Summary: Exodus tells us the Altar of Sacrifice was made of wood. But wouldn’t that burn up? Find out why it didn’t... and why this was one of only two wooden altars ever known to man.
OPEN: A few years ago, USA Today conducted a survey and asked Americans in the top 1% income bracket how much they would be willing to spend on three intangible items:
Great intellect, true love, and a place in heaven.
They found that the super wealthy would be willing to spend an average of
• $407,000 for great intellect,
• $487,000 for true love,
• $640,000 for a place in heaven!
APPLY: How much would you be willing to pay for these items?
How much would you pay to be smart, to have true love, to have place in heaven?
Of course, most of us realize that we really can’t buy those things.
• You might be able to buy a good education, but you can’t purchase intelligence.
• You might find a person who’d give you affection for a price, but not true love.
• And the Bible repeatedly tells us – wealth can do many good things - but it won’t buy you a place in heaven.
But here in Exodus 27 we find that God DID require His people to pay a price to be into His presence.
The Tabernacle was set up right in the middle of Israel’s camp. It was the abiding symbol that God wanted to be WITH His people right in the center of their lives. But there was a price that had to be paid for that privilege. That price was the repeated offering of sacrifices to atone for their sins.
Now right there in the courtyard of the tabernacle was the very first piece of furniture that anyone would have seen - the altar of sacrifice. It was the largest piece of furniture anywhere in the tabernacle area.
No one was allowed to come into God’s presence until sacrifices had been made on this altar. When the tabernacle was first set up, the priests spent 7 days sanctifying the altar. Every day for 7 days – sacrifices were made in morning and evening. Grain offerings and drink offerings… and a sacrificed lamb were offered to God both in both the morning and the evening. And only AFTER those sacrifices had been made could the priests come into God’s presence.
From that day on the people of Israel offered up continual sacrifices to God to atone for sins. Now, this made this altar in the Tabernacle a highly important place of Israel’s worship.
Thus it was the very first piece of furniture you would see in the courtyard and nothing else could be touched in the tabernacle til the sacrifices made on altar.
But, why were these sacrifices so important to God?
As we mentioned in an earlier sermon – God told Moses to be very careful how he built the tabernacle. “See that you make them according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.” Exodus 25:40
Hebrews explains why God was so particular about how the tabernacle was laid out:
We’re told that the priests “…serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: ‘See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.’” Hebrews 8:5
In other words, the tabernacle was intended to be an earthly illustration of heavenly truths. Their were spiritual realities that God wanted to communicate through every aspect of the tabernacle’s construction and layout.
Apparently, because the Altar of Sacrifice was so central to the tabernacle, the first truth God intended to teach His people was about the tragic nature of their sins.
ILLUS: Years ago I read the story of a man had worked for years in a meat packing firm.
He had cut the throats of many animals.
He had heard the cattle bellow, the birds squawk and pigs squeal.
But one day, a farmer brought a lamb to be slaughtered.
With business as usual, the man took his sharp knife and cut the lamb’s throat. But the lamb did not squawk and flop like the birds did. And it didn’t squeal and flounder like the pigs. The lamb did not bellow and slump like the cattle.
Instead, the little lamb just silently stood before the man. With blood flowing from its throat, the lamb tottered toward its executioner and licked the blood from his hands, and began to totter from side to side. Then, it silently slumped to the floor and died.
Even tho’ this man was used to killing animals on a regular basis… this disturbed him. For the remainder of the day, the lamb’s death occupied his mind. That night began a series of sleeplessness. After almost a month of restless nights and days, the man went to his supervisor and said, "I quit! The death of that lamb was more than I can bear. I cannot kill another animal. All I can think of is the death of that lamb!"