By Stacey D. Wheeler, M.A. Director of Pastoral and Church Health
As we gather the last weekend in July at Northridge Friends Church and the Drury Hotel in downtown Wichita for Ministry Conference, we come ready to celebrate a Living Christ and call out to a Living God!
Our theme this year is Encountering Jesus—Embracing the World. We invite you to gather with us at Ministry Conference 2023 as we seek God and call on his name. We’re excited to move forward in what God is showing Thayne Thompson (Lead Superintendent), Tony Wheeler (Superintendent of Pastoral and Church Health), Jesse Penna (Director of Student Ministries), and the Leadership Team for EFC-MAYM.
God is moving! But we know we cannot step out on our own, we must move in step with Jesus. Without him we can do nothing of eternal value. We know Jesus desires for us to be salt and light in a dark world. We have good news for the world that righteousness and freedom still exist for those who are enslaved, poor, sick, rejected, hopeless, and burdened. If we do not preach the good news and bear witness with our personal stories and testimonies to a lost world, who will? As we call on the Lord to teach us his ways, we know he will answer us and tell us great and unsearchable things we do not know (Jer. 33:3). One symbol representing freedom that I’ve recently noticed is the powerful symbol of a bell.
When you hear a bell ringing, does it get your attention? Churches with bells in the bell tower often ring on the hour or for special occasions or ring to call the faithful to worship. The Hebrew word “bell” is פַּעֲמוֹן (pah-ah-MOHN) and derives from פַּעַם (PAH-ahm) which means “instance”: the clapper swings back and forth, instance after instance, hitting the bell and creating a sound.
The Liberty Bell used to frequently ring in the Pennsylvania State House to call politicians to meetings and to gather people to hear any pertinent news. In February 1846, the bell developed a second crack which silenced it forever. No one living today has ever heard the bell ring freely. Leviticus 25:10 is inscribed on the bell: “Proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants.” This passage refers to the jubilee Israelites celebrated every 50 years when slaves were set free and property returned. It represents a time of great celebration! The silenced bell represents liberty, peace, and freedom to those who were once enslaved but are now set free.
Two passages of scripture mention bells: Exodus 28 introduces us to gold bells worn on the hem of Aaron’s robe, an ornate robe required to minister before the Lord and designed for the holy purpose of meeting with God and offering sacrifices on behalf of the people.
Zechariah 14:20 also mentions bells: “On that day holy to the Lord will be inscribed on the bells of the horses. . . .” According to Matthew Henry’s Commentary (complete) “There shall be holiness introduced into common things; and those things shall be devoted to God. . . . The bells on the horses, which are designed to quicken them in their journey and to give notice of their approach, shall have Holiness to the Lord upon them to signify that this is that which we ought to be influenced by ourselves, and make profession of to others, wherever we go.”
Interestingly, there’s a another connection between these two passages in Exodus and Zechariah as Exodus 28: 36-38 describes another aspect of the sacred garment Aaron must wear to enter the Holy Place of God stating, “Make a plate of pure gold and engrave on it as on a seal: holy to the Lord. Fasten a blue cord to it to attach it to the turban; it is to be on the front of the turban. It will be on Aaron’s forehead. . . .”
Why would both Aaron the high priest and the horses be required to have bells and the phrase, “Holiness (Holy) to the Lord” written upon them? What is the significance and meaning of the bells and this phrase?
Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible Commentary explains the important symbolism of the gold bells in representing the appearance of Christ himself and his holiness and intercession on our behalf, with the sound of the bells representing the Gospel and salvation:
“A golden bell and a pomegranate . . . signified the acceptable year of the Lord proclaiming and resounding the great appearance of the Saviour: ‘golden bells’ may denote either the intercession of Christ in heaven . . . : his blood, righteousness, and sacrifice, call aloud for peace and pardon, and it is a sound that is always heard with delight; the matter of them being gold may denote the preciousness and excellency of Christ’s intercession, and the duration of it; and being on the hem of the robe shows that Christ’s righteousness is that on which his intercession depends, and from whence it has its efficacy: or else these bells may be an emblem of the Gospel, as preached by Christ himself, and by his apostles and ministers, compared to ‘bells’ for sound; the sound of the Gospel being a sound of love, grace, mercy, peace, pardon, righteousness, life, and salvation; a joyful sound, like that of the jubilee.
Are we not also “his apostles and ministers” who have encountered Jesus’ “blood, righteousness, and sacrifice”? We are thankful for the intercession of Christ, who because of his holiness was the only one able to open the scroll in Revelation 5:4-5: “I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside.Then one of the elders said to me, ‘Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.’” When we encounter Jesus we are changed forever! And we have good news!
The engraving from Leviticus on the Liberty Bell in Pennsylvania declares a time of celebration and jubilee: “Proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants.” Jesus brought us liberty and pardoned us from eternal death. Because of him, we, too, can be marked with “Holy unto the Lord.” May we never be silenced like the Liberty Bell, unable to make a sound.