Solomon's Temple: The Altar Equal to the Holiest

2 Chronicles 3:1‑4:5  •  11 min. read  •  grade level: 6
(Read 2 Chron. 3:1-4:51Then Solomon began to build the house of the Lord at Jerusalem in mount Moriah, where the Lord appeared unto David his father, in the place that David had prepared in the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite. 2And he began to build in the second day of the second month, in the fourth year of his reign. 3Now these are the things wherein Solomon was instructed for the building of the house of God. The length by cubits after the first measure was threescore cubits, and the breadth twenty cubits. 4And the porch that was in the front of the house, the length of it was according to the breadth of the house, twenty cubits, and the height was an hundred and twenty: and he overlaid it within with pure gold. 5And the greater house he cieled with fir tree, which he overlaid with fine gold, and set thereon palm trees and chains. 6And he garnished the house with precious stones for beauty: and the gold was gold of Parvaim. 7He overlaid also the house, the beams, the posts, and the walls thereof, and the doors thereof, with gold; and graved cherubims on the walls. 8And he made the most holy house, the length whereof was according to the breadth of the house, twenty cubits, and the breadth thereof twenty cubits: and he overlaid it with fine gold, amounting to six hundred talents. 9And the weight of the nails was fifty shekels of gold. And he overlaid the upper chambers with gold. 10And in the most holy house he made two cherubims of image work, and overlaid them with gold. 11And the wings of the cherubims were twenty cubits long: one wing of the one cherub was five cubits, reaching to the wall of the house: and the other wing was likewise five cubits, reaching to the wing of the other cherub. 12And one wing of the other cherub was five cubits, reaching to the wall of the house: and the other wing was five cubits also, joining to the wing of the other cherub. 13The wings of these cherubims spread themselves forth twenty cubits: and they stood on their feet, and their faces were inward. 14And he made the vail of blue, and purple, and crimson, and fine linen, and wrought cherubims thereon. 15Also he made before the house two pillars of thirty and five cubits high, and the chapiter that was on the top of each of them was five cubits. 16And he made chains, as in the oracle, and put them on the heads of the pillars; and made an hundred pomegranates, and put them on the chains. 17And he reared up the pillars before the temple, one on the right hand, and the other on the left; and called the name of that on the right hand Jachin, and the name of that on the left Boaz. 1Moreover he made an altar of brass, twenty cubits the length thereof, and twenty cubits the breadth thereof, and ten cubits the height thereof. 2Also he made a molten sea of ten cubits from brim to brim, round in compass, and five cubits the height thereof; and a line of thirty cubits did compass it round about. 3And under it was the similitude of oxen, which did compass it round about: ten in a cubit, compassing the sea round about. Two rows of oxen were cast, when it was cast. 4It stood upon twelve oxen, three looking toward the north, and three looking toward the west, and three looking toward the south, and three looking toward the east: and the sea was set above upon them, and all their hinder parts were inward. 5And the thickness of it was an handbreadth, and the brim of it like the work of the brim of a cup, with flowers of lilies; and it received and held three thousand baths. (2 Chronicles 3:1‑4:5))
Next, we consider the altar of brass. "Twenty cubits the length thereof, and twenty cubits the breadth thereof, and ten cubits the height thereof." (Chap. 4:1.) Is not this most remarkable? the square of the altar is the exact square of the holiest. Here are two symbols: the one, the holiest—the presence of God; the other, the altar—the cross of Christ. And the one equal to the other. The altar is equal to the holiest: the cross of Christ is equal to all the claims of God. Twenty cubits, by twenty, was the measure of the holiest; and twenty cubits, by twenty, the measure of the altar. And did not every victim that was ever offered on that altar point on to Jesus the Lamb of God? Yes, as the body of the beast was consumed on that altar, and the blood poured out at the foot of that altar, even so on the cross the Son of God bore the divine consuming wrath, in that holy body prepared for Him; His own blood too was poured out at the foot of that cross.
But the measurement of the altar being equal to the holiest, does not this give us a marvelous knowledge both of what the sacrifice of Jesus, the Lamb of God, really was; and also what it must be to meet the claims of God as to sin and righteousness? I say, must be; for note these measurements were given by instruction. "Now these are the things wherein Solomon was instructed." The altar must not be one cubit less or more than the holiest.
