"The Tabernacle: Celebrating
The God Who Comes Near"
Rodgers Baptist Church
801 West Buckingham Rd. - Garland, TX 75040
The Tabernacle: Celebrating The God Who Comes Near-God's Ultimate Sacrifice
Lesson Four: The Brazen Altar Or Altar Of Burnt Offering
Key Verse: Exodus 25:8. "And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them."
Text: Exodus 27:1-8. "And thou shalt make an altar of shittim wood (acacia wood), five cubits long, and five cubits broad; the altar shall be foursquare: and the height thereof shall be three cubits. 2 And thou shalt make the horns of it upon the four corners thereof: his horns shall be of the same: and thou shalt overlay it with brass. 3 And thou shalt make his pans to receive his ashes, and his shovels, and his basons, and his fleshhooks, and his firepans: all the vessels thereof thou shalt make of brass. 4 And thou shalt make for it a grate of network of brass; and upon the net shalt thou make four brasen rings in the four corners thereof. 5 And thou shalt put it under the compass of the altar beneath, that the net may be even to the midst of the altar. 6 And thou shalt make staves for the altar, staves of shittim wood, and overlay them with brass. 7 And the staves shall be put into the rings, and the staves shall be upon the two sides of the altar, to bear it. 8 Hollow with boards shalt thou make it: as it was shewed thee in the mount, so shall they make it."
Introduction: On January 28, 2008, there was a story posted out of the U.K. entitled: Mother Makes Ultimate Sacrifice For New Baby. Lorraine Allard, 33, was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer when she was just four months pregnant. She was offered the opportunity to abort her child, but Lorraine refused. She delayed her treatment to give birth to Liam, 15 weeks prematurely. Lorraine told her husband: "If I am going to die, my baby is going to live." She spent just two months with her son before losing her fight for life. Her husband Martyn, an oil field technician, paid tribute to his wife: "Lorraine was so brave. I can't begin to describe how brave she was. She knew all too well she didn't have long to live. So she put little Liam's life before her own."
When we hear stories such as this, we are amazed at the sacrifices true love and devotion are willing to make. Sacrifice, is a strange word to most church people today, and yet we have been called to "...present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is our reasonable service." Sacrificing our bodies, our lives, our plans and pleasures, only becomes "reasonable," when we consider the ultimate sacrifice made by God on our behalf. As we approach the brazen altar, we are reminded of God's Ultimate Sacrifice.
There were seven pieces of furniture used in the Tabernacle. If we list them in the order of their appearance in the Tabernacle, they are: the brazen altar, the brazen laver, the table of showbread, the golden lamp stand, the golden altar of incense, the ark of the covenant, and last but not least, the mercy seat. Of these seven pieces of furniture, the brazen altar was the largest in size. The altar was 7 ½ feet square and 4 ½ feet deep. It was almost large enough to contain the other six pieces of furniture all together.
The brazen altar was placed just inside the entrance gate on the east wall. As you entered through the gate into the outer court, this would be the first thing you saw, which means it was both accessible and unavoidable. If you can remember from our last message, this was a no sin zone, so as you entered, you had to check your sins in at the door!
The brazen altar was to be distinguished from the golden altar of incense. One altar was beautiful, the other was blood stained. This altar was also known as the "altar of burnt offering." The Hebrew root for the word "altar" means to slay or slaughter. The Latin word for "altar" means high. An altar was a high place for the purpose of sacrifice. The brazen altar in the Tabernacle courtyard, stood raised on a mound of earth, higher than the other furnishings. The altar itself was made of acacia wood, and overlaid with brass. Why brass? Throughout the Bible, brass is symbolic of God's judgment upon sin.
There was a "grate" or grill made of brass inside the altar, on which the sacrifices and the wood were placed. A "compass" or ledge around the altar halfway between it's top and base, provided a place for the priests to walk as they performed their duties. A ramp leading up to the ledge, helped the priests to ascend with their sacrifices. Our men present could see this as the ultimate patio grill!
There were four horns projected from the top four corners of the altar. These horns were for the purpose of binding the sacrifice to the altar. Psalm 118:27 reads, "God is the LORD, which hath shewed us light: bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar." The blood of the slain sacrifice was to be smeared on these horns. Notice 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."
It is interesting to note, that in the years that followed, there were individuals who had been involved in an incident that without investigation, could appear as a crime. Some of them fled to take hold of the horns of the brazen altar, to plead mercy and to find asylum. Why? Horns were a symbol of power and strength in biblical times. Perhaps by holding on to these blood stained horns of the brazen altar which represented the power and strength of a merciful God, they were making their appeal directly to God for His intervention on their behalf.
