The Golden Altar of Incense and the Brazen Laver

Exodus 30:1‑10; Exodus 30:17‑31  •  8 min. read  •  grade level: 8
The description of the Golden Altar of incense and the Brazen Laver is designedly left, as we have already seen, till the priests were consecrated, whose privilege it was to use them, for they had to do with the work of the priests, and their entering in to the service of the Sanctuary.
We have seen how God comes OUT in Christ as the Apostle of our profession. We are now about to, see how Christ has gone IN as the High Priest of our profession, leading His own into the very presence of God for worship.
The pure gold as seen in the Golden Altar, comes before the brass as seen in the Laver. The Altar comes before the Laver, the inside before the outside, which is ever God's way. The reason is obvious.
The Golden Altar gives us the place of the worshipper.
The Brazen Laver gives us the condition of the worshipper.
The place comes before the condition, because the place is won for us by what comes out at the Brazen Altar, and the meaning of the blood upon the Mercy Seat, even by the atoning death of our Lord Jesus Christ. Righteousness (blood) has won the place for us; holiness (water) is the necessary condition for the enjoyment of that place. Hence the Laver. Let us never confound place and condition. To do so is to cloud the soul, for it is the fruitful source of doubts and fears.
The Golden Altar of Incense
The materials of which this article was made, viz. Shittim wood overlaid with pure gold speak as before of the true Manhood and supreme Deity of our Lord Jesus Christ. The rings and staves remind us that we are still in the wilderness, and have not yet reached the Heavenly Canaan.
Its position was " before the vail that is by the Ark of the Testimony, before the Mercy Seat that is over the Testimony, where I will meet with thee " (Ex. 30. 6). The vail is still up in the type, in the antitype the vail is rent, there is now only one Holy Place-all has now the character of the Holiest of All.
On the Golden Altar Aaron had to burn incense every morning and evening, typical of our High Priest's intercession, presenting the fragrance of what Christ is and what He has done as upholding His people in the presence of God. So we read, " Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the Holiest by the blood of Jesus... and having an High Priest over the house of God; let us draw near... in full assurance of faith " (Heb. 10:1919Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, (Hebrews 10:19) to 22).
Further, no strange incense was to be offered on the Golden Altar. None but the High Priest was qualified to offer incense at that Altar. Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their censers, putting fire and incense therein, and offering strange fire before the LORD, contrary to the commandment, and paid the penalty with their lives. " And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD " (Lev. 10:22And there went out fire from the Lord, and devoured them, and they died before the Lord. (Leviticus 10:2)). Only believers in communion have the right to enter the presence of the Lord, and that because of the intercession of our Lord on their behalf, supporting them in that wonderful place, the very presence of God. No burnt sacrifice, no meat offering, no drink offerings were to take place at the Golden Altar of incense. These were dealt with at the Brazen Altar, the place of atonement, whereas the Golden Altar of incense was the place for the worshipper, as maintained there by the intercession of our Lord Jesus.
There is a peculiar word used here for " burn " (Hebrew Alah) only twice used in Scripture, and that in connection with the lamps burning before the Golden Altar of incense. It carries the significance of causing to go UP.
The Brazen Laver
The Laver was made of brass, and contained water only, where the priests could cleanse their hands and feet from defilement before going into the presence of God in the Sanctuary.
There was no measurement given for the Laver, for there is no limit to the holiness that God would wish His people to show. " Be ye holy: for I am holy " (1 Peter 1:1616Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy. (1 Peter 1:16)) is the standard given by God.
The priests, bathed all over ceremonially, were to keep up cleanliness practically and daily. The Laver was provided for that purpose.
The washing of hands and feet in the Brazen Laver sets forth that for the defilement, which is contracted in passing through this evil world, cleansing is necessary. It is not a question of actual sin, which is a grave matter, needing the office of our Lord as our Advocate with the Father. For instance a believer might be employed in a place where loose talk and swearing was indulged in, which could easily fix itself on his memory, though refused by him in his spirit. He goes to a meeting, and in that atmosphere, or by private meditation, his memory is freed from occupation with these defiling things, and the believer is set free in spirit to be occupied with the Lord's things. This is what is typified in the Brazen Laver. Or a Christian's mind might be burdened with business things, quite legitimate in their place. He would have need to have his feet washed, that ministry from our Lord, or through one of His own, that would free his mind to be occupied with the Lord's things. Remember the washing is by water, setting forth that it is connected with moral condition of soul before the Lord.
In the Old Testament the hands and feet were washed; in the New Testament the feet only. Why this difference? The answer is simple. The hands of the Jewish priests had to do with gory sacrifices, and would therefore get defiled; the feet got defiled in the dust and stain of the desert and of the camp. Thank God, there is no need for what answers to the hands in Christianity being washed, for the Sacrifice of our Lord is completed, and the believer stands in the presence of God without a stain. In Judaism the sacrifices were repeated again and again, for the blood of bulls and goats could never take away sin,
" But Christ, the spotless Lamb,
Took all our guilt away,
A Sacrifice of nobler name,
And richer blood than they.
The defiling influence of the world is all around us, even when most sheltered from it, and need of the spiritual cleansing of the spirit, symbolized by the feet washing, remains. For this we have the blessed ministry of the Lord, so that we may have " part with Him." Our Lord in this has graciously given us an example. If our Lord and Master has washed our feet, we also ought to wash one another's feet.
The Women's Brazen Looking Glasses
It is said of Bezaleel that " he made the Laver of Brass,
and the foot of it of brass, of the looking-glasses [margin, brazen glasses] of the women assembling, which assembled at the Door of the Tabernacle of the Congregation " (Ex. 38. 8). The brazen mirrors, which had oftentimes been the instruments of self-gratification, for the display of that which springs from the flesh, were surrendered to the service of the LORD, and employed in that which typified the need of personal holiness. " Follow... holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord " (Heb. 12. 14). Do we as Christians surrender everything that would give us status in this world, so as to be free in spirit for God's presence and service?
" The Sea of Glass "
It is interesting to see the end of God's ways on this line. The Brazen Laver of the wilderness gave place to the " Molten Sea of the Temple." Standing on twelve molten oxen with five Lavers on the right hand and five on the left, it must have been a wonderful sight. The priests used the lavers for the washing of the Burnt Offering, " but the sea was for the priests to wash in " (2 Chron. 4. 6). At last when the Church is-raptured to glory, and the Lord's people are beyond the reach of defilement, we have the sea of glass. " And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the Beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God. And they SING," etc. (Rev. 15:22And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God. (Revelation 15:2)). No longer do they wash in the Laver, no longer is there the need of feet washing, no longer are they in a defiling scene, but standing on a sea of glass, symbolic of a state of fixed and absolute holiness in a scene where naught that defiles shall ever enter, they stand and SING in holy exultation the Song of Moses and the Song of the Lamb. All that hinders communion and joy forever left behind. Nothing but bliss and joy unspeakable left.
It is very significant that between the description of the Golden Altar and that of the Brazen Laver, there is interposed instruction as to the numbering of the children of Israel, and the necessity of the atonement money as the only ground on which typically God could have to do with sinful people,
The Peace Offering
Of the herd, male or female, of the flock, male or female.