The Brazen Altar of Sacrifice

We have been exploring what is inside various doors in our past and in our future. Now, we are going to explore the doors in Moses’ tabernacle. In this post, we are going to enter the gate to the outer courtyard.

Start of God’s Deliverance Plan

The wilderness tabernacle from the pegs holding the tent in place to the top coverings paints a beautiful picture of Jesus the Messiah and God’s redemption plan for all His children, Jews and Gentiles alike. We will in several future blogs try to use an artist brush to briefly paint these wondrous truths. As an earlier statement our focus is on “The Feasts.” In this post, we are continuing the bloodstained door by presenting more details inside the “doors” of the tabernacle.

Hebrews 8:5 (NIV)
They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: “See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.”

Hebrews 8:5 states Moses’ tabernacle is a copy and shadow of the heavenly Tabernacle. What a glorious wonder when we walk through the door and behold the Tabernacle and see Jesus in His righteous place.

Earlier, we showed where the veil acted as a barrier between God and man, shutting God in and man out (Leviticus 16:2). Our Heavenly Father, God, never leaves His children without hope. Let’s look at some examples.

God is:

  1. Omnipresent (all-seeing),
  2. Omniscient (all-knowing), and
  3. Omnipotent (all-powerful).

How blessed we are that our Heavenly Father knew before Genesis 1:1 that man would sin (fall) and had already set in motion the redemption plan. In Genesis 3:15, He spoke to the serpent, satan, saying He would crush his head and will strike his heel.

Genesis 3:15 (CJB)
I will put animosity between you and the woman, and between your descendant and her descendant; he will bruise your head, and you will bruise his heel.”
Genesis 3:15 (MSG)
I’m declaring war between you and the Woman,

between your offspring and hers.

He’ll wound your head,

you’ll wound his heel.”

Nugget: Here is a case where reading more than one translation helps to bring out more meaning in a verse.

This verse contains the first implicit promise of God’s redemption plan for the world. It predicts the ultimate victory for humankind and God’s victory over satan and evil. It also is prophesying a spiritual conflict between the offspring of the woman and the offspring of the serpent (satan and his followers). Unfortunately, we have not enjoyed the consequences caused by sin. But praise God that He made a way of escape and is with us during the consequences. Jesus is holding our hands. (If you noticed, we feel that we cannot capitalized the “s” in satan. He does not deserve that honor.)

God promised:

  1. Jesus would be born of a woman, a virgin (Isaiah 7:14).
  2. Jesus would rise from the dead three days after the crucifixion to seal satan’s fate,
  3. Jesus’ death was for the sake of salvation of the human race.

(Isaiah 53:5; Matthew 1:20–23; John 12:30–31; Acts 26:18; Romans 5:18–19; 16:20; 1 John 3:8; Revelation 20:10)

Eve fulfilled the prophecy through her son Seth … Abraham … David … Joseph and Mary … Jesus (Matthew 1:16).

Noah’s Deliverance

Another example is the story of Noah and the ark (Genesis 6–8). God could no longer stand the stink of sin from His people so He sent a flood to cleanse the earth. There was a righteous man named Noah that was commanded by God to build an ark (Genesis 6:9). Notice that an action was needed on Noah’s part. Through faith, Noah gave his trust on obedience to God.

In verse 6:18, God made a covenant with Noah. In Genesis 9:13, the rainbow was God’s sign and ongoing reminder of His promise to never again destroy all inhabitants on the earth by a flood.

“Covenant” in Hebrew is b’rith (בְּרִיתberiyṯ) [h1285]. God’s covenant with Noah and with Abraham were monergistic which means “One Worker” covenant: God provides the covenant…God carries it out.

The new covenant is also monergistic (Romans 10:6–7). We (man) could not go up to heaven to bring Jesus down to be born and to die on the cross. We (man) could not go into the grave to bring him up from the dead. So God did it all! What amazing grace and wondrous love!

God’s Presence

What a price humanity paid for a taste of the forbidden fruit.

God created a perfect world so He could:

  • Create people for the pleasure of His fellowship.
  • Walk in our midst.
  • Speak aloud to us with His voice.
  • Commune with us.
  • Come down to dwell (tabernacle) among us.

