The Brazen Laver

or Christ’s Unfinished Work. (Ex. 30:17-21. John 17:17. Eph. 5:25-26).

“For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us” (Heb. 9:24). Then as the priest entering the holiest with the blood of the sin-offering, typified Christ going up to the right hand of God by His own blood, it is clear that the way into the Tabernacle, will set forth the way to heaven.

There were two vessels which stood in the way in to the Tabernacle, and whoever will enter must have to do with both, they were the Altar and the Laver, and these two vessels speak of what is absolutely necessary to fit the sinner for the presence of God. The Altar speaks the title, the blood of Christ, and the Laver of the fitness, the new birth.

Were it possible to separate these two things, (which it is not) what would be the result? Suppose a case, a man has lived in sin all his life, he has found all his pleasure in the theatre, the ball room, the card party and such things. He has been deluded by the thought that the minister, the priest and the church will look after the matter of his salvation at last, and that he shall get a passport to glory, when he has to leave the world. Suppose such an one could go there, how would he feel? He did not enjoy the society of Christians on earth, he shunned them, what will he do in heaven? He did not want to hear about Christ on earth, would he want His company in heaven? He loved the theatre, the dance and the race track on earth, and there are none of these things in heaven, and his unchanged nature would crave for them.

Such an one would discover too late, that he was at the feast, without the wedding garment, that the new birth was as great a necessity as the blood, and heaven would not be heaven to him. But again we say these two things cannot be divorced, the moment a soul trusts the precious blood of Christ he passes from death to life, is born of God, and so has both the title and the nature.

The Altar speaks of the finished work of Christ, the Laver, of the unfinished work. The Altar says: “Without shedding of blood is no remission” (Heb. 9:22). The Laver says: “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14). The Altar is Christ dying to make us clean, and the Laver is Christ living to keep us clean.

When We Get The Laver.

The infidel talks in an unintelligent way, about the Bible being the work of priests. He might as well, and with as much reason ascribe the work of creation to them. Again and again in the instructions about the making of the Tabernacle, we have to admire the wisdom of God, in so giving these instructions that they become, as it were, watermarks of inspiration. Had God followed the usual order in connection with the Laver that He did with the other vessels (there is one other exception to that of which we shall speak later), then we should have had the Laver just before the Brazen Altar. It may seem strange that it is not so. This is one of two vessels which brings Christ before in His priestly work for His people, a work we need as much as we needed His work on the cross.

But if Christ were on earth, He would not be a Priest. So in order for the type to set the truth before us clearly, as we get it in the New Testament, God first speaks of the Altar—the death of Christ; then follows two chapters, the 28th and 29th, dealing with the consecration of the priests. It is just this: we have that which is a plain type of the death of Christ, and then we are invited to behold a priest fitted to appear in the presence of God—type of Christ in resurrection, carrying on His work as the High Priest of His people. Thus you see this order in which the Laver is given was necessary to set forth the truth.

Where The Brass For The Laver Was Obtained. (Ex. 38:8).

Most suggestive are the different sources from which the brass for the Altar and the brass for the Laver were obtained. In Num. 16:we read of the sin of Korah, Dathan and Abiram in seeking to usurp the priesthood. Two hundred and fifty men are judged by God and the 250 censers in which they had offered incense, are gathered up at the command of God, and made into bread plates for covering the Altar. They were thus connected with the judgment of sin, and fittingly belong to the Brazen Altar.

Very different is the source whence came the brass for the Laver. The women freely gave up the polished plates of brass which served as mirrors. That they valued them highly we doubt not, but they will surrender them for the Tabernacle.

This connection between the brazen mirrors and the Laver is most instructive, since the Laver speaks of the written Word. The Epistle of James speaks of a mirror (James 1:23-24). Of the man that comes to the Word of God and just reads it and goes away and forgets—he says, “He is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass, for he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.” Has it ever struck you how telling that is? There are some of us who have been looking at our faces for nearly half a century, and we cannot remember them, while memory recalls those of hosts of our friends. I don’t know how it is with you, but if I had the gift of an artist I could not paint my own face from memory, nor even make a respectable attempt at it, yet I could paint the faces of my friends. This is just like God’s Word and our hearts. We go to that Word of God, we get a faithful portrayal of what we are, and have been humbled thereby,, but it soon passes away. Alas! how many look into this Book and forget what manner of men they are. The Word of God is like a mirror, and to see ourselves aright, we need to come often to it.

