We know that "knowing God" is an all-important goal in our life if we ever are going to be in His image. How can we possibly make right choices and walk in His steps, conformed to Him, if we do not know what His point of view is?
Today I have a potpourri???a sort of salad-of-thoughts and evidences???of what God???s point of view is on a number of loose ends that I think will help close off those ends in regards to this subject.
A number of times I have mentioned that the world essentially says that God only cares about what is in our heart, not what is on the outside. Brethren, that is nothing more than a deceived sheer-nonsense justification and excuse for a lazy, irreverent attitude toward God. People who say this are exposing either their ignorance of God, or their lack of love for God, or perhaps both. God is very concerned about both the inside and the outside.
You may recall in my last sermon I used Isaiah 47:1-10, in which God shows a relationship between how a person dresses and the reality of what he is in his heart. Now added to this is that Jeremiah 17:9 says "the heart is deceitful above all things, and is incurably sick." This fact in Jeremiah 17:9 has a direct tie to the illustration God used in Isaiah 47. The deceived Babylon, portrayed as a woman, looks very attractive on the outside to the deceived, but God shows that Babylon herself is among the deceived. She says of herself that "she is a lady," when, by God???s righteous judgment, she clearly is not. We are going to add another principle to this that also comes from the book of Isaiah.
He is talking about people who have everything backwards from the truth; that is, everything in terms of God and His purpose. He is talking about the deceived. They judge things from a different (than God???s) and wrong point of view. They speak admiringly of Babylon, calling her "tender and delicate." But from God???s point of view, the reality is shown when He tells her, "Take off your skirt and bare your thigh." He said that, because when God looks on her heart???the place where the conduct is generated???He sees a harlot.
This difference between perception and reality is important to understand. It is not difficult for one???s "incurably sick heart" to see things different from their reality, and that is why it calls "evil good, and good evil."
Now this false perception is true regarding clothing styles. Every parent ought to understand this principle because of their experience with children. Children rankle under, and they groan, resist, and fight against your decisions regarding what they can do and what they cannot do. The reason is they do not understand as fully as you that choices have consequences.
Clothing???what is worn on the outside???should reflect our conversion, witnessing that we are the sons of God. And at one and the same time, in a reciprocal manner, clothing will affect conduct. Marketers know this, and in terms of morality the conversion of our heart should always determine the selection of what we wear. Unfortunately, not everybody thinks this way, and it is very easy for our heart to misjudge clothing???s affect on others and us. But brethren, it is not unimportant to God. Clothing is one of the major symbols used in the Bible to reflect a person???s righteousness, and unrighteousness.
We are going to go back to the New Testament to one of Jesus??? early teachings in the Sermon on the Mount.
This is exactly the way Babylon came to people. They thought she was tender and delicate. God saw that she was a harlot. Here Jesus is applying this same principle in regard to false ministers. On the one hand false ministers look, on the outside, as though they are all right, but actually on the inside they most assuredly are not all right.
A minute or so ago I said that not everyone thinks like God, and so here Jesus brings our attention to be on guard against false teaching. The illustration that He used reflects the subject of this sermon, and in fact this whole series. There are deceived people who distort the truths of God???God???s word???and misinform their hapless victims. In this case the sheep???s clothing is being used as a deception much as in Isaiah 47. It is very interesting that Jesus used this term. Sheep???s clothing confirms the fact that the sheep???God???s representatives, God???s children???should be known by the clothing they wear.
One of the indirect lessons of this little teaching right here is that clothing should match what is in the heart. God has made us, and in Psalm 100 He says, "We [His children] are the sheep of His pasture," and that His ownership of us should be visible by what we wear as part of the conduct of our life.
Jesus is warning us that some people appear to be one thing, but the reality is another. The truth is that "sheep???s clothing" is distinctive. There should be a distinct and appropriate modesty in our attitudes, words, conduct, and our dress should also reflect the same.
