As I was mulling over the title for this post, I was not thinking of 1 John 1, though I did think of it immediately after. The title comes from the two items in the courtyard of the tabernacle: the bronze altar and the laver. It is these I was thinking about with the title. In our last post, we talked about entering the courtyard, something there’s no evidence that the ordinary Israelite could do. He had business at the bronze altar if he had a sacrifice, and he could probably see the bronze laver, but he couldn’t approach it.
We want to look more closely at these two items ourselves as we journey inward.
The Bronze Altar
In Leviticus 1, we read part of God’s instruction to Moses about the various sacrifices:
“If his offering is a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish; he shall offer it of his own free will at the door of the tabernacle of meeting before the LORD. Then he shall put his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him. He shall kill the bull before the LORD; and the priests, Aaron’s sons, shall bring the blood and sprinkle the blood all around the altar that is by the door of the tabernacle of meeting,” Leviticus 1:3-6 NKJV.
By the way and simply because I’ve heard it used like this: the expression his free will” is not making a doctrinal statement about man’s will; it simply means that the offering was voluntary, as opposed to those offerings which were required.
These verses tell us that the one bringing the sacrifice was not a passive onlooker to what was going on, but he was an active participant. At the least, he had to put his hand on the head of the animal being sacrificed, and the text reads as though he had to kill it, v. 4. The text down through v. 8 indicates he might also have had parts in the other proceedings. We’ll stay with some thoughts about v. 4.
He put his hand on the head of the animal. Doing so, the man was identifying with the animal as the one atoning for the man’s sin. The man was saying, in effect, “I deserve to die, but you are taking my place. You are my substitute.”
He also, it seems, had to kill the animal. In this, the man was saying, “I’m killing you; my sin is killing you. You are my sacrifice.”
Two essential elements in the OT sacrificial system.
Two essential elements in the death of the Lord Jesus.
I asked a fellow once, “What did Jesus do on the Cross?”
Beside the fact that Jesus died, the fellow didn’t seem to have very much idea.
The simple fact is that Christ died for sin, not His own because He had none, but for the sin of others. He took their place. As the animal died instead of the individual Israelite, so the Lord died in place of individual sinners. He was their Substitute.
The Israelite was guilty of sin. So are we, and the wages of sin is death, Romans 3:23. The animal was sacrificed to take his place. We are guilty of sin and death is our reward, both physically and spiritually, if we die without the Lord Jesus as our Redeemer and Savior. We will die physically unless the Lord comes back before then. If you’ve recently lost a loved one, I’m sorry. I don’t mean to add to your grief.
And apart from the Lord Jesus, we are already “dead in trespasses and sins,” Ephesians 2:1, already “dead spiritually.” And apart from the Lord Jesus, we are already guilty before God. The common idea that we’ll have to wait until the Judgment to find out our “fate” is false; it’s already set – apart from the Lord Jesus:
He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God, John 3:18 emphasis added.
He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him, John 3:36 emphasis added.
Not “the love of God,” as so often and falsely taught today, but the wrath of God.
Only in the Lord Jesus does one have any “claim” on the love of God. Apart from Him, there is only wrath.
Apart from the Lord Jesus, there is no hope and no future. There is no “better place.”
He is our Substitute, our Sacrifice.
The second item of furniture in the courtyard was the laver, for the daily and continual cleansing of the priests as they went about their duties.
We, too, though forgiven, also need daily cleansing from the increasing pollution and filth of this world. As the Israelite was made unclean just by contact with things which were unclean, so we, in contact with this world, are made unclean by its actions and philosophies and need to be cleansed.
Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, Acts 16:31.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness, 1 John 1:9.