Exodus 27:1


I. THE ALTAR OF SACRIFICE.

1. The situation of the altar.

(1) It faced the worshipper as he entered. The cross of Christ must be held up before men, if they are to be brought nigh to God.

(2) It stood before the holy place, and had to be passed by all who entered there. The realisation of Christ's atonement for sin is the only path to God's presence.

2. The altar, on which the sacrifice for sin is laid, is the place of power. The horns, the symbol of Divine power. The gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation.

3. In Christ God gives us a place for accepted offerings. The altar was Israel's as well as God's: upon it were laid their offerings as well as those prescribed for the daily service and the great day of atonement. In Christ we are able to offer sacrifices that are well pleasing to God.

II. THE COURT OF THE TABERNACLE.

1. Its limits were appointed by God himself. The Church must be made no broader than his commandment makes it. In his own time he will make it conterminous with the world; but meanwhile we must obey his commandment and fulfil his purpose by making it conterminous with living faith.

2. It was for all Israel. Living faith in Christ should be a passport to all his churches.

3. How the court was formed -

(1) Its walls were made of fine linen. The distinction between the world and the Church is righteousness.

(2) The gate was formed of blue and purple and scarlet. Entrance is had not by man's righteousness, but by bowing beneath the manifested grace of God in Christ.

III. THE OIL FOR THE LAMPS.

1. It was the free-will offering of the people. The light of the world springs from the consecration of believers.

2. It was to be pure. Believers must keep themselves unspotted from the world.

3. It was to be beaten, not pressed, and thus be the finest which the olive could yield. The highest outcome of humanity is the Christ-like life.

4. The lamps were to burn always. Our light, the flame of love, must burn constantly before God, and its radiance be shed always before men.

5. The lamps were to be tended by the ministers of God. The aim of those who labour in weird and doctrine should be the development of Christ-like life, love to God and man. - U.









An altar of shittim wood.
I. The altar of burnt-offering was made partly of WOOD, and partly of BRASS. The wood was incorruptible; and was therefore a lively type of the incorruptible humanity of Jesus.

II. The altar of burnt-offering, was not a golden altar; but A BRAZEN ALTAR. Brass is a durable metal, and an emblem of strength. Christ was equal to His mighty work. "I have laid help upon one that is mighty." He is "mighty to save," and strong to plead the cause of His people.

III. The altar was FOURSQUARE. There were firmness, stability and strength. The purposes of Divine love cannot be overturned. The atonement Christ has made is perfect and complete. Our altar presents a bold front to the enemy. It is a solid mass of strength.

IV. It was A HORNED ALTAR. In Christ we have sovereignty, protection, dignity and glory. Horns in Scripture are almost invariably emblems of power — regal power. Christ is King of kings and Lord of lords.

V. It was AN ANOINTED ALTAR. The holy anointing oil was poured upon it, and thus it was sanctified, and became most holy. Christ was anointed with the oil of gladness above His fellows. The fulness of the Spirit was upon Him.

VI. THE SANCTIFIED ALTAR SANCTIFIED ALL THAT WAS LAID UPON IT. "Whatsoever toucheth the altar shall be holy." The altar was therefore greater than the sacrifice. It is the altar that sanctifieth the gift. The Divine nature of Christ sustained His human nature, and gave efficacy to His sacrifice. Christ's glorious Person is the only Altar on which we can offer acceptable sacrifices to God.

VII. Christ is A SPIRITUAL ALTAR, and on it we may offer spiritual sacrifices. To this Altar we must bring our prayers. If we pray in the name of Jesus, we give wings to our feeble breathings. To this Altar we must bring our praise. "By Him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name." No service of song can be acceptable to God apart from Jesus Christ.

VIII. IT WAS A SACRIFICIAL ALTAR. On this altar was offered the daily sacrifice — a lamb every morning, and a lamb every evening. "Behold the Lamb of God! " Christ is the Lamb of God's providing.

IX. It was a BURNING ALTAR. On the altar sacrifices were continually burning. The fire was never to go out. Perfection was not to be found under the old dispensation. Christ's sacrifice was one; and it was offered but once. "Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many." "By one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified." At the Jewish altar the fire consumed the sacrifices; but the sacrifice Christ offered consumed the fire. "It is finished."

