February 5, 2023 | Doug Sauder
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“He made the altar of burnt offering of acacia wood; five cubits was its length and five cubits its width—it was square—and its height was three cubits. He made its horns on its four corners; the horns were of one piece with it. And he overlaid it with bronze. He made all the utensils for the altar: the pans, the shovels, the basins, the forks, and the firepans; all its utensils he made of bronze. And he made a grate of bronze network for the altar, under its rim, midway from the bottom. He cast four rings for the four corners of the bronze grating, as holders for the poles. And he made the poles of acacia wood, and overlaid them with bronze. Then he put the poles into the rings on the sides of the altar, with which to bear it. He made the altar hollow with boards. He made the laver of bronze and its base of bronze, from the bronze mirrors of the serving women who assembled at the door of the tabernacle of meeting.”—Exodus 38:1–8 (NKJV)
Up until this point, our focus has been on the tabernacle’s tent-like structure and the items that were to remain inside of it. But now we’re going to turn our attention to two objects that were just outside of the tabernacle. And as before, these both relate to the Lord’s character.
The first object is the bronze altar. This altar was much larger than the incense altar and wasn’t made of gold but bronze, as the name indicates. And rather than burning incense, this altar was used to burn the many animal sacrifices God would call His people to offer to Him. You see, they still had a sin problem, and the Lord remained holy. Sin cannot co-exist with holiness, so God provided a sacrificial system in which an animal’s sacrificial death would serve as a sort of temporary covering for His people’s sins. This altar and the countless sacrifices that would be offered on it bridged the spiritual gap between the Lord and His people.
But again, this sacrificial system was only a temporary covering. The blood of an animal didn’t permanently remove the penalty of a person’s sin, because the values didn’t equate (Hebrews 10:4). In fact, the penalty for sin was so astronomically steep that it could only be satisfied by something of infinite worth. That something was Someone, the Lord God, Himself! When Jesus, God’s only begotten Son, willingly offered Himself to die on the cross, He was removing what all other sacrifices had only covered up to that point. His innocent life was of more worth than the price of all sin, which is why all who place their faith in this are fully forgiven by God . . . the debt of their sin has been paid by Christ! This bronze altar was a foreshadowing of Christ providing our salvation on the cross.
The other item just outside the tabernacle entrance was the bronze laver, which served as a sort of washing basin and would be filled with water. This would be used to cleanse those who had offered the animal sacrifices and required cleansing before entering the tabernacle. God wanted the space inside the tabernacle to remain free from the mess that would inevitably result from such sacrifices. He wanted things to be pure before entering into His presence, which is why this washing laver was so necessary.
In similar fashion, the Lord is the one who works to cleanse and purify us from the inside out, so we can approach Him in purity (Titus 3:5). This doesn’t mean we will be perfectly sinless in all of our conduct, but it does mean God is always in the process of cleansing us from the things that dirty and defile us internally. This is His ongoing work of sanctification in our lives. He is the laver who makes us clean and He is also the perfect sacrifice who has made it possible for us to enter into the sacred space of relationship with Him.
Pause: What aspects of God’s character and work do the bronze altar and bronze laver represent?
Practice: Spend time today thinking about what the Lord’s role is in our salvation and sanctification, what your role is, and why it’s important to keep those in proper perspective.
Pray: God, there’s nothing I could ever do to make myself right before You. My debt of sin is so great that I need You to pay that price for me, which You did. I also need You to cleanse me from within in all the ways I cannot clean myself. Thank You for committing to doing both on my behalf and may I respond to Your great goodness with worship. Amen.
Pastor Dan Hickling serves our online community, also known as the Calvary Chapel Online Campus. He and his wife Becky have been married for 22 years and have two children, Lauren and Danny. Both Dan and Becky have been part of the CCFL church family for 22 years and have served in full time ministry for 20 of those years.