Does not this direct our thoughts at once to the Person of Christ? Could any other being be found equal to God? For the sacrifice can only be what the person is, or the victim offered. If a bullock or a goat be offered, the sacrifice can only be finite, and makes nothing perfect as to sin before God, for God is infinite. In other words, a finite offering cannot meet the claims of the infinite God. If a finite offering could have put away sin, then the altar would not need to have been equal to the holiest. We are shortsighted, we are blind, as men: but is God shortsighted? is God blind? Can He either under or over estimate anything? How dreadful then is sin, since nothing could put it away from His sight but a sacrifice equal to Himself! The altar must be equal to the holiest.
Let us now solemnly approach this tremendous question, Who is that Holy One, made sin for us, hanging on the forsaken cross, in the midst of that awful darkness? Is He truly man? Yes, truly man; crucified by men, forsaken by God, His soul made an offering for sin. Is He only man? Then His offering can only be finite. Unbelief says, it is so; and hence the need of repeated sacrifices, or continued masses, being offered to God, for the sins, and the souls, of the living and the dead. And all sadly true if He were only man. For if He were only man, then the claims of God have not yet been fully met; and who can tell how much has yet to be added to the one offering of Jesus, before the altar is equal to the holiest? If Jesus is only a man, then work on, you priests—add your thousands of masses—burn fiercely, you fires of purgatory—and strive hard, you children of unbelief, to add your merits and attainments to the work of Jesus: for the altar must be equal to the holiest. But, oh, enough!
God did not spare His own Son (Rom. 8:3232He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? (Romans 8:32)). "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son." "Who being the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His Person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high:... unto the Son He saith, Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever." (Heb. 1:3, 83Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; (Hebrews 1:3)
8But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. (Hebrews 1:8)
.) "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him... and the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth... No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him." (John 1:1-181In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2The same was in the beginning with God. 3All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4In him was life; and the life was the light of men. 5And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. 6There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. 8He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. 9That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. 10He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. 11He came unto his own, and his own received him not. 12But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: 13Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. 14And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. 15John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me. 16And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace. 17For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. 18No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him. (John 1:1‑18).) "He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins... And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God... for this is the witness of God, which He hath testified of His Son. He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself... he that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life... The Son of God... This is the true God, and eternal life." (1 John 4; 5) "For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." (Col. 2:99For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. (Colossians 2:9).)
Now if any man says he does not own the co-equality of the eternal Son with the Father, let him honestly say he does not believe the Scriptures of truth.
Blessed Jesus, I own Thee, though truly man, yet as truly God, over all, blessed for evermore. He that hath seen Thee, hath seen the Father also.
Again, I say, How dreadful is sin, when no one in heaven or earth could be found to offer the atoning sacrifice for sin but He, the Son, who dwelt in the bosom of the Father, who was with God, and was God.
Let us now again look back at the cross. Who is that Holy One bearing the wrath and consuming judgment due to sin? Is He truly man? Yes, truly man. Is He only a finite man? The Son of God! who, though equal with God, has humbled Himself in untold love, love to us; humbled Himself to the shameful death of the cross. Is He truly God? Truly God. He who was with God, the real distinct Person of the Son, but yet truly the self-existent, "was God." Though thus emptying Himself and humbling Himself unto death, yet the glory of His Person is the glory of the cross. The infinite Son of God can only offer an infinite sacrifice.
THE ALTAR IS EQUAL TO THE HOLIEST. The claims of God against the sinner must be fully met, by the death of the Son of God, for the sinner. Now do you not see great value in this type, the altar being the exact measure of the holiest? Nothing short of the sacrifice of an infinite Person could meet the claims of the holy infinite God—more than such an offering could not be.
And now ponder this well; faith links us with this perfect and infinite Savior. "Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." (Rom. 5:11Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: (Romans 5:1).)
