God’s clear, precise, explicit instructions continued… “You are to construct the altar of acacia wood. The altar must be square, 7 ½ feet long, and 7 ½ feet wide; it must be 4 ½ feet high. Make horns for it on its four corners; the horns are to be of one piece. Overlay it with bronze. Make its pots for removing ashes, and its shovels, basins, meat forks, and firepans; make all its utensils of bronze. Construct a grate for it of bronze mesh, and make four bronze rings on the mesh at its four corners. Set it below, under the altar’s ledge, so that the mesh comes halfway up the altar. Then make poles for the altar, poles of acacia wood, and overlay them with bronze. The poles are to be inserted into the rings so that the poles are on two sides of the altar when it is carried. Construct the altar with boards so that it is hollow. They are to make it just as it was shown to you on the mountain” (Exodus 27:1–8).
Moses “placed the altar of burnt offering at the entrance to the tabernacle” (Exodus 40:29),
just inside the gate. Unlike the “golden altar” (Exodus 39:38) used for burning incense, the “bronze altar” (Exodus 38:30) was a place of bloodshed, for “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22).
The Bronze Altar was the largest element in the Tabernacle’s courtyard. Its position just inside the gate made it easily accessible and unavoidable. To enter God’s presence required that one must pass by the Bronze Altar. There was only one place of sacrificial atonement, and only one way to salvation!
Here, before the Bronze Altar, the priests met the people who came to offer sacrifices. The worshiper would “lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering” (Leviticus 1:4) to identify with the offering. Symbolically, the worshipper would see his sin and guilt transferred to the sacrifice. As the substitutionary sacrifice was laid upon the grates of the Bronze Altar creating a “pleasing aroma to the Lord” (Leviticus 1:9), the worshipper’s sin was atoned.
Year after year, the law demanded a sacrifice, for “since the law was only a shadow of the good things to come, and not the reality itself of those things, it can never perfect the worshipers by the same sacrifices they continually offer year after year. Otherwise, wouldn’t they have stopped being offered, since the worshipers, purified once and for all, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? But in the sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year after year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 10:1–4).
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8, NKJV). Jesus fulfilled the law by providing an eternally sufficient sacrifice. He was indeed “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). “Christ has appeared as a high priest … in the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands (that is, not of this creation), he entered the most holy place once for all time, not by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young cow, sprinkling those who are defiled, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works so that we can serve the living God?” (Hebrews 9:11–14).