No Measurements Given; Why?

The Laver speaks, as I have said, of the Word of God, used by Christ upon His people for their sanctification. And you observe there are no measurements given for it. We are not told that it was so high, or so large in circumference. This is very significant. You may ask, why? Let me remind you again that the Altar had measurements, and these speak of the claims of the throne of God, measured and met by Christ. In relation to sin, Christ was the only one who knew exactly how to weigh those claims, and how to satisfy them. But when we come to the Laver, we have to do with the claims of the Word of God upon His people, therefore the unmeasured Laver is as eloquent as the measured Altar. Where—if I may so put it—where is the child of God who has measured that Laver? Where is the one who can say, “I know the claims of the Word of God, and have fully met them”? No, dear friends, the very omission of measurements in connection with the Laver, would rebuke any such thought as any sinner of Adam’s race, even after being saved by grace, saying, “I have done all that has been commanded me to do; I am perfectly sanctified.” When anyone claims to be perfectly sanctified, in any other sense than that which is true of all believers, such as we read of in 1 Cor. 1:2, 30, and 6:11, which applies to every child of God on earth, even although there is much that is wrong in the walk and ways of many of them—I say, when I meet a man who says that he lives without sin, who dares to take such a stand before God, I see a man who would measure the Laver, a man who has so deceived himself, that he has the presumption to say that he has perfectly met the claims of that Laver. But what would a man who judges himself in the light of God say? “I don’t know that I have done anything that is contrary to God’s will”; or, in the words of 1 Cor. 4:4, “For I know nothing against myself, yet am I not hereby justified, but He that judgeth me is the Lord.” Practical sanctification is by the word. “Sanctify them through Thy truth; Thy Word is truth” (John 17:17). For any to claim that they are perfectly sanctified in this sense, is to claim perfect knowledge of God’s will. Paul did not so measure the Laver, for he says, “Now I know in part.” “Abundance of revelations” were given unto him, marvellous openings up of the truth of God, a wondrous grasp of the mystery of God and of Christ, and yet he said, “I know in part” (1 Cor. 13:12). To say that I know all God’s Word would be the greatest folly. No! when we deal with the Altar we deal with something that met God’s claims, claims which Christ only could and did perfectly meet. But in the Laver we are dealing with the claims of the Word of God on the Christian: and the Christian has never fully met them. And so the Laver is unmeasured, and this surely tells us that this blessed Book, the Book that so many are now relegating to the shelf, the Book that is considered only to be fit for people in their second childhood—this precious Book is a great deep, something, that if we were to live as long as Methuselah, and walked with God every moment of that time, we could then say we had only been skimming the surface of it. Dear Robert Chapman, of Barnstaple, who read God’s Word as probably few have read it (for he was then about ninety years of age, and was converted to God when he was a comparatively young man), and for some seventy years he had made it his business in a way (shall I say) few Christians have done, to walk with God and read His Word—yet he spoke of “simply skimming the surface” of that blessed Book of God. Oh! how very apt then it is, that the Laver should have no measurements given.

Christ As Our Laver.

In Ephesians 5:25-26 we have the Altar and the Laver. “Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for it.” That is the altar work of Christ, and it is in the past. “That He might sanctify and cleanse it by the washing of water by the word.” Here you have both the laver and the water. Christ, the Living Word is the laver, and the Written Word is the water. Just as water removes defilement by displacement, so the Word of God sanctifies, separates us from the world, whether in its religious or ungodly aspects, and cleanses, leads us to put away all in our walk and behaviour which is contrary to the will of God.

A Picture Of The Laver Work Of Christ. (John 13:1-10).

