TABERNACLE – NR 3
THE ALTAR AND BASIN
Scripture : Exodus 27: 1-8, 30: 17-21; 1 John 2:1, 3:6
In the life of a believer, there is a continuous conflict.
ONE SIDE: He/she believe and confess and know that he/she truly is a believer, gloriously born-again from heaven and delivered on the cross from the authority/power (the reign/dominance) of sin. Something like: Christ has died in my place and consequently, I died with Him (Gal 2:20).
OTHER SIDE: Painfully conscious of the continuous presence (not reign/dominance) of sin in my life. Yes, indeed I am no longer a slave to it – as before I knew the Lord. I am no longer under the tyranny of sin – as before. But yet… I am conscious that I still can sin and indeed do. Romans 7 > What I do not want to do, that I do.
What then? When will this soul-destroying struggle end?
The person who is not yet born-again is not conscious of such an inner struggle. Everything runs smoothly. It is not something to cry over.
But, concerning a true disciple of Christ, this issue can cause such a struggle that they fall into despair. The more seriously one walks with the Lord, the deeper the devotion, the greater the conflict.
The bronze altar and the bronze basin in the tabernacle at that time shed light on this problem and also gives the solution.
THE BRONZE ALTAR: Here is where the substituting animal offers were sacrificed. A sacrificial animal dies in the place of the sinner so that the sinner can live and be absolved.
BRONZE BASIN: Here repeated washing takes place. Only the priests wash here, but they represent the entire nation/church.
A man comes from the tents down to the tabernacle. He is leading a sheep by a rope. He walks beside the white curtain. He does not look at the white linen. He is guilty. The white curtain reminds him of the holiness of God, and how great his sin is. He is disturbed. Something inside of him makes him feel very troubled.
Then he reaches the eastern side where the four-coloured curtain is hanging across the 10-metre wide entrance. He stoops to enter.
Immediately he is in the outer courtyard of the tabernacle. There is quite a bit of activity. The blood of the sacrificial animals are flowing freely. The moment he is inside, the coarse, unattractive, blood bespattered altar is in front of him. Called the Altar of Burnt Offering. He does not see anything of the beautiful gold on the inside of the tabernacle. He only sees the coarse altar and the blood. A gruesome image of the price and the result and effect of sin: death and blood. But also a glorious place of redemption, because the blood testifies about a RANSOM that is paid.
He reaches a man clothed in white. It is the priest. A conversation takes place. The man talks about his sin and guilt.
Then they move over to the altar where a fire is burning. With the knife in his hand, the priest says: “Place your hand on the head of the sheep”. The man softly says: ”Must he die? He is so innocent.”
“No, he does not have to die”, the priest answers, “but then you must come to lie down here on the altar. Your blood must flow. Because God is holy and sin has to be punished with death.”
The man cannot see his way clear to do THAT. Not in any way at all.
Then the man lay his hand on the sheep. That indicates the assimilation with the animal offer. When the animal dies, it is, therefore, the same as if the man is dying for his sin. Because without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness (Heb 9:22).
After everything is over, the priest goes to the bronze basin to wash his hands and feet on behalf of the man.
That is the way it still works in 2022 in the life of the man and woman who are truly born from God. The tabernacle represents it as a picture image.
As lost sinners, we discover CHRIST as gate/entrance. And we discover the CROSS as the altar. And we realise that, if HE did not die there in our place, WE would have had to die there. Because the wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23). Instead of us dying, He died. The responsibility was ours, yet He did it.
And we also realise that the Father associated us with Christ so much in His death, that we also died to ourselves and is dead to sin. That is what Romans 6 teaches.
With the greatest amazement, we discover this good news Gospel.
And then we lay our hand on Him. We realise our sin. Repentance. A turnabout. Trust in Christ’s sacrificial death. We believe His words of promise. We believe Him who is saying all that. We say: “I believe, Lord Jesus, that you truly have died in MY place on the altar/cross”.
You see: That is the meaning of the altar of burnt offering. He died in my place and I died with Him. My repentance results that my entire existence now starts to hinge upon that. In the same way as the Israelite who brought his animal offer to the priest.
The altar of burnt offering reflects the heartbeat of the Biblical Christian Faith.
As we know, it elicits a lot of antagonism with the post-modern human. The message of the ALTAR – the cross – offends because the sophisticated educated post-modern person will not/cannot accept that he/she is so depraved and lost that a SACRIFICE was necessary to work atonement.
Remember: the message of the cross bears the sign of sin and reveals WHO man truly is, namely a hopeless depraved person who can only be saved by an offering God had to bring. The message of the cross draws an emphatic line through our inborn pride and arrogance and forces us to our knees.