The brazen altar was a place of death and substitutionary sacrifice. The blood of the animal sacrificed, was poured out at the base of the altar, and it's body was consumed by fire upon the altar itself. The fire on the brazen altar was to never go out. It was to burn continually. Notice Leviticus 6:12-13. "And the fire upon the altar shall be burning in it; it shall not be put out: and the priest shall burn wood on it every morning, and lay the burnt offering in order upon it; and he shall burn thereon the fat of the peace offerings. 13 The fire shall ever be burning upon the altar; it shall never go out." The brazen altar stood ever smoking, ever blood stained, ever open for the guilty to approach it. How was that fire started? How did it begin? Leviticus, chapter 9 reveals that God actually started the fire on the brazen altar! Notice Leviticus 9:22-24. "And Aaron lifted up his hand toward the people, and blessed them, and came down from offering of the sin offering, and the burnt offering, and peace offerings. 23 And Moses and Aaron went into the tabernacle of the congregation, and came out, and blessed the people: and the glory of the LORD appeared unto all the people. 24 And there came a fire out from before the LORD, and consumed upon the altar the burnt offering and the fat: which when all the people saw, they shouted, and fell on their faces."
There were five utensils, all made of brass, provided and used by the priests in offering of sacrifices on the brazen altar.
The pans. These were actual pans, made of brass which were used to transport ashes from the altar to the prescribed place outside the camp.
The shovels. These brass shovels were used to remove burning coals from the outer altar, where the fire was constantly burning. The priest used the shovel to bring these coals into the sanctuary to the golden altar, where the incense was offered.
The basins. The word "basins" means vessels for sprinkling. They were pots used as receptacles to hold the blood of the animals sacrificed at the altar of burnt-offerings. On some occasions the blood was poured out at the bottom of the altar, and on other occasions it was carried into the Holy Place. Once a year, on the Day of Atonement, it was taken into the Holy of Holies.
The flesh-hooks. These were three pronged hooks, used to arrange the pieces of the sacrifice on the fire of the altar. They were used by the priests to keep the sacrifice in place on the altar. As the fire did it's work, the sacrifice fell apart and tended to move away from the fire. The flesh-hooks were used to catch hold of the carcass, and bring it back to the center of the altar and the heat of the fire.
The fire-pans. It might help us to think of these as censers. The Hebrew word used here can be translated censer. A censer was a vessel in which fire was carried from the altar of burnt offering, to the altar of incense.
The sacrifices made on the brazen altar, were reduced to blood and ashes. The ashes were not to be destroyed or disposed of, but taken to a clean place where they were to be used later for the purpose of cleansing. They were evidence that the sacrifice was wholly consumed by fire. The blood was to be poured out at the bottom of the altar or sprinkled on the altar. It was also evidence that the sacrifice had been made.
All the furnishings of the Tabernacle had to be portable. There were two staves (poles) provided to be used on two sides of the altar, for the purpose of transporting it when the Tabernacle was moved.
The altar was the place for burning animal sacrifices. There were five animals that were offered as sacrifices upon the altar. They were a lamb, a bullock, a goat, a heifer and a turtle dove. In offering an unblemished animal, the Israelite understood that the animal's life was being forfeited in his place, because of the sins he had committed. Every Israelite knew that it was only though the sinless animal being slain on his behalf, that he could maintain a right relationship with a Holy God. The first step for sinful man to approach a holy God, was to be cleansed by the blood of an innocent creature.
Leviticus 1:1-9, gives us information as to what was involved in making a sacrifice. We read, "And the LORD called unto Moses, and spake unto him out of the tabernacle of the congregation, saying, 2 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, If any man of you bring an offering unto the LORD, ye shall bring your offering of the cattle, even of the herd, and of the flock. 3 If his offering be a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish: he shall offer it of his own voluntary will at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the LORD. 4 And he shall put his hand upon the head of the burnt offering; and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him. 5 And he shall kill the bullock before the LORD: and the priests, Aaron's sons, shall bring the blood, and sprinkle the blood round about upon the altar that is by the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. 6 And he shall flay the burnt offering, and cut it into his pieces. 7 And the sons of Aaron the priest shall put fire upon the altar, and lay the wood in order upon the fire: 8 And the priests, Aaron's sons, shall lay the parts, the head, and the fat, in order upon the wood that is on the fire which is upon the altar: 9 But his inwards and his legs shall he wash in water: and the priest shall burn all on the altar, to be a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the LORD."
