LENTEN LESSON: GOD AND ONYX
37 more days:
When I was in high school, one of my friends received for a present a beautiful onyx ring, set with a little diamond in the middle. I thought it was so beautiful. I never did manage to buy myself a pretty onyx ring like that, gleaming black stone in a silver filigree setting – with that shiny little diamond . . . .
Ever since, I’ve thought of onyx as being black. Gleaming black. Hard, impenetrable black.
So I was interested, as an adult now, to read more of the story of the Exodus and discover that onyx plays an important part in the relationship between God and man – and it’s not hard and black!
We all know that it was atop Mt. Sinai that Moses received the? . . . Ten Commandments, of course. But he also received many other “commands” and instructions regarding social interaction among people, as well as the proper worship of a God so utterly “other” and majestic and holy that He had to reach down to mankind in order to communicate the Truth. We couldn’t guess it ourselves.
Moses was told to instruct the people to build a proper place to worship, what to do, what kind of vessels to use, where to place things, what the priests should do, and how they should be dressed.
It was the amazingly detailed and beautiful garments of the priests that would put forth into our minds the glory and beauty of God. It was the best we could do.
The out garment was to be embroidered with threads that were double-dyed, red and gold and blue, violet, scarlet – each color had meaning – threads of gold . . . .
Here’s another was to think of these garments:
Now, over the breast was to be placed an object with twelve gems, arranged in a square, representing the Twelve Tribes of Israel — but what is often overlooked is that over the shoulders of the priestly robe two onyx stones were to be taken and the names of the Tribes were to be written on them, six on each side.
 And thou shalt take two onyx stones, and shalt grave on them the names of the children of Israel:  Six names on one stone, and the other six on the other, according to the order of their birth.  With the work of an engraver and the graving of a jeweller, thou shalt engrave them with the names of the children of Israel, set in gold and compassed about:  And thou shalt put them in both sides of the ephod, a memorial for the children of Israel. And Aaron shall bear their names before the Lord upon both shoulders, for a remembrance. (Exodus 28)
Maybe like this?
Or maybe much more beautiful.
You see, an onyx is not only a gleaming, hard, black stone. It can also look like this:
And like this:
Quite beautiful and swirly and mysterious and deep. Almost alive with warmth! The placement of these onyx gemstones with the names of all the Tribes (families) of God’s own people on the shoulders of the priests, representing truths and mysteries and the thoughts of God is really quite remarkable.
Touch your shoulders. (You have to cross your hands.) Or think of a time when someone came up from behind you and caressed your shoulders. Or, okay, just rubbed your shoulders. These are all pretty intimate acts because your shoulders, on top of your chest, guard your heart.
Symbolically speaking, God is bearing His people on His shoulders because He loves them, He desires closeness with them. He will bear them up on His shoulders, taking them on, all of them, even some day bearing their sins while the Cross is placed upon His shoulders.
And that is the Lenten-Lesson part. From the time of Moses we see the detailed, complex, many-layered love that God has for us, His people, as He bears us on his shoulders (through the medium of the priests and their holy garments); He “wears us” close to His heart, and He gathers us all up into Himself.
He guards, guides, protects, and instructs.
And during Lent, we examine ourselves . . . to see how we’ve responded.
Our honest answer leads us to Calvary.