Now turn to John 13:1-15. Here we have one of the most precious openings up of the truth of the Laver that we find in the whole Book. In this chapter we have the Lord Jesus Christ anticipating His present work. The Gospel of John gives us two samples of Christ’s present work. Chapter 17 gives His work as representing us before the Father, and in that chapter the Lord speaks as if the Cross were behind Him, and He now with the Father. But in chapter 13:we have the other side of His work, that is, His work towards us, His work as the One who sanctifies and cleanses with “the washing of water by the Word.” During the progress of supper (R.V.), Judas having gone (for Judas needed more than washing his feet: Judas had never been to the Altar, Judas was an unregenerate man who never knew Christ as his personal Saviour), as we read that receiving the passover sop, which was before the Lord’s Supper, the membrance feast that we now observe—he went immediately out. Then the Lord washes the feet of His eleven disciples, and as He is doing so, it just seems as if Peter cannot contain himself. He thinks, “I could never have believed that John would have allowed our Master to do that; when He comes to my feet, I will not allow it.” So Peter says, when the Lord comes to him, “Dost Thou wash my feet?” and the Lord replied, “What I do, thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter.” In America, we have got sects that practice literal feet-washing. If the Lord had meant it for a literal ordinance to be observed, He would not have said, “What I do, thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter.” What does He mean? It is as if He had said, “I am giving you an illustration of a work that I am going to carry on toward you, after I take My place at the right hand of My Father. I am going to use the Word to sanctify and cleanse. You cannot understand that now, but you will, after I have gone, and when the Holy Ghost has come. You will know it all by-and-bye.” Peter was still so full of his human feelings, that he does not see the gentle rebuke. So he says again, “Thou shalt never wash my feet.” That was going very far indeed—“Thou shalt never wash.” The reply of the Lord to this statement reached Peter’s heart. “If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with Me.” Again Peter answers this time and says, “Oh! Lord, rather than that I have no part with Thee, wash my head, hands and feet, wash me all over.” It is worthy of note that the Lord did not say to Peter, “If I wash thee not, thou has no part in. Me.” Peter had a part in Christ; that, not even the devil could touch. In Christ speaks of position, with Christ of condition. In Christ is the believer’s standing, with Christ tells state. In Christ speaks of where Christ has put His people, with Christ speaks of association, of companionship, of being in a condition to enjoy communion with Him.

The Priestly Washings.

Only the Priests had to do with this Laver. All for whom Christ acts as the One that sanctifies and cleanses, are His people, they are priests. He does not thus act for the world. He died for sinners, and as sinners we meet Him at the Altar, but as saints He deals with us at the Laver. The priest has a title because he is a priest, and has also brought his sacrifice to the Altar, but if he refuses to wash his hands and feet at this Laver, what is the result? He cannot go into the holy place to breathe the fragrance of that sweet incense, or walk in the light of that seven-branched lampstand, or eat of the loaves on the table. All these are his portion, all belong to him, but their enjoyment is only available if he is clean, if he has washed his hands and feet. If he does not so wash for all practical purposes, he might as well not be a priest at all. Now, let me say that if you know you are saved, that you are a child of God, then the precious blood of Christ has done its work. While that is true, yet there may be priests among us who have not been in the holy place for long—that is, in fellowship with God, for this depends on our condition. How many Christians are like Peter, saying, “Thou shalt never wash my feet,” and thus deprive themselves of the privileges of their priesthood.

Shall we turn now to Hebrews, chapter 10:22. We read, “Let us draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience.” “From an evil conscience”—this is the result of being at the Altar. “Our bodies washed with pure water”—this is the result of using the Laver. A true child of God may sit at the table of the Lord, and yet be practically far from the presence of God, far removed from the enjoyment of it. Now let us understand this. There is no such thing as entering “within the veil” in the enjoyment of sweet and hallowed worship, if a single unconfessed sin is on the conscience. That will keep you out, just as effectually as unwashed hands and feet kept out the priests. When the Lord Jesus said, “If I wash thee not, thou has no part with Me,” there may have been in His mind this precious type. Here is a priest with a title as clear as a sunbeam, but he does not wash his hands and his feet, and so cannot enter the holy place. To have a part “with Christ” means to be able in the power of the Spirit of God to come into His presence, clean and fit, with every sin confessed and forgiven.

Look how Peter again errs! When he says, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head,” he wants to be bathed all over. The Lord answers him, “He that is bathed, needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit” (R.V.) “He that is bathed.” What does that mean? Away back in Exodus 29:we read that Moses took Aaron and his sons and “bathed them” at the door of the Tabernacle. That bathing was not repeated the next day, nor the following day, nor again: that bathing was once and for all. Here the Lord refers to that, and says, “He that is bathed, needeth not save to wash his feet.” That is to say, the priest who was bathed once for all at the gate of the Tabernacle, has to wash his hands and feet as he goes into the holy place. No matter if he go there, or from there to the Altar, ten times a day, as often as he passes that Laver he must wash thereat. Thus God would teach us that both for worship and for service, defilement must be cleansed away, and Christ as our Laver is available for this cleansing.

In 1 John 2:1-2, we read, “My little children, these things write I unto you that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” “That ye sin not.” This should be the aim of every child of God, it should ever be the deep purpose of his heart. But there is a contingency for which God has made provision, and it keeps us from being utterly cast down when we fail. “If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). “Faithful and just.” What does that mean? If there is a child of God in this meeting to-night who is conscious of departure from God having taken place, of sin having come in and been indulged, and who feels like saying, “I have confessed the sin, yet I am not restored, I am not happy.” Notice it does not say, “if we confess our sins, He is gracious and merciful,” but “if we confess our sins, He is faithful.” We exhort the unsaved to cling to God’s Word, not to take stock of their feelings. We exhort Christians to do the same. If you honestly confess your sin, you have the right to believe that it is forgiven. He is “faithful,” He has given His Word for it; and “just,” because of the work of the Cross.

Now in that precious picture in John 13 we have the Lord doing in figure what we read of in Ephesians 5:26. He “gave Himself” that He might “sanctify and cleanse.” When a child of God sins, Christ uses this Word to point out his departure. When a child of God is connected with anything contrary to the mind of God, this Word is used by Him to point out the wrong. When a child of God is led away into any teaching contrary to this Book, He points out that false doctrine, and by returning to Him, the Word removes from him his defilement through contact with error. Just as water displaces defilement, so the Word of God applied in the power of the Holy Spirit by Christ, our Great High Priest at the right hand of God, cleanses the believer, and removes from his walk and his ways, everything that is contrary to God’s will. The Word so applied and obeyed takes the believer out of un-scriptural associations, out of unholy alliances, out from fellowship with the world. It washes him out from these things. It cleanses and sets him apart.

An Example For Us.

The Lord Jesus Christ would have us do as He did. What does that mean? Just as He loves us too well to suffer any sin upon us, because it robs us of communion with Him, even as defiled hands and feet would have kept the priest from his portion in the Holiest, so will unconfessed sin keep the believer from his portion with Christ—so He says, “I have given you an example: as now I have done to you, so do ye to one another.” When you do it, go by the example before you. How did he do it? “He laid aside His garment and girded Himself with a towel.” He took the lowly place of a servant. When He had washed and carefully wiped their feet, having removed all trace of defilement, they looked as if they had never had any defilement at all. Would it not be very blessed, if amongst believers there was much more of this? And how very much better would it be if, instead of advertising each other’s failures, there was a desire to do this lowly work that Christ sets us the example of. It would very often result in restoration, whereas going to a fallen brother like a detective or a police officer, only stiffens the back of the poor backslider, and perhaps leads him to resent such service, and to make his state of departure more permanent.

No Staves.

One word more. We do not read of any “staves” by which it was carried from one place to another. You would think, once set down on the ground, it was to remain there. So by omitting any mention of these, it becomes all the more perfect as a type. The Laver is for the earth; we will not need it in heaven. In the temple built by Solomon (2 Chron. 4:1-5), the Brazen Sea took the place of the Laver. In Rev. 4:6, we read of a “sea of glass like unto crystal” before the Throne. It is not, as in the temple, a sea of water, for there is no defilement to cleanse, but it is a sea of glass, to reveal perfection, the perfection of Christ’s work in as well as upon His glorified people.