THE BRAZEN ALTAR THE BRAZEN ALTAR OR, THE ALTAR OF BURNT OFFERING. Exodus 27. 1-8. Verse 1. "And thou shalt make an altar (the altar]."
THE SIN OFFERING was burnt, or consumed, without the camp: the BURNT, or ASCENDING OFFERING, was converted into a sweet savour on the altar of burnt offering by the fire which came originally from God, and which was kept always burning in it. In the SIN offering we see Jesus, who knew no sin, made sin for us, suffering without the gate, and putting sin away by the sacrifice of Himself.
In the other, Jesus, the spotless Victim, offering up Himself as a sweet savour unto God, and His acceptance manifested by His resurrection from the dead, and ascension to the right hand of the Father. Outside the camp it is wrath CONSUMING, and for ever setting aside the sins which Jesus bore. At the brazen altar it is justice and holiness, FEEDING with complacency on the excellency of the victim. The altar of burnt offering, cleansed, anointed, sanctified - an altar most holy, on which the fire was always burning, and the sacrifice always consuming, was the place of communion between God and His people, and between the people and their God (see Exodus 29. 36-46) strikingly exemplified. There we see Jesus, the BELOVED SON of the Father, whose dwelling-place eternally was the Father's bosom; that HOLY One, who knew no sin, and that blessed One, "God over all, blessed for ever," drawing hack from, and deprecating the enduring of God's WRATH, the imputation of sin, and the infliction of the CURSE. Yet the cords of love and obedience bound Him - love and obedience to the Father, love and compassion to us. So that, in the end, we see the willing Victim passing through the three long hours of darkness, made SIN for us, and nailed to the accursed tree.
This as to the VICTIM; then as to the SINNER, or the WORSHIPPER. In 1 Kings 1. 50 we read, "And Adonijah feared because of Solomon, and arose, and went, and caught hold on the horns on the Altar." Again, chapter 2. 28, "And Joab fled unto the Tabernacle of Jehovah, and caught hold on the horns of the altar." What strong consolation is provided for the poor sinner who flies for refuge, to lay hold on the hope set before him in the Gospel, founded on the perfect and accepted sacrifice of the sinner's Saviour, and the sinner's Friend ! And the believer, too, finds here a refuge and a rest.
The SHITTIM wood and the BRASS - emblems of the tender SYMPATHY and the Divine Almighty POWER of the Saviour of the lost, and the Sustainer of the saved - give faith its firm holdfast. The WOOD and the BRASS - the SYMPATHY and the POWER of Him who is thus set forth, giving faith its grasp of undying tenacity. The sinner and the saint find in Jesus, who is here set forth, one ABLE TO SYMPATHIZE and MIGHTY TO SAVE.
But what a solemn lesson is read out to us from these horns of the brazen altar! In Exodus 21. 14, God says, "But if a man come presumptuously upon his neighbour to slay him with guile, thou shalt take him from mine altar, that he may die." For the PRESUMPTUOUS sinner, and the hypocritical DECEIVER, the atonement of Jesus itself provides no shelter, while he continues such. It is of no avail for a person to say, "I am trusting in the blood of Jesus," while presumptuously continuing in sin, or hypocritically professing repentance. "Thou shalt take him from Mine altar, that he may die," is the stern command of Divine inflexible justice. Solemn thought! How many a soul has gone on for years, clinging with vain hope to a mere profession of faith in Jesus, lulled into a false peace, with a spirit unsanctified and a soul unsaved, to perish at last. Thus was it in type with Adonijah. "And Solomon said, "If he will show himself a worthy man, there shall not a hair of him fall to the earth: but if wickedness shall be found in him, he shall die" (1 Kings 1. 52). So it turned out. "King Solomon sent by the hand of Benaiah the son of Jehoiada: and he fell upon him that he died" (1 Kings 2. 25).
THE STAVES. Verses 6, 7. "And thou shalt make staves for the altar, staves of shittim wood, and overlay THEM with brass. And the staves shall be put into the rings, and the staves shall be upon the two sides of the altar, to bear IT."
The staves adapted the brazen altar to the wilderness condition of God's people, so that the altar accompanied them in all their journeyings. Wherever the camp pitched, the altar rested; wherever the court was enclosed, the altar was placed at the entrance; wherever the tent of the congregation was set up, the altar stood at the door. The daily sacrifice on the altar of burnt offering, was the standing link of communion between God and His people typically. The taking away of the daily sacrifice was a national calamity. The fire was always burning in this altar, never permitted to go out. The victim always consuming on it day and night, the sweet savour of it was always ascending. Thus the ground of communion was at all times prepared, the way of communion at all times open. On this perpetual burnt offering, the other special sacrifices (as on the Sabbaths, new moons, etc.) were burnt, and the sin and trespass offerings presented. So now, though our God is a consuming fire (and the apprehension of this is ever to be kept alive in our hearts), the sacrifice of Jesus has met, and for ever satisfies, all the demands of holiness and justice on our behalf. On this account, "If we confess our sins, He (God) is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
The ground of communion has been made good, the way of access is ever open, the fragrance of the sacrifice of Jesus is ever before God. Wherever we are, whatever our circumstances, communion with God may be maintained unbroken, our walk down here may be an Enoch walk - a walk with God.
The STAVES of the TABLE of shewbread were connected with the BORDER (chapter 25. 27); for the guarding of COMMUNION is important in connection with our wilderness state. The STAVES of the GOLDEN ALTAR are connected with the GOLDEN CROWN; for it is a GLORIFIED CHRIST through whom we worship. The STAVES of the BRAZEN ALTAR are connected with the GRATE of BRASS; for it is a SUFFERING Saviour who laid the foundations of our constant communion with God.
THE DIVINE PATTERN. Verse 8. "Hollow with boards shalt thou make IT: as it was shewed THEE in the mount, so shall they make it."
Jesus, though mighty to suffer, and Almighty to save, was the EMPTY and dependent One. "He was crucified through weakness."
How different is the appearance of Calvary, and of Him who suffered there, when seen on earth's low level, and with human thoughts and feelings, to what it is when looked at in the light of God - as God Himself reveals the marvellous scene! In spirit raised above surrounding things, and upon the MOUNT with God, looking down on Calvary's Cross! Thus are we to form our conceptions of it; thus shall we learn its mysteries and its uses, its value and its power; and thus shall our souls experience the blessing which God has provided. Communion with God on the ground of sacrifice must be according to God's order and thoughts, and not according to the plans and opinions of men.