He shall put the holy linen tunic and the linen trousers on his body; he shall be girded with a linen sash, and with the linen turban he shall be attired. These are holy garments. (Leviticus 16:4)
It is understood that the High Priest had two different types of garments. The first set of garments consisted of eight different pieces called, in Hebrew, בגדי זהב big’dei zahav — literally “golden garments.” These were those that was referred to as “holy garments for glory and for beauty” (Exodus 28:2). These are the garments most are familiar with which include the breastplate of righteousness, the golden mitre etc. In short, these are the garments that made clear to all that the wearer was the High Priest of Israel. On the other hand, the second type of garments worn by the High Priest were not nearly as ornate; in fact, they were devoid of any type of adornment. They consisted of four pieces and were referred to as בגדי לבן big’dei lavan or “white garments.”
Most every day, and for a part of the Yom Kippur service, the High Priest performed his duties dressed in the golden garments. However, a very part of the Yom Kippur service was performed while wearing the white garments which, by the way, were worn only on the Day of Atonement. (To this day, it is traditional for Jews to wear white on Yom Kippur). Specifically, these white vestments were worn during the part of the Yom Kippur service when the Priest was seeking forgiveness for himself and for the sake of the people of Israel. In other words, when it came time for him to enter the Holy of Holies and sprinkle the blood upon the Ark, he discarded the golden garments in order to approach the LORD dressed only in white garments.
Consider this: one of Israel’s greatest sins involved worshipping a golden calf in the stead of the Holy One. Therefore, it was deemed inappropriate for High Priest to wear gold when seeking forgiveness for Israel’s sins. At least, that is the interpretation that has been handed down to us through Jewish eyes. While I don’t dispute that notion, it could also be that the reason for wearing only white linen in God’s Presence is as simple as this — “No flesh should glory in His presence” (1 Corinthians 1:29). Let’s remember that as we seek to approach Him. Yes, we may boldly approach the Throne of Grace but, as we do so, let us also approach His Throne in humility and holiness. Let us lay aside our “adornments” and seek Him in sincerity and brokenness, knowing that He “gives grace to the humble” (Proverbs 3:34).
Blessings and Shalom,