So far in our study of the typology of the Brazen Altar we have seen :
- The word “altar” literally means “slaughter place”, “high” or “lifted up”
- That it was made from Bronze/brass representing God’s judgment against sin; and acacia wood representing the incorruptible humanity of Christ.
- That the Brazen altar is a picture of Christ Himself and His blood atonement
The Brazen Altar is Also a Picture of the Cross
A Place of Substitutionary Death
As we saw in the last post, the altar was a place of shed blood, a place of death. The place where God’s judgment on sin was poured out upon the innocent animal, whom took the place of the sinner. There the blood was poured out and the fire of God consumed the sacrifice.
Of course at the cross Jesus’ blood was shed and He took the judgment and wrath of God upon Himself for our sins. Jesus’ death upon the cross fulfilled all of the Old Testament sacrifices and did away with them once and for all.
“Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.” Hebrews 9:12-15
Outside the Camp
Once an animal had been sacrificed on the altar, the remaining ashes and the offal were taken outside the Israelite’s camp to be discarded and burned.
“And the priest shall put on his linen garment, and his linen trousers he shall put on his body, and take up the ashes of the burnt offering which the fire has consumed on the altar, and he shall put them beside the altar. Then he shall take off his garments, put on other garments, and carry the ashes outside the camp to a clean place.” Leviticus 6:10, 11
This also points to Jesus Christ who suffered “outside the camp”. Calvary was outside of the walls of Jerusalem in a place of shame.
“For the bodies of those animals, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned outside the camp. Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate.” Hebrews 13:11,12
As followers of Jesus Christ we are to gladly bear His reproach too. Sometimes we are persecuted, shamed and rejected because we follow the Lord. This means we are following in the footsteps of our Master. Let us not try to court the world’s favour, instead “let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach” Hebrews 13:13
The Horns of the Altar
Horns signify the strength or power of the animal. The altar had one on each corner. The animal sacrifice would be bound to the Brazen altar by these four horns. So too was Christ nailed to the cross. Whilst the animal that was sacrificed had no choice in the matter, Jesus Himself did, and He willingly laid down His life for us.
““Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again….” John 10:17,18
The four horns of the corners of the altar speak to us of Christ’s sacrifice being for all of humankind – the power of His grace extending to the four corners of the earth. They also signify the power of the gospel going out to the four corners of the earth.
The Fire on the Altar
God Himself lit the fire on the Brazen Altar. It was a divine fire, sovereignly started by God, wholly initiated by Him. As we see in Leviticus 9:24 the fire came out from the Most Holy Place and consumed the burnt offerings on the altar:
“Then the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people, and fire came out from before the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the fat on the altar. When all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces.” Leviticus 9:23-24
It was unacceptable for man to light his own fire, in fact it was a crime was punishable by death. We see this with Nadab and Abihu upon whom the judgment of God fell when they tried to offer profane fire (Leviticus 10). This is a very clear picture for us and one we do well to heed.
You see God has a proscribed way of worshipping Him. It is always on the basis of the blood of substitutionary atonement.
It is always and only the way of the cross.
God sending the fire of judgment upon the Brazen Altar was His acceptance of the offering presented there. God’s fire of judgment falling upon Christ at the cross showed forth His acceptance of His Son as the perfect offering for sin. Our sin was judged at the altar of the cross by the divine fire and because of that we are able to stand before God. If we bypass the fire of that altar, then we are choosing to stand before God apart from the death of Christ and be judged according to our own works. Of course the judgment that has to fall on the flesh is death because “the wages of sin is death”.
God commanded that this fire was to never go out.
“A fire shall always be burning on the altar; it shall never go out” Leviticus 6:13
The fire was lit sovereignly by God but was to be maintained by man. It was to never go out and so it was the responsibility of the priests to bring the wood every day to keep the fire burning for the morning and evening sacrifices.
We saw previously that the fire signified God’s judgment on sin. However this fire also speaks to us of the Holy Spirit. When we accept Christ as the divine substitution for our sin, and subsequently lay down our lives for Him, God sends the Holy Spirit to live within us. The basis for the Holy Spirit coming to live within us is always the altar or cross of Jesus Christ. It can never be initiated by us and our fleshly good works. His divine life enters our spirit by His Spirit only when we have been to the cross, and suddenly a fire is kindled within.
Although God sovereignly ignites the spark it is our responsibility to maintain the divine fire every day, just as the priests did. We are to pray and read the Word of God daily. This is the way in which we keep the fire of God burning within.
Next Lesson… The Brazen Laver