Chapter 11.

The work at the altar must be kept distinct from the work at the laver, though the altar is the foundation of all that follows. The structure and uses of these vessels are all in contrast with each other.
The altar is made of wood and brass (copper).
The laver is made of copper only.
The altar is square; the laver in conformity with Solomon's "sea" at the temple, would be round.
The altar is measured every way; the laver is unmeasured. The altar has rings and staves for carrying it by; the laver has none. The altar is to be covered for removal; nothing is said of this for the laver. The altar is for fire; the laver for water. The altar is for the sacrifices of all. The laver is for the priests alone. Separate directions are given for the covering and carrying of the altar on the journey through the desert; nothing is said of these for the laver.
But in Ex. 30:1818Thou shalt also make a laver of brass, and his foot also of brass, to wash withal: and thou shalt put it between the tabernacle of the congregation and the altar, and thou shalt put water therein. (Exodus 30:18) the laver is to be made (with its foot, or base), of brass, i.e., copper, to hold water for the priests to wash at continually. Further, in Ex. 38:88And he made the laver of brass, and the foot of it of brass, of the lookingglasses of the women assembling, which assembled at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. (Exodus 38:8) there is the additional feature, that this copper was furnished by the looking-glasses of the women who assembled at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.
It must be pure metal for the purpose of polishing into a mirror, but there is no hint of the laver itself being used as a mirror. Remembering that all is Christ, the vessel, without wood in its construction, will suggest Christ the eternal word, and the water in the laver, the written Christ, the word of God.
In other connections, water has various characters: as, at the flood, it appears to speak of judgment, and so also at the Red Sea; in John 7:38,3938He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. 39(But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.) (John 7:38‑39), "rivers of living water," refer to the Holy Spirit; and we read of “water of life." But the use of the water at the laver, limited to the cleansing of hands and feet of priests by washing, is in such marked analogy with Eph. 5:25-2725Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 27That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. (Ephesians 5:25‑27), as to be conclusive; "Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious church not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing." It is clearly by the application of the written Word to our practices and ways,—what we do and where we go,—that we now have to discern any defilement we contract, and so judging it in the light of scripture, confess it, and then "He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
There is another link between water and the written Word which it is well to notice. "Except a man be born of water and of the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God" John 3:55Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. (John 3:5). Compare this with two other passages, "being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever," 1 Peter 1:2323Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. (1 Peter 1:23), and, "of His own will begat He us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of His creatures," James 1:1818Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. (James 1:18).
Now if the water of John 3:55Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. (John 3:5) were, as has been said, the water of baptism, it would be but the common material, to be born of which would only produce itself, it could not beget anything higher; even as "that which is born of flesh, is flesh." But with the water as the written Christ (which the book is as the record of truth) we, being born of that, have Christ for life, "who is our life.”
This will be seen in the washing, bathing of the priests at their consecration, an act not repeated, and then their constant repetition of washing hands and feet, whenever they went into the tabernacle, and whenever they approached the altar, will illustrate the continuous use of the water of the word by us now, who have been born again by it, and who still need to be maintained clean for both communion and service.
A difficulty has been raised as to this by the precious words, "the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin," 1 John 1:77But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. (1 John 1:7). We are indeed most blessedly cleansed by the blood, but not by any fresh application of it from time to time; it covers us forever before God, and this text is the assurance of its abstract and abiding power. It is possible that a soul may lose its own sense of the power of the blood, and so may need a renewal of the sense it has lost; but that is not a re-application of the blood to that soul by God. The difference is immense.
Of old, the sacrifices were continually repeated, for they had no power to take away sins, they only pointed on to the true sacrifice, and meanwhile maintained the obedient offerer in the temporal favor of God according to the covenant.
But Christ made full atonement, true and real, by a sacrifice that is of infinite value, and therefore unrepeatable. A soul now, who stands sheltered by that offering, and yet fails in practice and gets defiled, has the provision of the water of the word whereby to judge his sin, so that he truly confesses it, and is forgiven, and cleansed.
How blessed and how precious it is, that our sins do not touch for one moment the stability of the relationship into which we have been brought, and yet they are more intensely hateful than ever, being committed against increased light and blessing, while for 'them a special provision is made which in no way admits any doubt to be cast on the immutable foundation for the soul, or on the eternal redemption grace has made known. That provision is this constant repetition of "water," many times daily, the application of the word of God to all our practice, now that we are truly believers.
The Word itself has also a preventive power, thus, "Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to Thy word," Psa. 119:99BETH. Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word. (Psalm 119:9). It is a lamp to the feet, and a light to the path to keep a soul out of evil. But it is also curative when we have gone wrong, by judging the error and leading to confession.
No dimensions are given us for the laver.
Does not this suggest unlimited provision to keep a saint clean when once he is a saint?
The precision of measures at the altar raises the thought of righteousness, where a sinner is to be pardoned; but being pardoned there is no excuse for allowing a single fault to remain on the conscience, for there is a full supply, unmeasured, to meet every need.
The omission of instructions for carrying the laver seems to point to the word being in no way dependent on human help for its preservation. Man indeed has but too vigorously sought to get rid of the book so far as he could; but God has not suffered him to have his way. It stands forever the one positive witness for God and His grace, as well as of His judgment against all evil.
Now connect the truths of the altar with those of the laver, and carefully note how they require and maintain each other.
Sum up the altar as securing upon faith, pardon, peace, life, acceptance, "joy in God," in the kingdom that cannot be shaken, and an "eternal inheritance," all irrevocably assured now in the glorified Lamb to every child of God. Then the laver for temporary use through this life in hourly cleansing is a needed consequence where snares and defilement abound. Needed, lest any imperfect practice becloud the soul; and at the same time its existence proves that the altar is not designed to meet that need, while the blood necessary for atonement is not found at the laver at all.
So these two vessels in the open court picture to us, first, the sacrifice through which the sinner is passed once for all from B to C, out of Adam into Christ; and second, the water, by the constant use of which the saint is kept clean for communion and worship, suitable to the holiness and majesty of the divine presence in His dwelling place.