Apparently it comes from Shakespeare’s Hamlet. But,while it’s old, if you don’t hear it a lot these days, you certainly see it. That “the apparel oft proclaims the man” is still very much in play. In fact, that “clothes make the man” seems to have been an operating truth for millennia.
Whether it’s taken as a “law of nature” that people will try to express themselves through what they wear, or taken as a mark of shallowness of those who try to fake who they are by what they put on, there’s often a connection between clothes and character, attire and attitude, wardrobe and weirdness, or finery and fakery.
But is the observation biblical? This morning, as I read in Exodus, it occurs to me that, in a sense, it is.
Then bring near to you Aaron your brother, and his sons with him, from among the people of Israel, to serve Me as priests–Aaron and Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar. And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty. You shall speak to all the skillful, whom I have filled with a spirit of skill, that they make Aaron’s garments to consecrate him for My priesthood. . . . They shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother and his sons to serve Me as priests.
(Exodus 28:1-4 ESV)
In past years, when I’ve been in this part of Exodus, I have found myself focused on the intricate detail of how the tabernacle and it’s furnishings were to be built more so than how the priestly garments were to be made. But for some reason this year, I’ve somewhat skimmed the tabernacle instructions, reading them more as a reminder, and instead have been arrested by the directions given for the tailoring of Aaron & Co.’s clothing.
Kind of a big deal being tagged to be a priest of the Most High. And, it would seem, along with the high calling there was to be an over-the-top outfit. Gold and precious stones required for the ephod and breastplate. Fine yarns and twine demanded for expertly sown pieces of outer wear. A golden crown engraved and fitted on a turban for the head, an intricately woven coat of checker work for the body. They were to be arrayed “for glory and for beauty.” Holy garments were required for a holy calling.
True of God’s holy priesthood back then. True of us, His holy priesthood (1Pet. 2:5), today.
But the clothes that make this man are not fashioned at the hands of men. Their material far more precious than gold, blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and fine twined linen. No, the clothes that make this man are the garments of Another. Garments fashioned and freely given by Another.
I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation; He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
(Isaiah 61:10 ESV)
Clothed with the garments of salvation. Covered with the robe of righteousness. Clothes not of my own making but designed by the love of the Father, fashioned through the finished work of the Son, and tailored for a perfect fit by the ever-present work of the Spirit. Not because of my worthiness, but because of mercy and grace. Not for my glory and beauty, but to reflect His.
Oh, might I never take for granted my priestly garb. Might I always be mindful of wearing my calling’s clothes. May I be careful of soiling its sacred threads. Grant me the holy determination to, as much lies in me, wear it in a worthy way.
Clothes make the man. Clothes make the woman. Praise God for what He has made of the man and the woman in Christ with the clothes of Christ.
By His grace. For His glory.