Last week, in Wilderness Instructions, Part 13, as we read about the instructions for the courtyard of the tabernacle in the wilderness, we are reminded not only that Jesus is the only way to God and is accessible by all who seek Him, but also that the exterior of our heart-temples (our characters) is the only picture of Jesus that the unsaved world may ever see, and we need to make sure it is a pure representation of the Jesus we’ve come to know and love!
Today's lesson is the final lesson in this series, and it takes us
to Exodus 27:1, where God gives Israel instructions for making the altar
of burnt offerings: "You shall make an altar of acacia wood, five
cubits long and five cubits wide--the altar shall be square--and its
height shall be three cubits." (Exodus 27:1 NKJV).
that this is to be a large structure, measuring approximately 7.5 feet
(2.25 meters) square, and approximately 3.5 feet (1 meter) high, and
like all of the furniture God has given instruction for, it is to be
made of Acacia wood, a hard, durable wood that was found in abundance on
the Sinai Peninsula, one that was particularly strong against insects.
Unlike the other furniture, however, that were to be overlaid with
gold, this alter was to be covered in bronze: "And you shall overlay
it with bronze. Also you shall make its pans to receive
its ashes, and its shovels and its basins and its forks and its
firepans; you shall make all its utensils of
bronze." (Exodus 27:2,3 NKJV)
If gold helps us to
remember that Jesus is the most precious thing we could possibly have
Wilderness Instructions, Part 3: The Ark of the Covenant), then what
is the significance of bronze?
Throughout the Bible, bronze, or
brass, is used symbolically for the judgment. The serpent that was
raised up in the wilderness was made of brass (See
Num 21:9). Jesus is represented with feet of fine brass as he walks
among His churches in the book of Revelation, inspecting them and
pronouncing sentence upon them (see
Rev. 1:15). In fact, all references to "brass" in the Old Testament
have a negative connotation. It is mentioned for the first time in
connection with the descendants of Cain (See
Gen 4:22), Samson and Zedekiah were bound with chains of brass (see
2 Kings 5:27), etc. Thus, the coating of bronze helps us to think of
Jesus, and His ministry of Judgement!
This altar was also to have
horns: "You shall make its horns on its four corners; its horns
shall be of one piece with it. And you shall overlay it with bronze."
(Exodus 27:2 NKJV).
Psalms 118:27 speaks of "horns" as something
used for binding the sacrifice to the Altar, thus giving us a glimpse of
the practical purpose of these horns. However, there is a deeper, more
symbolic meaning. In the Bible, the horn is the symbol of power and
Zechariah 1). Thus, it can be said that the horns on the altar point
to the unfaltering purpose of Jesus and to the strength of His love. It
was His devotedness to God that held Him to the cross (See
Inside the Altar there was to be a grate:
"You shall make a grate for it, a network of bronze;
and on the network you shall make four bronze rings at its four
corners." (Ex. 27:3).
Thus, this bronze-overlaid
box was hollow on the inside, and God instructed Moses to make a grate
to fit down into the hollow box. The grate was where the fire was built,
and where the parts of the offering were laid. While beautiful on the
outside, the box contained an internal turmoil. This points us to the
inward sufferings of Jesus: "He is despised and rejected by men, A
Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our
faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him."
(Isaiah 53:3 NKJV).
So what is the purpose of this Altar of
It was the place where the sacrifices were made. Thus it
represents for us the place where sin is judged and its wages paid. The
Altar speaks of death as the consequence of sin, and it also speaks of
the remission of sin. As such, the uncompromising judgement of God dealt
with sin, not by punishing the sinner, but by smiting the sinner’s
substitute: "...who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the
tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness--by
whose stripes you were healed." (1 Peter 2:24 NKJV).
And just what does this all mean to our heart-temples?
suggest that the Altar of Burnt Offerings stands before us as a
perpetual reminder of the gravity of sin and its required consequences?
But at the same time, may it also be a perpetual reminder that by the
blood sacrifice of the only Human to walk this Earth without sin, by His
"stripes you were healed"!
This is the last lesson from
the instructions concerning the building of the tabernacle in the
wilderness. If you wish to have an even more in-depth study on the
wilderness tabernacle and its significance for us today, you are invited
to read the excellent study done by
Arthur W. Pink. May God bless you as you continue to build your
In His love,
Speech-Language Pathologist, mother of two teens, Author and Moderator
for The Nugget, a tri-weekly internet newsletter, and
Scriptural Nuggets, a
website devoted to Christian devotionals and inspirational poems, with
Arthur W. Pink Archives
** Archaeological Study Bible, Copyright
2005 by the Zondervan Corporation, p. 153, The Tabernacle and the Ark
and p. 133, Commentary on Vs. 25:37.
(To access the
entire "Wilderness Instructions" mini-series, please click