X. The altar of burnt-offering was GOD'S ALTAR (Psalm 43:3, 4). Jesus is the Christ of God. He is God's beloved Son. In coming to Christ we come to the altar of God's providing; we come to the altar of God's appointment.

XI. It is the SINNER'S ALTAR. The altar was erected on purpose for the guilty; and Christ came into the world to save sinners.

XII. It is A BLOOD-STAINED ALTAR. Where the blood is, it is safe for the sinner to go. Being sprinkled with blood, it is A PROTECTING ALTAR.

XIII. The altar of brass was A NOURISHING ALTAR. The priests had a portion of the sacrifices for their food (1 Corinthians 9:13). "We have an altar" — the glorious Person of Christ — "whereof they have no right to eat which serve the Tabernacle." The old dispensation has passed away. The present dispensation is spiritual. Having "the heavenly things themselves," we have no need of "the patterns." In Christ we have all the "good things," of which the Tabernacle and its services were "shadows." All believers are priests. All wait at the altar. All live on Christ.

XIV. It was A CONSPICUOUS ALTAR. No one could enter the court of the Tabernacle without seeing the brazen altar. Christ must be the preacher's theme. Christ is the only object of saving faith, and Jesus only must be the subject of our ministry.

(B. E. Sears.)

It is observable in Scripture that Moses' altar was but five cubits in length, and five in breadth, and three in height (ver. 1); but Solomon's altar was much larger (2 Chronicles 4:1). Now the reason hereof seems to be this, because Moses was in a warfare, in an unsettled condition, in the wilderness, in continual travel, full of troubles, and could not conveniently carry about an altar of that bigness; but Solomon was on his throne in a tranquil state, settled in quiet possession of his kingdom, and as his name was, so was he a true Solomon, that is, peaceable. Thus it ought to be with all good men, that when they have more peace and prosperity than others, their service of God should be proportionable. Solomon's Temple must outstrip Moses' Tabernacle in beauty and glory, and Solomon's altar must exceed the bigness of Moses' altar. In their peace and plenty, their holiness should outshine others that are in want and misery, when God lays not so much sorrow upon them as upon others, they should lay the more duty upon themselves. If God send them fewer crosses and more comforts, they are to return more service and commit less evils.

(J. Spencer.)

The altar was four-square, and it had four horns. The animals offered in sacrifice were horned animals, and were doubtless bound by their horns to the horns of the altar, and then slain (Psalm 118:27), so that the ground round about the altar would be always red and wet with blood. Life is in the blood; to shed the blood is to sacrifice the life; and the first thing that meets our eye as we enter the gate of the court, and look at the earth on which we are walking, is blood — sacrificed life. To this altar the sinner came leading his sin-offering. Here he stood before God, and his sins were confessed, and transferred or imputed to the unblemished and innocent animal, which had then to suffer and to die for sin, but not for its own sin. The innocent one died for the guilty one. These sacrifices were typical of Christ's sacrifice. He suffered, the Just for the unjust: on Him our sins were laid; He bore them in His body on the tree. He was made sin, or a sin-offering, for us, and by His stripes we are healed. His blood was shed for the remission of sins, and now it cleanseth us from all sin (1 Peter 3:18; Isaiah 53:5, 6; 1 Peter 2:24; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Matthew 26:28; 1 John 1:7). Christ is our Altar, our Sacrifice, and our Priest. He offered Himself for us. And having met most fully all God's claims, He now meets and supplies all the penitent believing sinner's need. Every saved sinner has come to this spot — has seen Jesus as the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world (John 1:29). We have seen Christ as the Redeemer, and as the Gate or Way to God, and now we see Him as the Altar, Priest, and Sacrifice. Here we stand with our hand of faith on His head, and we feel that as our Sin-offering He has suffered for our sin, and has put it away. Our life was forfeited, but Christ who loved us, and gave Himself for us, has sacrificed His own life to save us from eternal death (Ephesians 5:25; John 10:11, 15).

(G. Rodgers.)

