The Bronze Laver
Introduction: what is the book of exodus about? Can you tell me what happens in it? The story of the Exodus – birth of Moses and his call (4 chapters – out of 40), the plagues, dealings with pharaoh, Passover (another 9 chapters), then on the journey, crossing the Red Sea and in the wilderness (5 chapters); came to Mount Sinai יְהוָה gave them the Torah (6 chapters); incident of the golden calf and Moses going up the mountain again (3 chapters) – that leaves 13 chapters missing! About 1/3 of the book of Exodus – what is it about? The Tabernacle [P]. You may wonder why I am doing a series on the tabernacle – because a huge section of Scripture is devoted to it, giving great detail. All Scripture is inspired by God – some portions we know well, others are neglected – that is why I did a series on the Minor Prophets. In יְהוָה’s estimation the tabernacle was worth dedicating a significant portion of His Word to. The Bible is very economical of language yet a big portion is devoted to this matter – the precise details are recorded twice, the items making up the tabernacle are listed six times. Over and over again יְהוָה repeats it. It was important! Why? What was it all about? What is the tabernacle and why was it built? What is its significance? [Exodus 29:45-46 I will dwell among the sons of Israel and will be their God. They shall know that I am יְהוָה their God who brought them out of the land of Egypt, that I might dwell among them; I am יְהוָה their God.] It was the dwelling place of יְהוָה – that is what "מִשְׁכָן" means: [Exodus 25:8-9 “Let them construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell among them.” “According to all that I am going to show you, as the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furniture, just so you shall construct it.] It had to be built exactly as יְהוָה said, according to the pattern revealed – because it had to accurately mirror His heavenly dwelling [Hebrews 8:1-5 Now the main point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a minister in the sanctuary and in the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man …]. It is a picture of heaven, the dwelling place of God! Hebrews goes on to talk about the high priests who: [serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things, just as Moses was warned by God when he was about to erect the tabernacle; for, “See,” He says, “that you make all things according to the pattern which was shown you on the mountain.”] Do you want to look into heaven? – then look at the tabernacle.
Review: So I imagined this hypothetical Israelite, who longed to be near יְהוָה, sought the place where He dwelt [P], wended his way through the camp, past the Levite camp, encountered a wall of white – the unassailable barrier of יְהוָה’s righteousness! [P] Found the gate – Jesus the Door [P] – the righteous One, man and God. Last time he entered the court and ran into the bronze altar [P], the place of judgement, of sacrifice – a sin offering that died instead of him for his sin and rebellion. We saw Jesus the perfect sin offering, guilt offering, burnt offering, grain offering and peace offering. But here was as far as our Israelite could go! That was it. Everything else in the court was solely for the priests and Levites. We can go no further, that is the end of the series! Well, we are priests, have been made into a kingdom of priests (cf. Revelation 1:6 He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father—to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. Revelation 5:10 “You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.” 1 Peter 2:4-5 And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvellous light; ) – so, being priests, we will proceed, go on further beyond the bronze altar, nearer to where יְהוָה dwells [P]. What do we encounter?