Again , Jesus makes use of the parallels, the symbolism, between one???s outward appearance (clothing) and righteousness. They should match what is appropriate to the Bride???s party. In this instruction the emphasis is aimed at urging us to understand and make use of the privileges of our calling while there is time. "Many are called, but few are chosen." He is urging us to conform to God???s way, to be appropriately clothed with God???s righteousness. There is a parallel all the way through the Bible between clothing and righteousness, and between clothing and unrighteousness. Once again, clothing is the illustration. There is definitely a tie between the symbolism of clothing, and the practical application in one???s life.
Our clothing does not have to be uniform in the sense that the Amish draw it to, but it must be uniform in terms of morality and God???s customs if we are going to please and glorify Him.
First I am going to read Revelation 3:17-19 from the King James Version, and then I am going to read it from the Amplified Version for a little bit of clarification.
From the Amplified Version:
Here we have the lackadaisical self-righteous church that thinks and acts to its deceived self that it already has it altogether (as we might say today). But from God???s point of view, the reality is again altogether different. In His judgment (just like His judgment of Babylon), they are "blind" and they are "naked" and cannot even see the fact that they lack the proper clothing.
Once again Jesus uses clothing that does not meet His standard to illustrate their true spiritual condition, telling them to repent and to change their clothing. God is once again illustrating righteousness and un-righteousness through the motif of how one is dressed.
Now just to reflect on something that appeared in a previous sermon in this series, I want to remind you that the roots of all of this is all the way back in Genesis 3 in Adam and Eve???s experience in the Garden of Eden. When God???s statements here are coordinated with all of the other references to clothing in scripture, He is implying that the material external attire is indeed a reflection of what is in the heart, and that as they move to change their spiritual condition of the heart, the change will be reflected in what they wear. So we move, symbolically, from filthy rags to sheep???s clothing. Do you get the point?
Let us go now to Revelation 19, and we will take the "sheep???s clothing" one step further.
This is what she did with her life. She made herself ready to be approved before God, to make sure she was wearing the right things for her wedding.
Again I am going to read this from the Amplified Version to help clarify.
Now linen was the most readily available fine clothing material of the day. By "the day", I mean at the time these things were written. Symbolically it is used throughout the Bible to represent success, wealth, and therefore power. When this symbolism is applied to God and His children, it represents holiness, righteousness, and success in the most important areas of life. This leads right into the matter of "dressing up" to be in God???s presence.
It is very obvious that the fig leaves of Adam and Eve did not cut it. They were not dressed up enough to be in God???s presence. The same is true of the guests at the wedding feast. The person was not dressed up for the wedding. The Laodiceans were clearly told to "dress up," and the Bride of Christ is clearly pictured as being dressed up, and in the right clothing. My emphasis here is on dressing up???dressing up toward the standard that God finds acceptable; not down???those things that might be acceptable to a man, or to society, or to the world in general. We dress up! God???s standard is higher than the world???s in terms of morality. It may not be higher in terms of the quality of the material necessarily, but morally it will always be moving us up to meet the standards of God so that we do not fall short, and sin.
You might recall that when Moses and Joshua were in the presence of God (about forty years of time difference between the one and the other; first Moses, and then Joshua), they were told to take off their dirty shoes. It was not appropriate. It was not fitting. It was not right for them to be in the presence of God, walking on the same ground as He walked on with their dirty-soled shoes that they were wearing. Now what kind of an application does this have for us? Of course always there is the spiritual. It is the unseen part of this whole discussion. But even though it is unseen, it is the most important part. But like I said, the outside should reflect the inside.
We are going to go back to Genesis 35:1. The context here is Jacob fleeing from Laban, returning to his homeland. He has just had the encounter with his brother Esau, and God took him through that.
When Jacob made that altar and began to make the offering, they were going to be in the presence of God. "Clean yourself up, and change your clothes."
Let us read Exodus 19:9-11. Here the circumstance is they are at Mount Sinai, and God is addressing Moses, telling him to make an announcement to the people to get prepared, because He was going to be before them.
