Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. THE ALTAR OF SACRIFICE.
1. The situation of the altar.
(1) It faced the worshipper as he entered. The cross of Christ must be held up before men, if they are to be brought nigh to God.
(2) It stood before the holy place, and had to be passed by all who entered there. The realisation of Christ's atonement for sin is the only path to God's presence.
2. The altar, on which the sacrifice for sin is laid, is the place of power. The horns, the symbol of Divine power. The gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation.
3. In Christ God gives us a place for accepted offerings. The altar was Israel's as well as God's: upon it were laid their offerings as well as those prescribed for the daily service and the great day of atonement. In Christ we are able to offer sacrifices that are well pleasing to God.
II. THE COURT OF THE TABERNACLE.
1. Its limits were appointed by God himself. The Church must be made no broader than his commandment makes it. In his own time he will make it conterminous with the world; but meanwhile we must obey his commandment and fulfil his purpose by making it conterminous with living faith.
2. It was for all Israel. Living faith in Christ should be a passport to all his churches.
3. How the court was formed -
(1) Its walls were made of fine linen. The distinction between the world and the Church is righteousness.
(2) The gate was formed of blue and purple and scarlet. Entrance is had not by man's righteousness, but by bowing beneath the manifested grace of God in Christ.
III. THE OIL FOR THE LAMPS.
1. It was the free-will offering of the people. The light of the world springs from the consecration of believers.
2. It was to be pure. Believers must keep themselves unspotted from the world.
3. It was to be beaten, not pressed, and thus be the finest which the olive could yield. The highest outcome of humanity is the Christ-like life.
4. The lamps were to burn always. Our light, the flame of love, must burn constantly before God, and its radiance be shed always before men.
5. The lamps were to be tended by the ministers of God. The aim of those who labour in weird and doctrine should be the development of Christ-like life, love to God and man. - U.
I. THE BRAZEN ALTAR (vers. 1-9).
1. Form of the altar. The altar was a foursquare case of shittim wood, five cubits long and five broad, made with four horns, and overlaid with plates of bronze. Round it, at some distance from the ground, was apparently a ledge, on which the priests stood when engaged with the sacrifices. We must suppose that the central part was filled with earth, or with the unhewn stones commanded in Exodus 20:24, 25. The "grate of network" of ver. 4, seems to us to have supported the ledge, or compass of ver. 5. Some take a different view of it.
2. Its horns. These are rightly understood as the points in which the force or virtue of the altar concentrated itself.
3. Its uses. It was -
(1) the place to which the people brought their offerings to God;
(2) the place at which reconciliation was made for sin;
(3) the place on which the parts of the sacrifices which belonged to God were consumed by fire.
Here, at the altar, were the victims slain; around the altar the atoning blood was poured or sprinkled; in the case of the sin offering, the blood was smeared upon the horns: with live coals from the altar did the priest replenish his censer when he went in to burn incense before the Lord. On this altar was laid the daily burnt-offering, together with the "sacrifices of righteousness," "the burnt-offering, and whole burnt-offering" (Psalm 51:19), by which the people expressed their consecration to God. Here were consumed the fat and choice parts of the peace-offerings, etc.
4. Its typical significance.
(1) The altar, as the place of atonement, reminded the worshipper of sin, and of his need of cleansing from sin's guilt. In this way, it pointed forward to Christ, in whom the whole ritual of sacrifice reaches its consummation.
(2) As the altar of burnt-offering, it taught the duty of unconditional and entire surrender to the will of God. This offering up of the whole being to God in inward consecration underlies the special acts of consecration symbolised in the shew-bread, in the lighted candlestick, and in the ascent of incense from the golden altar.
(3) As God's altar, it was a witness to the Divine readiness to pardon; yet a testimony to the stern truth that without shedding of blood there is no remission (Hebrews 9:22).
II. THE COURT OF THE TABERNACLE (vers. 9-20). On the general construction of the court, see the exposition. We have to view it as a spacious enclosure of a hundred cubits by fifty, its sides formed by linen hangings, five cubits in height, and supported by pillars of brass (bronze) five cubits apart, to which the hangings were attached by hooks and fillets of silver. The brazen altar stood in the forepart of the court; the tabernacle towards the rear. Between the brazen altar and the tabernacle was the laver. The design of this court was to furnish the people, who were precluded from entering the sanctuary, with a place in which they might still, though at some distance, personally appear before Jehovah. The court conferred a privilege, yet taught a lesson. The fact that he could approach no further than its precincts painfully reminded the Israelite that, as yet, the work of atonement was incomplete - that he still stood, because of his unholiness, at a great distance from God. In the gospel of Christ, these barriers are all done away with. - J.O.
