This devotional is the final one for the Called to Lead blog. It is my prayer for each of you, that God will be your refuge and your strength; your ever-present help when times of trouble come. (Psalm 46)
God chose to convey to his people who God is in concrete pictures. Yes, God is holy, almighty, omnipotent, etc.; and those abstract attributes are completely true. But God also gave us real pictures to better understand who God is and how our Father relates to his children.
God is shepherd. God is a mighty rock and fortress. God is cool refreshing water on a hot desert day as we journey along the path of life. God is shade when the heat of life is intense. Those are concrete pictures of our God.
In the book of Numbers, God gave his people what seems to be a rather odd instruction. He says:
“Speak to the Israelites and say to them, “Throughout the generations to come you are to make tassels on the corners of your garments, with a blue cord on each tassel.” Numbers 15:38
How odd. Men were instructed to have tassels sown onto or tied to the four corners of their outer garment. The outer garment was long. Picture that! Picture tassels dragging on the ground. Picture the likelihood of stepping on them and tripping. Picture a sibling mischievously stepping on one.
Why a tassel hassle? It was simply a constant concrete reminder: God wanted his people to remember!
Remember what? YHWH is God. He delivered you from Egypt. He brought you to Sinai. He wants to love you and for you to love him. He desires a relationship. He is not a tyrannical despot like other gods, but a loving Father to his children. He wants you to choose to live in shalom (harmony, obedience, walking daily with him).
The Hebrew word for corner is ‘kanaf’. Hebrew is a poor language with fewer words than English, and so ‘kanaf’ also means ‘wings’.
When David cut off the corner of Saul’s robe, he cut off the tassel. When Saul realized that it was cut off, he understood that God’s protection had departed from him to David. From that point on Saul did not pursue David.
When a woman with a bleeding disorder grabbed the corner of Jesus’ robe, she was healed. She was claiming the promise of the prophet who said that when the son of righteousness comes, there will be healing in his wings (his kanaf, his corner, his tassels). Jesus told her that her faith (in the promises and truth of scripture) had healed her.
When the psalmist teaches that under the wings of God his children will find refuge, we may think of God as a nurturing mother bird. Those who obediently wore tassels were given a picture and had the concrete reminder. God is our refuge. God is like the nurturing bird which covers his child with his wings of loving protection. The kanaf is a constant reminder.
As I close out Called to Lead with you, I invite you to always hold onto God’s picture. For many, the tallit (prayer shawl) has replaced the tasseled robe. When the priests, the shepherds of God’s people, were ready to bless God’s children with the high priestly blessing from Numbers 6; the priest would lift the robe or shawl with its tassels dangling. The priest would extend his arms so the robe or tallit appeared to be a covering.
There is one more subtle, yet beautiful, piece. Why a blue thread? God does not explain. He just says, “Put one in each tassel.” He left it to the people to figure out why, and they did.
The only other place where the color blue is incorporated into God’s instructions has to do with the tabernacle and the priestly garments. Blue was the color associated with the priest and with a royal position. The blue thread in the tassel is a statement from God: You are my special child. You are royalty in my eyes. You are to carry forward my priestly mission of bringing me to the world.
Think of it! The people would see the tallit with the tassels hanging from it. They would see the kanaf and remember: Obey God. He loves you. His wings of protection will be your refuge. They would see the blue thread and remember: I am made in His image and I am a part of God’s mission to bring his lost and hurting children back to Him.
Then they would hear these words from Numbers 6: 24-26. Take these words from your Father with you always as God’s child:
The LORD bless you and keep you;
the LORD make his face shine on you, and be gracious to you;
the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.
Jeff Blamer, Vice President of Member Services