"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
Lesson Five: God's Wash Basin-The Brazen Laver
Key Verse: Exodus 25:8. "And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them."
Text: Exodus 30:17-21. "And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 18 Thou shalt also make a laver of brass, and his foot also of brass, to wash withal: and thou shalt put it between the tabernacle of the congregation and the altar, and thou shalt put water therein. 19 For Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet thereat: 20 When they go into the tabernacle of the congregation, they shall wash with water, that they die not; or when they come near to the altar to minister, to burn offering made by fire unto the LORD: 21 So they shall wash their hands and their feet, that they die not: and it shall be a statute for ever to them, even to him and to his seed throughout their generations." Exodus 38:8. "And he made the laver of brass, and the foot of it of brass, of the lookingglasses of the women assembling, which assembled at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation."
Introduction: During one of his campaigns, Napoleon sent a letter to his beloved wife that read: "Dear Josephine, I will be arriving home in three days. Don't bathe..." We are not too sure just what Napoleon had in mind, but I doubt Josephine was buying it!
While the saying, "Cleanliness is next to godliness," is not Scripture, a close look at the Bible, and you will discover that God was big on personal hygiene. In the Old Testament, God gave His people various laws regarding personal hygiene that protected them from the spread of disease. These regulations were practiced by God's people some 3,500 years before the concept of germ spread disease was discovered!
The Tabernacle was the dwelling place of God. If the children of Israel and the priests who represented them were to come near to worship and serve the Holy God of Israel, they must first deal with their sin at the brazen altar. Once they sacrificed however, the priests had to wash before they could proceed into the Holy Place on behalf of the people.
Each year the high priest washed his entire body on the day of atonement, before he put on the holy linen garments and made an atonement for himself and the children of Israel. Leviticus 16:23-24 reads, "And Aaron shall come into the tabernacle of the congregation, and shall put off the linen garments, which he put on when he went into the holy place, and shall leave them there: 24 And he shall wash his flesh with water in the holy place, and put on his garments, and come forth, and offer his burnt offering, and the burnt offering of the people, and make an atonement for himself, and for the people."
On every other day of the year, the priests only had to wash their hands and feet, before entering the Tabernacle to serve. Why? The brazen altar was a dirty, bloody place. The hands and feet of the priests were soiled with blood and desert sand. Cleansing and purification before and during the service in the Tabernacle was mandatory for the priests who ministered before God. Actually it was a matter of life and death. The Lord instructed the priests to wash or die!
This brings us to the second piece of holy furniture in the outer court. Between the brazen altar and the door of the Holy Place or Tabernacle proper, stood the brazen laver also called the laver of cleansing. We might call it God's Wash Basin. The brazen laver was a wash basin. It was made of brass and was filled with clean water. The laver was never used by the congregation, but was provided exclusively for the priests. The priests were to use the laver to wash their hands and feet, as they ministered in the Tabernacle.
Exodus 38:8 tells us that the laver was made from the looking glasses of the women of Israel, which they had carried from Egypt on Passover night. Mirrors in those days were made of highly polished brass. As the priests washed at God's Basin, seeing a reflection of themselves, their reflection in the mirrors, reminded them of their true selves! They were sanctified, set apart men, yet they were just mere men with sinful hearts and unholy attitudes.
What did the brazen laver look like? How big was it? We are not sure. The brazen laver is the only piece of furniture in the Tabernacle, the dimensions of which are not given. Some believe that there was actually an upper and lower bowl or basin, because of the language in verse 18. It reads, "Thou shalt also make a laver of brass, and his foot also of brass, to wash withal." The upper basin of pure water would spill over into a lower basin which was wider and more shallow, kind of a cup and saucer affect. The priests could wash themselves with the water that fell from the upper basin.
While the brazen altar speaks of reconciliation, the brazen laver speaks of the ministry of sanctification or separation. Once we come to the cross of Jesus Christ pictured in the brazen altar, we are sanctified, washed in His blood and sealed by His Holy Spirit. We are the children of God, yet we are sometimes self-willed, disobedient children in need of continual forgiveness and cleansing. God's Wash Basin points us to the great doctrine of sanctification.
