Exodus 28 Sermon Notes


Pastor Joe Valenti

Throughout this series in the book of Exodus, we spoken of God’s desire for nearness to his people—to establish proximity and relationship. And while God could do everything on his own, he chooses to use people—leaders—to facilitate his family. ‌Today we’re going to talk about two types of people – two roles → one historical role that we find in Exodus and another more modern role that we find explained more fully in the New Testament. So, I want to look at those two titles – priest and pastor. And I’m not talking about priest in the modern way that some might use it for a leader in a catholic church, but priest in the ancient way. ‌I want to talk about the beginnings of these two roles and how they differ.

‌Let’s begin by turning our attention to the book of Exodus. Throughout this entire series through the book of Exodus, we’ve been learning that God desires to be close to his people—he desires relationship with them. So he saves them from slavery and begins to teach them the best possible ways to live – ways that reflect his character. But we’ve also learned of God’s extraordinary holiness. He is pure and perfect and this causes a problem because his presence does not swell in the midst of unholy people. We’re at a point in Exodus where we are going to learn about the way in which God will maintain nearness to his people. For this week and the following 2 weeks, we learn all about the tabernacle and the men who God calls to serve in the tabernacle – the priests.


‌The tabernacle was a large, ornate tent that was the predecessor of the temple. It was the center of spiritual life for the Israelites – where they brought their offerings, where sacrifices were made to atone for sins, and where the manifest presence of God dwelt among his people.


‌And certain people were to serve in the tabernacle (temple). They were called priests. The priests were chosen by God, clothed to reflect the glory of the tabernacle, and were consecrated (made holy) to God for their service in the tabernacle. The leader of this group was known as the high priest. And in these verses we learn a bit about the high priest.

The high priest….

  • Reflected the tabernacle

‌Read Exodus 28:1–5. ‌The clothing of the high priest was beautiful and extremely well-made. Letters from the 2nd century BC note that the experience of seeing the high priest was breath-taking and awe-inspiring. This was so because he was to be associated with the glory of God revealed in the tabernacle. One would see the high priest and immediately recognize that he belonged with the tabernacle.

‌‌The high priest….

  • Reflected the tabernacle
  • Represented the people

‌Read Exodus 28:9–12.

When the high priest was dressed, he had these two stones on his shoulders that were engraved with the names of the tribes of Israel. If you read on, he also had 12 stones on his chest each engraved with one of the 12 tribes. No one but the priests had direct access. The tabernacle was not self-serve. If a person who was not a priest walked in, they would drop dead. So, they had a mediator, someone to represent them before God—the high priest. And as he presented the offerings and the sacrifices before God, the stones were representative of the fact that the priest was doing this on behalf of the people.  

The high priest….

  • Reflected the tabernacle
  • Represented the people
  • Rendered the sacrifices

‌The major work of the priest was to offer the sacrifices and offerings for the people. When people sinned, they brought the appropriate offerings and sacrifices to the temple and the priest presented these things to Yahweh. The high priest was an important and necessary part of Israelite life. Relationship with God necessitated a mediator – one to go between – and the high priest was that person.

The Problem

There were just a few problems. While the sacrifices and offerings were important, they weren’t permanent. People would offer sacrifices and then sin again, and have to offer more sacrifices.

‌Read Hebrews 10:1–4.

An even bigger problems was that the sacrifices never dealt with the root issue – the heart. I’ve shared this before, but it bears repeating. In the Bible, the heart is the center of our spiritual life. And there are two ways that hearts are defined – stone or flesh. Stone hearts are hard and opposed to God. Flesh hearts are soft and are responsive to God. The priests and their sacrifices couldn’t change hearts. They were just a constant reminder – over and over again – of how sinful people were. The people needed a better priest. We need a better priest—and the Father, in his goodness to us, sends Jesus Christ to perfectly and finally fulfill the priestly duties. Jesus was not just a reflection of the tabernacle, he IS the tabernacle—the manifest presence of God in the flesh.

‌Read Colossians 1:15–19.

‌Jesus represented the people AS the sacrifice. Because Jesus was fully God and fully man, he was able to truly provide forgiveness for sins and transformation of the heart.

‌Read Hebrews 10:11–18.