Genesis 35 and Exodus 19 are two examples of people dressing up in preparation for being in God???s presence. In the first, Jacob voluntarily prepares, clearly following an already-established custom. In the second, God commands it. Dressing up to be in God???s presence is a matter of respect, and God expects it. You can tell that especially from Exodus 19. It is a matter of respecting His holiness, and honoring the dignity of His office as Creator and Ruler.
The bathing of one???s self and the changing of clothing symbolize that the internal cleansing of the heart is either already done or it is in progress. Cleansing, dressing up, in short symbolize the process of justification and sanctification. If you thought the day of symbolism and ceremony is over, you are wrong! It did not end with the Old Covenant, but it continues right on through, and we are to acknowledge it.
You can even attach this same principle that we are dealing with here to the matter of eating matzos (unleavened bread) during the Days of Unleavened Bread. It pictures something to us. It teaches something to us. And though they are not the biggest thing in the world in terms of our spirituality, it is awfully good to go through what God shows us here.
We are going to go now to Ezekiel as we continue to draw things out here. I think you understand enough about the background. God is giving us a word-picture here, and He is portraying Israel, first as a young girl and He is meeting with her, cleansing her, and entering into a marriage with her, and then Him fulfilling the role of a husband to her.
In the next verses let us notice the way He dresses her. He is showing us in general terminology certain things regarding clothing.
Verse 16, where it says, "decked your high places with different colors" is an interesting one to consider, because if you think of this in terms of a woman, where would her high places be? Her high places would be her face and her hair. What did she do? She colored her face and her hair, which is not a good indication here regarding cosmetics.
When Israel became God???s by entering into a marriage covenant with Him, God then performed one of the responsibilities of a husband by providing her with the good things of life. Fine clothing and jewelry with which to attire and adorn herself were among those things. One of the important things here is that God says He directly provided them. God clearly dressed her up.
When compared to other scriptures, this shows that there is a balance required of us in their use in terms of attire and adornment. Israel obviously abused this privilege by "going over the edge," as we might say today. The clothing and the other adornments were used by Israel in a salacious and seductive way of the world to attract attention to herself in the same general manner as a harlot, and so her attire, rather than being the attire of a beautiful and submissive wife, honoring the Almighty, was altered and used as the attire of a harlot, selling herself to the nations. It is very interesting, because this can be compared to Isaiah 47, and there is a direct parallel between Israel and Babylon, both in heart and in conduct.
Let us go back now to Isaiah once again. In the first 15 verses of Isaiah 3, He takes the men to task. It does not mention much about clothing there, but in verse 16 He begins talking about the women.
I am going to read that to you from the Living Bible, and maybe it will be more understandable because they have updated the terms.
Actually this whole chapter shows what God is going to do to Israel???s women, and why. Actually the whole chapter shows what God is going to do to Israel, because He takes the men to task very strongly as well in the first part. He specifically singles out the attitudes, conduct, manner of dress, and ornamentation of Israel???s women. These all go together as a package. They reflect each other.
The book of Isaiah was written sometime between 740 and 700 BC If you ever thought that ancient women wore only dark robes, I think you had better dispel that thought, because this description reveals a far different reality, because the illustration is drawing upon what the women were wearing and doing. How could God resolve to alter these things if they were not wearing and doing them? He mentions 21 items of clothing, jewelry, hair dressing, perfume, and even appliances, like a mirror, used to make her fashionable to her peers rather than to God. What was in her heart was the acknowledgement of beauty from her peers.
The sum of His anger points to the undeniable fact that her outward adornment reflects the arrogance, haughtiness, pride and aggressive seductiveness of their self-centered hearts. God is clearly showing that the way women dress is a force to be reckoned with in the making or breaking of a nation.
This might be a little aside, but I think it is interesting. Did you notice that He mentioned women???s mincing steps? A number of years ago I read an article on women???s clothing fashions that at one point addressed an interesting subject. It reported the results of a survey of clothing fashion designers that asked, among other things, "What item of clothing has contributed the most toward making a woman more seductive?" In the opinion of the designers, the winner, in a landslide, was the high-heeled shoe. This is because of the effect that they have in drawing attention to seductive areas of the woman???s body, especially as she walks.
