“Speak unto the children of Israel, and bid them that they make them fringes in the borders of their garments throughout their generations, and that they put upon the fringe of the borders a ribband of blue:
“And it shall be unto you for a fringe, that ye may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the Lord, and do them.” – Numbers 15:38-39
In the Scriptures garments are symbols of those principles which clothe the soul. So in the Word we often find directions as to what kind of clothes people should wear. There is the command not to wear a garment of linen and woolen together, for a woman not to wear the garment of a man, for a man’s garment not to be kept as a pledge after the sun has gone down, and now the law before us: that a fringe should be made to the garment, and on the fringe a ribband of blue.
To teach us how to give the soul such a dress that it may be beautiful in the sight of the angels in heaven the Lord says, “I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear.”
The chief use of clothing is for defense against the chills and variations of the weather, and there are, of course, other uses, such as for the promotion of beauty, and for the distinction of office.
The soul has its summers and winters and varying seasons, as we read in Zechariah of the living waters flowing out from Jerusalem, “in summer and in winter shall it be.” There are times of sunshine and warmth in the soul, when we are in states of happiness and peace; and there are times when our love is cold, and life seems joyless and sad, when the storms of doubt and fear afflict. The truths of Word will be a comfort and blessing in times of joy and of sorrow, in sickness and in health, in summer and in winter; and we should know that the Lord in His mercy has provided us with this spiritual clothing.
The teachings of the church, when intelligently understood and applied to our particular states, serve this purpose. And if applied to all the departments of human affection, thought, and life, they make a complete dress. Hence it is said in Isaiah, “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.”
The doctrines which teach the true nature of the Lord, His omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence, are the clothing for the head; the doctrines which direct and impel us to service to the neighbor form the clothing for the breast; and those which teach us that our religion should descend to inspire our outmost acts, words, and deeds are the remainder of the dress of the soul.
We read in Matthew, “And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment?” Then the king commanded his servants to cast the man out. There is, of course, no sin in any particular earthly dress’ not being worn by those entering into the Lord’s kingdom. But from a spiritual point of view not to have on a wedding garment is not to have a doctrine which teaches the union of truth and love. It is to be among those who say and do not. It is to make an outward parade of piety, while leaving the will selfish and impure. When the Lord said, “Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy. He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment,” He was describing the conditions of those who have not stained their garments with an impure life, and saying that when they come into the other life, their garment will be still purer, for they shall walk with Him in white.
There is a practical lesson in our text. The only way in which we can make the truths of religion really ours is to bring them down into all our little acts in our daily conduct. Life is made up of little things. One circumstance follows another, one act comes after another, each one small in itself, but the whole forming the tissue of our outward existence. Our whole journey is made step by step. It is little by little that we drive out our evils, and little by little we introduce the principles of wisdom and goodness into the whole texture of our conduct.
This religion of daily life is what is most needed. Without this our Sunday worship is but a form of hypocrisy. Outward forms of worship are unsubstantial as a dream unless given the body of a daily life. There should be a fringe for the border of our garments, throughout all our generations.
It is for want of this descent of religion into daily life that its blessings are often but faintly felt. It was said of the disciples on the way to Emmaus that they felt the presence of the Lord when He talked with them on the way, but He became known to them only in the breaking of bread. It is so with His disciples of all ages. The robe should be a daily dress whose hem goes all around the garment embracing the whole circle of our daily life.
We are commanded not only to have a fringe to our garments, but to have upon the fringe a ribband of blue. Natural colors originate in natural light. There are three primary colors, red, yellow, and blue. Red, the color of fire, is the symbol of the truths of love; blue, the color of the sky, is the symbol of the deep truths of faith; and yellow, the color of gold, is the symbol of love worked out into the daily life. Blue gives a sense of clearness and depth, and so represents the depths of heavenly wisdom.
There is a cold blue, which has more of white in it, but the Hebrew word here used is “techeleth,” which is a blue with red in it or violet. This signifies that truth should be spoken in love. Truth without love is cold. Truth spoken in anger is scalding hot; but truth spoken in love testifies to the purity and warmth of the spirit within. This is true in all our relationships: in those of marriage, the home, the office, the shop. Nothing can be further from the spirit of heaven than the vindictive utterance of truth. Children look for guidance and respond to it when it comes from the lips of love. Then our counsel will be revered in our absence as well as in our presence, and will be prized after we have passed on.
Thinking of doctrines as forming the clothing of the soul, we see at once the importance of those references to doctrines so frequently met with throughout the Scriptures. It is concerning the opening to mankind of the new teachings about the Lord in His Second Coming that the prophet writes, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound… to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.” Here the teaching that the Lord’s love was manifested when He was on earth is called “a garment of praise.”
This new dispensation of religion, which in the fullness of time would be introduced from heaven among men is represented as coming down “as a bride adorned for her husband.” These words assure us that this church would regard the Lord Jesus Christ as the only object of her love, and that her teachings would be beyond all precedent beautiful. Her truths would be the Divine laws of life such as they exist in the regenerate soul, in the heavenly world, and in the internal sense of the Word. In Psalm 45 we read, “The king’s daughter is all glorious within: her clothing is of wrought gold.” The king’s daughter is the affection for truth derived from the King of kings. The Word, when truly understood, is the revelation of the Divine love. “She shall be brought unto the king in raiment of needlework.” The Word supplies the material, line upon line, precept upon precept. The power of reason weaves them into a beautiful system and prepares them to be worn. And when one learns and applies the doctrines of the Word to meet his own particular states and requirements, he is clothed with the garments of salvation. He is all glorious within; his clothing is of wrought gold.
The ribband of blue constituted the hem of the garment. We recall the poor woman who had spent all her means on physicians for twelve years without avail and came to the Lord saying within herself, “If I but touch the hem of his garment, I shall be made whole”; and as soon as she did so, she was healed. The hem of the garment is the literal sense of the Word, especially the ten commandments, and when these are kept in humility, love, and trust, virtue and healing inflow from the Lord.
Zechariah writes, “Thus saith the Lord of hosts; In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for, we have heard that God is with you.” It is religion in life that is noticed by and attractive to good people. When it not only enlightens the mind and rules in the heart but also comes down to the fringe of the garment, it will be seen, and will lead others to say, “We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you.”
While we must pay due attention to the interior principles of love and faith, we should never forget the fringe with its ribband of blue. Be loving and truthful in little things. Let our daily tasks and words show forth the spirit of heaven so that upon the fringe there may be seen the ribband of blue.