By Titus Chu
The Bronze Laver
The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “You shall also make a laver of bronze, with its base of bronze, for washing; and you shall put it between the tent of meeting and the altar, and you shall put water in it. Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet from it; when they enter the tent of meeting, they shall wash with water, so that they will not die; or when they approach the altar to minister, by offering up in smoke a fire sacrifice to the Lord. So they shall wash their hands and their feet, so that they will not die; and it shall be a perpetual statute for them, for Aaron and his descendants throughout their generations”
– Exodus 30:17-21
The bronze laver was located between the altar and the tent of meeting. It was used by the priests, Aaron and his sons, to cleanse themselves both before they entered the tent of meeting and before they offered sacrifices on the altar. If they tried to serve without first washing at the laver, they would die.
In our experience we should come to the laver right after experiencing the consecration of the altar. It is the only way to experience the deeper, divine riches in the tent of meeting, and it is the only way to help others consecrate themselves at the altar.
The Need for the Laver
Aaron’s sons were human beings like us, and so they were full of problems. Don’t think that when they put on their priestly robes they suddenly became holy. To think of any of God’s servants in this way is simply superstitious. Consider Nadab and Abihu, two of Aaron’s sons, who used strange fire not from the altar to offer to the Lord. This was clearly contrary to God’s ordination and so they were immediately consumed by fire (Lev. 10:1-2).
Looseness among Aaron’s sons may be one reason Korah felt justified in his complaint. As a Levite, he saw the priests day in and day out. He may have thought, “Why did God choose them to be priests? Look at how they live! I am much more qualified then they are.” It seems the closer we are to where the service is, the easier it is to become opinionated. But God chose Aaron’s family knowing full well who they were.
There is a sister in Cleveland whom I really appreciate. She serves me in my house taking care of many practical things that I cannot. Because she is in my house so much, she knows all my habits, my schedule, and how messy I am. One day she may ask herself, “Is it worthwhile to serve Titus? Should I still respect him so much? He’s just as messy as the rest of us!” So far she has not done this, but that is because she is quite spiritual. Many would have given up on me, thinking that being flawless was a requirement for service.
Aaron’s sons no doubt had problems, but they also had the laver. They didn’t qualify for service by being so good. They were qualified only because God called them to serve Him in the tent of meeting and at the altar, and because they were able to cleanse themselves at the laver. God already knew all their problems and shortcomings. Without the laver no one could serve Him.
The Size of the Laver
The Bible doesn’t tell us how big the laver was or how much bronze was used to make it. It seems it is up to our need. Young ones have not had time to sin much, so their laver may be quite small. An old man like me needs a huge laver because time has taught me to be so impure. I know I’m a sinner and am not worthy of His cross. I know I’m very sloppy and that I owe the Lord so much. I know I make promises to the Lord too easily and am too quick to go back on those promises. I know every part of my being is a problem. So my laver needs to be big.
Sometimes we get into an argument right before we go the church meeting to serve. We then ask the Lord for His cleansing so we can have a clear conscience before the Lord and the saints. But actually we should wash in the laver every time we go to serve, even if we did not have an argument. Peter refused to let the Lord wash his feet, and the Lord responded, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me” (John 13:8). Before we can wash other’s feet, we must have all our own defilement washed away by the Lord.
Young people spend too much time in front of the mirror considering how to make themselves more attractive. Old people spend too much time in front of the mirror looking for grey hair and signs of old age. All this is vanity and needs to be cleansed. And these are just the outward things. Dare we go deeper? We need to pray, “Lord Jesus, from my top to my toes, every part, please cleanse me. My whole person makes me unworthy to serve you.” We need the laver more than we know, and it is always the right size to fit our need.
A Deeper Cleansing
The Lord wants us to go beyond the consecration of the altar. He wants us to go all the way into the Holiest Place, where He dwells. Since this is His desire, it should be normal for us to want the same thing. We should desire to advance in our Christian life. But when we try to enter the tent of meeting, the Lord speaks to us that even our most sincere consecration is impure and needs to be washed. Our tears of repentance need to be washed. Our confession of all our weaknesses needs to be washed. Our zeal to follow the Lord and serve the church needs to be washed. All this is much deeper than our sin and worldliness. We find the laver is so helpful to our growth. We can only grow and serve by passing through the laver.