To the modern, educated, prideful, high-minded, self-assured western person, it is too much. It is experienced as an insult. Therefore they rather take refuge in the Occult and Eastern religions and philosophies that put man on the throne.
Yet we must never adjust or compromise the message of the altar. Never. Because there is no other entrance to a life-with-God (true peace) other than by the altar/cross/blood.
Look at the 4 horns at the corners of the altar. That indicates power and authority, and they point in the 4 wind directions. In the cross-events God speaks with authority, and it is meant for people in all the wind directions.
But I – as a person who has now experimentally got to know the altar of the burnt offering – at the same time needs the bronze basin over and over and over again to be washed. Why? Because I am still stumbling and falling – even though I was in principle cleansed at the altar and put right with God.
The big difference is: My relationship with God is in principle put right with God by the sacrificial blood and I no longer live IN sin, in the grip of sin and under the authority/reign of sin like an unbeliever.
But stumble, certainly. Note the “IF” in 1 John 2:1. “IF anybody (believers – that is: everyone who has been put right with God) does sin… we have one who speaks to the Father, Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.”
The bronze basin is situated behind the altar and directly in front of the Holy Place. It is used only by the priests to wash their hands and feet on their way to the Holy Place, many times every day. But the priests represented all the Israelites.
The altar of burnt offering says: You are no longer living under the authority of sin. You are no longer its slave. You are standing RIGHTEOUS before God. You ARE reconciled with God. It is completed.
The bronze basin says: Still, imperfect human. Can still stumble. May be washed again and again. 1 John 3:6 – cannot keep on sinning – the authority of sin is broken in principle. 1 John 2:1 – IF we sin, cleansing. It is not a contradiction.
Altar of the burnt offering: Do not think too little of Christ.
Bronze basin: Do not think too much of yourself.
If there was no altar, we would have become discouraged in life. We would not have known how to be put in the right relationship with God. Sin would have been in charge. We would not have had any assurance of forgiveness and adoption as children.
If the bronze basin was not there, we would have become proud and over-confident. “I have no problem. I am 100% in charge of sin. I can do what I like.”
You see: The altar and the wash-basin go together. It keeps the balance. It offers the complete riches of the Gospel.
If I live out of the full assurance that God has united me with Christ on the cross and that I am reconciled with God through the sacrifice He brought on the cross and that I have died with Him, it makes a huge difference how I deal with sin in my life.
No longer anything of the endless, discouraging trying to get the better of sin. I believe I am no longer a slave under the authority of sin, and that is that. The altar of the burnt offering has dealt with it. I realise that – not I – but Christ who lives in me, is stronger than any hold sin can have.
If I believe that – based on the Word – I however do not stop fighting against sin. When I experience the sucking power of sin, I trade it in with Christ.
You see: Based on the fact that I am at the altar and in principle have been forgiven by the blood-sacrifice, I now get to the bronze basin:
“Lord, I feel how sin is drawing me, and I failed and grieved the Spirit, but I believe that it is no longer necessary to give in because the power of Your cross snatched me out of the grip and reign of sin. I failed, but am not lying in the dust. I rely on You to wash and cleanse me again and again.“
Do you see the bronze washbasin? Based on my righteousness with God based on the blood of the cross, I continuously approach Him with specific things. Over and over and over. Every day. Because of a certain knowledge that the specific sins do not land me in destruction, and for God to condemn, leave and reject me, but EXACTLY because He does NOT reject me (based on the altar) I honour Him for His love at the bronze basin.
“Lord, this issue in my life does not honour You – wash me again. This addiction trips me up all the time. I know its power over me is broken in principle, but it still haunts me. This tongue of mine. This self-centeredness. These wrong things that draw me, etc.”
At the bronze basin, I can be honest and forthright about myself to the Lord.
Significant: the washbasin is of BRONZE. It is made of the people’s mirrors (Ex 38:8). When you look into the basin, you see yourself – no one else. That which you see, which the mirror reveals to you, drives you out to once more cling to God’s love and forgiveness in the altar. You do not sink into a hopeless and discouraging condition. You are free and you remain free.
It is interesting: Throughout, the Lord gave Moses ALL the measurements of all the fittings of the tabernacle to the finest detail, but not the bronze washbasin. No measurements. It is as if – seen from God’s perspective – the washbasin is limitless. There are no limitations to its size and capacity. There is therefore no limit to the measure of cleansing the washbasin offers. Seventy times seven times.
Let us go out and live with the Lord – out of the rock-fast atonement of the altar/cross and the joy of the daily forgiveness and cleansing.
Translated by Marthie Wilson