy.

Yet… still, he had Aaron wear a gold medallion to remind him of this obligation.

The biblical directive for Aaron to wear a medallion marked ‘Holy to the Lord’ was undeniably symbolic—a visual reminder of his sacred duties.

I think it’s accurate to say that this symbolism extends to us: though we are no longer under Old Testament law, a more fundamental principle remains in effect: outwardly expressing our inward holiness.

Practically, how do we choose clothing that deepens our commitment to God? Are there ways in which we uncritically reduce sacred symbols to marketing tools?

Are there ways our clothing can remind us - and others - of God’s holiness?

What do you think?


This question about clothing caught my attention as I have been thinking about it recently. I was at a church tea party, with elaborate table centerpiece decorations and women in nice dresses. There was a time in India where I was often around people who were lucky to have a pair of shoes and now I am in a culture where its important to know the dress code for each event with appropriate shoes and clothing. I wondered about those who couldn’t afford nice dresses, the first impressions created by the church for one who is hungry for God and about possible distractions during worship time.

From verses like 1 Tim 2:9-10, we learn the importance of modesty and propriety and to be known for good works as God’s children. Matt 23:5-7 cautions us against hypocrisy in our holiness that is limited to religious outerwear. On the other hand, there are verses like Prov 31: 22 where the righteous woman is described as being dressed in fine linen and purple and Jesus in Matt 6:28-30 speaks of trusting God who desires to clothe us even better than the flowers in the field!

These verses left me with many questions about spiritually appropriate dressing. In the past I have come across strict rules in certain churches about type of clothing, jewelry, head coverings etc. The issue however is far more complex and our interpretation of bible verses may need to adapt with cultural context. My thoughts are that our clothes must give the right impressions of what we believe, our motives must be holy and most of all we must seek to be known before God rather than by our dress sense.

I recently came across Edith Schaeffer’s book, The Hidden Art of Homemaking, and Ch 12 in it discusses clothing. She asks the question if it is more spiritual to dress dowdy or must our clothes reflect the God we worship, in whose image we are made. Below are some quotes that can further help our discussion-

Edith further expands on the idea of fitting in with those we seek to reach and how we may need to dress differently with the poor and the sophisticated to prevent barriers in communication.

I liked the idea of how having or gifting beautiful things doesnt have to take away from loving God as God Himself created beauty.

And finally, I appreciated her emphasis on not making clothes our identity. We treat everyone equally as image bearers of God.

Considering the many facets involved in a person’s choice of clothes, I am humbled to not be quick to jump to conclusions about a person based on looks.

What do others think?


I was really impacted by the link between Exodus 19:3-6 and 1 Peter 2:9 a few years ago. For me, the significance was that despite the priestly garments not being emphasised in the NT, the call to holiness - the set apartness - of believers became profound when seen in the light of the Exodus narrative. The key words that Peter repeats from Moses are that:

  • God’s people, Jews in the OT and Jews and Gentiles in the NT are God’s treasured possessions
  • that God’s people are a holy nation
  • that we are a royal priesthood.

I have come a long way in my Christian faith of not blending into the culture around me. Once, there was nothing that identified me as any different to anyone else. I now speak to my children how they are to be set apart from their non believing friends. I engage with friends in the New Age community multiple times a week, and I have to remind myself daily that I am set apart. In fact, the call to remember my identity in Christ was so strong I had it tattooed on me :rofl:. The Hebrew words qodesh l’Yahweh mean set apart / holy / belonging to Yahweh. Wearing these words don’t make me holy, anymore than Aaron’s head garment made him holy. However, I bear a constant reminder and point of meditation to remember whose I am, and whose mission I’m on. Being part of a royal priesthood means that I carry the news of Christ to the people around me who don’t know him yet. Being God’s treasured possession means that I know I always belong to him, and that nothing can separate me from the love of Christ. Being set apart means I don’t compromise with practices, language, and thought patterns that those around me might hold.

I fail to be holy. But Christ is my defence and I can come to the throne of Grace because of who Jesus is and what he’s done for me. Being set apart / holy to God isn’t an impossible goal. It’s an identity that God has laid on each one who believes in Jesus. Its not an impossible burden. It’s an honour to bear that name.

This is the way I have to remind myself of how I’m set apart. It’s also a great conversation started with people who ask me what my tattoo is about!


Hi @alison,

Thanks for sharing about the importance of seeing ourselves as being set apart for God and the different ways it can be reflected in our choices that concern our appearance. Having a tattoo while more accepted these days, some Christians see it as being prohibited in the Bible ( Lev 19:28). The prohibition of making cuts on the body however was not total/universal but specifically for the sake of the dead. Considering there is no break in the verse, the prohibition of the tattoo marks may also be limited to the practice for the dead.

Today I came across Isaiah 44:5 and thought what better way to write on one’s hand “The LORD’s” than tattooing it permanently!

Isaiah 44:5 ESV - This one will say, ‘I am the LORD’s,’
another will call on the name of Jacob,
and another will write on his hand, ‘The LORD’s,’
and name himself by the name of Israel.”

I thought your decision to tattoo is very much in line with this verse. Look forward to hearing other insights you may have come across on this topic.