Understanding The Bible
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W. W. Rugh,
Bible Institute of Philadelphia
40 Page Printed Devotional Guide
1st Edition 1912
The Brazen Altar.
The Brazen Altar, or Altar of Burnt-offering, was made of heavy boards of shittim or acacia wood five cubits square and three cubits high, and overlaid with heavy plates of brass. To this covering of brass was added other plates of brass made from the censers of the men who sought the priesthood in the rebellion of Koran, Dathan, and Abiram. Numbers 16:32-40.
A grating or network of brass was placed in the midst, or halfway up the Altar on the inside, and held firmly in place by the rings of brass which were caught through the corners.
The horns on the four corners of the Altar, made of the same piece with the altar, were overlaid with brass.
The covering of the Altar on the march was a purple cloth, upon which were placed all the vessels of the Altar, and over it all was spread a covering of badger skins. Then they put the staves into the rings so it could be borne by the Levites, the sons of Kohath. Numbers 4:13, 14.
The position of the Altar was within the Gate of the
Court before the Door of the Tabernacle. Exodus 40:6.
Upon the Brazen Altar the Lord consumed the whole burnt-offerings, a part of the meal-offerings, the fat of the peace-offerings, the fat of the sin-offerings, the fat of the trespass-offerings, and parts of other special offerings.
When the Tabernacle was first set up by Moses, and Aaron and his sons consecrated unto their ministry as priests, then fire came out from before the Lord, and consumed upon the Altar the burnt-offering and the fat. Leviticus 9:24. This fire was to be kept burning continually, except when the people of Israel were on the march, and then they carried live coals in the fire pans. Leviticus 6:8-13.
At this Altar the Lord thus met the people as they came under the Gate, and judged them and their sins. As a holy God, He dealt with them according to His holy law, but not on the ground of law but on the ground of grace, for His love provided a substitute to be judged instead of the sinning Israelite. Had Jehovah dealt with them on the ground of law, no Innocent lamb without blemish would have received the stroke of God's wrath, but the guilty sinner himself would have paid the penalty of his sin.
When an Israelite came to the Altar with a trespass-offering, or a sin-offering, according to the word of His grace, the death of the offering answered for the death of the guilty Israelite, and the acceptance of the offering meant the acceptance and forgiveness of the one for whom the sacrifice was offered. Leviticus 4 and 5.
Jehovah witnessed of His acceptance of a sin-offering or trespass-offering by consuming the fat on the Altar with the burnt-offering. The result of the sinner who believed the testimony of the ascending smoke was that his heart was filled with peace and joy, in the assurance that he was delivered from the penalty and guilt of his sins. Romans 5:1.
The Brazen Altar was one of the most important vessels of the Tabernacle. Apart from its use there could be no acceptable approach into the holy presence of the Holy One of Israel. It was called "an Altar most holy," and "whosoever toucheth the Altar shall be holy." Exodus 29:37 R. V.; Matthew 23:19.
For us this Altar with all its appointed ministry is full of typical significance. Every student of the word of God easily discerns that all the offerings are type of Christ, but what is the Altar Itself a type of? The key to interpreting its typical meaning, we believe, is this. The Altar was so built that it could endure the devouring fire of God's wrath. The proof of this was the fact that, about 490 years after it was built by Bezalel, Solomon offered a thousand burnt-offerings upon it. II Chronicles 1:5, 6.
As such a vessel it is a type of Christ as the only One who was humanly and divinely able to bear the wrath of God against sin and the sinner. The shittim wood, Which grew In the dry barren desert about Sinai, is typical of Christ as a man, who grew up before God as "a root out of a dry ground." Isaiah 53:2. There was nothing in this sinful world to nourish the One who took upon Himself the likeness of a man. Romans 8:3; Philippians 2:5-8. But Jesus ate "butter and honey that he might know to refuse the evil and choose the good." Isaiah 7:15. He fed upon the solid part of the word of God for nourishment, and being sweeter than honey to His taste it satisfied His heart. Hebrews 5:13, 14; Psalms 119:103; 81:16.