High heel shoes reform the curvature of the calf of the leg and ensure that the hips and breasts will be thrust out to some degree, because the heels throw the natural stance of the body out of alignment. They also cause the hips to sway more extensively, and the breasts to bounce, because the woman walks harder as she compensates for the imbalance that the heels create. The designers know what they are doing! The designers are doing those things deliberately.
I want you to notice that Aaron cannot do the ministering without the clothes. Just think about what they symbolize.
All of this was taking place in the preparations for making the place to worship God???the Tabernacle???and now they have progressed to the place where He is giving directions for the priesthood and the clothing they are to wear so that they can serve God at the Tabernacle. The instructions for the clothing do not end here. They go on and on and on, and we are going to jump all the way to verse 39.
Incidentally, this is the end of the instructions for making the clothing as far as Aaron is concerned. Verse 40 now tells about the garments to be made for Aaron???s sons.
You can see very clearly that for them to be in God???s presence they have to dress up to this standard. The description begins with Aaron and the high priest???s garments. It is good to remember that Aaron was a type of Jesus Christ, our High Priest, and He is represented in the stunningly beautiful clothing in which each piece and color represent some attribute of His office and His character.
We skipped most of it, but in verses 40 through 43 it then addresses Aaron???s sons. Under the symbolism, and under the New Covenant, we are Aaron???s sons. This is our clothing being described. We are priests, are we not? We are a kingdom of priests. God is forming us. These clothes for Aaron???s sons do not possess the stunning beauty of the High Priest, but neither do we have the office, attributes, nor the character of Christ. It is nonetheless beautifully made, and the Jews in their commentaries insist that the ordinary priests??? clothing was stunningly white! It is interesting that in Revelation 19 the church is dressed in white???in white linen.
The references to both the high priest???s and the normal priests??? garments contain the description for glory and honor. Modern translations are likely to render those words "for dignity and magnificence," or "for dignity and grandeur." One says, "To lend dignity to his work." But again, this goes all the way through the Bible. Clothing reflects status. This is very important. Clothing reflects WHO WE ARE and where we stand in relation to God. God is using clothing to set His people off, to set them apart, to sanctify them. Even as the Sabbath sanctifies us and sets us apart, so does clothing.
It is also interesting to note that as one comes closer to God, (that is, first of all, removed from just one of humanity to a priest, to a high priest), the clothing becomes more obviously distinctive and beautiful. This symbolizes the way one???s image of God, the way one???s character, should be. You might recall that when Christ was transfigured before Peter, James, and John, He appeared in a dazzling brilliant white from which they undoubtedly had to shield their eyes.
The manner of dress should reflect who, or what we are. It makes clear that at the very least the clothing arrangements for the priests, when rendering their service to God, coming into His presence to worship and to make sacrifices, that not just any old clothing would do. We are to be clean, and we are to be dressed up, not down, for God. When the men in the Church of the Great God, and in the Worldwide Church of God before that, gave sermons and sermonettes, they were to adorn themselves in white shirts, not colored shirts, and in suits, not sport jackets.
I might add something here regarding pant suits. They have a plus in that they cover well, and they are often made of fine material. However, even in secular society they are neither as formal or as acceptable for dress-up occasions as a dress. Brethren, in an overall sense, we ought to be able to see that symbolism is important to God because it is needful for our development. It will help to produce the understanding of very important spiritual reality.
We are going to go back to the New Testament now to I Timothy 2:9-10. Paul begins by saying, "In like manner also." This is referring back to the first 8 verses, where, as he said to the men, he now says to the women. We are also going to use I Peter 3:1-5.
We are going to go back again to I Timothy 2:9. In verse 9, the word translated "adorn" is translated from the Greek "kosmeho." It is Strong???s #2885. Our English word "cosmetic" is derived from exactly the same root; however, cosmetics is not what Paul is talking about here. He is very clearly talking about dress, and as we will see, something else as well.
