Purple is my favorite color. Red and blue come in close seconds. I especially like them together. After all, red and blue are just purple that haven’t been mixed yet.
A couple of weeks ago my Bible reading took me into the book of Exodus. Now, parts of this book are stirring and dramatic. There is the parting the Red Sea, pharaoh and his army, Moses coming down the mountain with the stone tablets of the ten commandments.
So, Moses is up on the mountain with God. He’s been there for forty days. This is when he gets the stone tablets with the ten commandments. But in addition, God gives Moses some very specific instructions on the construction of a place of worship - the Tabernacle.
This is where the story gets truly exciting - if you’re a weaver. Because here we learn that God wants them to “Make the tabernacle with ten curtains of finely twisted linen and blue, purple and scarlet yarn, with cherubim woven into them by a skilled worker. All of the curtains are to be the same size - forty-two feet long and six feet wide.” Even more detailed instructions are given for the construction of the priestly robes for Aaron out of “gold, and of blue, purple and scarlet yarn, and fine linen.”
Now the Israelites are camped in the desert, at the foot of Mount Sinai. They aren’t growing flax for linen here, or indigo and madder for the blue, purple and scarlet dyes. No, these are some of the precious materials they smuggled out of Egypt. The finest linen yarns the world has ever known - probably spun by the Israelites as slaves in the workshops of Egypt, dyed with indigo and madder. A call is put out for donations, and “everyone who had blue, purple or scarlet yarn, or fine linen… brought them.” People are so generous, Moses had to tell them enough - stop!
I like to think about the weavers who were selected for this task - the best and most skilled workers. How proud and yet humbled they must have been. Excited, and overwhelmed - this was a massive undertaking. Also maybe a little bit nervous - face it, the Lord had a habit of punishing anyone who didn’t follow His instructions to the letter. Seriously, it’s right there in Exodus.
We’ve just started the season of Lent - forty days of penitence and preparation. Forty days that mirror the forty days Jesus spent fasting in the wilderness, where Moses spent forty days on the mountain with God, and, yes, where the Israelites wandered for forty years in that same wilderness. For Lent, the priests still wear purple vestments and there is a purple cloth on the altar - all harkening back to the priestly robes of Aaron and the curtains of the tabernacle, thousands of years ago.