The Tabernacle - 16
The Brazen Altar - Part 2
by Brad Scott
At the entrance to the mishkan is the place of the burnt offerings. This altar is to be carefully distinguished from the altar of incense. You must read and compare the context of each mention of these altars in order to discern the differences. One of the differences between the brazen altar and the altar of incense is contained in the nature of the offering. The brazen altar is the place of a "whole" offering. In Shemot (Exodus) 29:18, Vayiqera (Leviticus) 4:12, 8:21 and Devariym (Deuteronomy) 33:10, we read of this altar and its offerings. The meaning behind this offering sets the stage for the "strange fire" of Aharon's sons, Nadav and Avihu. I believe there is a distinct reason why YHVH skipped to this altar in his commands to Mosheh, rather than going in the natural order of the altar of incense. If you follow YHVH's pattern of design from the inside out, the altar of incense would be next. However, there is a subtle yet significant step that YHVH reveals to his people first, this would be the altar of the whole burnt offering. A step, I believe, Nadav and Avihu purposely rejected.
In John 14, Yeshua‘ said,
Yochanan (John) 14:6I am the way, the truth, and the life, no man comes to the Father, but by me.
Where does the Father dwell? Between the cherubim, above the testimony and the mercy seat in the Most Holy Place! When you entered the tabernacle, you ran square into the brazen altar. This place of sacrifice, whole sacrifice, stood between you and the abode of YHVH. This is the place of the whole burnt offering. Why a whole offering? Well, the very meaning of the word whole will give us some insight. The word whole comes from the Hebrew kaliyl (כליל). The root of this word is kalal (כלל) which means to be perfected, finished, or complete. One of the cognates of this word is kallah (כללה), which is the word for bride. The idea behind YHVH's choice of this word is that this offering represents completeness, or the finished act. All other offerings and "rituals" are to be observed after this offering. The animal offered on this altar gave himself completely. The whole idea, pun intended, of this altar as a picture is that the sinner, as represented by the priests, gave him or herself completely before daring to approach the Holy or Most Holy Place. This was to be accomplished before approaching the laver, as well. The one who is identified with this sacrifice is to fully understand what is being done here. When we give our lives to Yeshua‘ through identification with His sacrifice, we are to understand that we are giving all our sin to be reduced to ashes. We are handing over all of our life to Him so that He might live through us. We are giving spirit, soul, and body. This is why Sha’ul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:
1 Thessalonians 5:23And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Master Yeshua‘ the Messiah.
Romans 12:1-2 alludes to the same thing. Modern Christian teaching has so typically taught that we plunge our spirit into His spirit, and that only our spirits are to become one with the Ruach haQodesh. The brazen altar, however, paints a different picture, one of complete identification with the animal that has given its life. So it is with the Messiah's sacrifice. This word kalal first appears in Bere’shiyt (Genesis) 2:1, when YHVH tells us that the heavens and the earth were vayekullu (ויכלּוּ), i.e., finished or completed. The cognate, kallah, used for bride also teaches us this identification with completeness. Now why would the root of bride mean "to be complete"? Because the man is not complete without the woman. The literal taking of the side of man to make a woman and the subsequent reuniting through scriptural marriage, is a picture of the oneness that YHVH created in his image and called "man". So it is with the teaching of the Master's bride in Scripture. Our Messiah waits patiently at the right hand of YHVH for His bride, so that He, too, may be complete. This bride, through the love of her bridegroom, is growing into a "perfect man" according to Ephesians 4.
Ephesians 4:13Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of the Messiah.
Some day soon, the union will be complete or whole. In the meantime, the earthly design of a husband and wife is to typify our relationship with our bridegroom. This relationship is again pictured in Ephesians chapter five. The husband is to give himself for his wife. He sets aside his desires and his wants for hers. He is designed to give his wife what she needs. She, in turn, submits to her husband. He gave himself completely to her, so she in turn gives herself completely to him. We love him, Yochanan tells us, because He first loved us. This is some of the meaning behind identifying ourselves wholly in following the Messiah in his death (Colossians 2:9-13, Romans 6:3-10).
It is my observation that modern Christian theology does not teach this. The spirit seems to be the only concern of YHVH, according to most modern theology. I believe the picture of the brazen altar and Yeshua‘’s fulfillment of it show us a whole offering, spirit, soul, and body. I believe that only those who have given themselves wholly on that altar are "the bride". I believe that Nadav and Avihu did not desire to give themselves wholly because to give yourself wholly means to submit wholly to YHVH. I believe that because of their exalted priestly positions, they were given over to all the ceremony, liturgy, pomp, fellowship, and notoriety, but not to the day to day obedience to Yah's ways. Torah, or YHVH's instructions, are for the whole man. This is because the whole person is designed to be given over to YHVH. To simply dedicate your "religious" values to Him is not wholly. To give Him your "Sunday" mornings or even your Wednesday evenings is not wholly. To concede intellectually that He is "Lord" is not wholly. To understand what the brazen altar is for, but to neglect to lay your whole being on the altar is not wholly. According to Vayiqera 16:11-13, the incense from the altar of incense was to be mixed with a censer full of burning coals of fire from the burnt altar. If the coals of ashes from the whole offering are not offered along with the sweet incense, then a "strange fire" has been offered to YHVH. If anyone has already given themselves wholly to YHVH, then the fire of YHVH comes down and consumes the offering, i.e., the animal offerings in the Tanakh and our eternal offering, Yeshua‘ in the New Testament. Why is that? Because there is nothing left of you to consume! You have already been buried with Messiah. You have already been wholly offered up. However, if you have only given of yourself in part, or if you have never really given yourself at all, then the fire comes down and consumes you. If you stand before YHVH at the altar of incense, lifting up incense without the burning coals of the whole burnt offering, then you are offering a strange fire to YHVH.
Mizemor (Psalm) 51:17-19The sacrifices of ’Elohiym are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O ’Elohiym, thou wilt not despise. Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion; build thou the walls of Jerusalem. Then shalt thou be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole offering; then shall they offer bullocks upon thine altar.
Here lies the logical question. How does one give themselves wholly on this altar? Well, the details would be exhausting at best, but the formula, if you will, for this was anticipated by YHVH from the beginning. Our Creator knew ahead of time that man would be triune in nature, that he would consist of spirit, soul, and body. He knew that only when these three are in unity and harmony could man be a whole person. Our Creator gave instructions for the whole person. He knew in advance that man would need to be redeemed from his self-inflicted condition, so He provided the sacrifice. He knew that man would desire love and a sexual relationship, so He placed the fulfillment of these needs in the marriage relationship. He knew that man would want to dance, sing, and celebrate, so He gave man His celebrations and separated them from pagan observances. He knew way ahead of time that man would need to eat, so He gave man clear instructions as to what he was to consume for fuel and what was not designed to be food for man. He knew in advance that man would need to till the soil and rest, so He gave man His pattern of creation, and rest; work six days, rest one day. He knew that man would have sorrow and experience emotional moments, so He gave man Psalms and Proverbs to comfort him in trying times. From the beginning, YHVH has anticipated the needs of man: spirit, soul, and body. He knew in advance that because of man's fallen nature, that man would desire to fill all these needs himself, without his Creator's intervention. YHVH knew that left alone, these "adamic" desires would break fellowship at best and destroy him at worst. So YHVH began his restoration of man with the sacrifice, a place where man had a second chance, a place where man could lay down his entire life without being destroyed, a place where someone else could pay the price.lavar
Mark 12:30And thou shalt love YHVH thy ’Elohiym with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.
Shalom Alecheim! ◊