In other cases an altar was said to be built, or elevated; but the portable structure used as such in the Tabernacle is spoken of as made, or constructed, because it had a frame of wood overlaid with copper. This frame was probably filled with earth to answer the requirements of the general statute. There is no intimation of this, indeed, in the writings of Moses; but neither does he mention any other expedient for holding the fire in place. Copper as dug out of the ground, similar to it in colour, and inferior to that metal which among metals represented celestial glory, was appropriately associated with earth in an altar belonging to a permanent and yet portable institution. By the affinity of the copper with the earth, this frame of an altar, which could be carried from place to place, fulfilled the same end in the expression of thought, as an altar of earth. The wood being, in the first place, designed for a frame on which the copper might be fastened so as to give sufficient size and strength without too great weight, was of acacia for the same reason which required this particular species of timber in the planks of the house, and the pillars of the court. The Tabernacle being a place of life, acacia wood, on account of its superiority to decay, was sought for every purpose which was to be answered with wood, whether in the edifice or its furniture. Not only the frame, or wall of the altar, was of acacia covered with copper, but also the horns; and this fact may help to determine the significance of these projections. The horn is, in cornute animals, the instrument of power, and thence becomes an emblem of strength, and as such is congruous with all the other elements combined in the altar as a symbol. It has, accordingly, been commonly understood that the horns of the altar represented the power of its ministrations. But recently it has been suggested that among the metaphorical significations of the horn, height was no less appropriate than strength as an attribute of an altar. The horn is the highest part of the animal, carried aloft as a badge of power and the honour consequent on power, and therefore used as a sign of elevation. To lift up the horn is to exalt, either in the physical or in a figurative sense. The horns of an altar may be intended, therefore, to symbolize still more emphatically the elevation of the earth on which the sacrifice is offered toward heaven, the residence of the Being to whom it is presented. The copper with which the horns were overlaid seems to countenance this interpretation. May not both shades of meaning be comprehended in one and the same emblem? The horns elevating the place of sacrifice nearer to heaven, the efficacy of the altar was especially conspicuous in these symbols of elevation.

(E. E. Atwater.)

This altar of burnt-sacrifice, with the offerings presented upon it, stands before us as a type of Christ and His cross. And the materials of which the altar was composed point strikingly to His twofold nature. His humanity, if found alone, would have been consumed by the fire of Divine justice, which blazed forth against Him when He stood as our substitute and bore our sins in His own body on the tree. And then, on the other hand, His Divinity, if found alone, like the altar, if all of brass, would have been too oppressive for us. It would have made us afraid by its excellency, and would have overwhelmed us by its majesty. But blended with the humanity, and tempered and softened by its transmission through the vail of flesh, it meets our necessities in every respect, and furnishes us with just the help and comfort that we need.

(R. NEWTON, D. D.)

I. Look now at the POSITION which God assigned to the altar of sacrifice in the Jewish Tabernacle, that heaven-sketched symbol of the Church. Behold one of the marks of a true Church. It will give great prominence to the altar, the cross of Christ, or the doctrine of His atoning sacrifice.

II. THE RELATION WHICH IT BORE TO EVERY OTHER PART OF THE TABERNACLE. It was the most important part of the whole Tabernacle. Like the root to the tree, like the foundation to the building, like the fountain to the stream, like the mainspring to the watch, like the heart to the body, it was that, on which every other part of the sacred structure depended, and from which it derived all its value. This altar represents the cross of Christ. As we look at it from this point of view, we seem to see written on it as with a sunbeam, the great practical truth, that the way to heaven — the only way by which any of our ruined race can enter there — lies over Calvary. There is no pardon, no renewal, no acceptance, no righteousness, no peace, no grace, no blessing, no salvation to any of Adam's children, but through the sacrifice once offered upon the cross. And this is true not of our persons only, but of our services also. "Accepted in the beloved," is the great underlying doctrine of the gospel. Our prayers, our praises, our sighs, our tears, our repentance, our faith, our words, our actions, our labours, our sufferings, our vows, our alms-givings, our sermons, our sacraments — all things that may be crowded into the entire circle of our services — have worth, or merit, not in themselves, but only as they stand connected with the sacrifice which Jesus offered on the cross, and are sprinkled with His atoning blood, in all its prevailing efficacy.

