The Golden Plate
February 2nd, 1958 @ 8:15 AM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2-2-58 8:15 a.m.
You are listening to the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the early morning message. It is the last in a series of five – not intended as a series of five; it was first prepared as one sermon, but finally grew into five sermons – on the sevenfold provision of God for cleansing. Those seven things that we find here in the old covenant that God provided for the cleansing of His people are: the Day of Atonement [Leviticus 16], the sin offering [Leviticus 4], the trespass offering [Leviticus 5-6], the ashes of the red heifer [Numbers 19], the slaying of the bird and the dipping of the live bird in the blood of the one that is slain which is for the cleansing of the leper [Leviticus 14]; then last Sunday morning at this hour, the washing of the water, the laver, the washing in the Word of God, the washing of the Spirit of regeneration, the laver [Exodus 40]. Then the seventh one is the message of this morning, which is in an altogether different world from all the other six: the message this morning is The Plate of Gold, which was fixed by a blue ribbon on the forehead, on the miter of the headdress of the high priest. Now you can read this in the twenty-eighth chapter of the Book of Exodus. Genesis, Exodus, the second book in the Bible, the twenty-eighth chapter, beginning at the thirty-sixth verse. In Exodus 28:36, God commands Moses, saying,
And thou shalt make a plate of pure gold, and grave upon it, like the engravings of a signet, Holiness To The Lord.
And thou shalt put it on a blue lace, that it may be upon the mitre; upon the forefront of the mitre it shall be.
And it shall be upon Aaron’s forehead, that Aaron may bear the iniquity of the holy things, which the children of Israel shall hallow in all their holy gifts; and it shall be always upon his forehead, that they may be accepted before the Lord.
Then in a later passage, you have the execution of that work. In Exodus 39:30, you have the word of the book in obedience to that command of the Lord. In the thirty-ninth chapter of Exodus and the thirtieth verse, "And they made the plate of the holy crown of pure gold, and wrote upon it a writing, like to the engravings of a signet, Holiness To The Lord. And they tied unto it a lace of blue, to fasten it on high upon the miter; as the Lord commanded Moses" [Exodus 39:30-31].
I wish we could have seen the high priest in all his robes of, as the Scriptures call them, "glory and beauty"; with the breastplate and the twelve glorious jewels, and the Urim and the Thummim and the miter, the headdress, and at the front of the headdress the beautiful solid golden plate, on which was engraved as on a signet "HOLINESS UNTO THE LORD" [Exodus 28:30, 36]. Now the Bible says here in Exodus 28:38, that the purpose of that golden plate was a sign, a signification that this high priest was "bearing the iniquity of the holy things, which the children of Israel shall hallow in all their holy gifts; and it shall be always upon his forehead, that they may be accepted before the Lord." Which is a very unusual thing, for here you have the high priest, not only in the sanctuary of God, representing the need of the people in their guilt and in their sins, in their transgressions and trespasses, but even in the holy things by which they come to God, this high priest is to bear the iniquity of the people.
Now you look at that. I could easily see how in sin and in guilt, in trespass, we need a high priest to breach the gulf which sin makes between the soul and God; but here the Scriptures say that even in the matter of holy things, there is need for the high priest to bear the iniquity of the people, that they might be accepted before the Lord. By that the Scriptures are saying that even in our worthiest service, in our highest aspirations, in our purest faith, in our most devout approach to God, there is the element of sin, and of foible, and of failure and of shortcoming, of lack, and of want. In no thing that we do is there ultimate holy perfection. But the element of sin, of lack, of shortcoming, of failure is in everything that we do. We do not approach God perfectly. We do not pray as we ought. There is lack even in our most fervent prayers. There is the element of sin in our worship. There is shortcoming and failure and human lack in everything that we do. So God gave commandment that this golden plate with the writing as on a signet "should always be on the forefront of the miter of the headdress of the high priest, that he might bear the iniquity of the people in holy things; and it was to be always upon his forehead, that the people might be accepted before the Lord" [Exodus 28:38]; all of which emphasizes the great scriptural truth that we are never without the need of an Intercessor, a Mediator, Someone who can represent us to God and who can preserve us even in our holiest moments from the judgment and the wrath of God upon the sin and the shortcoming of our lives – a mediator who could understand and sympathize with us, who could see the foibles of human nature, and commiserate and fellowship with us in our humanity and in our daily constant perpetual want and need; all of which has its great and final and ultimate meaning in the character of our High Priest in heaven.