‌As we continue to learn about the tabernacle next week, we’ll learn that there was a huge curtain that separated the holy place from the MOST holy place—the earthly manifestation of God’s dwelling place among his people. Separating the holy place for the MOST holy place, there was a huge curtain or veil. And when Jesus died, that curtain tore in two in order to physically and symbolically show that access to God had been made available through the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus Christ. No more tabernacle – no more temple. No more needed special people with special clothes and special duties. Jesus, the perfect high priest—is the perfect, final, and only true mediator between God and man. You and I can have nearness, closeness, relationship with the Father because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. You have no need for another priest like they had in Exodus →Jesus is the only high priest you will ever need.


‌But….what about this other title? What about pastors? If direct access to God has been made available through Jesus and we don’t need a priest or mediator – what is it that a pastor does? One of the very first sermons that I preached here was from the book of John. If I recall, it was way back when we had a Saturday night service, and that’s where all of the rookies like me got a shot to preach once in a while. And I preached on John chapter 21. Let me give you a little summary and bring you up to speed a bit.

‌Peter was once of Jesus disciples. AND Peter has a bit of a reputation for being loud, quick to respond, maybe not as slow to speak and quick to listen as he should have been. And Peter begin to emerge as a leader, but as you read, it becomes apparent that Peter needs to be humbled. Towards the end of Jesus’ life, he has a meal with his closest followers—it is often called the last supper. And at that meal Jesus says to his closest friends that one of them is going to deny even knowing him. ‌

Well, in just a few hours Peter finds himself in a tense situation where Jesus is being arrested and he denies being his follower not once, not twice, but three times. Peter is so broken, so humbled and shame-filled, that he goes back to his old job-fishing. It seems that Peter feels as if he has been disqualified for ministry by his arrogance and ignorance, so he just walks away and goes back to fishing.

‌‌Read John 21:1-15.‌

‌I can only imagine how Peter must have felt in that moment. Consider the flashback to the last supper and Peter standing up in front of everyone and saying, all of these guys might deny you Jesus, but not me. I love you too much. Never me. I’m your guy, Jesus – you can count on Peter!!” Then, of course Peter’s denial of Jesus and here’s the moment – do you love me more than the rest of these? Do you still think you’re better than everyone else? Do you still think you’re the one who should be in charge? Would you still stand up at the table and throw everyone else under the bus? Peter only responds to part of the question: “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” And then Jesus says some of the most wonderfully restorative words that Peter will ever hear. “Feed my lambs.”

‌Peter had been with Jesus when he described himself as the good shepherd. This had to be terribly confusing. No, no, YOU FEED THE SHEEP, not me!! And Jesus doesn’t wait very long – he asks him again.

‌Read John 21:16.

Now, there is something very, very interesting here. There’s an important Greek word here. The word here in John 21 is poimaino. It is a verb that is rendered in the ESV as “tend.” ‌The Noun form is poimen and it is used several times in the NT prior to this – the word is shepherd. So, the noun is the person who tends sheep. The VERB form is the action of tending, caring for, shepherding the sheep. And right here in John 21 is the first time in the New Testament that Jesus instructs someone to do this work – to poimano his people. The shepherd his people. The word pastor came out of this same word, but in Latin.

So, pastor means shepherd. But what is even more interesting is that very, very rarely does the Bible use the noun form of this word for anyone but Jesus. 90% of the time, poimen is JESUS – THE Shepherd. When speaking of leaders in the church, nearly always the verb form is used. Which tells me that what’s more important than a title of pastor, is the ACT of pastoring (shepherding).

‌See, what has happened to Peter is that he has been humbled and prepared to do the work that Jesus REALLY has for him. See, Peter learns that following Jesus is not about position or prestige, but about humility and helping.‌

I’m really excited about this new role and the opportunity to serve as a shepherd here at CVC. But it’s a lower case S – shepherd. There is only one shepherd. And he proved to be the shepherd by laying down his life for the sheep. The shepherd became a lamb himself – humbling himself to the point of death on a cross, so that you and I might experience nearness, closeness, relationship to God.

‌Jesus Christ, the perfect and final high priest who made a way for you and I to come near. He’s the Shepherd of CVC. My job is to point you to him. For from him, and through him, and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen.