Chapter 21 The Brazen Altar

Thou shalt make an altar of shittim wood … and overlay it with brass (Exodus 27:1-2).

There was only one way into the Tabernacle. The first thing seen on entering was the brazen altar. The first step took the one who entered to the altar. It was specifically “the altar of burnt offering.” As such it was a solemn sight. Fire blazed there. Victims died there. Blood was shed there.

Again, as with all other things, the twofold substance of which it was made proclaims the twofold nature of our Lord. The wood typifies His Manhood. As Man, the Lord never departed from that dependency and trust which was man’s place. Wood is used over and over in order that we may never forget it.

But it is now combined with brass. All within the house is gold: all here is brass. If the altar were all brass, it would be too heavy for a journeying people to carry. If it were all wood it could not survive the fire. Hence the union fits the destined purpose. We see the Lord, then, as the lowly Man and mighty God. The God-man saves because as Man He could take the sinner’s place, and as God bear all the burning wrath of God due man’s many sins. The overlay of brass was to indicate our Lord’s ability to endure all the fire of God’s wrath against sin.

The form of the altar was square. This speaks first of its massive solidity. No storm could move it. The Lord would stand in immovable strength against all the fury of hell and all the rage of wicked men. Also, being square, the altar faced every quarter of earth with the same front. The scope of our Lord’s grace is “all the world” and “every creature under Heaven.” It is a universal setting forth of divine grace to all men everywhere.

Horns branched out at the four corners. These speak of subduing power—power unique to our Lord’s Person to break every form of opposition whether from men or demons. There was no weak corner. Nothing could overcome Him. He was more than equal to all that was set against Him. These horns were also a refuge. The sword of justice lost its power when a man grasped and held the horns of the altar. It was a place of safety and security within our Lord’s protecting arms.

The main purpose of the altar was to receive burnt offerings. Each and every day, and all through the day, flames ascended. Christ is seen in all this blaze of fire. As the Altar, He sustains Himself as the Sacrifice. He is the Altar. He is the Sacrifice. He is the fire-applying Priest. All is divine. All things point to Christ as our All in all.

“The grate of network of brass” is of special interest. It was inside the altar. I think at times we overemphasize or perhaps think too much of our Lord’s external sufferings imposed by ungodly men inspired by the cruel hate of Satan. But God’s wrath against sin went down into the innermost recesses of His being. The source of sin in man lies inwardly in the center of the heart of man. It was in His inward parts that the real atoning suffering of our Lord was endured. That was where the fire of judgment was most intense. But “the grate of network of brass” endured it.

But this altar does not only speak of God’s judgment against all that was offensive to Him. That was necessary to provide any basis for redemption. This also was a sweet-savor offering. Everything that rose up as a sacrifice from this altar rose as a sweet-savor offering. Everything that rose up as a sacrifice from this altar rose as a sweet savor because of the perfections in which Christ offered Himself.

The Lord Jesus is the only Altar to which we must cling with faith, love, and hope. Satan presents his counterfeits. Men build them with sin-soiled hands, but it must be Christ or nothing. Rome speaks of altars but, alas, treads down the real Altar’s truth. The Roman altars are built with high steps for man to climb upward with painful self-denials and all manner of external rites, which have no basis in Scripture. This is all Satan’s fraud and deceit. Heaven’s saving Altar is Christ Jesus the Lord—and He alone.

O Lord, what wondrous love, what grace did Thee contain
To come from Heaven above to bear our curse and pain!
From manger to the cross enduring hate and sin,
All else esteeming loss our wayward souls to win:
Nought stay’d Thy love—no sorrows, no taunts, no outrage sore;
Not all the fiery arrows of Satan’s wrath and pow’r—
Not all the stormy billows of judgment’s dreadful hour!

I’ll praise Thee, gracious Lord, because that cross of Thine
Removed sin’s grievous load, and wrought a work divine
Whereon I rest my soul, and wonder, and adore,
As I Thy grace behold, and all God’s love explore—
Explore its depths beneath me, its height, its length, its breadth:
A Love whose flow so mighty, thro’ life, thro’ death, thro’ wrath,
To God hath brought full glory, and life from out of death!

A. T. Eberhard