III. Our third lesson from this altar is suggested by the CONTINUITY of the offerings presented upon it. There was to be no cessation, no suspension, or interruption of the service here rendered. The sacrifice on the Jewish altar was an imperfect sacrifice, and hence the necessity for its repetition. They were "sacrifices," as St. Paul says, "offered year by year continually, which could never make the comers thereunto perfect." Our sacrifice, offered upon the cross, is a perfect sacrifice, and therefore it needs no repetition. It was offered "once for all"; and by this one offering, Jesus, our great High Priest, "perfects for ever them that are sanctified "; i.e., all His believing people. The offering was once made, but the merits, the influence, the efficacy of the offering, abide continually. And because it thus abides, there needs no repetition of it.

IV. Our fourth lesson is taught us, when we consider the EFFICACY OF THE OFFERINGS presented on the brazen altar. You may say, indeed, that we have just spoken of their imperfection, and that is true. They were not intended to do for the Jews what the sacrifice of Christ does for us. They were only types, or shadows of that sacrifice. Of course they could only have a typical, or shadowy efficacy. This, however, they had in perfection. And here the brazen altar points significantly to the cross of Christ. It speaks to us, in eloquent tones, of the thorough efficacy, the absolute perfection of the sacrifice He offered.

V. The fifth and last lesson taught us by this altar is seen, when we observe the EXTENT OF ITS BENEFITS. It was open to all.

(R. Newton, D. D.)

In this we have a significant type of our Lord, regarded more particularly in His Divine nature. This view "is supported by our Lord Himself, when He says that the altar is greater than the sacrifice (Matthew 23:19). Both sacrifice and altar were but shadows, and derived their importance wholly from the reality to which they referred. But as a shadow of Christ's sacrifice, the importance of the legal victims was immeasurable; and yet our Lord says the greatness to which the altar pointed transcends it. Then lies not the thought very near, that the altar pointed to His Divinity? And still further is this conclusion justifiable by the additional saying of our Lord, that the altar sanctifies the sacrifice; for was it not the union of His Divine with His human nature which imparted to the latter its majesty inconceivable, and to His sacrifice its miraculous and eternal efficacy?" A remarkable confirmation of this view is found in the fact that the altar, during removal, was covered with a purple cloth, which colour symbolized the hypostatic union. The construction of the altar pointed another lesson. The outer covering of brass concealed and protected an interior of wood. In fact, the altar was said to be made of wood. Now in Hebrew, wood and tree are synonymous, and trees are frequently spoken of in the Bible as emblematic of God's saints. By the wood of the altar was signified the members of Christ: "It was a visible parable of the mystical union between Christ and His people. As the wood was hidden within the altar, so in God's eye were they hid in Him." And the lesson thus taught by the altar was this: Romans 8:1. "The altar was surmounted by four horns, the well-known emblems of power; and these horns were deeply marked with sacrificial blood; and it fell from them as it fell from Him whom the altar typified in the garden and on the cross. These horns were, therefore, at once symbols of might and reconciliation, and were outstretched to the four corners of the earth, to call men to flee unto Christ to be saved."

(E. F. Willis, M. A. , with quotations from H. Douglas, M. A.)

This altar was the foundation of all the Tabernacle worship. The priests could not enter into the holy place except on the ground of sacrifice presented on the brazen altar. Nor could the high priest on the great atonement day enter the holy of holies without having first offered not only the ordinary sacrifice, but an additional sin-offering on the altar in the court. Not only was the Shekinah glory within the vail impossible. of access, but the bread of the presence, the light of the lamps, the privileges of the altar of incense, were all closed until a sacrifice had been offered upon the altar. Thus were the children of Israel taught, and thus,too are we taught, that the first thing for the sinner to do, before he can taste the heavenly bread, before he can see the heavenly light, before he can even pray with acceptance, is to avail himself of the atonement which God has provided. The altar was the people's place of meeting with God. It was free to all. The call was addressed to every child of Israel: "Come into His courts and bring an offering with you." The atonement which God provides is free to all without exception, and without distinction.

(J. M. Gibson, D. D.)

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