Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Washing and Worship

In Exodus 25 God begins His instructions for a sanctuary that He might dwell in the midst of His people. The Tabernacle, a dwelling place for His presence, contained many significant pieces of furniture for the use of sacrifice and worship, which Moses records in great detail. Every article in the Tabernacle holds meaning and purpose beyond its apparent use and is significant in the life of the believer today

Once such item is the bronze laver, or basin, that stood between the Alter of Sacrifice and the door of the Tent of Meeting. It held water for the cleansing of the priests, who washed in it immediately upon entering the courtyard and before beginning any of their daily tasks. The lady’s discipleship group at church spent some time studying this last week and learned some beautiful applications to worship.

“You shall also make a basin of bronze, with its stand of bronze for washing…” John Gill’s Commentary states that the basin had mouths or spouts from which the water flowed; this implies that the priests did not wash in the basin, but from the water flowing from it. In Exodus 30:19 God instructs the priests to wash both their hands and feet before entering into any service to the Lord.

Adam Clarke says that as both the hands and the feet are mentioned, it must refer to the purity of their whole conduct. “Their hands- all their work, and their feet- all their goings, must be washed- must be holiness unto the Lord. And this washing must be repeated every time they entered into the tabernacle… This washing was needful because the priests all ministered barefoot; but it was equally so because of the guilt they might have contracted, for the washing was emblematic of the putting away of sin.”

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of the works done by us in righteousness, but according to the His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit. – Titus 3: 4-5

“Though they washed themselves ever so clean at their own houses, that would not serve; they must wash at the laver, because that was appointed for washing… They must not only wash and be made clean when they were first consecrated, but they must wash and be kept clean whenever they went in to minister.” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary)

The basin signifies the work of Christ, and the water represents the Word. When a priest “took office,” he was washed once and for all in this basin—he was holy and clean. However, daily cleansing was still required, as well as periodic cleansing for broken fellowship with God through sin or defilement. The priest represented the holiness of God to the people, and also represented the people to God. In both instances, he had to maintain holiness as a standard of living.

We are now priests in Christ—we have been washed “once and for all” through the shed blood of the Son. We represent Christ to the world, and beseech God for the world. As officers of such a high calling, we must maintain holiness as our standard of living. When we break fellowship with the Lord through sin or defilement, we must be sure to repent, confess, and receive the grace extended to us from the Father through Christ Jesus.

“And he made the basin of bronze… from the mirrors of the ministering women who ministered in the entrance of the tent of meeting.” Several commentators said that these mirrors were either artfully joined together, or else melted and recast for the basin, but it is probable that the basin was so highly polished that the sides served as mirrors. The mirrors gave a clear picture of the priest’s need for washing.

The water in the basin is the Word of God, reflecting Christ, and pointing out our own defilement. “In the washing of repentance, there is need of the looking-glass of self-examination. The Word of God is a glass, in which we may see our own faces; and with it we must compare our own hearts and lives, that, finding out our blemishes, we may wash…” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary)

“… and you shall put it between the tent of meeting and the alter, and you shall put water in it… they shall wash with water, so that they may not die…” The physical placement of the basin is significant. Set behind the alter and before the entrance to the tent of meeting, the basin was a place of cleansing and preparation. The priests were required to wash themselves in preparation for sacrifices, and were also required to wash before entering into the tent of meeting. Matthew Henry states that this was designed to teach them purity in all their ministrations, and to teach us, who attend upon God, to daily renew ourselves in the Word.

John Gill’s Commentary mentions that the water is comparable to grace, in which a clean heart is created. This has an influence on purity of life and conversation, and secures from eternal death. As believers, washing in the basin of God’s grace through the Word sets our heart right so we can enjoy intimate fellowship with God. This is a process of self-examination through the lens of Scripture, which tunes our souls to the Maker’s song.

The placement of the basin, the alter, and the tent of meeting are all important to our understanding and application of personal worship. When the priest entered the courtyard of the tabernacle, the first place he went was to the basin. He could not complete any other duty until he first washed himself and was made clean in the sight of God. From the basin he moved to the alter, where he made daily sacrifice. From here he went back to the basin and cleansed himself again. Then he took coals from the alter and entered the Tent of Meeting to offer incense, refresh the showbread, and maintain the candlestick.

All of these elements combine into God-centered worship of the Godhead:

The Basin | Do not seek to fulfill any duty for Christ until time is spent in the Word, cleansing the heart and renewing the minds (Rom. 12:2)

The Alter | Offer sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving to God (Ps. 50:14. 23)

The Basin | Return to the basin and immerse in the Word of God for sanctification and growth (Eph. 5:26-27)

Incense | Enter into the Holy Place bringing coals of surrender from the alter of praise in order to offer incense upon the alter of prayer (Ps. 141:2)

Showbread | Signifies dependence upon God to satisfy every need, as well as represents communion and fellowship with Him on a day-to-day basis (Ps. 34:8, Ps. 36:8, Ps. 107:9)

Candlestick | Representing the work of the Holy Spirit to guard, guide, protect, and direct (Ps. 18:28, John 16:13)

Holy of Holies | Intimate fellowship with the person of God Himself (Jer. 31:33-34, Jer. 9:23-24)

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus… let us draw near with a true heart full of assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. – Hebrews 10:19-23

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wonderful thoughts and insigts Sarah. Thank you for sharing them with us. I'm too lazy to sign in...but this is Jen.