As we continue our tour of the Tabernacle of Moses, the Torah takes us next to the bronze altar of sacrifice just inside the tabernacle’s door. Everything occurring in the tabernacle revolved around this altar—EVERYTHING!
This fact is highly significant, since this altar points to the “altar” of the cross on which Yeshua the Messiah died for our sins. This is one truth that the mainstream church has gotten wonderfully right: the cross and what happened there is the central point of the gospel message.
One cannot read the writings of the apostles and fail to see this unless one is sadly spiritually naive and spiritually blind!
Exodus 27:1–8, An altar. As we continue our tour of the Tabernacle of Moses, the Torah takes us next to the bronze altar of sacrifice just inside the tabernacle’s door. Everything occurring in the tabernacle revolved around this altar—EVERYTHING! This fact is highly significant, since this altar points to the “altar” of the cross on which Yeshua the Messiah died for our sins. This is one truth that the mainstream church has gotten wonderfully right: the cross and what happened there is the central point of the gospel message. One cannot read the writings of the apostles and fail to see this unless one is sadly spiritually naive and spiritually blind!
Just inside the door of the tabernacle was the altar of sacrifice. It was made of acacia wood overlaid with bronze, which is a prophetic picture of Yeshua the Messiah bearing the judgment for men’s sins on the cross. The blood of the sacrifice was poured out on the ground at the base of the altar symbolically picturing Yeshua shedding his blood at the cross. Two lambs were offered at the altar morning and evening (Exod 29:38–42). This pictures our need to come humbly before our Father in heaven morning and evening in prayerful devotion as living sacrifices to confess our sins, to praise and thank him for saving us from the penalty of our sins, which is death (Ps 51:16–17; Heb 13:15; 1 John 1:7–9; Rom 6:23).
The Altar of Sacrifice in More Details. Upon understanding that the Person and work of Yeshua is the way into spiritual life, light and truth, one must also recognize that one’s sin liability keeps one from a having personal relationship with one’s Creator. The broken fellowship with our Father in heaven due to our uncleanness because of our sin is the reason for this. For one to have a relationship with a sinless, perfect, totally set-apart or holy Elohim,the sin problem has to be dealt with. Sin must be atoned for along with the resulting guilt, shame and penalty (i.e. death) that sin brings. In the Tabernacle of Moses, the liability and effect of sin is dealt with at the altar of the red heifer outside the gate of the tabernacle, which represents the work of Yeshua at the cross (Heb 13:10–13). There one was purified and made ready to come into the actual tabernacle. Upon doing so, the first thing one encountered when entering the tabernacle was the altar of sacrifice where both kosher animals and unleavened bread (made of the finest flour and the purest olive oil) were offered, and a wine libation was poured out twice daily (morning and afternoon, Num 28:1–8). These all picture the body of Yeshua being broken and slain for sinful man and our need to “eat” his body and “drink” his blood in a spiritual sense to which the communion elements of the Lord’s supper taken on the Passover during the seder meal symbolically point (John 6:35–58).
The fire on the altar was to be kept burning at all times; it was never to go out (Lev 6:13). Additionally, before ministering at the altar, a priest was to always wash his hands and feet at the bronze laver (Exod 30:17–21), and to put on the priestly robes (Lev 6:10). These activities are prophetic shadows that point to the ministry of Yeshua before the throne of the Father in heaven. There, as our heavenly high priest, he, in an ultimate state of purity and perfection is ever making intercession for his saints and reconciling us to the Father (Eph 2:18; 1 Tim 2:5; Heb 7:25–26; 8:1–2, 5–6; 9:11–22; 10:19–22; 1 John 2:1).
At the twice daily offering (the morning shacharit and the afternoon minchah), a yearling lamb was sacrificed on the north side of the altar, or its left side as viewed from the holy of holies, which represents the throne of Elohim. (Furthermore, north is significant since Scripture seems to indicate that the third heaven where Elohim dwells is in the northern region of the sky [Isa 14:13].) The lamb’s blood was then sprinkled round about the altar as an atonement for sin, while a wine libation was poured out onto the altar, and unleavened bread was cooked and offered at the same time on the altar (Num 28:1–8; Lev 1:11). The fact that the lamb was killed on the north or left side of the altar is prophetically significant, since it points to Yeshua’s first coming as the Suffering Servant Messiah, the Lamb of Elohim. The left side is significant, since the left hand (usually the weaker hand), in Jewish thought, represents grace and mercy, while the right hand (usually the stronger hand) represents strength, power and judgment. At his first coming, Yeshua was like a lamb led to the slaughter (Isa 52:13–53:12, especially note 53:7), as he spilled his blood as an atonement for men’s sins (Isa 53:5–6,10). Upon his death and glorious resurrection, he returned to heaven where he took his rightful place as the right arm of YHVH Elohim (Acts 7:55–56; Rom 8:34). At Yeshua’s second coming, he will come, this time not as a lamb led to the slaughter, but in power and glory as a regnal warrior on a white stallion to judge the wicked and to reward the righteous. After that, he will assume his rightful position as King of kings and Lord of lords over the earth during the Millennium as revealed in the Book of Revelation.
Now let’s consider the actual construction of the altar of sacrifice to see how it pointed prophetically to Yeshua in other ways. First, it was constructed of acacia wood overlaid in bronze. Wood and trees represent men (Ps 1:1, 3; Jer 5:14). Yeshua was a carpenter. Second, bronze speaks of judgment. Yeshua, a man who worked in wood (representing humanity) as a carpenter and died on a tree and took the fire of Elohim’s judgment upon himself for humanity’s sins.
Next, all the animals slaughtered in the sacrificial system were similar, in modern terms, to the minimum amount due on a credit card statement of a bill so huge one cannot possible pay the balance; therefore, one can only afford to pay the minimum amount due until somehow, miraculously, someone will step in to pay the full amount. Yeshua paid that monstrously huge sin debt for each of us at the cross.
The very first sacrifice offered on the bronze altar was lit by fire from heaven (Lev 9:22–24). This signifies that the blood of Yeshua delivers us from the wrath of Elohim, and that our Father in heaven thankfully accepts Yeshua’s offering for man’s sin (Rom 5:9).
YHVH sent fire from heaven once to light the altar of sacrifice (Lev 9:22–24), but it was up to the Levitical priests to maintain that fire. The fire had to be constantly fed and the old ashes had to be removed to keep the fire burning. Similarly, when a person is redeemed spiritually and born again by the Spirit of Elohim, he has to maintain the spiritual fire in his life to ensure that it doesn’t die out due to lack of spiritual fuel, or get choked due to the ashes of the religious traditions of men (Mark 7:9–13), dead works or the cares of this world (Matt 13:22). Such are those who have grown lukewarm in their faith (Rev 3:14–21) and have lost the first love of Yeshua (Rev 2:4) and the joy of their salvation (Ps 51:12).
Offerings were made on the altar of sacrifice in the morning and in the evening. This teaches us that minimally twice daily the saint needs to come before YHVH’s throne in heaven and at the altar to there leave their prayers and confess their sins (1 John 1:9), while drawing close to our loving Creator in communion and devotion of service to him.