The laver: [P] [Exodus 30:17-21 יְהוָה 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 (if you approach God unclean, you die! Even as a priest); or when they approach the altar to minister, by offering up in smoke a fire sacrifice to יְהוָה. “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.”] It was a bronze basin full of water – its purpose was to cleanse the priests. They had just been sacrificing animals, cutting throats, pouring blood out, sprinkling it on people and alter – they were a bloody mess after sacrificing. I said that we are priests – what does a priest do? What is his role? He is a priest to God – he represents man to God, goes between earthly man and a holy God. The prophet goes from God to man – passing on His message to him. The priest represents man, taking his offering and presenting it to God – a priest presents offerings and sacrifice [Hebrews 13:15-16 Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.] The contact with defiled man, with this world, dealing with sin leaves us defiled. We need to be cleansed. But wasn’t sin dealt with at the altar? Cleansed by the blood of Jesus from all sin [1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.] but we still need cleansing. [P] [John 13:1-15 Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. During supper, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God, got up from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself. Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.] Their feet were dirty – got dirty from the streets, from their daily walk in this world, their contact with this earth. [So He came to Simon Peter. He said to Him, “Lord, do You wash my feet?” Jesus answered and said to him, “What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter.” Peter said to Him, “Never shall You wash my feet!”] Peter did not want Jesus to serve him, he wanted to serve Jesus, for Him to have the honoured place not the lowly one [Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, then wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head.”] We sometimes characterize Peter as impulsive and blurting out without thinking – that may be true but he picked up what Jesus was saying – he had got dirty by his walk in this world (dirty feet) but Peter knew that his hands, what he did defiled him too – these are the two things the priests had to wash in the laver; and that his head, his thinking was dirty also. [Jesus said to him, “He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.” For He knew the one who was betraying Him; for this reason He said, “Not all of you are clean.”] They were clean through the blood of Jesus but still they got dirty. Is it not so? Our sins have been dealt with, all of them have been removed – but still we get dirty in this world – we need our feet washed. We not only need to be cleansed at the altar, we need to wash at the laver. [So when He had washed their feet, and taken His garments and reclined at the table again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? “You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. “If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. “For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you.] We need to be in the business of ensuring that each other is clean and pure. So we come to the laver [P]. We need to be cleansed. How does it cleanse us? What does it represent?
Cleansing at the laver The laver was made of bronze – what does bronze signify? How good are your memories? The court poles were on bases of bronze, the altar was made of bronze.
1. Bronze – what does it signify? [P] You will be getting familiar with this list – bronze represents judgement [P]. To be clean we need to judge, discern what is right and what is wrong – what is our true state. How do we do this? We need an objective judge, one that knows us through and through. Where do we find this? [Hebrews 4:12-13 For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge (κριτικος) the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.] The heart is deceitful above all and desperately wicked. I am very clever – I can even completely fool myself, convince myself that I am a pretty decent type of bloke. I didn’t drink, ride a motorbike, stay out late and cause grief to my parents. Then one day I read [Deuteronomy 21:18-21“If any man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey his father or his mother, and when they chastise him, he will not even listen to them, then his father and mother shall seize him, and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gateway of his hometown. “They shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey us, he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ “Then all the men of his city shall stone him to death; so you shall remove the evil from your midst, and all Israel will hear of it and fear.] It was as if I had been struck. People may have told me I was rebellious – but suddenly God’s Word revealed the true state. The judgement of God’s word was that I was worthy of stoning! It hit me!
2. So the laver was made of bronze, where did this bronze from? [Exodus 38:8 Moreover, he made the laver of bronze with its base of bronze, from the mirrors of the serving women who served at the doorway of the tent of meeting.] These days mirrors are made of glass, but before the technique for silvering glass was developed, mirrors were made out of polished metal [P] – this is a replica of an Egyptian mirror from 1700 B.C. It is made from bronze – not as good as a glass one but still pretty shiny – not perfect (remember Paul in [1 Corinthians 13:12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.] The revelation we have now is only partial – one day we will see Him as He really is and be like Him! Hallelujah! So in those days the women had mirrors made of bronze. Why? – to look at themselves! Vanity! We are overly concerned with out own image – self-conscious, preoccupied with self. It is indeed a liberating thing to set free from bondage to concern with self – no longer I but Christ. It was a beautiful thing these women did – abandoned their own vanity for the service of יְהוָה. Serving at the gate was as close as a woman could come – they wanted to be near יְהוָה and abandoned their own self interests to do so. We need to abandon our own view of our self and see ourselves as God sees us because we are experts at self delusion. How do we do this? – we look in the bronze mirror, the mirror of God’s word (James 1:21-25 Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.) So God’s Word shows us what we are really like.
3. Water – the laver contained water, they were in the desert and got thirsty, but this water was not for drinking – it was for washing [P] [Exodus 30:19 “Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet from it;] – cleansing for their walk and their deeds. We need to be washed – where do we get clean? [Psalm 119:9 How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word.] God’s Word, the Bible, cleanses. [John 15:1-3 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He cleanses it so that it may bear more fruit. “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.] Jesus cleanses His Church through the Word of God. [Ephesians 5:26-27 that He might sanctify her (that is the church, His wife), having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.] Hallelujah!
