We are nearing the end of a 3.5 year series through Exodus on Sunday evenings, and yesterday we were in Exodus 38. Moses had already received the blueprints from God on the mountain, but in the latter chapters of Exodus, we see the construction of the tabernacle – including each piece of furniture. While reading about the poles, wood, fined twined linen, fillets, and other details of each piece of furniture that occupied a place in the tabernacle, it’s easy to disconnect and miss the significance. Exodus 38 contains many component parts and language that describes the actual construction of the bronze altar, the bronze basin, and the court – but it’s very difficult to miss the significance of these pieces of the puzzle.
Within the worship practices of Israel’s history, they were commanded to prepare a place whereby God would meet with them and where they would meet with God. The place in the wilderness was the mobile tabernacle structure. Surrounded by a white fence, the tent was covered with thick animal hide and other fabric that veiled God’s presence from Israel. However, the ark of the covenant served as the earthly throne for God as He “tabernacled” among His people.
The Altar – A Lesson on Justification
Upon entering the 30 ft. wide gate at the front of the court, the very first thing the Israelite would see was a blazing bronze altar. This square box with horns on each corner and rings provided for the poles that would be used to transport it was 7.5 ft. wide and 7.5 ft. long. A.W. Pink comments: “There it stood: ever smoking, ever blood-stained, ever open to any guilty Hebrew that might wish to approach it. The sinner, having forfeited his life by sin, another life—an innocent life—must be given in his stead.” The point is clear, upon entering the courtyard, the blazing altar was the first thing that would occupy your eye. It made a statement. It communicated that a sacrifice was necessary in order for a person to have communion with God. A sacrifice was necessary.
As the Israelite placed his hand upon the head of the animal, in a symbolic way, it was as if the guilt of the person was being transferred to the animal that would die in his place. This was God’s plan for atonement. A blood sacrifice was necessary. This would be the normal ebb and flow of Israel’s worship through the years. Year after year, day after day, sacrifices would be offered on this blazing altar. Although this was God’s plan, it was merely a foreshadowing work of justification that pointed toward the death of His Son. The writer to the Hebrews describes this scene well:
For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.  Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me;  in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure.  Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’”  When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law),  then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second.  And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all (Hebrews 10:4-10).
Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God (John 1:29) became the fulfillment of the entire Old Testament sacrificial system. The blazing altar was a constant bloody scene, and it was fulfilled in Jesus’ blood sacrifice as He was nailed to a Roman cross and raised up on the hill called Golgotha.
The Basin – A Lesson on Sanctification
After passing by the blazing altar, positioned between the altar and the tabernacle was the bronze basin. This basin contained water and was used for washing and purification purposes. As the priests performed the sacrificial duties, they would be defiled with blood and animal parts. The basin was there for purification purposes. Before the priests entered the tabernacle, they had to wash. Sacrifices pleased God, but there was an ongoing need to remove the impurities and the basin served as the means for purification. This pleased God. This was required by God.
Often in the Christian life, we overlook the need for ongoing sanctification. We place much emphasis upon justification, and rightly so. However, if we aren’t careful, we can come to an unhealthy state in our spiritual life where we lack repentance. We may never verbalize it, but it would appear that we have outgrown the gospel. That is a very dangerous position for the Christian. In such cases, we need to gaze upon the bronze basin and remember that we have an ongoing need for washing and sanctification. In Romans, Paul reminded the Christians at Rome of this very thing by saying, “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life” (Romans 6:22).
As we press on in the Christian faith, we must see the need for constant repentance and maturity. We must do war with our sin and lay aside bitterness, hatred, envy, strife, pride, lust, materialism, disconnect from God’s church, disinterest in God’s Word, and laziness in Christian service. When we look at the bronze basin, we see that we never really “arrive” in the Christian life. Daily repentance is a necessary pattern for the healthy Christian. Charles Spurgeon once said, “Remember that the man who truly repents is never satisfied with his own repentance.”
As we read Exodus 38, we can’t be distracted by the fillets, poles, scarlet yarn, capitals, pillars, and other component parts. We must see Jesus in Exodus 38 and while He isn’t mentioned by name, we see the presence of our God and the fulfillment of the altar and the basin in the work of Jesus on the cross and His priestly work on our behalf as the source of our sanctification. Be encouraged in your Christian journey. We have a Priest who is ministering on our behalf and His priestly office never comes to an end as all of the others from Israel’s history. His labor for our souls has ended, but He continues to minister on our behalf and it’s through His priestly work that we now have access to the throne of God.