1 - 8 The Bronze Burnt Offering Altar
1 “And you shall make the altar of acacia wood, five cubits long and five cubits wide; the altar shall be square, and its height shall be three cubits. 2 You shall make its horns on its four corners; its horns shall be of one piece with it, and you shall overlay it with bronze. 3 You shall make its pails for removing its ashes, and its shovels and its basins and its forks and its firepans; you shall make all its utensils of bronze. 4 You shall make for it a grating of network of bronze, and on the net you shall make four bronze rings at its four corners. 5 You shall put it beneath, under the ledge of the altar, so that the net will reach halfway up the altar. 6 You shall make poles for the altar, poles of acacia wood, and overlay them with bronze. 7 Its poles shall be inserted into the rings, so that the poles shall be on the two sides of the altar when it is carried. 8 You shall make it hollow with planks; as it was shown to you in the mountain, so they shall make [it].
The bronze altar is in the court. At the altar God meets man. The altar speaks not so much of the cross, but of the Lord Jesus Himself (cf. Mt 23:19). He is the sacrifice on the altar, but He is also the One Who sacrifices Himself, Who offers Himself to God.
He is completely consumed as the sacrifice, but not as the altar. The altar is of wood – which symbolizes that He is Man – but it is covered with bronze. This made bronze comes from the censers over which God’s judgment has passed and which have not been consumed (Num 16:37-38). Bronze speaks of the righteousness of God that has gone through judgment and has not been consumed. The Lord Jesus is not consumed by the fire of God’s judgment. His resurrection is the proof of God’s righteousness.
The four horns of the altar show the power of the sacrifice. The horns are a picture of strength and the number four speaks of the whole earth. The offer of salvation goes to all people: “And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation”” (Mk 16:15). All people can be saved on the basis of the sacrifice. Only those who actually repent and in faith accept Christ as Savior of the world are saved (Jn 1:12).
Half way up of the altar is a grating of network. On that the sacrifice is consumed by fire. The sacrifice is thus located in the altar. It can only be seen by the priest when he looks over the edge. The suffering of the Lord Jesus, the fire that raged in him, can only be seen by believers who are aware of being priests. All believers are priests (1Pet 2:5), but not all are aware of this privilege.
At the altar there are also rings for the canes. This indicates that we should not only know that our sins have been disposed of by sacrifice, but that we carry this knowledge around with us every day.
9 - 19 The Court
9 “You shall make the court of the tabernacle. On the south side [there shall be] hangings for the court of fine twisted linen one hundred cubits long for one side; 10 and its pillars [shall be] twenty, with their twenty sockets of bronze; the hooks of the pillars and their bands [shall be] of silver. 11 Likewise for the north side in length [there shall be] hangings one hundred [cubits] long, and its twenty pillars with their twenty sockets of bronze; the hooks of the pillars and their bands [shall be] of silver. 12 For the width of the court on the west side [shall be] hangings of fifty cubits [with] their ten pillars and their ten sockets. 13 The width of the court on the east side [shall be] fifty cubits. 14 The hangings for the [one] side [of the gate shall be] fifteen cubits [with] their three pillars and their three sockets. 15 And for the other side [shall be] hangings of fifteen cubits [with] their three pillars and their three sockets. 16 For the gate of the court [there shall be] a screen of twenty cubits, of blue and purple and scarlet [material] and fine twisted linen, the work of a weaver, [with] their four pillars and their four sockets. 17 All the pillars around the court shall be furnished with silver bands [with] their hooks of silver and their sockets of bronze. 18 The length of the court [shall be] one hundred cubits, and the width fifty throughout, and the height five cubits of fine twisted linen, and their sockets of bronze. 19 All the utensils of the tabernacle [used] in all its service, and all its pegs, and all the pegs of the court, [shall be] of bronze.
The court is a picture of:
1. the earth, where the Lord Jesus did the work of which the bronze altar speaks;
2. the Lord Jesus, seen in the fine linen of the hangings which people have looked at from outside; “the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints” (Rev 19:8);
3. the believer, in whom people must also see the fine linen.
The pillars hold up the fine linen, but are not seen themselves. It must be the same with the believer. He must show the Lord Jesus and not himself.
The pillars stand on sockets of bronze and are connected to each other with silver bands. The bronze points out that by doing justice, by doing what is right in the eyes of God, the linen becomes visible in the walk. The silver indicates that in this commission believers are bound together by the price paid for their reconciliation with God.
In the court there is an entrance on the east side. The entrance is spacious and is formed by a colored screen without cherubs. It represents the invitation to man to approach God. There is only one door. The Lord Jesus said: “I am the door” (Jn 10:7). The door is on the east side, that is the side to which the sinner went (Gen 3:24; 4:16). It is also the side that speaks of hope for the sinner. That side is also called the side “where the sun rises”. In it we see a picture of the rising of the “Sun of righteousness” (Mal 4:2), which is the Lord Jesus Who comes with redemption and blessing for His people.
20 - 21 Oil for the Lampstand
20 “You shall charge the sons of Israel, that they bring you clear oil of beaten olives for the light, to make a lamp burn continually. 21 In the tent of meeting, outside the veil which is before the testimony, Aaron and his sons shall keep it in order from evening to morning before the LORD; [it shall be] a perpetual statute throughout their generations for the sons of Israel.
The partitioning of the tabernacle is now ready so far that God is able to speak about what is needed for the light. The light is necessary for the priest to be able to serve in the sanctuary. The sanctuary is called here “tent of meeting”. It is the place where God meets His people and meets them.
This is the first time that reference is made to “Aaron and his sons”, the priesthood family, in connection with caring for the oil so that the light can burn. This priesthood is discussed in detail in the following two chapters before discussing the other parts of the tabernacle.
The oil that serves for light – and also for anointing – speaks of the Holy Spirit (1Jn 2:20). The service in the sanctuary can only be to the joy of God if it happens under the guidance and in the power of Holy Spirit. The lampstand must be lit “from evening to morning”. That means that while it is night in the world, there is light in the sanctuary.