We need to be continually cleansed because we collect dust whatever we do. Even when we consecrate ourselves with tears there is an impure motive. If we want to serve others at the altar, we need the laver. If we want to enter the Holy Place to enjoy the bread of the Presence, we need the laver. The more experience we have with these things, the more we will realize how much we need the laver. The laver is the key to our experience of the priesthood.
The Mirrors of the Serving Women
The Bible tells us that the laver was made “of bronze with its base of bronze, from the mirrors of the serving women who served at the doorway of the tent of meeting” (Exo. 38:8). There must have been a lot of these serving women, each with a piece of bronze polished so as to reflect as a mirror. Mirrors are used to help people see themselves with all their blemishes and faults so they can make themselves presentable and attractive.
These women served at the doorway of the tent of meeting. Passing through this doorway represents our experience of initial salvation. We had no idea we had so much ugly sin before we met these women. They held up their mirrors and we saw for the first time that we were full of sin and in great need. The church needs such gospel preachers today to help usher sinners through the gate of salvation.
God told Moses to collect these mirrors and use them to make the laver. When we first looked at these mirrors to see our reflection at the doorway, we saw we were sinners in need of a savior. This was mainly to see that what we have done is a problem. But when we looked at them after they were made into the laver, we saw that what we are is the problem.
Once the mirrors are made into the laver, they are not just for our exposing, but for our cleansing and to receive shining from God Himself. There is no other way into the Holy Place. On our way into the Holy Place, we must wash at the laver, and while we are washing, we see ourselves in its reflection.
We should have this experience as we come to God in prayer. Our sins are already forgiven. That happened as we came through the doorway. But as we begin to pray, we stand at the laver to wash away all our spots, wrinkles, and dust from our daily touch with the world. The more we wash, the more the reflection in the bronze laver begins to show us who we are. We may appear attractive on the outside, but the laver shows us how ugly we are on the inside. We soon realize that we are only qualified to die on the cross, that we are nothing and have nothing to offer the Lord. Only with this realization are we ready to enter into the holy place to enjoy the bread of the Presence and a deeper Christian life.
The Light of Christ
When we see the laver, we see the light of Christ. This light reflects who Christ is and thus exposes who we are. The apostle Paul wrote, “For God, who said, ‘Light shall shine out of darkness,’ is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6). In this light we are cleansed and washed. The spots and wrinkles are taken away. The life of Christ supplies us.
While we see that we are worthy for nothing but to be judged, we discover that Jesus bore the curse for us on the cross already. We are crucified with Christ. It is no longer we who live, but Christ lives in us. If we want to live a holy life, Christ lives in us. If we want Christ to be everything to us, Christ lives in us. If we want to be a shining lampstand for Christ, Christ lives in us.
Often as we pray and ask the Lord to forgive us for something we did, His light comes, and this light causes us to ask Him to forgive us for who we are. While we are confessing our sins, God’s light begins to judge us. But for some reason this judging doesn’t kill us. If God really judged us, He should just slaughter us. Instead, He brings us to the realization that we do not even know how to properly confess and repent, that we don’t even know how poor we are. We have to worship the Lord because without Him we have no way to live. Only because we died with Him can we be in resurrection with Him and come into the holy place.
If we are without the light, everything seems just fine. Everyone does things with a good reason. After eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge, Adam justified himself by blaming Eve for giving him the fruit, and then by blaming God for giving him Eve. Eve justified herself by blaming the serpent for giving her the fruit and then by blaming God for making the serpent. Each could blame God for creating the tree of the knowledge in the first place, and each thought themselves fully guiltless. From the very beginning man was in darkness and needed God’s light. If someone else tells us how terrible we are, we will not believe them because there is no light in their speaking. If we come to the laver, however, and look at our own reflection in the light of Christ, we will say that we are only qualified to die with the Lord on the cross.
Washing and Exposing
The laver serves two functions. First it washes us with refreshing, cleansing water. Second it is a mirror, exposing us so the cleansing can be deep. We don’t know ourselves. We don’t know how terrible we are. We don’t know how selfish we are. We don’t know how much we are for self-gain. We don’t know how manipulating we are, trying to operate in every way just for our own benefit. If we came to the Lord in the holy place without the deep cleansing of the laver, we could not stand.
Eventually we are brought to say, “Lord, I’m very thankful. You have shown me who I am. I am worse than I ever knew. But You have also shown me that I died with you on the cross. I’m terminated. Now I have Christ as my new life and my new person. I trust this new life and new person to carry me into the Holy Place. Thank you Lord for Your mercy.”