Since there is so much false teaching and confusion concerning this great Bible doctrine, we will be careful to consider all four dimensions of sanctification in the life of a believer.
Dimension one: Initial Sanctification. We see this dimension in God's choice to dwell among His people by way of a Tabernacle. Even before this, beginning with the call to Abraham, God chose to separate a people from the world unto Himself. It would be through the seed of Abraham that we would be blessed and included in the person of Jesus Christ!
This dimension of sanctification was foreknown and predetermined by God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Notice Ephesians 1:4. "According as He (God) hath chosen us in Him (in Christ) before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy (hagios hag'-ee-os, sanctified or set apart) and without blame before Him in love." From the beginning, God chose to sanctify or set apart for Himself, a people who would love Him by choice. This choosing or setting apart by God, did not guarantee our salvation, but it did guarantee the provision and opportunity to be saved.
In II Thessalonians 2:13 we read, "But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth." The Lord chose to sanctify us "in Christ" by the work of the Holy Spirit, upon belief or faith in the truth concerning Jesus Christ. This election is conditional. You must make your choice to believe! Notice I Peter 1:2. "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied." Once we are obedient to the gospel of Jesus Christ, we become chosen vessels, sanctified, set apart for God's use. We chose God, because He first chose us!
Dimension two: Positional Sanctification. We see this pictured in the high priest who washed his entire body on the day of atonement. This aspect of our sanctification is instantaneous! At the point of repentance of sin and faith in Jesus Christ, by the work of the Holy Spirit, in an instant, we were sanctified, set apart "in Christ" unto God, for His divine pleasure and purpose. Notice Acts 26:18. "To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me." The moment we repent of our sins and place our faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ, we are regenerated, justified, and sanctified, set apart "in Christ." From that moment on, spiritually speaking, before God, we are sinless, we are perfect, washed in His blood, clothed in His righteousness! This is our eternal position. It does not change. It is based on the finished work of Jesus Christ. It is His work on our behalf. It is His righteousness, not ours! There are those who mistake positional sanctification for practical sanctification, and in doing so they teach sinless perfection. They construe certain Scriptures to teach that we can and must reach a state in this life, where we no longer sin!
One such passage is Matthew 5:48. Here Jesus says, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." This verse does not teach that we will reach sinless perfection, but that it is the long range goal for every child of God. It should be the aspiration of every child of God to become what we are. The apostle Paul makes it clear that in this life, as far as the flesh is concerned, we will never arrive! Notice his words in Philippians 3:13-14. "Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before. I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."
Dimension three: Practical Sanctification. We see this dimension in the priests who daily washed their hands and feet in the brazen laver. While our positional sanctification is based upon the finished work of Jesus Christ, our practical sanctification brings human responsibility! This sanctification remains God's work in us, however it requires our co-operation!
This dimension of our sanctification is continual. As long as we are in the world, we will stand in need of confessing and forsaking personal sin in our lives. We see this in II Corinthians 7:1a. "Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit." The priests dare not touch the Tabernacle or the brazen altar, until they washed their hands and feet at the brazen laver. We must remember that there was no floor to the Tabernacle. As the priests moved about performing their roles and responsibilities, they were soiled by the sweat of the animals, the blood of the altar, and the sand of the desert floor. Their hands and feet needed to be washed continually! Their hands spoke of their daily work, and their feet spoke of their daily walk. Both were in need of daily cleansing!
It is the same with us. Living in this sinful world, our hands and feet, our heads and hearts, can become soiled by sin! There are "sins of the spirit" and "sins of the flesh," both are known to God, and both hinder our worship and service to Him! Like the priests who served in the Tabernacle, we must daily confess our sin and cleanse our hearts, hands, and feet.
