Have you taken a good close look at your clothes lately...the hem in particular? Hems were a big deal in scripture, both the Old and New Testaments. We don't really pay that much attention to them. They are on our clothes for a couple of reasons. Hems make our clothes look more finished. Sleeves and pant legs, the bottom of shirts, blouses and dresses look neater with a nice straight hem. Hems also keep material from unraveling, so our clothes last longer. The word means fringe, tassel or border.
There are several instances that stand out for me regarding hems in the Bible. The first is found in the book of Exodus. In Exodus 28 we find the detailed instructions for making the priestly garments. They are to use gold, blue, purple and crimson yarns and fine linen. All these yarns would have been expensive because of the process required to dye the yarn. It is in verse 33 we see the instructions for the hem. “On its lower hem you shall make pomegranates of blue, purple and crimson yarns, all around the lower hem, with bells of gold between them all around.” The bell was for Aaron’s garments so that God would hear him as he moved around the tabernacle, especially when Aaron went into the holy place before the Lord so Aaron would not die seeing the face of the Lord. These instructions are repeated in Exodus chapter 39. And the pomegranates...are a sign for righteousness. They are said to have 613 seeds. That corresponds with the 613 commandments of the Torah.
In the book of Numbers 15:37-39 God gives Moses instructions for the Israelites about their garments. “The Lord said to Moses speak to the Israelites and tell them to make fringes on the corners of their garments throughout their generations and to put a blue cord on the fringe at each corner. You have the fringe so that, when you see it, you remember all the commandments of the Lord and do them.” Even today, Jewish prayer shawls have tassels on the edges, often in blue thread.
In 1 Samuel King Saul grabbed the hem of Samuel's robe when he went to leave Saul, and it tore. This was a sign to Saul that God had torn the kingdom from him because of his disobedience. We see a different meaning to the word hem in Psalm 139:5. The psalmist, King David, is writing a wisdom psalm of praise to God. What David writes is not abstract but instead he uses the qualities God uses to relate to His people. Verse 5 says,” You hem me in behind and before, and laid your hand upon me.” David has acknowledged God has searched him and knows him. But hemming him in is a sign of protection, care and tending that is intimate. And because God knows us so well, He wants nothing but the best for us. These words of David's ring just as true for us today as they did when David wrote them nearly 3,000 years ago.
We see just how big God is when we read Isaiah 6:1. This is the beginning of Isaiah's call to prophetic ministry. “In the year King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the hem of His robe filled the temple.” Typically seeing the Lord was a cause for immediate death, but one of the Lord's seraphim touched his lips with a coal from the altar and removed his sin. What Isaiah saw must have been magnificent. The Lord was high above, exalted on a throne. That represents His eternal and sovereign rule. But at the same time the Lord is concerned about the welfare of His people and He is present in the temple, dwelling among them. But God is so big that only the HEM of his garment fit into the temple. Look at the hem on a garment you are wearing right now and imagine how big you would need to be for only the hem of that garment to fill a large building. It is an amazing and impressive sight.
God commands Ezekiel to shave his beard and put a few of the hairs in the hem of his garment, a sign that there will always be a remnant of believers. And in Zechariah 8:23 The Lord speaks of men grabbing the hem of a Jewish person's garment, asking to go to Jerusalem with them because they have heard God is there.
In Matthews gospel we see two instances where people touched only the hem of Jesus’ garment and were healed. In Matthew 9:20-22 we see a woman who had a flow of blood for 12 years. “She said to herself if only I could just touch the hem of His garment, I will be made well.” Mark tells us a bit more of this story. The woman had been doctoring for those 12 years, to no avail. She had suffered many things and spent all she had. But she did not get better. Instead she got worse. When she touched Jesus’ hem, she was immediately healed. Jesus knew He had been touched because He felt power leaving Him. But in this healing, there was no magic in His clothes. He consciously healed this woman. She was fearful of approaching Him and filled with enough faith that she knew just touching the hem would heal her.
In both Matthew 14 and Mark 6 we read of other instances where many sought out Jesus, wanting to touch only the hem of His garment knowing that would heal them. And in both cases, all who touched His hem were healed.
The point in all of this is that hems keep things from unraveling. When we grab ahold of the hem of Jesus’ garment, when He is who we hang onto, we have a much greater chance of not unraveling. While the tassels were meant to remind God's people to keep the laws and commandments, the hem of Jesus garment was the sign of something much bigger. Just like the hem of God's robe filling the temple, Jesus is the reminder that God is always with us. We can go to Him and hang onto Him. He knows when we do, and He holds on to us.
Sometimes it is the little things, like hems that remind us of something much greater. God is like that sometimes!
In His grip
Pastor Matt W