Kosmeho might sound familiar to you. It comes from the same root as cosmos, which is Strong???s #2889. Cosmos is the word that is translated "world" in the scripture. Now cosmos is a noun, and it means order, arrangement, orderly aggregate, or if it is applied to the conduct of a person, which it can be, it indicates regular disposition, even temperament.
There is a third word here. In verse 9 it is translated "modest." But believe it or not, this word in the Greek is cosmeos, Strong???s #2887. We have #2885, #2887, and #2889 all from the same root, and it is the word translated "modest" in this same sentence. This same word (#2887) also appears in I Timothy 3:2, and it is used in describing the qualifications, the requirements, for an elder.
There is cosmeos. It is translated good behavior. Now back to I Timothy 2. That same word translated "modest" and "good behavior" would probably be translated today as orderly, decent, or sensible. This word is kind of interesting, because Zodhiates, quoting the Greek philosopher Plato, said "It indicates a citizen who quietly fulfills the duties incumbent upon him, and is not disorderly. It indicates someone self-controlled, who voluntarily sets limits on his own freedom." That was #2887.
We have #2885, #2887, and #2889. We are going to go back to the original one???#2885???kosmeho, which is the verb form of this word. It means, first of all, "to set in order." Paul said, "In like manner, also, that women adorn (set themselves in order, arrange or decorate)???." This is logical, because "adorning" and "decoration" is the result of putting things in order. It is like a progression. You will notice that all three words have a sense of order, of regularity, of structure, suggesting consistency, dependability, and self-control.
The King James translation is fairly close to being correct. In a way it is pretty hard to improve on it, because that is literally what it says. But one commentator suggested that it could be translated, "Women should adorn themselves in adorning attire." This is one you have to think about, but this translation allows room for the clothing and jewelry to be attractive, but it also draws a line in that it must be modest and reflect self-control.
We are going to go back to I Timothy 2 again, and we are going to look at the rest of these descriptive words. The next word is translated in the King James "shamefacedness." This reinforces the sense of modesty. That word today means "decent." It has the sense of withdrawing, of being bashful, and it directly confronts the aggressive seductiveness of the harlotry God portrays in Proverbs 7, Isaiah 3, and Ezekiel 16, and I might add also Isaiah 47.
The next word translated "sobriety" means "soundness of mind." It means "sanity." It figuratively means "self-control." Today it might be translated "with propriety." Propriety means fit, correct, dignity, decorum, appropriate. That word "sobriety" is Strong???s #4997. Regarding this word, Strong says: "Having complete control over the passions and desires so that they are lawful, and reasonable; a certain curtailment and regulation of passions, both removing those that are improper and excessive, and also arranging those that are necessary to the proper time, and in moderation."
Paul really gives quite a description here. Now let me sort of sum this up. A woman once asked an English minister what manner of dress was proper for a Christian woman. He replied, "Madam, so dress yourself so that people who have been in your company can hardly recollect what you had on." The whole context of what Paul wrote reflects what that English minister said, but we will put it into modern terminology: "She should not put herself in order in any manner that draws overt attention to her person, or to any particular part of her body, whether her hair, eyes, breast, navel, hips, or legs."
Our clothing should reflect cleanliness. It must be appropriate to the occasion. It must reflect modesty, simplicity, gentleness, and reverence, as Paul taught, and also a quiet spirit, or contentment, as Peter recorded. The first line of verse 9 of the Living Bible says: "And women should be the same way; quiet, and sensible in manner and clothing."
Both Peter and Paul reflect the biblical theme concerning attire, and that is that the inner (the heart or spirit) and the outer (the conduct and attire) must parallel each other, and that the inner must be motivated by respect for God, self-control, modesty, and decency.
I went through that because ladies, the single most prominent complaint that I receive against you by both men and women, but especially from men, is in regard to how you dress. The complaint is that it is too sexually stimulating.
