When we simply read the descriptions of the tabernacle’s construction, it is easy to imagine it being populated by nice, shiny, very clean and pure materials. Polished bronze, bright and shiny gold, clear water, and clean floors only seem appropriate for the dwelling place of God. And while that’s probably how it started off, it definitely didn’t stay that way for long.
An Unexpected Greeting
Let’s imagine we are an Israelite who has just passed through the outer court’s gate to be able to approach God. Now, as I pass through the fine linen, I would expect to be greeted warmly by some holy structure. I would expect to find something even more beautiful than the embroidery of the gate I just passed through. Maybe gold, or water, or brilliant craftsmanship — something which gives us a clue to the real glory of our God.
What I actually find is not beautiful or glorious at all (at least by human standards).
The Altar’s Appearance
As we pass through the gate, the image before us is one that would almost certainly be seared into our minds. Standing right in front of us is a bronze altar, 7 and a half feet wide by 7 and a half feet long by 4 and a half feet tall. On top of this altar is a pile of wood, hot ashes, feathers, bird crops, hot coals, animal heads, flour, animal fat, and various other animal organs and body parts. Smoke and heat billow up from the flame roaring underneath. On each of the altar’s four corners is a horn caked with blood. All around the altar you watch as a river of blood forms as priests pour out gallon after gallon of blood from the sin offerings. One after another you look on as livestock — bulls, lambs, and goats — are brought to the altar by its owner who, placing his hand on its head, kills the sacrifice. The priests quickly move among the sacrifices as they process them to be offered by removing organs, cutting away fat, washing the entrails and legs in a bronze basin, and adding more things to the burning, smoking pile. The priests sprinkle the blood of the offering not only at the altar, but also in the holy place, and even in the holy of holies.
A Heavy Price
If I saw this I’d be shocked. I would be left speechless. I imagine the more I saw of such a scene, the more I would feel as if it were shouting at me: for you to be here requires a heavy price.
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.(Rom. 3:23)
…and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.(James 1:15 NKJV)
Because of my sin I’ve been charged a heavy price
A price which must be paid if I seek to approach God
A price too heavy for me to pay myself
The price? Death.
A price which has been paid.
Christ Jesus: The Ultimate Offering
…having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him
(Romans 5:8 NKJV)
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
(Ephesians 2:13 NKJV)
…the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.
(1 John 1:7 NKJV)
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
(Romans 6:23 NKJV)
The sacrifices on the altar were for the Israelites’ sins. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was for the world’s sins. By His redemptive death we have been brought life. We have been brought near to God by the blood of Jesus Christ, poured out as a sin offering. It was nothing that we did, or ever could do — we couldn’t remove even a single, tiny sin if we tried. But the blood of Jesus has cleansed us from all sin.
Remembering the Blood
It’s What He Did
The bloody scene of the altar which bought the Israelites’ access to God was likely seared into the eyes of its viewers. Likewise, the blood of Jesus shed on the cross to purchase our redemption should be seared into our hearts. This is the first stage that every believer must face, and one which we can never graduate from. Whether you have believed in Jesus for 5 minutes or for 50 years, you need the blood. Remember: His blood still applies; His blood is still effective; His blood redeemed you; His blood cleansed you from every sin. Never look down on the Lord’s sacrifice. Never think of His blood as something just for children, for without it we would all be dead in our sins.
Jesus Paid it All
For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.
(Hebrews 10:14 ASV)
I may fight very hard to keep myself from sinning. But no matter how hard I try, it is not long before my sin is revealed. Oftentimes, when we sin, it is far too easy to turn away from God and hide our face from Him. To make matters worse, Satan is quick to accuse us and we are quick to blame ourselves, feeling that we are not worthy to approach God. We may even feel we don’t deserve to return.
But, if we have a clear memory of the blood of Jesus, we will have no reason to hide. The more we think of His sacrifice, the more we will remember His accomplished work; it will be pressed into our minds and onto our hearts. Brothers and sisters in Christ, we have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb! The price of our sins has already been paid. We just need to remember the blood. Turn to Him, confess your sins, and thank Him for His unforgettable blood.
Let’s fight to have prayers like this one become so normal in our Christian life:
“Lord Jesus, thank you that your blood was shed for my sins. Thank you for doing something that I couldn’t do. I could not get rid of even one sin. I just made one little sin and I was done for. But your blood has cleansed me from that little sin. Your blood has cleansed me from all of my sins. Oh, Lord Jesus, thank you.”Rex Beck, Winter Vision Week 2015
In the Old Testament the serving priests were required to come to the altar before entering the tabernacle. At that point the priests had two needs—they needed the blood to cleanse them, and they needed food to nourish them. The Bronze altar in the outer court supplied the priests these two needs. The blood washed them of their sins, and the meat nourished them. When they came to this altar, they were unclean and empty. Outwardly, they were defiled; inwardly, they were empty. Therefore, they needed the blood shed on the altar to cleanse them of their defilement, and they… Read more »