What the Tabernacle Typified
One can scarcely contemplate this peculiar structure with its various apartments, its strange furniture, its bloody sacrifices, and its mysterious rites without being impressed with the fact that it must be of symbolic significance, even if the Scriptures were silent as to the fact. We need have no doubt that the tabernacle was a type and therefore also symbolic to the Israelites. The writer to the Hebrews, after giving a description of the tabernacle, says, “Which was a figure for the time then present . . . But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come,  by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands” (Heb. 9:9 11). Also Jesus is described as “a minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man” (Heb. 8:2). And again Christ is spoken of as the “Apostle and High Priest,” as a “son over his own house; whose house are we” (Heb. 3: 1, 6). From these texts it is clear that as a house and as the dwelling place of God the tabernacle typified the true, spiritual “house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” (1 Tim. 3:15).
But let it be noticed that only as the house of God does it find its antitype in the church. As a means of worship and ceremonial or symbolic purification from sin, it typified the way by which today the sinner comes to God or obtains salvation through the precious blood of the true Lamb of God from the guilt of sin and depravity of the nature. Of the large number of New Testament texts that teach this, probably the following is sufficient for our present purpose: “Having therefore, brethren, holiness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; and having an high priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.” ( Heb. 10 :19 22 ) .
( Exod. 27: 9-19 )
Surrounding the tabernacle was a considerable space called the “court” enclosed by a high fence three hundred cubits around, or it was one hundred and fifty feet long by seventy five feet wide. This was a screen of linen cloth, and was not very different from what is commonly used in the East at the present time to enclose the private apartments of important persons. The linen curtains as already described were seven and one half feet high and were supported by posts, twenty on each side and ten on each end. These posts were probably of shittim wood, were five cubits  apart, stood in sockets of brass, and had chapters of silver and silver fillets, which were probably connecting rods between the posts from which the curtains were suspended. Whether the sockets beneath were for the purpose of keeping the posts upright is not certain; but we are told that there were pins and cords which probably were used for this purpose as a common tent is supported. In the court were located the brazen altar and the laver.
But what is the typical significance of the court? Into the court came the penitent Israelite to offer sacrifice for sin, to obtain the favor of God. Here he came for justification. Here at the altar of burnt offering he came to God. If, then, those who came into the ancient court of the tabernacle were seeking forgiveness through those symbolic sacrifices, they must be typical of those who are convicted of their sins and are coming to God for salvation through Christ. They have forsaken the outside world, but have not yet come into God’s church.
The Brazen Altar
( Exod. 27 :1-8; 38 :1-7)
The altar is doubtless the oldest of all religious institutions, and dates from the earliest dawn of human history. Doubtless Cain and Abel offered their respective offerings upon altars. Noah built an altar when he left the ark. At the first place Abraham stopped in the land of Canaan he built an altar to the Lord. These altars were of earth or of unhewn stone. Altars were common to heathen peoples —in Egypt, at Athens, among the American Indians of Mexico; and some of the ruins of the ancient Druids are supposed to be a kind of altar.
When God told Moses to make an altar of brass he was not introducing a new institution, but rather regulating the construction and use of an existing one. This altar of the tabernacle is called by various names, as the altar; the brazen altar (to distinguish it from the golden altar of the holy place); and the altar of burnt offering, probably because the burnt offering was that most commonly offered  offered there. It was the most used and probably the most important instrument of service in the tabernacle.
Its Structure.—The brazen altar was constructed of shittim wood overlaid with brass. As these materials were used considerably, it is of interest to give attention to them. This shittim wood is the desert acacia, a hard, close grained wood, very durable, and capable of taking a fine natural polish somewhat as our imported lignum vitae wood. The “brass” used for the altar and other parts of the tabernacle is understood as meaning copper, for we are told brass was not known to them. The altar was made “hollow of boards,” without top or bottom. In size it was to be five cubits, or seven and one half feet, in length and width, and four and one half feet, or three cubits, high. It was large enough to receive the largest animal and not too high for the ministering priests. Horns were to be shaped on the four corners. The purpose of these is unknown—unless we suppose the sacrifice was to be tied to them, this may be understood from Psa. 118:27: “Bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar.”