1. The end of the ordinance. God desires that the light obtained from the lamps in his sanctuary be -
The best light possible. Such should be the light of the Christian life.
2. The means to this end.
(1) The lamps were to be fed with the best and purest oil. The Holy Spirit.
(2) The lamps were to be duly trimmed and ordered. Watchfulness, care. The light needs to be attended to. - J.O.
I. THAT THERE MIGHT BE A DUE CORRESPONDENCE BETWEEN THE LIGHT AND THE GLORY OF THE CANDLESTICK. The candlestick was composed of the most precious of all metals, and it had been fashioned by the hands of an artist Divinely chosen and inspired. Great, therefore, would have been the incongruity, if any but the steadiest and most brilliant light had shone forth from this candlestick. Indeed the provision of the very best material might seem to have been self-suggested and to require no commandment at all, did we not know how forgetful, how inconsiderate human nature is. Man needs to be kept up to the mark by sharp and frequent admonitions; else he will keep the best for himself, and let anything be put forward for such a mere formality as too often he reckons the service of God to be. Still it surely would not require much thought to perceive how disgraceful a dim light would be in connection with such a glorious fabric as the candlestick presented. But there is a more glorious fabric far than this candlestick, if we only consider each human life that comes into this world; if we only consider the riches and strength that are in each one of us by natural constitution. There is something very glorious about the natural life of man, in spite of its depravity, its miseries and its mortality; and God has given us the opportunity of still further glorifying our natural life in this world by offering to make us supports such as may aid in sustaining and diffusing the light he would shed abroad amongst men. When God puts his gospel into the charge of human beings he calls attention to the peculiar glory and eminence of our nature. The more faithful his servants have been to the gospel charge put into their hands, the more they have revealed how vile a thing humanity is. God wishes us in all our connection with him to be worthy of our humanity, and to keep ever in our thoughts the gulf that divides us from even the highest of the brutes. Man is never more truly human, never more fully an exponent of the peculiarities of his nature than when he is doing his best to reveal the saving light of God to men. The Christian, no matter what he may lack in such endowments as the world values, is the best kind of man; and the better Christian he becomes, the higher he stands in that best kind wherein he is already numbered.
II. THAT THERE MIGHT BE A DUE CORRESPONDENCE BETWEEN THE LIGHT AND THE GLORY OF THE MOST HOLY PLACE. From between the cherubim within the veil God shone forth when it was so required with a glory and impressiveness which no light of human invention could rival. But outside the veil the seven-branched candlestick was ever to be lighted in the night-time to symbolise the glorious illumination which came from Jehovah himself. How important, therefore, that the light should be the very best which man could afford l Nowhere in all the tents of Israel was there to be a brighter light than that which shone in the holy place. A symbol was needed of such light, instruction and wisdom, as are not to be found in the most sagacious and experienced of men, advising simply upon the grounds of human sagacity and experience. When we look at a Christian we must be able to look at one whose light, while it does not fail in a certain sense to glorify himself, glorifies still more his Father who is in heaven. Every Christian is meant to live so as to arrest the attention of men, and make them ask whence comes the power to inspire him with such remarkable motives and make him the agent of such remarkable effects. Whereas the humiliating confession is to be made that most Christian lives are lived on such a low level that one is led to ask "Is this all?" We read of remarkable manifestations and approaches of the Divine in the way of an incarnate Son of God, a resurrection of the dead, a descent into the Church of a life-giving and transforming Spirit, so that all believers may become new creatures in Christ Jesus; and then, when we look at these professed new creatures, and see how much remains unchanged, inveterate as ever, we ask "Is this all the product of Christ's appearance on the earthly scene?" It is a dreadful reproach that we should let our inconsistency and infirmity be made an excuse for unbelievers to mock at God. We ought to be so under Divine influences, as to combine in one the bright candlestick and the pure, rich oil; and then from us there might shine forth in a pure inviting radiance, a light such as would guide, and cheer while it guided, many a wanderer to God. - Y.