If you were to offer a sin offering, you had to bring an animal, a male without blemish or defect, from your flock or herd to the priest at the tabernacle gate. This was a free will offering, which means you came to the brazen altar with your sacrifice, not by some schedule or law, but according to your own conscious and sense of need toward God. If you lived as an Israelite back then, how often would you be found at the gate of the Tabernacle with a sacrifice? Perhaps the answer to that question is revealed in the number of times in a year you feel the need to walk the aisle in your church. You would meet the priest at the door with the animal (say a lamb), to offer for the sacrifice for your sins. At the brazen altar, you would remember the terrible price of sin. Laying your hand on the head of the animal, you would reflect on your sins, and in doing so, transfer your blood guilt to the animal. Sensing the shame of it all, you would be handed a knife by the priest, to slit the animal's throat, and witness the blood. You would watch the priest catch the blood, take the animal or lamb to the horns of the altar, and bind the lamb to the altar. The priests would then slaughter the animal, sprinkle it's blood, burn the sacrifice, and pour the rest of it at the bottom of the altar. Blood was a significant agent for making an atonement, the covering and cleansing for sin. Leviticus 17:11 reads, "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 maketh an atonement for the soul."
The brazen altar of course presents a powerful, vivid picture of God's greatest sacrifice, the ultimate sacrifice for our sin. Facing the brazen altar, we are reminded of four powerful realities.
Reality one: The place of redemption. Just as the brazen altar was a place of judgment upon sin, the cross stands as the place where the sins of the world were judged by God. Jesus gave His life for our sin at Golgotha, which means the place of the skull. Like the brazen altar, the cross was a place of death. It was here Jesus willingly laid down His life for us! Like the brazen altar, the cross was a high or lifted up place of sacrifice. In John 3:14, Jesus said, "And as Moses lifted up the (brazen) serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: 15 That whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life." Jesus was certainly lifted up on the cross! On another occasion, Jesus said in John 12:32-33, "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. 33 This He said, signifying what death He should die." The pans and shovels used to remove the ashes of the sacrifices, speak of the finished work of Christ. The basins containing the blood which was poured at the base of the altar, pictures Jesus Christ pouring out His own blood for us. The flesh-hooks picture the cruel hands that took Jesus and nailed Him to the cross. The fire pans or censers used to fuel the altar of incense, speak of Christ's intercession for us as He was hanging on the cross!
Today we lift up the cross by the preaching, teaching, sharing of the gospel message. Paul said in II Corinthians 1:17-18, "For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. 18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God."
Just as the brazen altar was unavoidable, no one can gain entrance or access to the holiness, favor, and forgiveness of God, outside the cross of Jesus Christ.
Reality two: The penalty of sin. Sin is serious! Romans 6:23a reads, "For the wages of sin is death." There was no getting around the brazen altar! All sin must be judged and will be judged, either by faith on the cross of Jesus Christ, or in eternity in Hell fire! Hebrews 9:27 says, "And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment."
Reality three: The price of our redemption. The brazen altar was blood stained! Hebrews 9:22 says, "And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission." Jesus came to pay the ransom price for our sins! On the eve of His passion, as He instituted the ordinance of the Lord's Supper with His church, Jesus took the cup, blessed it, and said in Mark 14:24, "This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many." As Isaiah prophesied, Christ came like a lamb that is led to slaughter and pierced for our transgressions. His blood was sprinkled and poured out at the cross for us! Hebrews 9:13-14 says, "For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: 14 How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?"
Reality four: The ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ. As John the Baptist stood on the banks of the Jordan river, seeing Jesus approaching said in John 1:29, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." The brazen altar points us to the ultimate sacrifice! By offering Himself as the sinless Son of God, Jesus accomplished what all the other sacrifices could never accomplish. As the ultimate sacrifice, Jesus satisfied the righteousness demands of God, and thereby put an end to all sacrifices! Notice Hebrews 10:7-12. "Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do Thy will, O God. 8 Above when He said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin Thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law; 9 Then said He, Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that He may establish the second. 10 By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. 11 And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: 12 But this man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God."
There were five offerings made at the brazen altar. All of these were fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Jesus has satisfied the trespass and guilt offering. In Jesus Christ, our trespasses are forgiven! Jesus has satisfied the sin offering. In Jesus Christ, the power of sin is broken! Jesus has satisfied the burnt offering. In Jesus Christ, God the Father accepts us! Jesus has satisfied the meal and grain offering. In Jesus Christ, we have a perfect sacrifice! Jesus has satisfied the peace and fellowship offering. In Jesus Christ, we have fellowship with God!
Today instead of a brazen altar, God would have you look to the cross where Jesus died for your sins! Do you believe? Christian, do you need forgiveness and restoration? There's still power in the blood! II Corinthians 5:21 says, "For He (God) hath made Him (Jesus Christ) to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him."