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Caleb Ziamba
October 24, 2020
This entry is part [part not set] of 6 in the series Stages in the Tabernacle
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When we look at the bronze altar of sacrifice in the tabernacle, we see a picture of Christ’s atoning sacrifice and our own calling to present ourselves to God through consecration. But these two experiences are not something we see once and can forget about, nor are they finished in one day of our life! The experiences represented by the bronze altar are lifelong.

The Lord’s Sacrifice

First, consider the Lord’s offering of Himself. We discussed how Jesus’ sacrifice is represented by this altar in an earlier article (which I suggest you take a minute to read before continuing with this one), but here I want to focus on the inescapability of His sacrifice.

As we map the Christian life onto the tabernacle, we find that, while we may offer at the bronze altar before entering the deeper places, there is always a part of that altar with us: the blood.

“Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins”

(Heb 9:22 ESV)

The blood of an offering is poured out on and around the bronze altar, put upon the horns of the incense altar inside the holy place, sprinkled in front of the veil to the holy of holies, and is both poured over and sprinkled in front of the mercy seat of the ark of the testimony (see Lev. 4:5-7, Lev 16:14-19). In every area of the tabernacle, there is a reminder of the sacrifice made; that you are there because of the blood, and not because of your works. Because Jesus Christ was the reality of these offerings, whether you are a new believer or have been one for many years, the blood must still be present.

The Burning of the Flesh

A second aspect to be experienced at the bronze altar is that of consecration. Last time, we talked about how the offerings represented not only the Lord, but ourselves. This sounds great until we read about what happens to these offerings. At first glance it definitely isn’t pretty: the animal slain, bled, cut up, placed onto the altar and burned until nothing but ashes remain. Yikes! Who wants to go through that?! Well, if we left it there then surely no one. But we also find that as the sacrifice is burned it produces something else: a “pleasing aroma,” or a “sweet savor unto the Lord” (Lev. 1:17).

Yet, despite knowing the outcome of “a pleasing aroma,” such a process of death, burning, and ashes is not an experience that many are jumping to have. This brings us to the reason why consecration, too, is a lifelong process: we don’t want to be killed; and even when we are “dead,” we still cry out. Yet the way to be pleasing to God is for our flesh — our own desires, ambitions, preferences, and even our own religious zeal — to be presented to God, burnt to ash, and transformed into a pleasing aroma. If this all were to happen at once, I don’t know if anyone could take it! But by the mercy of God, He spreads the death of self and the burning of our flesh over a lifetime of joys and of sorrows and experiences of His grace and mercy. He strengthens and inspires us to approach His altar by showing us Himself, His heart’s desire, His beauty, and the value of living for His economy.

And that’s the key: it’s not that we gain the ambition for an altar life on our own, but from what God reveals to us. The higher and sweeter the revelation of the person of Christ we see, the more we come to the altar, and the more we are transformed into a pleasing aroma unto God. The more that we spend time with our loving and tender Savior, the more we will confess “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30 ESV).

A Relevant Hymn

This feeling is very well captured in a song by brother Theodore Monod (1836-1921), which says:

Day by day His tender mercy,
  Healing, helping, full and free,
Sweet and strong, and ah! so patient,
Brought me lower while I whispered,
  Less of self, and more of Thee,
  Less of self, and more of Thee.

Higher than the highest heavens,
  Deeper than the deepest sea,
Lord, Thy love at last hath conquered;
Grant me now my heart’s petition,
  None of self, and all of Thee,
  None of self, and all of Thee.

O, The Bitter Shame and Sorrow, Theodore Monod

I pray that we might all experience the Christian life stage of the bronze altar: the forgiveness of the blood and our transformation into a pleasing aroma unto God!

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