Scripture: Exodus 30:17-21
The message of the outer court was a call to be clean in order to meet God. First there was the brazen altar and its symbolism of redemption. Then there was the brazen laver. The great theme set forth by the brazen laver was cleansing in order to communion with and service of God. Its significance relates to the redeemed sinner. Those who are saved must be clean if they are to enjoy the fellowship with God that shed blood has purchased for them. This truth is demonstrated by its position. The laver stood between the brazen altar and ‘the tent of meeting’ where intimate fellowship with God was the experience of the priests. The laver represents the cleansing work of Christ in the sanctification of His people.
I THE PURPOSE OF THE LAVER.
Its purpose was to provide a means of washing for the priests as they went about their work of serving God in the Tabernacle. See Exodus 30:18-21 (same Hebrew for ‘wash’ used four times). Especially, it was to provide the cleansing necessary for them to come into the presence of God.
1. The cleansing provided at the laver was for the hands and feet, Exodus 30:19, 21. Immediately it will be seen that this is a limited cleansing. It is not the full washing of a bath but the follow up washing required to maintain cleanliness. This is not the washing of regeneration that is spoken of but the washing of sanctification for holiness of life and service. The need for cleansing arises in:—
a) the hands. The hands of the priest would have been marked by the blood of sacrifice. It was associated with death and sin. Constantly in our daily lives we come into contact with those dead in trespasses and sins. The influence of the world is a defiling one. There is a reminder of the sins of our works.
b) the feet. The walk of the child of God is one which constantly requires cleansing. It is interesting that the Priests were not provided with shoes. The dust of the desert would soon defile their feet.
It is an established fact that he who comes to God must have clean hands and a pure heart, Psalm 24:3-4. The two parts to this required cleansing are represented in the brazen altar and laver. External purity of life and conduct is required in addition to internal purity in those who would serve/meet God. Cp Isaiah 52:11.
2. This cleansing is specifically related to their priestly function. As they went about their work for God they contracted defilement. This defilement did not affect their standing as Israelites, as redeemed individuals — but it did affect their ability to function as a priest. The believer is a New Testament priest. His life is to be one of priestly service — worship, prayer, praise, living in the courts of the Lord. Even in the service of God we contract defilement. Uncleansed defilement does not affect our justified standing as those accepted by God in Christ through faith in His blood, but it will significantly affect our ability to serve God and enjoy fellowship with Him. An unholy Christian will still be a Christian but will not be useful nor able to enjoy God’s presence. Just as it was deadly for the priest to be unwashed, Exodus 30:20, 21 so it is deadly to service and enjoyment of God’s presence in the Christian to be defiled. Cp John 13:8
II THE WATER OF THE LAVER.
It is instructive that the priests were cleansed from defilement so they could serve God acceptably by water and not by blood. Blood is the element that cleanses the guilt of sin away. That cleansing occured at the altar — through the work of Christ as sacrifice for sin. The element of cleansing here is water. The sinner once cleansed by the blood of Christ does not need that blood re-applied again and again to be clean. That once for all cleansing avails continuously and he is forever clean in the eyes of God. The water of the laver represents the word of God — the means which God has appointed for the cleansing of His people. Psalm 119:9, John 15:3, Ephesians 5:26.
1. The Scriptures cleanse in several ways:
a) They warn against sin and so keep us back from defilement. Ps 119:105 – Thy word is a lamp…, Psalm 17:4 – Concerning the works of men, by the word of thy lips I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer.
b) They expose and cleanse sinful defilement already contracted, 2 Corinthains 7:1. As the word is applied by the Spirit of God to us we are brought to confess sin and it is put away.
2. The source of this cleansing water was a brazen laver. Brass reminds us of Divine judgement — here the role of Christ as judge, condemning sin and uncleanness that would disqualify from service and fellowship with God. Cp Rev 1:15, Christ coming to ‘judge’ His people. The brass of the Laver had an interesting origin, Exodus 38:8. It was connected to that in which one may see oneself. Christ comes and judges so that we may see ourselves. The water of the laver ultimately had its origin in heaven! See Is 55:10-11. The Scriptures are described as God’s judgements, Psalm 18:22-23; God’s heavenly mirror in which we may see ourselves and our need of cleansing, James 1:23-5. The Law is the basis of judgement! The word of God is the means that the Lord Jesus uses to judge His people. They are His words and are spoken with His authority. What mercy that He Who condemns has also provided a means of cleansing!
3. The water of the laver had to be applied and used. Without such application defilement and its deadly consequences remained. Application means obedience. Cp James 1:23-25, 1 Peter 1:22. The application was primarily self-application. As soon as defilement was observed it was to be removed. It is striking in this regard to observe two things about the laver:
a) No dimensions are given. This is typical of a limitless provision in Christ and His word to cleanse sin.
b) It was the only article of furniture not covered when on the move. Even then there was access to its cleansing contents — always available.
We have a duty to keep ourselves clean by applying the water of the word of Christ to our lives. For New Testament believers there is also a role for washing one another’s feet, John 13:14. The fellowship of the saints is a means of grace appointed by the Lord Himself. Are you clean today? Are you a help to others to enable them to walk in cleanness and purity?