“Into His Courts”
II.) Vs. 1-8 Sacrifice and offering
III.) Vs. 9-19 Coming to the Lord
IV.) Vs. 20-21 Led by the Spirit
God views the tabernacle form the inside out, just as He does us as well. It never ceases to amaze me that we always try to put our best foot forward. God is not impressed with what impresses us. In this chapter we move from the tabernacle to the courtyard and the items there. You will notice a change in the materials of construction from the gold and sliver to bronze. There is a phenomenon that is suggested by the change in material. The further you move from inside of the tabernacle, which is gold the materials change to silver then bronze. The Holy place which was that 15 feet by 45 feet structure emphasizes the person of Christ were as the court speaks of the work of Christ. This is the natural progression, as we shall see. We see three specific things again they are from God’s perspective looking at the things closest to Him and moving outward. Between the tabernacle and the entrance to the Holy Place was the Bronze altar. Then the next thing we see is the court it’s self and lastly outside we see the oil to light the lamp. The more I think about this the more I see the work of the Holy Spirit. If you look at this from mans perspective in reverse order you will see what I mean. Oil for the lamp speaks of the Holy Spirit in this case leading us into a relationship to the Lord. As we bring the oil the Holy Spirit is guiding us into the court of the tabernacle. There is only one entrance and all that is seen as we approach is a pure white fence. Upon entering the gate, the first thing that we see is the bronze altar of sacrifice and before we can draw near to the Lord we realize that without the shedding of innocent blood we can not come any closer.
II.) Vs. 1-8 Sacrifice and offering
Vs. 1-2 In Hebrew the word “altar” has at its root the word, which means, “killing place”. Amazing how we have sanitized words like altar. To us an altar is a beautifully decorated table in a church. To the Jews it was a brass box that was covered with blood where an animal sacrifice was bound to for their sins. This was the largest of the seven pieces of furniture in the tabernacle. It was almost large enough to hold all the other pieces. According to the measurement which puts a cubit at around 18 inches, from the tip of the middle finger to that of the elbow. The brazen altar would have been 7 feet 6 inches square by 4 feet 6 inches high; it sort of looked like a big box.
Again it was made out of acacia wood, which again speaks of Jesus as we have seen before. On top was four prongs or horns that reached out in each direction. The purpose of these we are told in Ps. 118:27 were to, “Bind the sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar.” Back in 1968 they excavated a stone altar in the southern area of Israel near Arad with these same dimensions.
Vs. 3-5 To get a picture then you have to imagine a hollow box 7 feet 6 inches square with a height of 4 feet 6 inches and inside about ½ way down was a grate so that the ashes could fall through. This box would be setting up on a dirt mound with steps leading to it. All of the utensils were made out of bronze and they were used to make sure that the sacrifice was thoroughly burned and to pick up the ashes afterword.
Vs. 6-8 The last features of this brazen altar was like everything else in the tabernacle to make it portable. That meant that what took place on that altar was to be done no matter where the location was. So 2 ½ feet down on the inside was a bronze grate under which the priests were to keep a continual fire burning. The ashes of the burnt offering fell through the grate and both the ashes of the animal with that of the wood were collected and carried out side the camp.
So what does all this picture? It’s early in the day and you start out from your tent as you leave the dark tents you see in the distance this beautiful white fence. It stands in stark contrast to all that is around it, this sea of humanity dwelling in the hopelessly drab black tents. You can see the rectangular structure above the fence line covered in a gray waterproof skin. As you move around this white fence which is about ½ a football field in length you notice that there is only one entrance. It is a beautifully decorated curtain and as you go in the first thing that you notice is this brazen altar. That’s right a “killing place” with smoke rising above. You have come to get close with God, you have come to behold His beauty in the Holy place. You have come to hang around the mercy seat but before you can go there you must stop at the “killing place” where an innocent animal is going to have its blood shed for you. Then it is going to have its entire flesh turned into ashes. You could not get any closer to God unless you stopped here first.
The way into the presence of God always starts where an innocent victim has died for a guilty sinner. The Jew would not ever attempt their journey into the tabernacle apart from bringing an animal. The priest would be waiting at the gate to make sure that the animal was without spot or blemish. And seeing that he was the priest each day would wash the sacrifice then he would lay his hands upon its head thus transferring his guilt and sin to the sacrifice. Think now of Jesus at His baptism by John the Baptist. John had been baptizing all day the baptism of repentance. One by one men and women came into that water, as they did they came confessing their sin and John would place his hands on their heads as they went under the water. It was symbolic, as their confessed sins stayed in the water. Then at the end of the day came Jesus, He came up to John but there were no sins to confess and John hesitated, “I have need to be baptized by You!” he said. But Jesus reassured him saying, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” John was acting as the priest and Jesus the perfect sacrifice as all of mans sins were transferred to Jesus. This same picture was repeated three years later at the cross. What is the cross but a killing place! Today we see folks warring crosses but how many of us understand that they are warring a “killing place” around their neck?
