In my last article on the Christian life portrayed in the tabernacle, we discussed the bronze altar and how it represents the Lord Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins. You can read it here to be acquainted with the bronze altar, which we will continue to discuss this week.
The Lord’s Example
As Christians, the Lord Jesus Christ is our greatest example of how to live a healthy and proper life before God. So when we consider how he gave Himself up as the burnt offering, we should also see in this act a pattern for us to follow. Jesus obeyed the Father by going to the altar — that is, going to the cross. As His followers, God wants us to be on the altar as well.
The Altar and You
How do we know we are supposed to be on the altar as well? Because of a small but highly significant act that each offerer needed to perform before their sacrifice could be accepted.
He [who brings the offering] shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, that it may be accepted for him to make atonement on his behalf.– Lev 1:4 NASB
The offerer also lays his hand on the head of the peace offering (Leviticus 3:2) and of the sin offering (Leviticus 4:29). This act represents a oneness between the offerer and his offering. The offerer identifies with the offering, which is then killed and placed onto the altar. In other words, by placing their hand on the offering, the offerer is saying “I recognize that this sacrifice is not only from me and for me, but it also is me.”
In Romans, Paul applies this identification to us clearly and directly when he says “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” (Rom 12:1 KJV). This is the life which God has called us to through Christ: a life of sacrifice; a life on the altar.
Brother Rex Beck shared the following illustration of the life of the bull who is ultimately sacrificed as a burnt offering on the bronze altar:
Before the bull was put on that altar, he was out in the field, pulling a plow, eating grass, doing whatever bulls do at night. Then, one day, his position completely changed. The result of his life was not “Oh, I can just have God in my life and I can do my own thing,” or, “I can do my own thing and have a little God and he can help me in my life—” No; when the bull was put on the altar, do you know what happened? It completely changed. It has completely changed such that the bull became just a sweet-smelling savor for God…The bull is not for plowing, the bull is not for grazing, the bull is not for the fair, the bull is not to win an award. What’s the bull for? He’s only for the Lord.– Rex Beck, Winter Vision Week 2015 – Message 1: Consecration at the Bronze Altar
In other words, the offering was not given in part. When the bull was presented to God and placed on the altar, its whole life was ended and transformed to become something pleasing to God. God’s desire is not just to have a small part of your life — some little piece to be given to Him — but for you to offer your whole life. When we who identify ourselves with the offering present ourselves to God, He takes it all. Nothing is left of that offering’s old life. It no longer grazes in the field or pulls the plow; in fact, that was not the purpose of its life in the first place. Its life was meant for the altar. And as it remains on the altar — as its flesh is burned away — it is transformed into a sweet-smelling savor for God.
When I think of this picture of the altar, I feel like it is something that God really wants every Christian to pass through. It’s like God is telling me, “You are not meant for your job, for your education, for fame, for fortune, for social achievements, or anything of that sort. Your life is for Me.” When we come to His altar and offer ourselves, it is as if the very center of our life changes. We become no longer for ourselves, but for Christ. He becomes the center of our living. I gotta say, this sounds like the most appropriate way to live our life, because when we center our lives on Christ, God is truly satisfied and our life finds its true purpose and meaning as a sweet savor to God.