We learned in our previous program that the tassels worn by Jewish people for the past 4,000 years is because God commanded them to do so. They were to be visible and they were to serve as a reminder to them to always be aware of and obedient to His Word.
The tzitzit themselves were made of white linen and blue wool, and they were a representation of the authority of God’s Word that governed them. Authority that was culturally understood in ancient times by the designation of certain articles of clothing, such as the hem of a robe, the decorations on royal garments and so on. The tzitzit was a very distinct and visual representation of authority that was recognisable and understandable both to the Hebrews and the peoples round about them.
Because of their decorative nature and the blue colour, they were also representative of both royalty and nobility, blue was very much a colour favoured by royal families and the noble classes. The blue was also representative of the priesthood. The High Priest himself wore a garment that was dyed blue so the significance of the tzitzit was very far reaching. There was a priestly tribe within the Jewish nation, but the Jewish nation itself is a priestly nation among all the nations of the world.
One of the most wonderful things about the tzitzit, is that all Israel was to wear them; they were not only for a select group of special, elite individuals, they were for national leaders, the royal family, rabbis, scholars, lawyers, teachers, physicians, politicians, as well as farmers, shepherds, musicians, masons, financiers, shop owners, tradesmen and peasants. The tzitzit was like a distinctive ‘uniform’ of sorts for the entire national people of Israel.
Why A Uniform?
Tzitzit served several purposes; they unified Israel as a distinct national people with both a royal and priestly calling, tassels served to remind them daily in everything they did that God’s commands were to be kept; they demonstrated to other nations they interacted with that nationally, they were a people completely and utterly committed to their God throughout every level of Israel’s social strata from the throne to the farmer.
They were a chosen people, a noble nation of priests chosen to be a light to the nations, whose calling was to display God’s righteousness, holiness and goodness before the world, to be a witness for Him. Remember, that God’s plan from before the very foundations of the world was to redeem all mankind and He chose the Jewish people to be the human means to do it. Historically, Israel failed repeatedly, and in spite of their failures, through them we have the Scriptures, the kings, the prophets, most importantly we have Jesus our Messiah and all He achieved on the cross, all of which has spread throughout the nations of the world century after century after century.
Jesus also wore tzitzit. The story of the woman with the issue of blood, who reached out to touch the ‘hem’ of Jesus garment, some translations say it was the ‘fringe’ of His garment, and that when she did so, she was healed. (Mark 5:25-34, Matthew 9:20-22, Luke 8:43-48) There are a number of Bible teachers who believe that this event is a fulfillment of Malachi 4:2 that says the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings.
The Hebrew word for tassel is tzitzit which means, fringe, tassel or lock, and it comes from the word ‘tsiyts’ which means feather or wing. So when the woman with the issue of blood crept forward to touch the ‘hem’ of Jesus’ garment touching the blue threaded ‘tassels’ or ‘fringes’ or ‘wings’ that identified Him as King and Priest under the very commandments of God they were reminders of, (of which He was author) she found healing in its wings…healing in its hem…healing it its tassels. There was no magic in the tassels themselves, rather she was healed because of the authority of the One wearing the tassels.
When Jesus rebuked the religious leaders for their making their own tassels extra long, and their phylacteries extra large, He wasn’t telling them not to wear them at all, after all, they were commanded to wear them, but by accentuating them they were doing several things; remember all Jews were required to wear tassels, but the religious leaders didn’t want to be equated with the common folk, they wanted to be elite among the people. Also, they wanted to stress that they were in fact more pious, devout or spiritually devoted to God. They weren’t of course, they were in fact incredibly proud and they wanted to flaunt their position to gain the accolades and approval of men, so they wore exaggerated religious paraphernalia for personal gain and the hope of prestige and honour among the people.
In all these lessons, there has to be some take home value for us, so what does this mean for Gentile believers.
We are grafted into the commonwealth of Israel but we’re not Jewish. The Jews have a national calling to be a light to the Gentiles and they’ve been just that throughout their history whether they’ve been living in obedience or disobedience, All that has happened to them has been a visual confirmation of God’s Word and His promises to them. Still, what does this mean for us Gentile believers?
We’re going to look at that in our next program.
Based on the writing of Lois Tverberg