For we have not an High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tried like as we are, though He without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
And the other incomparable passage in Hebrews: "Wherefore He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them" [Hebrews 7:25]. So if I could give another title to the message, I would call it Our Need of an Ever Living High Priest; bearing the iniquity of His people in holy things.
Now there are two reasons for our constant need of a perpetual and everlasting Intercessor. The first one is God-ward; and the second one is man-ward. We need that interceding High Priest in heaven God-ward because of the distance that sin separates between us and God [Isaiah 59:1-2]. There is an abyss; there is a chasm between us and the great Almighty that is uncrossable and unbridgeable by man himself. God on the other side, far and high and lifted up in perfection and in holiness, in the light of pure virtue and righteousness and goodness; and we, worms of this earth, groveling in sin and in death [Job 25:6]. How could the holy God ever touch sinful and unholy man? It could never be done except by Someone who could be in the presence of God as God and who could understand the life of a man as a man. That great Intercessor and Mediator who holds God with one hand and fallen man with the other hand is the great antitype of the high priest, who served in holy things in that first tabernacle: it is that one Mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus [1 Timothy2:5]. Like Jacob’s ladder, the top of it touched heaven and the foot of it was in the earth [Genesis 28:12], so Christ our High Priest: in heaven and in earth, a communion, a conjoining, a commingling in Him. That’s the reason why in the fourteenth chapter of the Gospel of John, He said, "For no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me" [John 14:6]. There is no avenue to reach God save through the great High Priest and Mediator Christ Jesus.
May I illustrate that in a very crude and mundane way? The president of United States is just another citizen of America. Yet I wonder how somebody such as I could see him? If I were to try to enter the White House or the little white house where he is now, I’d be shot by secret policemen hiding behind every bush and looking out every window. I couldn’t approach him under any condition, just go up and see the president. In order for me to see the president, there would have to be a mediator who knows him and knows me, and who would introduce me to him. For example, suppose I was with his son, and he and I were the best friends, and he loved me and I loved him, and we were together. That boy would have no trouble at all saying to his father and his mother, "Father and Mother, I want you to meet a dear, dear friend whom I love." And he would introduce me, and I’d shake hands with the president and with his wife and be received gladly because I had a mediator between me and the exalted officer of the United States. Same thing about any other tremendous political personality, such as the queen of England; how could I speak to the queen of England? I’d have no opportunity in the world to walk into her presence and talk to her. Again, there’d be bayonets and guns on every side to prohibit my entrance. But suppose there was a friend whom she loved greatly and who was my friend; and the mediator could introduce me easily, and she would receive the friend gladly.
Now if these things can be illustrated like that in this terrestrial and mundane world, where to compare it with God is almost blasphemy; how can a man stand in the presence of Almighty God? How could he walk into the courts of heaven and not die? How could he speak to God and talk to the Lord? Why, the very image and the very thought of a sinful dying man walking into the presence of the Almighty King of glory is almost inconceivable. And yet, through the mediation of the love and mercy and patience of Jesus our Savior, we are bidden to come any day, any hour, any time. "Come boldly to the throne of grace . . . that ye might find grace to help in time of need" [Hebrews 4:16], any day, any hour, any place, anywhere. A kitchen corner is as good as the greatest cathedral. There in your bedroom with the door shut is as fine as in the holiest sanctuary of the land. And you poor, miserable, crying, weeping, undone sinner, you are as welcome as the Son of God Himself: "Come boldly . . . that ye may find grace to help in time of need." Why, the thought is overwhelming. Any time, walk into the presence of God; our Mediator has opened the door through the veil of His flesh, and there we behold the Holiest of Holies; come, and welcome [Hebrews 10:19-22]. That’s the first reason why we need a mediator, an intercessor, a great high priest to introduce us to God. God-ward, that we might see His face, and not die [Exodus 33:20]; that we might call His name [Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13]; that we might live in His presence [Ephesians 1:5-6].
