“And you shall make the altar of acacia wood, five cubits long and five cubits wide; the altar shall be square, and its height shall be three cubits. You shall make its horns on its four corners; its horns shall be of one piece with it, and you shall overlay it with bronze.” (Exodus 27:1-2)
Moving outward from the Tabernacle proper we come to the courtyard and the Altar of Burnt Offering (“Brazen Altar”). In the description of the Altar given in Exodus 27:1-8, we notice that the gold and silver which adorned the inside of the Tabernacle is nowhere to be found outside. Bronze is the metal of choice here and, as we considered previously back in Chapter 25, it is the symbol of judgment.
When a person entered the courtyard through the gate (roughly where the “E” is located in the diagram above), the very first object they would encounter would be the Bronze Altar (Altar of Burnt Offering). This Bronze Altar speaks of the Cross of Christ, the Place of God’s judgment on the sins of mankind. Notice that the Altar stands right in the middle of the path that leads to the Presence of God found in the Most Holy Place. Anyone who will come to God must come by way of the Cross; there is no other way. The Cross cannot be bypassed on the way to God any more than the Bronze Altar could be bypassed on the way to the Most Holy Place. Our sin must be dealt with before we can ever have fellowship with God. Neither the gold of God’s manifested Presence nor the silver of Redemption are encountered until the atonement for sin is satisfied. That Atonement for the Christian is found at the Cross of Christ.
Fine Twined Linen
“You shall make the court of the tabernacle. On the south side there shall be hangings for the court of fine twisted linen one hundred cubits long for one side;” (Exodus 27:9)
In reference to the court of the Tabernacle, we find a surrounding of fine twisted linen curtains hanging around the entire perimeter of the Tabernacle complex. The fine twined linen speaks of personal righteousness which bars out all men from God’s Presence. Unlike the veils within the Tabernacle, adorned with the three colors — blue, purple, and scarlet — which symbolize Christ, the curtains surrounding the court are white and represent a self-righteousness apart from the Person and work of Jesus. Standing at 5 cubits in height (or about 7.5 feet or 2.3 meters), the curtains measure out the standard of righteousness which God demands, excluding both the most depraved of sinners as well as the most scrupulous of atheists. For all men have fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23) and fail to measure up to the perfect standard of God’s righteousness.
“For the gate of the court there shall be a screen of twenty cubits, of blue and purple and scarlet material and fine twisted linen, the work of a weaver, with their four pillars and their four sockets.” (Exodus 27:16)
In the Gate we find again the colors of Christ and this Gate speaks of Him. Only through Christ may we come to God and only through His Cross can we be declared righteous. Jesus is the Door which leads to Salvation (cf. John 10:9).
“You shall charge the sons of Israel, that they bring you clear oil of beaten olives for the light, to make a lamp burn continually.” (Exodus 27:20)
It is interesting that here, right after the description of the court and some of its properties, we go back inside the Tabernacle and look at the oil which is to fill the Golden Lampstand. But this is significant in that the Oil, symbolizing the Holy Spirit, is the Power which holds all of these other things together. “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts“, Zechariah declares (Zech. 4:6 KJV) and we are reminded of this truth by the special place which the Oil is to occupy in the daily life of the Tabernacle. This perpetually burning light symbolizes the Light of Christ, never extinguished and ever-renewed by the Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit illuminates the things of Christ and shines glory upon Him, just as the light of the Golden Lampstand within the Tabernacle illuminated the Table of Showbread, the Altar of Incense, and the Lampstand itself.
Just as the Children of Israel were commanded to “bring pure olive oil“, so are we commanded to be filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18).
To God goes all glory. In service to Him,
**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.