“Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.” - Jonathan Edwards -

Monday, July 31, 2006

Bronze Altar

Exodus 27:1-8 - "You shall make the altar of acacia wood, five cubits long and five cubits broad. The altar shall be square, and its height shall be three cubits. And you shall make horns for it on its four corners; its horns shall be of one piece with it, and you shall overlay it with bronze. You shall make pots for it to receive its ashes, and shovels and basins and forks and fire pans. You shall make all its utensils of bronze. You shall also make for it a grating, a network of bronze, and on the net you shall make four bronze rings at its four corners. And you shall set it under the ledge of the altar so that the net extends halfway down the altar. And you shall make poles for the altar, poles of acacia wood, and overlay them with bronze. And the poles shall be put through the rings, so that the poles are on the two sides of the altar when it is carried. You shall make it hollow, with boards. As it has been shown you on the mountain, so shall it be made."

After you enter the doorway into the outer courtyard -- the first thing you are faced with is a bloody, smoking, bronze altar. What a sight it must have been; gruesome, and staggering! To really get an insight into the sacrifices which were offered on this altar, I highly suggest that you read
"Shadows... Jesus Christ in Leviticus" by my friend Bugs.

This altar would have stood directly between the Israelite and the entrance to the Holy Place, and ultimately to the Holy of Holies. It was a plain, unadorned box, full of smoke, and blood, and the fat of animals. Not a pleasant picture, is it? But, it was necessary in order for the sins of the nation to be atoned for. When one got a good look at this monstrosity, they would be faced with the consequences of their sin, and the reality that an innocent would die for their sin.

The altar has not changed; it is still a brutal picture -- one which is bloody and horrific! The altar is the Cross of Christ. The word altar comes from the Latin altāre, meaning lifted up, or elevated. Jesus speaks of this in His discussion with Nicodemus in John 3:14, 15 - And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

I fear that modern Christianity has left the centrality of the Cross. We are much too spiritually 'squeamish', or refined or worse yet, 'seeker-sensitive' to bring up the incredible sacrifice that was paid for our sins. The truth is that Jesus Christ died on a rough wooden beam, in a horrific and bloody manner, taking upon Himself the sins of His people. Likewise, He gave to us, His righteousnesss!

Just as the Israelite could not go past the brazen altar to enter into the Holy Place, so too, we cannot skirt the Cross and enter into a relationship with God. Just as it took a substitutionary death to atone for the Priests and the nation in the Tabernacle, it takes the atoning death of our Messiah and Great High Priest, for us to enter into the Holy Place.

Hebrews 10:4-22 - For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, "Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, 'Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.'" When he said above, "You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings" (these are offered according to the law), then he added, "Behold, I have come to do your will." He abolishes the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying, "This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds," then he adds, "I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more." Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin. Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

There is so much more that I could post about Christ and the Cross, but I am trying to keep these brief (for me), and to the point of Christ in the Tabernacle. The atonement is so staggering that anything I write about it seems so inadequate -- I can only say with Paul "Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!"


Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

Yes, losing the focus on the cross is a great danger.

Ray said...

Matthew -- Good to hear from you -- Yes, the centrality of the Cross is out of fashion nowadays... We are far more concerned with many peripheral and trivial issues...

I fear that our Christianity is so 'button-down' now that any depth of thinking is considered bad form, or worse... And to contemplate and meditate upon the Cross is simply too much to ask...