The tabernacle part 4

Sun, 12th Jan 2014
Terry Jones
Exodus 27 v1-8

‘The Bronze Altar of Sacrifice’
We have been on a journey with a ‘travelling church’ (Tabernacle) that God instructed Moses to build; a place of sacrifice and worship that would enable 2.5 million people to keep in touch with God as they travelled for forty years in the Egyptian desert of Sinai.
Just as in any significant journey we make, we noted first the importance of preparation. (Ex 25:2) They prepared their hearts. Secondly they offered their gifts (Ex25:3). Then God promised something in return (Ex25:8) “I will dwell among you”. When we come on a Sunday with hearts passionate for worship and a willingness to give God our best spiritual and natural gifts – God shows up!
Then as we moved on in our journey we surveyed the big picture - the importance of the positions of the tribes around the Tab, both for carrying it through the desert, each tribe having a particular function, but also securing it from attack. We noted that the priests had their place at the doorway of the Tab, always available to serve the people who came with their offering, but also to serve in the Holy Place and once a year, the High Priest, in the Holy of Holies. We rejoiced that the Tab was at the centre of the tribes, reminding them, and us, that God must always, and in all things, be central to our lives. We looked at the pure white linen curtain that surrounded the Tab courtyard and tents and noted that it shouted out ‘God is pure and holy, keep out’ but then when we travelled to the East Gate, we were dazzled by a stunning entrance of white linen now embroidered with blue (divinity), scarlet (humanity) and purple (mediatorial role) yarn. No longer is the message ‘keep out’ but ‘come in’. This is the only way to forgiveness and cleansing, and everyone, young and old, rich and poor, peasant and priest, is both welcome and received, but they must come and enter through this gate.
Last time we shared together we looked carefully at the new entrance and reminded ourselves that it is a ‘type’ of which Jesus is the ‘antitype’.
No longer a curtain separating us from the Holiness of God but Christ welcoming us in.
Jesus the Only way to the Father
Jesus whose invitation is open to all
Jesus whose forgiveness and cleansing is accessible
Jesus whose invitation is attractive … but we underlined the absolutely vital place of conviction. Those who came to the entrance to the Tab were those who knew deep in their hearts that they needed forgiveness and cleansing.
Once inside this gate, the sinner who recognised his sin before a Holy God and who brought his sacrificial offering, saw this bronze altar. This was as far as any ordinary Israelite could go. Beside the altar were a team of priests who would receive the offering brought by the repentant sinner. The animal would be killed, its parts divided and placed on the altar. The blood from the animal would be gathered into a bowl; some would be applied to the four horns around the altar and the rest poured out at the base. Once the blood had been applied and the sacrifice burnt, the sinner would know his sin had been covered over and he could leave the place of sacrifice forgiven, cleansed and ready to serve God with a clear conscience.
Listen again to Hebrews 10:1-14
The altar in the wilderness always had limits: The sinner could never enter into intimate relationship and fellowship with God. The Holy place was out of reach; no oil of the Spirit yet available, no communion and ongoing encounter with God by receiving bread and wine, no personal prayer that connected God and man without a priest; the holiest of holies was closed to everyone except the High Priest and only once a year could he enter to offer blood on behalf of the nation. A sinner could know that his sin had been covered over but it was never removed. The ritual had to go on day in and day out but God was never pleased with the outcome (Heb 10:5).
The altar was a type that awaited the antitype.
It was a shadow that pointed to the substance.
It was ritual without reality.
What’s the reality?
From the very first pages of the bible we understand that ‘without the shedding of blood there can be no forgiveness of sin’. From the moment Adam required a covering involving the death of an animal, and its blood shed, God repeatedly points to a life taken and blood poured out as the only means of mercy, forgiveness and acceptance.
The cross of Jesus Christ is now the altar. Here, he becomes the perfect, complete and fully acceptable sacrifice; John says ‘Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’. Jesus is called ‘The Lamb’; the only acceptable sacrifice that would finally settle the matter of our sin and God’s purity.
The bronze altar was a place of slaughter and judgment. The fire, which in scripture is always with judgement, cleansing and purification, burns up the sacrifice. God’s judgement falls on the sacrificial animal and this enables the sinner to go away free and forgiven. The animal is the substitute sacrifice.
At the cross God dies in our place; when Jesus blood pours from his body his life flows away with that blood. That’s why it is vital that Jesus dies. Only as the blood flows away and is then applied to the altar can the sinner go free. Only when we accept this sacrifice of Jesus by believing in Him and by faith receiving Him as our Saviour can we be truly free. Acceptance of Jesus means his blood offering is applied to us. We are then free from death; from God’s judgement; free from condemnation and guilt; free from trying to please God by our own efforts; free to enjoy rather than endure our faith; I John 1:7 ‘The blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin’. Wow, what an altar is the cross of Jesus Christ! What a divine exchange ‘all my sin borne by a sinless saviour, all his purity and righteousness given freely to me’.
Can you imagine a court scene? Brought before the judge is a person accused of the most dreadful crimes, he is tried and found guilty. His punishment is declared – death - but before the punishment can be applied, the Judge steps down from the dock and offers to pay the price of the accused. He willingly chooses to accept the sentence the court has declared he must receive and becomes his substitute.
That is what the cross of Christ is about. The bible declares “He who knew no sin, was made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him”. The Living Bible translates it “For God took the sinless Christ and poured into him our sins. Then, in exchange, he poured God’s goodness into us”!
The bronze altar had two key functions
1. A place of sacrifice
2. A place of refuge
The four horns were used to tether animals waiting to be sacrificed but they had another use. Any man falsely accused of murder could run to this altar and grab one of the horns. As he held the horn he had protection from his adversaries.
Have you trusted Jesus Christ to be your hiding place, your refuge from the wrath and judgement of God upon sin? May I urge you to be sure and certain of your salvation.
Words of this hymn ‘Man of Sorrows’ help us to grasp the wonder of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ “In my place, condemned he stood, sealed my pardon with His blood, Hallelujah what a saviour”!