But overlaying the boards were the heavy plates of brass, which made the Altar a vessel abundantly able to endure the consuming fire. This brass suggests to us the ability which Christ had to "endure the cross." This power to endure God's righteous judgment against sin and the sinner was not human, but divine. Jesus was God manifest in the flesh. God Incarnate. John 1:14; I Timothy 3:16. "In Him dwelt all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." Colossians 2:9; 1:19. He was filled with all the fullness of the Father, and of the Holy Spirit. He had the mind of the Father, the love of the Father, and the faith of the Father.
Filled with the faith of God, Jesus was divinely able to endure the consuming fire of God's wrath, which was visited upon Him on the cross. Hebrews 12:2, 29; 10:27, 31; Deuteronomy 4:24; 9:3; Isaiah 33:14.
The Altar is thus a type of our blessed Lord. He is the Altar, He is the bleeding Lamb, and He is the High Priest offering up the Lamb. He is "all and in all" to us. Colossians 3:11.
God's work of righteousness, in judging sinful Israel through His appointed substitutes at the Altar, is typical of just what He did on Calvary for every one who will believe His precious word.
When no one could
produce any righteousness acceptable to God, when all were shut out from the
presence of God, and every mouth stopped, God manifested His righteousness by
dealing with every man according to His holy law. But praise His name. He did
not deal with us on the ground of law, but on the ground of grace, for His love
provided a Substitute to be judged in our place, who by faith laid down His life
for us. Romans 3:21, 22.
Because of His love for us, Jesus was willing to be separated from the Father's presence, that all who believe might come into the presence of our Father and dwell there. This separation of Christ from the Father was what broke His heart and wrung from His lips the heart broken cry, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" Psalms 22:1; Matthew 27:46.
The death of Christ for us delivers every sinner who believes from the penalty of our sins, and God's acceptance of Him as the One who died for us delivers us from our guiltiness before God, for the acceptance of the offering meant the acceptance of the one for whom the sacrifice was offered. The proof to us that God accepted Christ as our Substitute is that He was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, and that He ascended to the right hand of the Majesty on High. Romans 6:4; Hebrews 1:3.
By believing God's declaration concerning the death and resurrection of Christ we are justified, or declared righteous before God. Romans 4:25; 5:1.
The measure of the Altar, five cubits long, and five cubits broad suggests typically the thought of responsibility which Christ fulfilled toward God and toward man, for He kept both tables of the law.
It was four-square, which speaks to us of weakness, for four is the earth number, but the horns are symbols of power. Daniel 8:3-7. Christ was "crucified through weakness, yet He liveth by the power of God." 2 Corinthians 13:4.
But the blood sprinkled horns certainly foreshadow the wonderful power of the finished work of Christ, the work wrought for us on the cross, which is so fully and clearly typified by the offering up of the sacrifices on the Altar.
They tell us of the joyful message of what Another has done for us, which has power to save from the penalty, guilt and power of sin, and from the power of Satan, every one who will believe it. Romans 1:16; 3:24; 6:6; 11; 1 John 1:7; Ephesians 6:10-18; Revelation 12:11.
Three cubits high typifies the work of the Trinity on the cross. The Father was on Calvary offering up His Son in the power of the Holy Spirit. 2 Corinthians 5:19; Hebrews 9:14.
The offerings consumed upon the grate in the center or heart of the Altar suggests the fact that Christ made His soul an offering for sin. "He poured out His soul unto death." Isaiah 53:10-12.
The purple covering reminds us of the tact that it was the King of the Jews who was crucified for us, while the badger skin covering, which protected the Altar and its vessels on the march, typifies the humiliation of Christ, His humility which protected Him from all the defiling things of earth. Isaiah 53:2, last clause; Philippians 2:8; 1 Peter 5:5, 6.
It was Jehovah Himself, the covenant making and covenant keeping God of redemption, who opened the Gate, under which sin-cursed Israel might take the first step toward Him. Then in righteousness and grace He met them at the Brazen Altar, and there judged and put away all their sins, so that they might come acceptably into His presence.
On Calvary God met us and righteously judged all of our sins, and reconciled us unto Himself, having made peace through the blood of Christ's cross, so that every believer may come acceptably into His holy presence. Much more than that, the result, for every believer, of God's work of righteousness is peace, and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance forever. Psalms 85:10; Colossians 1:20; Isaiah 32.17.
By W. W. RUGH, Associate
Dean, Bible Institute of Pennsylvania
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