Now think about this. Do you want your teen-age daughter to be a stumblingblock, leading men and boys to sin? Perhaps you are unaware of a specific way that men and women are different that touches on this issue. Men are much more sexually stimulated by the sense of sight than women, and that is why pornography is aimed directly at men, and why fashion designers design women???s clothing to reveal certain body areas. And so tops should not be so tight as to draw attention to the breasts, or expose portions of the breasts. Hemlines should be below the knees. Skirts should not be slit so high that they draw attention to the thighs, and be loose enough so that they drape nicely to cover the thighs when seated. Attire must not be that which overtly draws attention to the self in a vain or a casual display, but parallels the childlike innocence that Jesus taught.
The principle here as taught by Jesus is serious, because the manner of dress may reveal the carelessness and the lack of love in one???s heart. Regarding I Timothy 2:9 and I Peter 3:1-5, one commentator expressed, "What the hair and the clothing signal is that in the heart of that person ignoring these things is a worldly-minded preoccupation with what is on the outside rather than what is in the heart." These same principles are true for men, but because men have the power in the fashion industry, they exploit women for their own sexual titillation.
Now let me add here, as an overall evaluation from your pastor, that most of you women are modestly and tastefully dressed. Most of the breakdown, but not all, occurs with the teenagers. This is understandable because they are so impressionable, and because they are driven so hard to meet the standard of their peers, but it still is not right, and it should be addressed by you parents.
Regarding the use of cosmetics, they certainly were used in ancient times, as any study of Egypt will clearly show. They were not used in Israel however to the same extent. It was not near so common as in the Gentile nations. This is understandable because Israel, despite their many sins, still had a measure of instruction from God???s word. There are no "Thus saith the Lord" regarding cosmetics in the Bible. The clearest example is made with the harlot Queen Jezebel, and it is entirely negative because of the association of her well-known deceitful and seductive heart. Incidentally, Jezebel the queen, the wife of King Ahab, was a Gentile. She was a Zidonian.
I think Herbert Armstrong???s assessment regarding the use of cosmetics is correct when cosmetics are seen against the backdrop of the overwhelming biblical evidence regarding attire. He concluded that it is a vanity and that it should not be used. Now why? What is a vanity that makes it bad?
Today vanity is most frequently associated as a synonym of conceit and desire for admiration. Indeed these senses are contained in the word; however, that is not the foremost usage in the Bible. In the Bible it means futile, useless. But the question we must ask is, futile or useless in regard to what? The answer is futile and useless in regard to God and His purpose. More specifically, it means futile and useless to favorably impress God and glorify Him and earn His respect; futile and useless toward helping to prepare one to be in God???s image and to be in the kingdom of God.
Now cosmetics, along with today???s fashions, do not depict the godly, harmless, childlike innocence Jesus taught. Just a little over one hundred years ago in this country the use of makeup was rarely even seen in public, but as American contact with the world outside increased, fashions changed, and the use of makeup increased. One commentator said, "In the Gay Nineties the ankle became visible. In the Roaring Twenties the leg appeared below the hemline, and in the Soaring Sixties the thigh was exposed for any and all to see. The same manner of degeneration occurred in the use of makeup: from nothing anywhere to everything everywhere. Makeup is used to hide reality." That is very interesting
As our nation lost its innocence and became more cosmopolitan, ???(There is that word again???cosmos-politan), ???values changed, and America degenerated from the high ideals that it formerly had.
Herbert Armstrong said several times in my hearing that the First World War was a watershed. He said that was when we lost our innocence as a nation. Now this nation has not only joined the world, we have become the world???s leader???the trend-setter???in immorality. "Humpty Dumpty has fallen off the wall."
Brethren, I hope we have learned that clothing has a great deal of spiritual and moral significance, and that the traditions and customs of the church have a strong scriptural base. They have not been randomly plucked from thin air, and they are not the ideas of an elderly Victorian man. I hope that through this series we have come to know God and His point of view regarding dress standards better. I hope that we have been fortified in our belief so that we can dress with understanding and conviction, that it is appropriate toward representing God, and if changes need to be made, that we, because of this understanding, are motivated to make them.