Now the other reason for the High Priest and His everlasting intercession in heaven is manward, toward us. For not only do we need saving, washed in the blood of the Lamb [Revelation 1:5], but there is a constant need on our part for daily cleansing, daily washing, daily intercession, daily interposition [Matthew 6:11-12]. Take a boy such as I was. I was converted when I was ten years old. So many of our people were saved when they were little children. What about most of the sins of my life have been committed since I became a Christian, what about them? Not only do we need saving, but there is always, every day, that daily walk wherein there is transgression, and trespassing, and weakness, and failure. What about the sins of the days since we were converted, since we were saved? Our High Priest in heaven makes intercession for us [Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25]; and each day He washes, He bathes our feet. "He that is washed, that is clean, that is saved, that is bathed, that is forgiven, needeth to wash his feet" [John 13:10]. There is a daily intercession before God in our behalf by our great High Priest. And there must be daily a coming to the throne for the forgiveness of our sins each day [Matthew 6:11-12; 1 John 1:9]. No day but that there is in it omission and failure and weakness; being human there is always lack and shortcoming. And every day and each day and all the days we need the intercession of our great High Priest in glory. That golden plate is to be always upon His forehead, bearing the iniquity of His people [Exodus 28:36-38].
That need is found, as I began to say in the first of the sermon, that need is found even in our holiest moments. Even in holy things, there is in us, always, that element of lack, of sin, of shortcoming, never measuring up in anything in absolute and holy perfection. But there is forgiveness in our great High Priest [Ephesians 1:7]: not only for our rejection of Christ [Matthew 10:33], but for the feeble faith by which we come to Him [Mark 9:24]; not only for the sins that we confess over the bleeding sacrificial victim there at the great burnt altar [1 John 1:9], but also for the way in which we bring the sacrifice [Malachi 1:7-14]. Not only do we need forgiveness for our prayerlessness, but we need forgiveness for our prayers themselves; they are never perfect, they are never pure and holy [Romans 8:26]. There’s always in us that element of lack, and of need, and of want, and of shortcoming. Not only do we need forgiveness for our duties, but for the way we perform them; not only for the way that we are proud and lifted up in our hearts and vain in our spirits, but also for that element of human weakness and self-consciousness and vanity that enters into our worship itself. Be a very unusual man that could pray, for example, in this holy pulpit and not be conscious of himself, and not have in it something of vanity and of selfishness, of pride, of the consciousness of the one who is uttering the petition [Luke 18:11]. That lack and need and want and failure is always in us. There is forgiveness daily and intercession for us in these holy things [Hebrews 8:1-2, 9:23].
Not only that, but we need the daily and constant intercession of our High Priest because of the infirmities, the sorrows and bereavements that constantly surround us and beset us. We need a High Priest who can be moved with the feeling of our infirmities, tried in all points such as we are [Hebrews 4:14-16], who could understand, who could know, who has shared a like suffering, a like sorrow, and a like temptation, into whose ear we can pour all of the things of our hearts and souls, who can bow down to listen to His children as they pray. There’s no man who lives any day without the constant need of the intercessory pleading and praying of Jesus. We are a human people. We are a dying family. And we need the encouragement and the intercession and the help of our great Mediator in heaven .
And a last thing in that: we need the guardian prayer of our great High Priest because of the adversary, who accuses the brethren – and that’s us – day and night [Revelation 12:10]. Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, Simon, Satan hath desired to have thee, that he may sift thee as wheat: But I have prayed for thee . . . and when thou art converted, when you turn around, strengthen thy brethren. Satan hath desired to have you that he may sift you as wheat" [Luke 22:31-32], all of us through that winnowing, all of us, "But I have prayed for thee . . . Able to save to the uttermost, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for us [Hebrews 7:25] . . . I have prayed for thee" [Luke 22:32]. Oh, do you ever sometimes think how much evil from which God doth deliver us for Jesus’ sake? How many poison arrows are caught on the shield of His interposition and intercession? What it could have been, were it not for the merciful providences of God. Oh, we’re no match for our adversary. We’re no equal to our great accuser, Satan, that old serpent and the dragon [Revelation 12:9, 20:2]. But Jesus says, "I have prayed for thee . . . and when thou art converted, when you turn around, Simon, strengthen thy brethren" [Luke 22:32]; the merciful providential intercession of Jesus, warding us from final disaster and doom. And we who are delivered are to strengthen our brethren.
Now may I say a final word of that living Intercessor in heaven? A comment upon our great High Priest, who is described as being "able to save them to the uttermost who come unto God by Him, because He ever liveth to make intercession for them" [Hebrews 7:25]. The Scriptures present our Savior in a twofold ministry of salvation: one, in His dying [Romans 5:8; 1 Corinthians 15:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21]; and the other – and this was a new revelation to me as I began to study the Word – the other, in His living [Romans 5:9-10]. For our Savior to die for us was not enough; there must also be the application, the implementing, of the costly salvation which is bought in His blood [1 Peter 1:18-19]. There is a deliverance from sin in the cross of Christ, in the sacrifice of our Lord. But there is a keeping of our salvation, an application of that blood; there is an implementing of that way of the cross which without His life would never reach us and never be applied to us. We are delivered from offense by His cross; but we are justified, we are declared righteous and accepted by His resurrection, by our living Lord [Romans 4:25; 1 Corinthians 15:17].
