The Tabernacle, The Brazen Altar, Part 1 - Lesson 41
Romans 12:1, I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
I think that after receiving over 40 lessons concerning the Tabernacle of the Wilderness we see how important this edifice was to the children of Israel.
It stood central to the camp, surrounded by all 12 tribes, and was designed to continually tell of Godís plan of redemption for his children.
God had physically redeemed his children from Egypt but this was simply a foreteller of things that were to come.
God gives us the physical simply to reveal to us the spiritual.
We begin in the temporal but we move to the eternal.
Now from their tents they could see the visible presence of God's glory hovering over the Tabernacle in the form of a cloud by day and pillar of fire by night, which continually assured them of His guiding presence.
In our study of the tabernacle and its furnishings we have followed the Bible pattern that God gave to Moses as far as the order of things to be constructed.
God in his instruction began with Himself in the Most Holy Place, and the furnishings there, namely the Ark of the Covenant and the Mercy Seat hovered over by the Cheribim.
We proceeded from there into the Holy Place, then to the tabernacle structure itself, with its roof and side coverings.
Today we are outside of the Holy Places for we have come to a most important piece of Godís redemption plan, namely the Brazen Altar where all the God commanded sacrifices were placed and offered up to God.
The fullness of knowledge regarding the Brazen Altar was realized when Calvary came about and our Lord Jesus Christ offered himself as the one and true sacrifice which satisfied the justice of God and opened the doors of heaven to those who are cleansed by His blood.
God, as usual, gave to Moses detailed instructions as to the Altarís construction.
We find these instructions in:
Exodus 27:1-8, And thou shall make an (one) altar of shittim wood, five cubits long, and five cubits broad; the altar shall be foursquare: and the height thereof shall be three cubits. And thou shall make the horns of it upon the four corners thereof: his horns shall be of the same: and thou shall overlay it with brass. And thou shall make his pans to receive his ashes, and his shovels, and his basins, and his flesh hooks, and his fire pans: all the vessels thereof thou shall make of brass.  And thou shall make for it a grate of network of brass; and upon the net shall thou make four brazen rings in the four corners thereof. And thou shall put it under the compass of the altar beneath, that the net may be even to the midst of the altar. And thou shall make staves for the altar, staves of shittim wood, and overlay them with brass. And the staves shall be put into the rings, and the staves shall be upon the two sides of the altar, to bear it. Hollow with boards shall thou make it: as it was showed thee in the mount, so shall they make it.
The Hebrew word for altar means to slay or slaughter.
Many ancient peoples used altars.
Although they were sometimes used for atonement of sin, most frequently their use deviated from this original purpose, instead becoming places of idolatry and immorality.
But for Israel God intended that the sight of fire, smoke, blood and the smell of burning flesh at the Brazen Altar impress on them their guilt before Him.
God does not dance around issues as we dance around issues for God knows that a man or woman, boy or girl, must see themselves as guilty, before pardon can come.
What man will seek a life preserver unless he knows he is drowning.
So what Israel saw, and heard and smelled was not a pretty sight nor did God design it to be.
Judgment on sin should never be whitewashed or perfumed as is so common today.
We are given to see by the smoke, blood and the smell of burning flesh how terribly offensive sin is to a Holy God.
From the beginning of man's rebellion against God this concept was established.
But in time, this idea was lost except to those who were truly trying and seeking to please God.
When God revealed the pattern of the Tabernacle, He used the altar as a means of approach to Him.
He gave specific instructions for its use.
It was the only place national Israel could worship Him.
He made it clear He did not want its service to degenerate to the level of the heathen nations about them.
The most important instruction was that there was to be only one altar and it was to be located only in the court of the tabernacle.
Leviticus 17:8,9 is one of those places in scripture where this separation
principle is taught, And thou shall say unto them, Whatsoever man there
be of the house of Israel, or of the strangers which sojourn among you, that
offered a burnt offering of sacrifice, And bringeth it not unto the door of the
tabernacle of the congregation, to offer it unto the Lord; even that man shall
be cut off from among his people.
This eliminated the spirit of divided worship that occurred so commonly in heathen worship on high places, which tended to encourage the concept of many gods.
Israel had one God and one God alone!
Therefore, all high places in the nation of Israel were to be destroyed.
Sacrificing to an idol under God's Covenant Law meant death to the offender.
One place of sacrifice guarded against the influence of heathen worship.
But it spoke to Israel and to us today that there is only one sacrifice for sin, and that sacrifice was revealed to us as the THE LAMB of God!
Just listen to the beloved John, called the Baptist, who knew there was only one altar when he declared in John 1:29, For John in seeing Jesus coming unto him saith: Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.
How singular was John in that statement.
No inclusion of himself, no offering of himself to that mission!
We do not see in that declaration any sharing in the task of taking away the sin of the world.
The Lamb comes!
Buddha is not called, Mohammed is not summoned for Islam has no answer.
The gods and goddesses of Hinduism do not step up.
The Dali Lama need not come, for there is only one altar, there is only one Lamb, there is only one Savior, the God-Man Jesus Christ.
God is exclusive for there are no other Gods before Him.
This altar declares this fact to the whole world in no uncertain terms for all religions are false, for all religions sacrifice apart from the one true altar, Jesus Christ.
And when I speak of religions I define religion as man invented ways to God or ways of life denying God.
But there is no way around the fact that the only way to God is through
Some 3,500 years ago, God painted that picture for all of Israel and the entire world to see that fact through this altar and that picture has not changed!
The altar of the Lord was to have no engraving on it or steps to it as a precaution against the altar becoming an object of worship.
The priests were to wear undergarments because God wanted no flesh exposed at His altar as was common at heathen altars where nakedness and immorality abounded.