This dimension of our sanctification is progressive. II Corinthians 7:1 continues, "....perfecting holiness in the fear of God." The phrase, "perfecting holiness" literally means maturing in sanctification. Our spiritual growth is not unlike our physical growth toward maturity. Once we are born, we begin to move through different stages of growth, from a baby, to a toddler, to a child, to an adolescent, to an adult. It is the same in our practical sanctification. We begin as "babes in Christ," feeding on the milk of the Word of God, and over time, we move from the milk to the meat of the Word of God, as full grown, mature believers.
The agent of sanctification in the brazen laver was water, and was only available to the priests. The agents of our practical or progressive sanctification are available to all believers. They are available, which means we must avail ourselves of them!
Sanctifying agent one: The blood of Christ. If we are to live holy lives by the power of God, we must confess and forsake our sin. When we do so, they are cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ! I John 1:5-7 says, "This then is the message which we have heard of Him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:7 But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin."
Sanctifying agent two: The Holy Spirit. If we are to live holy lives by the power of God, we must "walk in the Spirit," we must be "filled with the Spirit." II Corinthians 3:17-18 reads, "Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.18 But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord." The Holy Spirit's role in the life of a believer is not just to guide us, but to groan against the presence of sin in our lives. He is in our lives not just to comfort us, but to convict us of sin!
Sanctifying agent three: The Word of God. If we are to live holy lives by the power of God, we must read, meditate upon, memorize, internalize, and study the Word of God! In John 17:15-17 Jesus prayed for His disciples and said, "I pray not that Thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldest keep them from the evil.16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy word is truth." David said it this way in Psalm 119:9-11, "Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to Thy word.10 With my whole heart have I sought Thee: O let me not wander from Thy commandments.11 Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against Thee."
Sanctifying agent four: The Lord's church. If we are to live holy lives, we must make sure we are found faithfully in the congregation, the assembly of the saints. In Ephesians 5:25-27 we read, "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it;26 That He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,27 That He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish." Church membership affords us accountability, a habitation of the Holy Spirit, as well as a place where God's Word is preached.
Sanctifying agent five: Trials. If we are to live holy lives, we must respond properly to the trials God brings into our lives. I Peter 1:7 says, "Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations:7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ."
What about your walk with Jesus Christ since you have been saved? Are you growing, progressing, moving toward maturity, experiencing daily victory over sin in your life?
Dimension four: Future Eternal Sanctification. We see this dimension in the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ to tabernacle among us. This aspect of our sanctification is glorious! Minus this part of our sanctification, we would never be able to enter Heaven. In I Corinthians 15:50 Paul said, "Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption." So much for sinless perfection in this life! It is God's desire to sanctify all of us presently, and in the future! Notice I Thessalonians 5:23-24. "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.24 Faithful is He that calleth you, who also will do it." Presently, we must regard our physical bodies as sanctified, that is, they belong to God! Our bodies have been set apart for His service. As Paul said in I Corinthians 6, "....we are not our own." This does not mean that we are presently sinless, but praise God, one day we shall be changed into a glorified, sinless existence! Philippians 3:20-21 says, "For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:21 Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself."
The great Texas hero Sam Houston, was once known as "The Old Drunk." While he was governor of Tennessee, his wife left him. In despair, he resigned as governor, and tried to escape his problems by turning to alcohol. He stayed drunk most of the time. Later, he went to Texas, and his life turned around. He became the great hero of the Texas revolution by routing General Santa Ana's Mexican army, helping win independence for Texas. The turning point in his life came when he married the daughter of a Baptist preacher, and later trusted in Jesus Christ. His life changed, but he still held on to some of his old sinful habits. One day as Sam Houston rode along a trail, his horse stumbled and he spontaneously cursed. Immediately, convicted of his sin by the Holy Spirit, he got off his horse, knelt down on the trail, and cried out to God for forgiveness. There on that trail, God's Wash Basin was available for him, and it is available for each of us, as we continue our journey into the image of Jesus Christ!
Are you making progress in your Christian life? The power to be cleansed and change pictured in the water is available, but you must see your need and hold out your hands.