It is not merely our own thoughts of what we are, but God, who knows all we are from first to last; surely He saw all that could be condemned in us. Now if His claims are met on the cross, then most surely our need is met. What has met the infinite must meet and cover the poor finite. A close study of Hebrews will show all this to be most true. There we learn that by the will of God all believers are sanctified "through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once." We also learn that this sacrifice can neither be repeated nor continued. For Jesus, "after he had offered one sacrifice for sins, forever sat down on the right hand of God." And then how infinite its efficacy for all believers: "For by one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified." The Holy Ghost is a witness of all this. God in righteousness says, "their sins and iniquities will I remember no more." There can be no more offering for sin. Nothing can possibly be added to the infinite. Every mass, or pretended sacrifice, is an insult to God—and every doubt is a dishonor cast on Christ. 0 let us no longer keep at such an unbelieving distance, but let us enter, let us draw near with the boldness that corresponds to the offering of the body, the blood, the atoning death of Jesus. 0! the glory of the cross! The altar is equal to the holiest—the righteousness of God is exalted by the one propitiatory sacrifice, equal to Himself. Can anything then destroy the peace which He has made by His death on the cross?
If we are, then, thus forever perfected worshipers by the one infinite sacrifice of Christ, what about our failures? What is the provision for these? Does not failure in a believer interrupt his communion with God? Certainly! Then how is this to be met? This brings us to the "molten sea of ten cubits from brim to brim, round in compass, and five cubits the height thereof; and a line of thirty cubits did compass it round about." (2 Chron. 4:22Also he made a molten sea of ten cubits from brim to brim, round in compass, and five cubits the height thereof; and a line of thirty cubits did compass it round about. (2 Chronicles 4:2).)
It might be well to notice here that these chapters show us more of the counsels of God, as to the glory of Christ, than man's side of the question; or man's approach to God. Indeed, this had been given in the types of Exodus and Leviticus. A little remembrance of these things is, however, necessary. In man's approach to God, the first thing was the altar, setting forth the cross of Christ—atonement having been made on the altar. Then the next thing was the laver, in which the feet of the priests were to be washed. Then the entrance into the tabernacle.
This is the way now; first, the altar, the cross of Christ—the blood of Jesus which cleanses us from all sin. And when the soldier with a spear pierced His side, forthwith came there out blood and water. There is the blood of atonement. And the water, the washing by the word. There is the death of the Just One, by which we have been brought to God. And there is the living priesthood that maintains us in living communion with God.
We have seen the square of the altar, equal to the square of the holiest. The death of the cross has met all the claims of God to the utmost measure. But then why was the washing laver, or molten sea, round? In this chapter the Lord Jesus reveals to us His present priestly service. The atoning work is done. "It is finished." This priestly work for us is going on. "He took a towel and girded Himself. After that He poureth water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded." The molten sea was round, that is, it had neither beginning nor end, so to speak—everlasting as an emblem. And such is the love of our Great High Priest. "Having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end." Love that never ceases to wash our feet, to restore our souls.
But why was the molten sea so much less than the altar? Nothing through eternal ages can compare with the cross of Christ. God only can measure it. He, the Infinite, can only fully know that which is infinite; equal to Himself. There is an axiom that holds good here: the greater includes the less; or, as the Apostle expresses it, "MUCH MORE then, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son; MUCH MORE, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life." (Rom. 5:9, 109Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. 10For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. (Romans 5:9‑10).) Surely this is unspeakably comforting. If we have been reconciled to God by the greatness, by the infinite sacrifice, typified by the altar equal to the holiest, how much more certain that we shall be washed from all daily failure and defilement, as typified by the molten sea. Is it not also true that if He does not wash us, we have no part or lot with Him? For if we are His, He cannot fail to wash our feet, to restore the defiled conscience. Everlasting love cannot fail.
Now are we willing to take this low place, and thus give to Jesus all the glory? Do not say, I am perfect in the flesh; He shall never thus wash me from daily failures. And do not say, if I am saved by the infinite death of Christ, I will practice sin, and will not look to Jesus for holiness of life, for cleanness of feet in my daily walk. Remember that he that practices sin is of the devil.
Do you ask, Is this true, that if we are really saved by the death of the cross, it is MUCH MORE certain that we shall be saved from all defilement to the end? That is exactly what the Holy Ghost is saying to us in these types, and plain scriptures. Why should you doubt God?