Paul says that beautifully and emphatically in the fifth chapter of Romans, and the tenth verse: "For we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, and much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life." And by "His life," he’s referring to the great intercessory ministry of our Lord in heaven. "Reconciled to God by the death of His Son, and being reconciled, we shall certainly be saved by His life" [Romans 5:10]. That is, in the death of Christ, there was the washing away of our sins [Colossians 1:14]; but in the life of Christ, there is the application, the implementing of this great merciful grace of God in the death of Christ Jesus our Lord [Romans 6:10-11]. Our salvation is twofold: first, Christ died for us there on the cross [1 Corinthians 15:3]; and second, Christ lives for us there in glory [Romans 8:34]. And our assurance of our ultimate deliverance and of our final preservation does not lie in us, but it lies in the ever intercessory ministry and mediation of our Lord in heaven: "He is able to save to the uttermost, because He ever liveth to make intercession for us" [Hebrews 7:25]; to keep us, to hold us, to guard us, to deliver us, "some day to present us without fault and blemish in the glory of His presence" [Ephesians 5:27; Jude 1:24].
So I would say there are two ways that we are to remember Christ. We are to remember a dead Christ, standing at the foot of the cross, looking up into His glazed eyes, dead, crucified [Matthew 27:32-50], streams of blood filled every drop with the love and grace and mercy of Jesus [Ephesians 5:2]; remembering Christ crucified, dead, dying for us [1 Corinthians 15:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21]. But we are also to remember a living Christ standing at His throne on the right hand of the throne of God [Acts 7:56; 1 Peter 3:22], in His glory, in His beauty, in His wonder, in His victory, and in His triumph [1 Corinthians 15:55-57]. And both Christs are ours. He is as much ours on the throne [Revelation 1:6] as He is on the tree [1 Peter 2:24], and as needful: to die for our sins [1 Corinthians 15:3], nailed to the cross, raised for our justification and final deliverance [Romans 4:25], there on the throne of God [Matthew 25:31]. We’re to remember Him both ways: dying for us on Calvary [Luke 23:33], living for us, interceding for us [Hebrews 7:25], in the throne of glory [Matthew 19:28]. Jesus is ours. What He does is in behalf of His people: came down from heaven for us [Hebrews 10:5-14], lived for us [Hebrews 4:15], died for us [1 Corinthians 15:3], buried for us [Matthew 27:59-60], raised for us [Matthew 28:5-7], ascended for us [Acts 1:9-10], interceding for us [Hebrews 7:25], some day coming again for us [John 14:2-3; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17].
That thing that Paul said in the past tense can equally be said in the present tense: "Unto Him who loved us, and gave Himself for us" [Ephesians 5:2], could I say it in the present tense? "Unto Him who loves us, and gives Himself for us." Our great High Priest and Mediator in heaven, "able to save to the uttermost because He ever liveth to make intercession for us" [Hebrews 7:25], daily, daily remembering His people, guarding His people, keeping His people, bearing on His forehead the iniquity of holy things [Exodus 28:38].
Now while we sing our song, somebody to give his heart in faith to the Lord, somebody to put his life in the church, while we sing, a family, or one somebody you, while we make appeal, while we sing the song, would you come? As God shall say the word, open the door, anywhere, on the first note of the first stanza, while we sing the song, would you come? Have you never trusted the Lord? Would you give your life in faith to Him this precious moment? Or would you put your life with us in this sweet fellowship and blessed communion? While we stand and while we sing.
THE PLATE: GOD’S SEVENFOLD PROVISION FOR OUR
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. God-ward – our need for a High Priest
1. Our sins require a mediator to approach God
2. Our only approach to God is through Jesus
1. Forgiveness through the Lord’s work on the cross for sin and for daily cleansing
2. Forgiveness for all our imperfections
3. We need an intercessor, mediator
4. We are never out of danger from sin/failure
III. Our all sufficient High Priest
1. Perpetual priesthood
2. We must have a living Savior and we do
3. Romans 5:10