But as a result of disobedience, humanity would not experience the glory of God’s presence. Imagine God’s words to Moses “Let them (Hebrews) make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them” (Exodus 25:8). What sweet music to the Hebrews’ ears!

The Hebrew word for wilderness is midbar (מִדְבָּרmiḏbār). The wilderness lands through which the Israelites sojourned were rocky, dry wasteland.

God’s presence was manifested as a pillar of a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Jehovah-Shamma, meaning the Lord is present and went with them. The Shekinah Glory went with His people. It is the same today for us. Jehovah-Shamma means “The LORD is present with us.”

Colors In the Bible

Before we enter the first veil into the Court of Gentiles, let’s examine a few important colors.

Important colors in the Bible:

  • Gold: Signifying rarity and purity, represents God’s deity (Matthew 2:11).
  • Silver: Represents redemption and atonement (Exodus 30:11–16; Zechariah 11:12–13; Matthew 26:14–16; 27:1–10).
  • Bronze: Suggests strength and judgment (Job 40:18; Numbers 21:5–9; Revelation 1:12–15).

Nugget: Matthew 26:15 records the exact amount of money Judas accepted to betray Jesus–30 silver coins, the price of a slave (Exodus 21:32). The priceless Messiah was sold for the price of a slave.

Nugget: The life-giving power of the bronze snake anticipates the sacrificial death of Jesus, who was lifted up on the cross in order to bring life to all who look to Him (Numbers 21:5–9).

About this event Jesus himself said, “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man (Jesus) must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life” (John 13:14–15).

Colors continued:

  • Blue: Constantly reminded the Israelites that the tabernacle was of heavenly descent.
  • Purple: Embodied royalty, kingship, and elegance (Judges 8:26; Luke 16:19; Mark 15:17–18).
  • Scarlet: Denoted blood-shed, pain and sacrifice (Isaiah 1:18).
  • White: Represents glory, cleanliness, purity, and forgiveness (Isaiah 1:18; Matthew 17:2; Matthew 28:3; Mark 16:5; Revelation 1:14).
  • Precious stones: Represents God’s children (Isaiah 61:10).

Nugget: Precious stones and colors are used to describe the heavenly city (Revelation 21:18–21).

Entering the Tabernacle Courtyard

The Israelite entered the Tabernacle through the eastern (and only) gate (Exodus 27:13). At the break of every new day, light shone on the gate to the Tabernacle, beckoning the people to find refuge in God (Isaiah 42:1–8).

Entering the tabernacle:

  1. There was only one way to enter tabernacle courtyard.
  2. There was only one way to enter the Holy Place.
  3. There was only one way to enter the Holy of Holies.
  4. Each level had more restrictions and fewer people were allowed to enter.

Nugget: In Matthew 2:2,9 the eastern star lead the wise men to Jerusalem to worship Jesus the Messiah as a child.

We can now pull back the first veil and enter the courtyard. The first piece of furniture you will see is the altar of sacrifice occupying front and center priority in the Tabernacle courtyard. The altar was a hollow box made of shittim (acacia) wood overlaid with bronze. The grate and all utensils were made of bronze. (Note, the KJV uses the word brass instead of bronze.)

Handling of the Burnt Offerings

Leviticus 1:3–6 gives the procedures for each person, an Israelite, offering the sacrifice. The person is offering a sacrifice for atonement for his sin/sins. Notice: An innocent had to die. Remember, from our posts on offerings, the animal used to sacrifice depended on what the person could afford. So there was no excuse not to bring an animal as a sacrifice.

Instructions for preparing the sacrifice:

  1. Choose a male animal without defect.
  2. Present the animal voluntarily at the door.
  3. Lay hands on the animal’s head.
  4. Slaughter the animal.
  5. Skin the animal.
  6. Cut the animal into pieces.

By laying of hands on the animal’s forehead the offender’s sin was transferred to the animal. An innocent had to die for the sin. Then the offender had to kill, skin, and cut it into pieces.

Notice that blood is on the offender’s hands. He has to wait before he can go outside to a well to wash off the blood.

Procedures for the priests’ handling of burnt offerings (Leviticus 6:8–13):

  1. Sprinkle blood on the sides of the altar.
  2. Arrange the wood on the fire.
  3. Arrange the carcass pieces on the fire grate.
  4. Burn the offering.
  5. In Leviticus 9:23–24, God christened the altar with fire from heaven so it could be used in purification and consuming the sacrifice approved by God. God lit the fire but the priests had to fuel the fire (Leviticus 6:12–13).