This series on the tabernacle I want to be a journey to get nearer to our God. To be near God we need to be clean, separate from this world, cleansed from its filthiness. It’s got to the stage when you cannot tell the church apart from the world. There is a crying need for PURITY. Why have we become as dirty as the world? – because we are not being washed in the Word. Do you have that longing to be pure? I recall a pastor of a fellowship I attended: Wayne in the bath – work for the IRD – come home and read the Bible in the bath – felt defiled by his contact with the world – felt the need for cleansing. God’s Word cleanses us – Eddie Read – observed that if you’ve been reading God’s word, then something off colour seems repulsive; but if you have been you’ve been involved with world, then the Word of God has no appeal. That is the purifying nature of God’s word. Have you ever longed to be nearer to God?! Have you sensed your own unworthiness, your uncleanness?! How can you come near? [Psalm 24:3-4 Who may ascend into the hill of יְהוָה? And who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood And has not sworn deceitfully.] You long to come near to God but all the time are defiled by this fallen world. You know? I feel it keenly – I have to get up here and open יְהוָה’s word, holy Scripture, and I think who am I to deal with God’s Word? How can I get up before the assembly of God’s people? I myself am unclean! When you want to come near to God suddenly you are aware of your own failing, your uncleanness. Some 700 years before Jesus probably the most righteous godly man in Israel was the prophet Isaiah – then he got near to יְהוָה [Isaiah 6:1-5 In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw יְהוָה sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is יְהוָה of armies, the whole earth is full of His glory.” And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke. Then I said, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, יְהוָה of armies.”] As priests to our God we need to be cleansed, in order to offer up acceptable sacrifices to Him, to minister on behalf of other people before a holy God. We need to be a people ready for our coming King! But the priesthood is defiled! It is יְהוָה’s desire that His priesthood be cleansed and purified, ready for His return. [Malachi 3:2-4 “But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. “He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to יְהוָה offerings in righteousness. “Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to יְהוָה as in the days of old and as in former years.] I married a Fuller and she is pretty concerned with cleanness – but that isn’t going to make me clean enough for a pure and holy God. Daily I need to be cleansed by the washing of the water of the Word of God.
- Be judged by God’s word [P] – God’s judgement not my own. Only God knows what I am really like I cannot rely on my own assessment. We have a responsibility to judge ourselves [1 Corinthians 11:31-32 But if we judged (διακρινω) ourselves rightly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world.]. What it is saying is that if we judge ourselves by God’s Word then we will avoid God’s judgement. The word of God is able to judge us aright – we need to submit to God’s judgement of our intentions [Hebrews 4:12-13 For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.]
- We need to look in the mirror of God’s word [P] in order to see ourselves as we really are, as God sees us [James 1:21-25 Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.]. In this present world we only have partial revelation [1 Corinthians 13:12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.] – we depend upon what the word of God reveals until that time that all is revealed when we see Jesus as He really is and we become like Him. Until then we need to be constantly looking in the mirror to check our state.
- Having had our true state revealed we need to be cleansed, washed by the water of the word [P] – [Psalm 119:9 How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word.] [John 15:1-3 every branch that bears fruit, He cleanses it so that it may bear more fruit. “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.] [Ephesians 5:26-27 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.] We used to sing: “May I stand O Lord in this holy place, may I worship Thee and behold Thy face, may I be transformed by Thy Word and Thy Spirit and behold the day of Thy power”
I’ve said that the tabernacle pictures Jesus, the Word become flesh – we don’t just come to a book – impersonal, cold and clinical; but to Jesus – He applies the Word, judging our thoughts, motives and intentions, revealing to us our true selves in the mirror of His Word. And, in His mercy and grace, applies that Word to make us clean. He girds Himself with a towel, washes our feet and makes us clean from the defilement of this world. Praise His Name!