On the day the Tabernacle was set up, the brazen altar was set in the outer court, and all the tabernacle furnishings were anointed with holy anointing oil.
A special anointing of the brazen altar continued for seven days, as did the consecration of the priests'.
The anointing was the ceremonial means of consecrating the altar and priests to their equally important work concerning atonement.
Everything surrounding this altar pointed us to Christ and the New Covenant believer to His work of redemption on Calvary.
He bore our judgment so that we might go free.
Now as the Israelites approached the Tabernacle they would enter the court to offer and present their sacrifices.
Upon entering the court, they must have stood in awe, gazing at the bloodstained brazen altar as the smoke from previous sacrifices lifted into the sky.
The altar was a very simple hollow box made of shittim wood (acacia wood), overlaid with BRASS, seven and a half feet square, standing four and half feet high, and had four horns pointing outward at each corner.
A brass grate extended through its middle in which brass rings were fastened at each corner.
Wooden staves covered with brass were put through the rings for carrying the altar through the wilderness.
The altar stood just inside the court gate facing the Tabernacle.
It was the largest piece of furniture used in worship and was always open to guilty Israelites so they could come and atone for their sin.
Sacrifices made under the Old Covenant always had a deeper meaning for they all pointed to a coming Redeemer looked for by all of Israel.
Sacrifices we make under the New Covenant are no longer sacrifices of animals, but the sacrifice of our entire lives to THE LAMB who has already been sacrificed.
They looked forward under the Old; we look back under the New.
What a tragedy it is to continue living under the Old Covenant, as the Jews of today do when we have been given the New.
We see in the altar the same foundational material that was used in the Ark of the Covenant, the table of incense and the table of showbread, the material being shittim wood.
But this shittim wood is overlaid with brass instead of gold.
Shittim wood is a hard, incorruptible, indestructible wood that grows in the Sinai Desert.
It speaks to us of the humanity of CHRIST whom Isaiah tells us came from a "root out of dry ground" and in His human nature was sinless.
The indestructibility of the wood speaks of Christ the man, who arose from the cross of crucifixion and death and the decaying effect of the grave.
The brass, covering the shittim wood, typified divine righteousness and judgment of Christ, the righteous one who took the divine judgment of God upon Himself and bore our judgment on the cross by becoming a sin offering for us.
2 Corinthians 5:21, For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew
no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
As the Israelites were saved from death when they looked at the brass serpent that Moses held up in the wilderness, so all who trust in Jesus Christ, who was lifted upon on a tree as a sacrifice for sin, will be saved from damnation.
John 3:14-15, And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
Christ's appearance to John on the Isle of Patmos with "feet like fine bronze, as if they burned in a furnace" spoke of His judicial character in judging His enemies at the Second Coming.
The four horns on the corners of the altar spoke of power and were used in binding the sacrifice to the altar.
Psalm 118:27, God is the Lord, which hath showed us light: bind the
sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar.
They were also sprinkled with the blood of the sacrifice.
Exodus 29:12, And thou shalt take of the blood of the bullock, and
put it upon the horns of the altar with thy finger, and pour all the blood
beside the bottom of the altar.
The sacrifice tied to the horns pointed to Christ's steadfast commitment to carry out the Father's will (Hebrews 10:5-7) when He allowed Himself to be nailed to the cross for our blood atonement.
His shed blood on the cross absolves the sins of all those who are willing to put their faith in His sacrificial death.
The blood-stained horns pointed upward and outward to the four corners of the world, reminding us of the saving power of Christ's blood that will be witnessed throughout the world.
The brazen altar was provided for sacrifice.
Without sacrifice, there could and will be no atonement for sin (Lev. 17:11 and Hebrews 9:22).
With soberness, the Israelites brought the prescribed offerings without spot or blemish to the priests, who stood at the Tabernacle's gate to receive them.
The offerers laid their hands on the heads of the offerings, symbolic of their identification with their substitution death on their behalf - their sins were transferred to the sacrifices, and the life of the sacrifices was transferred to them.
The offerers then killed the animals, while the priests caught the sacrificial blood in a basin to be offered as atonement.
What a picture is painted here of the sinner killing the sacrifice because of his sin.
The priests, functioning as mediators, sprinkled the blood of the sacrifices on the altar and poured the remaining blood in the basin at the altar's base.
Then the priests cut the sacrifices into pieces, washed the inner parts, and burned various pieces on the altar as a sweet savor to the Lord.
Some 2,000 years ago, our sins were placed upon the head of Christ.
He identified Himself with us so our sin could be transferred to Him and his life could be transferred to us.
We are a blood-washed, blood-bought CHURCH - beautiful in the eyes of God because He sees us through the eyes of His glorious SON!
Leviticus 17:11, For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I
have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it
is the blood that makes an atonement for the soul.
At the altar, an innocent lamb bore the judgment of the guilty.
Christ, the believers' lamb (John 1:29; Rev. 13:8) died on the altar of the cross to bear the judgment of God's wrath on sin on our behalf (Isaiah 53:3-6; Romans 4:25).
The sacrifice being burnt on the altar as a sweet savor to God (Lev. 1:9) typified Christ, who was offered up as a "sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savor."
Ephesians 5:2, And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savor.
The word altar means high place.
The sacrifice had to be lifted up on the elevated altar (Lev. 9:22).
Christ's being lifted up on the cross as our sacrifice speaks of this procedure:
John 3:14, And, as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up.
The fire that burned continually on the altar had a twofold meaning:
It proclaimed God's holiness and justice
It was symbolic of His readiness to receive the sacrificial offerings of the people to cleanse them from sin.
John 1:29, The next day John saw Jesus coming unto him, and said, Behold the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world.