The Bronze Laver

“And he made the laver of bronze, and the foot of it of bronze, of the looking glasses of the women assembling, which assembled at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.”  Exodus 38:8

What is it about little children that they must run through every mud puddle they can find?  It does not matter whether they have old clothes, new clothes, boots or Sun­day shoes; if there is a puddle of water somewhere within their sight they will see it and splash in it.  Now let me ask you this:  what is it with us Christians that no sooner do we confess our sins at the altar, that is at the cross of Jesus Christ, than we run off and commit the same sin again?

The little child, wearing his Sun­day best, jumps in the puddle and suddenly realizes that his clothes are all dirty.  He will run to his mother and, tear-faced, ask his mother not to be angry with him. How can she be angry?  She kisses away the tears and the little child knows he has been forgiven. But it does not end with that. Mother not only forgives but she washes his face and hands and puts a new outfit on her child.

We are the little children of our heavenly Father.  The bronze al­tar, upon which the sacrifice con­tinually burned, taught us that without the shedding of blood there can be no forgiveness of sins.  The bronze altar pointed us to Calvary and Christ’s sacrifice for our sins.  There we are recon­ciled to God through the death of an innocent substitute who has died in our place.  We have been we move toward the Holy of Ho­lies to have fellowship with God.

At the Bronze Altar we received a new nature.  Like a little child, how­ever, our old nature loves the dirt.  A constant struggle exists between the old nature and the new nature. All too often the old nature wins. We are Christians but we have to admit that we are carnal Christians, infants in Christ.

That certainly is not the Father’s intention for us.  He wants His chil­dren to grow strong in stature and in wisdom.  He sent His Son that we might live the abundant life.  In order to live that life we need to move beyond the bronze altar; we must move to the bronze laver.

The Old Testament Laver

It is interesting to point out, as Exo­dus 38:8 does, that the bronze laver was made out of mirrors.  The mirrors had been given to Israelite women by the Egyptian women. They were part of the plunder that Israel took with them when they were released from captivity—wonderful specimens of Egyptian handicraft made of bronze and highly polished.

Mirrors are used to look at one’s self to see if one is properly attired as one gets ready to meet the world.  God does not look on us to see if we are outwardly clean and prepared for the world.  We must be inwardly clean.  God demands holiness.  It is not the sacrifice of bulls, goats, or lambs that God de­sires of us.  He looks at the heart. Regeneration and sanctification are needed to make a person beautiful on the inside.

The bronze laver was God’s won­derful provision for that inner cleansing.  It stood between the bronze altar and the entrance into the Holy Place.  At the laver the Priest was to wash his hands and his feet before he could enter into the Holy Place to serve God.  No priest was permitted to enter into the Holy Place with unclean feet or hands.  If he did so, he was to be put to death.

The priestly washing in the taber­nacle symbolized certain great truths.  First of all, true washing must come from God.  Aaron and his sons were to wash themselves at the bronze laver in the taber­nacle.  They were not to wash themselves in their own homes. Instead, the washing had to be done in the sanctuary of God.  Self-puri­fication will not do.  We cannot cleanse ourselves from the defile­ments of sin.  Sin is not skin deep as some may suppose that it can be washed away by the touch of our hands and a bar of soap.  The stain of sin is dark and deep in our very nature and only the cleansing done through the blood of the Savior can wash it away.

In God’s plan the justification re­ceived at the bronze altar must al­ways be followed by sanctification received at the bronze laver.  Altar and laver are inseparable compan­ions.  The blood was for forgive­ness, the water for cleansing.  I do not want you to infer from this that there are two fountains given to us for salvation: one for forgiveness and the other for cleansing.  Both point us in the same direction—they point us to Christ.  Water and blood are closely joined together in God’s Word.

In Numbers 19, for example, the unclean person was to be declared cleansed only after being sprinkled with water but the water was to be mixed with the ashes of a sacrificed heifer.  The water and the sacrifice were joined together.  The Apostle John wrote, “This is the One who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ; not with water only, but with the water and the blood” (I John 5:6).

How can we forget this scene: “But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out” (John 19:34).  The Heidelberg Catechism uses this passage as proof that Jesus was truly dead; but it also proved that Jesus is the one, com­plete sacrifice replacing both the bronze altar and the bronze laver.

The New Testament Laver

In the New Testament, after the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knew that He would soon make the nec­essary sacrifice.  He and His be­loved disciples were in that Upper Room.  They had partaken of the paschal lamb.

Supper being ended, the second person of the Trinity arose.  He took a towel and began to wash the feet of the disciples.  By doing so, Jesus was fulfilling the role of the laver providing the necessary cleansing for the disciples.  When you, you will have no part with me” (John 13:10).  Peter was a disciple forgiven and saved.  For him the sin question was settled.  But what about his daily walk?

By the blood shed for us by the Substitute at the bronze altar, our guilt is cancelled.  At the bronze laver the defilement of that sin is washed away.  The author of He­brews writes that without the shed­ding of blood there can be no for­giveness.  He also writes that with­out holiness no one shall see the Lord.  Sin is trespassing.  It is going where you are not allowed  is leaving the path that God has set for you and wandering off in your own direction—no doubt to jump into the mud puddle of sin and defile yourself.

When we find ourselves in such a condition the beautiful words of 1 John 1:9 come to us:  “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins [the bronze al­tar] and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness [the bronze la­ver].”  God promises not only to forgive, He also promises to cleanse.  He provides not only the altar, but also the laver; not only the forgiveness of our sins but the removal of those sins from us.

The Present Laver

Cleansing thru the blood refers to a removal of the desire to sin.  As the priests saw their reflection in the bronze laver and as we look at our reflection in the Law of God, even though we are forgiven we still have the desire for sin in our hearts. God said through the prophet Ezekiel, “Then I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean: from all the filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.  A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh.  And I will put my spirit in you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and you shall keep my judgments, and do them” (Ezekiel 36:25–27).



Isn’t that beautiful?  That is exactly what we need before we enter into the Holy Place to fellowship with God—a cleansing of the heart.  God says, “I will give…”  The cleansing that is our sanctification is a gift of God given freely to His own.  By faith we receive the Lord as our Savior; by faith we acknowledge our sins are forgiven through His once-for-all sacrifice upon the cross.  He has removed our sin from us.  Now we can move to the laver where, not only are we for­given, but our hearts are made clean.

The last Beatitude in the Bible teaches, “Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the Tree of Life, and may enter by the gates into the city” (Revelation 22:14).  In the blood of the Lamb at the bronze laver our garments are made white; our hearts are cleansed and made pure.

This is an inward process.  True washing must be a spiritual wash­ing.  Many people today think puri­fication is something material—something they can do.  They think if they throw enough money, enough education, enough proper environment at something; they can change it.  They want to world by means of welfare and social programs.

We certainly have changed the world in which we live, but I would not say for the better.  People can­not be changed by certain political or physical improvements.  What needs changing is the heart.  That is what God does: “I will give you a new heart.”  True purification must be of the heart and the soul.

Interior, divine washing is neces­sary, indispensable.  Without it a person will never be able to enter into fellowship with God.  Revela­tion 7 tells us that without it we cannot enter into heaven.  The saints in heaven are those who “have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”

The last Beatitude in the Bible teaches, “Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the Tree of Life, and may enter by the gates into the city” (Revelation 22:14).  In the blood of the Lamb at the bronze laver our garments are made white; our hearts are cleansed and made pure.

Rev. Wybren H. Oord is the Pastor of the Covenant United Reformed Church in Kalamazoo, Michigan.  He is also the editor of The Outlook.