Exodus 28 tells of the clothing that Aaron, the high priest, will wear as he serves the Lord in the tabernacle. They are “holy garments…for glory and for beauty” (28:2). The names of the tribes of Israel are engraved upon two onyx stones which will be placed on Aaron’s shoulders and he “shall bear their names before the Lord…for remembrance.” (28:9-12).
Then, twelve precious stones (each different in beauty) shall be placed in the breastpiece over his heart. “So Aaron shall bear the names of the sons of Israel in the breastpiece of judgment on his heart, when he goes into the Holy Place, to bring them to regular remembrance before the LORD.” (28:29)
The high priest would serve in the presence of the Lord while bearing names on his shoulders and over his heart. He would be an intercessor, a mediator, a representative for the people of God. In this way Aaron — though limited, fallible, and mortal — foreshadows a greater, perfect, and eternal High Priest to come.
What a wonderful picture of our Lord Jesus! Christ is clothed with glory and beauty. He bears upon his shoulders and over his heart each one of his Father’s children. He personally represents them before God, and he intercedes for them. This is a theme picked up later in the book of Hebrews in the New Testament…
“Since then 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 is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:14-15 ESV)