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The Brazen Altar

Exodus 27:1-8



433 times the Bible uses the word ‘altar.’  The first mention is in Gen. 8:20 when Noah built an altar after the flood.  How did he know what an altar was?  Clearly it wasn’t his first altar.  There may have been an earlier altar when Adam and Eve fell into sin and God made them coats of animal skins.  Later we see their son Abel bringing a blood offering, so it makes sense.  Where was your first altar?


Of course, there are many more altars of offering throughout the rest of the Bible.  Abraham built one everywhere he went, for instance.  But what is the purpose of the altar, and why does God instruct Israel to build one in conjunction with the Tabernacle if they are going to meet with Him and worship Him properly?


“That’s what this altar is for…”


Just because you can pray anywhere doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have your own personal place where you offer yourself before the Lord.


1.     Description.

When you enter the Tabernacle thru the gate, which is on the east, you come to this altar first, made of acacia wood, known for its hardness and durability.  It is harder than oak.  The boards are overlaid with brass.  7.5’ square and 4.5’ tall, with a horn on each corner to which animals would be tied.  Why tied?  Because sacrifices have a way of crawling off the altar!  A mesh or grate of brass is inside midway down where the offerings are burnt.


V. 3 tells us of these utensils, some to get rid of ashes, others to carry blood into the Holy of Holies.  The fleshhooks allow the priest to move the sacrifice.  The firepans were used to move the coals of fire from place to place when the Tabernacle was was a perpetual fire.  The first ever sacrifice there was consumed by fire from God in heaven which was never to go out.  They also used these firepans to move fire inside to the altar of incense.


The word ‘altar’ literally means, “A place of slaughter.”  In the OT, man had to do this to meet with God.  But why not today?  Our altar at the front is a different kind of altar.

Hebrews 13:10-12
10 We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle. 11 For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned without the camp. 12 Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate.

Jesus is our sacrifice, once and for all!


In the brazen altar we see the person and work of Christ: 


  • The acacia wood is incorruptible. 
  • The tree it comes from bears hard thorns, like the ones beaten into our Savior’s brow.
  • If you pierce that tree at night by morning it will put off a resin that is used for medicinal purposes...reminding us of the spear put into His side and out flowed blood and water, healing our souls!
  • The brass overlay shows it is a place where sin is judged.


2.     Dilemma.

God had a dilemma of sorts.  He is a Holy God who can have nothing to do with sin.  But He wants to fellowship with us.  But man has chosen sin.  There must be a sacrifice for sin, including death and blood.  That way holy God is satisfied and sinful man is justified!


3.     Discussion.

The drama of salvation unfolds in the altar.  A living, vivid picture is inside. 


a.     A convicted sinner.

Imagine a man standing outside the white linen fence of the Tabernacle.  He wants to come inside and be with God, but he realizes he cannot because that white linen stands for God’s purity.  He knows he’s not worthy, for he had stood at the base of Mt. Sinai and heard the thunder of God’s law, and he had severely broken it time and again.  He stands there as a convicted sinner, guilty.  To try to climb the fence or jump over would mean instant death...there’s only one way in.  It’s the gate that is Jesus...the gate to the sheepfold.  “I am the way...”  The thief tries to get in another way but even if they get in it’s only to be told to get out, and shot in the back as they depart, symbolically speaking.


He looks at that beautiful gate:

  • White for purity.
  • Blue for its heavenly origins.
  • Purple for its royalty.
  • Red for the blood.


Will he be allowed in?  Only if he has the proper sacrifice.  And if he does then it doesn’t matter what he’s done.


A convicted sinner...


b.     A consecrated substitute.

Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin.

Leviticus 1:1-3
1 And the LORD called unto Moses, and spake unto him out of the tabernacle of the congregation, saying, 2 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, If any man of you bring an offering unto the LORD, ye shall bring your offering of the cattle, even of the herd, and of the flock. 3 If his offering be a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish: he shall offer it of his own voluntary will at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the LORD.

How was it selected?  It had to be a male without blemish, like the sinless Lamb of God.  How was it accepted?

Leviticus 1:4-5
4 And he shall put his hand upon the head of the burnt offering; and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him. 5 And he shall kill the bullock before the LORD: and the priests, Aaron's sons, shall bring the blood, and sprinkle the blood round about upon the altar that is by the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.

He had to lay hold upon it, with his hands, saying I accept you as my substitute...and then kill it himself.  At that moment he realizes this animal is dying at his hands for his benefit.


It had to be tied to the altar.  And what held Jesus to the cross?  Was it the nails?  The soldiers?  No!  It was cords of love!


A convicted sinner, a consecrated substitute...


        c.     A completed sacrifice.

Leviticus 1:6-9
6 And he shall flay the burnt offering, and cut it into his pieces. 7 And the sons of Aaron the priest shall put fire upon the altar, and lay the wood in order upon the fire: 8 And the priests, Aaron's sons, shall lay the parts, the head, and the fat, in order upon the wood that is on the fire which is upon the altar: 9 But his inwards and his legs shall he wash in water: and the priest shall burn all on the altar, to be a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the LORD.

It not only did something for man, but also did something for God.  He was pleased with the sacrifice.


When Jesus died on the cross the fire of God fell in judgment and though it wasn’t pleasant, God thru it all was well pleased.  He died not at the hands of men but of God!

Isaiah 53:10-11
10 Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. 11 He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied:

Then they took the blood in the bason and sprinkled it upon the altar.  What can wash away my sin?  Nothing but the blood!


Also on the Day of Atonement the priest would lay hands on another animal, the scapegoat.  One lamb was offered as a burnt offering, but the other would be loosed in the wilderness, set free!  Never to return again.  That’s the way we are set free, and our sins will never again come back on us! 

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