The Breastplate of Judgment -- By: Carl Armerding

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 118:469 (Jan 1961)
Article: The Breastplate of Judgment
Author: Carl Armerding


The Breastplate of Judgment

Carl Armerding

[Carl Armerding is Foreign Secretary of the Greater Europe Mission, and Visiting Bible Lecturer at Dallas Theological Seminary.]

In the initial instructions for the building of the Tabernacle in the wilderness the Lord said unto Moses: “Let them make me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them” (Exod 25:8). And yet the most common name for that sanctuary is “the tabernacle of the congregation,” an expression which occurs more than thirty times in the Book of Exodus alone. Since the congregation of Israel never entered it some may wonder why it was called “the tabernacle of the congregation.” It may be that it was so called because it was the center of their worship. It was the focal point of their gatherings as a people, and the place to which they brought their offerings to the Lord. In its inmost shrine stood the ark of the covenant and the mercy seat where God dwelt between the cherubim (Ps 80:1).

Even though the people did not actually enter the tabernacle, there was a sense in which they entered it in the person of their spiritual representative, the high priest, who bore the names of the children of Israel in the breastplate of judgment upon his heart, when he went in unto the holy place, for a memorial before the Lord continually. Their names were engraved in those stones so that they could not be erased or blotted out (cf. Rev 3:5).

Their names were also engraved in the two onyx stones which served as shoulderpieces in the ephod worn by the high priest; “six of their names on one stone, and the other six names of the rest on the other stone, according to their birth” (Exod 28:10). The breastplate differed from the shoulder pieces in that the name of each tribe was engraved on its own particular stone. This difference suggests that there are some things which all of God’s people hold in common, and there are some things which are peculiar to each individual. All are loved with the same love, and in the same way, by Him with whom there is no respect of persons. On the other hand, the Lord does promise the overcomer in Pergamos that He “will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it” (Rev 2:17).

No two stones in the breastplate were exactly alike. But no mention is made of their relative value. All were equally precious to Him who redeemed them to Himself with His own precious blood. Not even the arrangem...

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