The altar had a compass and a grate of network of brass in the middle, also a ring in each of its four corners through which was run on either side a stave or bar, also overlaid with brass, as a means of carrying it. Some difference of opinion exists concerning the compass and the grate of brass. At least four different views are held. The most probable view seems to be that the compass was a mere crown or band around the top for ornamentation as on the golden altar, and that the grate was a “hearth” or “fireplace,” as it is rendered by the Septuagint, and was hung inside the altar midway between the bottom and the top. This grate was held in position by the rings in the corners, which passed through the corners of the altar to the outside, where the bars passed through them. Thus the grate would serve a valuable purpose; and it being supported by the loose bars, the ashes might have been sifted through by shaking the bars. The grate was thus one and one half cubits from the ground, which was also the height of the altar of incense and the mercy seat—probably  signifying that atonement, mercy, and communion are coordinate, that one can not exist without the other.
Its Meaning.—Neither the use nor the symbolic meaning of the altar can be understood apart from the sacrifice offered upon it. On the brazen altar was sprinkled the blood and were burned the bodies of animals as sacrifices to God, for the sins of the offerers. The sprinkling of the warm blood of the dying victim round about on the altar was an important part of the sacrifice, because it was the blood that atoned for the soul. After this the animal was skinned, cut in pieces, and all or part, according to the kind of sacrifice being offered, laid on wood on the altar and burned.
This act of sacrifice was very full of meaning. It was symbolic of vicarious atonement. When the sin burdened Israelite led the trembling lamb to the altar of Jehovah before the holy house, laid his hand upon it signifying that he was now identified with it—that the suffering for his sins was now laid upon it—cut its throat with his knife, while the priest hastily caught its blood in a basin and sprinkled it on God’s altar, after which its body was prepared and burned there, he must have been forcibly reminded of the awfulness of sin, the holiness of God, and of the great truth of propitiation by another if his sin was to be forgiven.
If the ancient Israelite saw no more than this in his offering of sacrifice it doubtless had a good effect. But the spiritual minded offerer doubtless saw dimly in this faint shadow that most glorious future reality, the Lamb of God suffering for the sins of the world. The altar then with the sacrifice on it typified the glorious atonement of our Lord Jesus Christ. As the blood of that animal was poured out in symbolic atonement, so Jesus’ precious blood, or life, was freely and willingly poured out for us. “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed…. The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all…. He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers  is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.” (Isa. 53:5 7). “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29). That the brazen altar with its offering typified Christ, the true offering for sin, is clear from many texts in the New Testament, especially in the Hebrew epistle.
The importance of the truth typified by the altar can not be overestimated. For atonement is the only possible means of forgiveness and acceptance by God. That ancient altar stood directly before the entrance to the house of God. It was directly in the line between the gate of the court and the ark of God in the holy of holies, signifying the great truth that we can not come to God except by Christ. “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, hut by me.” (John 14:6). “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12).
Neither is this requirement of atonement for pardon of sin an arbitrary requirement on God’s part. It was necessary in the very nature of things. Man had sinned against the righteous commandment of a holy God and deserved to suffer its penalty. Moreover, if the penalty was remitted without atonement and the sinner received by God to himself, it could be only at the expense of God’s holiness and the dignity of his good law, which men would then be tempted to despise. This could not be. So God sent his Son to suffer in our stead and to make an atonement or propitiation to God by which we might be spared the penalty due our sins.
At Jehovah’s altar the stupendous problem of sin is settled. God forgives the sinner, but still remains a God of holiness—and yet the God of love. He is holy, and still merciful. “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the  justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” (Rom. 3:24 26). Behold the depths both of the goodness and of the holiness of God in the atoning work of Jesus!
Some professed Christians acknowledge no objective or Godward element in the atonement. They claim they see only a manifestation of God’s love in Jesus’ death, and a consequent moral influence exerted on men to lead them to salvation. We gladly allow all this, but also we see at God’s altar exhibited something more than the bloodless religion of Cain that these men teach. There a life is sacrificed that another life may be spared. The wages of sin is death, but the Lamb of God dies instead and the sinner lives. What a glorious thought! What matchless mercy! Eternity will be none too long in which to render to Him the praise and thanksgiving that is due.
Only by way of the altar can a sinful soul draw near to the holy God. Only when washed in the blood of Jesus can we have fellowship with God. Even our very worship is acceptable only after the sin cleansing blood has been sprinkled.
Continued, next the Laver