    Nugget: It is the same principle in the redeemed’s life. God lit the fire, Jesus made it possible for salvation, the Holy Spirits keeps the flame burning. But we need to add the fuel (bible studying, prayers, fellowship with believers) to the flame. It is so important to keep our coals burning.

  6. Keep the fire burning on the offering throughout the night.
  7. In the morning put on linen garments and undergarments.
  8. Place the ashes at the side of the altar.
  9. Change clothes again.
  10. Carry the ashes outside of the camp.

Nugget: God did not want even the ashes of sin to be among His children. This is how much our Heavenly Father loves His children that He doesn’t want any sin to contaminate us. He wants us striving for holiness because He is Holy.

It is estimated that the encampment around the Tabernacle covered approximately 12 square miles. If this is correct, the priest would have 6 to 10 miles to walk carrying the ashes. Remember, the scapegoat was taken 6 to 8 miles outside to be released. Also, the priest probably walked in the direction from which they came from to insure they didn’t come across the area when the next time the camp was moved.

The sacrifices were to be left burning on the altar all night. Aaron and his sons were to rise early in the morning to wait for the last of the ashes to fall through the brazen grate off the altar. They invariably fell at dawn.

Ancient Hebrew history record the moment the last ash fell and the priests blew the trumpets in celebration, shouting “It is finished!”

Jesus said, “It is finished!” With that He bowed His head and gave up His spirit (John 19:30). Let’s stop to say a prayer of thanksgiving to Jesus our Savior. Thank you for your work on the cross.

Unauthorized or Unholy Fire

While we are on the brazen altar, let’s examine two of Aaron’s sons: Nabah and Abihu. We can learn a very important lesson from them.

God is a “God of order” and will not accept anything less than His orders.

Exodus 30:7–9 describes God’s specific instructions for the golden altar of incense:

  1. Aaron or the high priest is to burn fragrant incense on it every morning.
  2. Do not use unauthorized (or unholy) fire.

Only coals from the brazen altar are to be put into censers (fire-pan) to light the coals on the altar of incense. High priests used authorized (or purified) censers to scoop coals from the altar of sacrifice and place them underneath the altar of incense to keep it burning. The reason is God approved of the sacrifice made at the altar and now it is a sweet-smelling fragrance to Him. Any misdirection is death.

In Leviticus 10:2, Nabah and Abihu used unauthorized fire. This fire did not come from the brazen altar of sacrifice. Remember, God himself initially lit the fire in the brazen altar. Thus that fire was holy. All other fire was considered unholy or unauthorized. They chose not to follow God’s specific instructions which ended in their death. They broke both of the above instructions.

Nugget: These two sons should have known better. Back in Exodus 24:1, Nadab and Abihu were two of 74 people God called to come up Mount Sinai. The others were Moses, Aaron, and the 70 elders. Aaron had two other sons, Eleazar and Ithamar, who were not called to come up. “…Much is required of everyone who has been given much…” Luke 12:48 (HCSB)

This is a hard but very important lesson in holiness. The Holy Bible is God’s specific instructions. We must strive for holiness. Yes, we will make mistakes and err in our walk. But we have an advocate in Jesus (1 John 2:1). The only way to eternal life is through Jesus who was the ultimate sacrifice (John 14:6). For any other way is eternal death. We must confess our mistakes, ask for forgiveness, and ask Jesus to come into our hearts.

1 John 2:1–2 (CJB)
1My children, I [John] am writing you these things so that you won’t sin. But if anyone does sin, we have Yeshua [Jesus] the Messiah, the Tzaddik [righteous person], who pleads our cause with the Father. 2Also, he is the kapparah [atonement] for our sins—and not only for ours, but also for those of the whole world.
1 John 2:1–2 (MSG)
I write this, dear children, to guide you out of sin. But if anyone does sin, we have a Priest-Friend in the presence of the Father: Jesus Christ, righteous Jesus. When he served as a sacrifice for our sins, he solved the sin problem for good—not only ours, but the whole world’s.

Next time, we will cover the brazen laver (basin) of cleansing.

Until then,

שָׁלוֹם (Shalom!)