Look again at the position of the brazen altar. It was not outside the gate; it was the first thing you saw as you came inside. Hebrews 11:6 reminds us that, “without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” We must come to God believing that He is, (inside the fence), before we see the brazen altar, (the rewarder of those who diligently seek Him). According to Rom. 12:1-2 “that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Look at that cross again, for by it is the only access to the presence of the Lord. It has become popular to ware them, tattoo them, stick them on our cars, ware them on our clothing but it is a rare thing in deed to daily come to that “killing place”. Folk’s at the entrance of everyone of our relationships with God the Father stands a door way that is a cross, innocent blood was poured out there so that you could enter in. I pray we never lose the since of ah at the “killing place”.
III.) Vs. 9-19 Coming to the Lord
Vs. 9-15, 17-19 God instructs Moses to put up a courtyard of fine white linen. The area was 150 feet by 75 feet and 7 feet high. The pillars, which would hold up the white linen fence, were to be inner spaced about every 7 feet 5 inches. The bases of them were of bronze with a silver top and silver hooks to hang the white linen.
Vs. 16 There was only one gate as I said earlier but it was rather large being 30 feet. It was made up of the same blue, purple and scarlet yarn as we have seen through out. The fact that this fence was white reminds of the Holiness of God. Today people have trivialized a relationship with God. Everybody claims a relationship with God and all roads empty into the same pound. Yet Jesus did not say this instead He said in John 10:1, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.” Christianity sits at the center of humanity like the tabernacle did amongst the Israelite camp. It is beautiful and inviting, it stands in stark contrast to the world and tents that were around it. Folks, make no mistake this courtyard served two purposes:
- It kept people out: It was by its very nature designed to keep folks that were just seeking out of curiosity out. If a person wanted to come in some other way, then the One Way of the 30-foot gate then they were not going to get in. They could come by way of the gate and the gate was made more attractive then the rest of the courtyard so as to draw them. Jesus spoke of this in Matt. 7:22-23 where He says that, “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name? And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” You see to let people can in another way is to give them a false since of security. The courtyard was to make sure that they could not fool themselves into thinking that they could no God by some other way.
- Second, it made sure that they came in trough the gate: Jesus said, “narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” God wanted them to realize that they had to come by way of the death of an innocent because of their sin and rebellion. It was because of the structure of these courts and the gate that the Psalmist wrote Psalm’s like, 84:2 “My soul longs, yes, even faints for the courts of the LORD; My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.” (84:10) “For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God Than dwell in the tents of wickedness.” (Ps. 96:8) “Give to the LORD the glory due His name; Bring an offering, and come into His courts.”
So you can see the longing of the courts of God and they knew that the way in was by way of the gate and into the brazen alter to offer a sacrifice. But that was the end of it they could come no further. They sang songs of joy but all they could ever do is come into the courts. Yet, now because of Jesus, we can come all the way into His presence through a Living way. When I read these Psalms I realize that for these Jews the highest activity was worshiping God. Oh how they appreciated being able to come into His courts. Then I realize that for the most part I don’t ever think of the access that I now have to God. Where is my song of joy about being able to enter into the Most Holy place and sit at the right by the mercy seat every day? I must say that I am saddened by my attitude.
Further more as we have discussed this tabernacle moved with them. God was showing them that we only come to Him because He first came to us. Jesus told us in Matt. 11:28-30 “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
IV.) Vs. 20-21 Led by the Spirit
Vs. 20-21 Here we are told of where the oil for the golden lampstand was to come from. The priests were to attend to the lamps from mourning to night, as the light was never to go out. The oil was to be gathered from pressed olive oil and not beaten. If you go to a store to day you will see on the shelves different types of olive oil. There are the bottles that just say, “olive oil” on them. This is still pure olive oil but it still has water in it as well so the flavor is watered down and it won’t burn as well. Then there is virgin olive oil and it to has been pressed from green olives and they have gotten more of the water out of it. Lastly there is the bottles that say “pure virgin olive oil”, these are the most expensive because the water has been removed. The best oil is made from fruit gathered about November or December, when it has begun to change color but before it has become black. The berry in the more advanced state yields more oil, but it is of an inferior quality.
The olive oil for the lampstand speaks of the Holy Spirit and speaks of the work of the Holy Spirit is to draw us to the cross of Christ. Further more in the life of every believer we are reminded of the Zechariah’s words, “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ Says the LORD.” God never wants us to run out either. He has supplied us with a continual flow of the Holy Spirit so that Christ’s flame will burn brightly in our lives. He even trims our wicks so that we can be on fire. Paul reminds us that we now are, “light in the Lord, so we ought to walk as children of light.”