The Bronze Basin

Exodus 30:11-21

Everything about the Tabernacle and its Furnishings, the Priests, the Sacrifices—everything in great detail paints a picture of our salvation in Jesus Christ. CHAPTER 30 of EXODUS focuses on REDEMPTION and SANCTIFICATION—Atonement and Holiness. Yet, it also deals with PRAYER and WORSHIP. Last Sunday we saw that the GOLDEN ALTAR OF INCENSE pictured the believer’s PRIVILEGE in worship and prayer. Today, we encounter the believer’s POSITION and PRACTICE.

Israel POSITION with Yahweh underlies Exodus 30:11-16—

Then the LORD said to Moses, “When you take a census of the Israelites to count them, each one must pay the LORD a ransom for his life at the time he is counted. Then no plague will come on them when you number them. Each one who crosses over to those already counted is to give a half shekel, according to the sanctuary shekel, which weighs twenty gerahs.

This half shekel is an offering to the LORD. All who cross over, those twenty years old or more, are to give an offering to the LORD. The rich are not to give more than a half shekel and the poor are not to give less when you make the offering to the LORD to atone for your lives. Receive the atonement money from the Israelites and use it for the service of the Tent of Meeting. It will be a memorial for the Israelites before the LORD, making atonement for your lives.”

Those who come as true worshipers must be redeemed. All are lost, all are on equal footing, and all need redemption shown by payment of the half-shekel of silver. Yahweh placed this instruction here as a reminder that no one worships Him unless they have a part in the ATONEMENT. This payment was a memorial—of the Passover—much like celebration of the Lord’s Supper is a remembrance of Christ’s atonement for our sins.

Since we covered this passage at Exodus 26 with our study of the silver bases of the Tabernacle, we’ll move to the next section.

Upon entering the Gate of the Courtyard, the priest first encountered the BRONZE ALTAR where sacrifices and offerings were presented. Next, came the BRONZE BASIN FOR WASHING. Entering through the GATE, the priest is stops at the place of sacrifice—the BRONZE ALTAR, with its burnt offerings. It pictures Christ bearing God’s wrath for our sin on the Cross of Calvary.

This begins our salvation. We are now in the Tabernacle. Even though no further progress has been made, we have stopped at the ALTAR OF BURNT OFFERING. Since Christ is the Tabernacle, we are now IN CHRIST, the moment we step through the Gate, and identify with the sacrifice on the Altar. The priest in the Tabernacle is a type of the believer IN CHRIST.

But this is only the beginning. Salvation begins at the Cross, but it certainly does not end there! The new-born believer is now to go to the next step, and then the next, and the next, until he stands before the Shekinah glory in the Most Holy Place. And so after the Bronze Altar, comes the BRONZE BASIN. It speaks of the second aspect of salvation and it follows redemption. This aspect has to do with the believer’s behavior and the need to have a cleansed life. The third aspect of salvation is glorification—a resurrected body at the Rapture.

At the Bronze Altar, the priests were justified on the basis of shed blood. At the BRONZE BASIN, they were sanctified by being cleansed with water. This cleansing is necessary for the PRACTICE of prayer and worship. Exodus 30:17-21—

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Make a bronze basin, with its bronze stand, for washing. Place it between the Tent of Meeting and the altar, and put water in it. Aaron and his sons are to wash their hands and feet with water from it. Whenever they enter the Tent of Meeting, they shall wash with water so that they will not die. Also, when they approach the altar to minister by presenting an offering made to the LORD by fire, they shall wash their hands and feet so that they will not die. This is to be a lasting ordinance for Aaron and his descendants for the generations to come.”

At the BRONZE BASIN, the priests shall wash their hands and feet so that they will not die. It is clear that this washing was mandatory! If a priest failed to wash at the Bronze Basin and presented himself before Yahweh, he better had said his goodbyes to his loved ones. Having been justified and sanctified, the priest entered the Tent of the Meeting. There the priest experienced fellowship with the LORD as pictured by the Lampstand, the Table of the Bread of the Presence and the Golden Altar of Incense.

This chapter began with the GOLDEN ALTAR OF INCENSE that stands before the Throne of God. The aroma and smoke rising from the burning incense on this altar symbolizes intercessory prayer. God would not allow an unclean priest to enter into the Holy Place—the place of fellowship and prayer! That fact alone, should speak volumes to us today!

Let us look at the picture now before us. We have the priest cleansing himself from defilement with WATER from the Basin. He sees himself as he is—reflected by the water and the polished bronze. This was his solemn duty before God to examine himself. He was cognizant of the results if he did not wash before entering the Tent of the Meeting—God’s place of worship and prayer.

What does all this picture for us? Certainly, you and I need to approach God in atmosphere of holy reverence. We should trust Him to show us our sin, and then submit ourselves to cleansing like the priests before we approach the LORD.

Should you and I, as members of God’s holy and royal priesthood, fail to come for cleansing, we might die spiritually, and especially as far as being any use to the LORD is concerned.

Without WATER we cease to exist—we dehydrate and die! Without it, life cannot be sustained. We find it forming the largest proportion of our own bodies. It is a figure of purity and refreshing; of quickening life and power; of vastness and abundance. And so we find it in the Bible as one of the most important symbols of spiritual things.

The CLEANSING WATER and BRONZE BASIN are symbolic of the WORD OF GOD. Jesus said to His disciples in John 15:3—

You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.

The whole Bible is the Word of God, as well as the words spoken by Jesus, and we need to read and meditate upon it regularly. God’s Word is for spiritual cleansing as well as regeneration.

In John 3:5, WATER is used as a symbol of God’s Word by Jesus during His discourse with Nicodemus —

I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.

This same terminology is used by the apostle in 1 Peter 1:23—

For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.

In Romans 10:17, we find that—

Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.

We find always, that being born again, or regeneration, is the function of Holy Spirit in co-operation with the Word of God.

Listen to 1 John 5:6-8—

This is the one who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.

Here the bronze altar and bronze basin in the Tabernacle Court is explained. Our redemption comes by the blood offered on the Bronze Altar and our sanctification comes by washing with water from the Bronze Basin. We’re saved by the blood of Christ and we’re cleansed through the Word of God by the Holy Spirit.

Christians do sin, but this does not mean they must be saved all over again. We’re saved once. But sin in our life breaks fellowship with God. When we sin, we need to be washed. Therefore, John 1:7-9 states—

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

The BRONZE BASIN is the place where the priest CONFESSED HIS SINS. Every time a priest washed at the Basin, he was confessing that he needed to be cleansed of sin before he could approach God in the Tabernacle. Without cleansing, the priest would approach God in a state of unholiness.

His priestly duties required him to walk into the presence of a holy God and to perform certain prescribed offerings. Therefore, his hands and feet had to be washed. There was no flooring in the Tabernacle, it was bare ground and God cursed the ground at the Fall. As a result, the priest became defiled every step he took, even in the service of the LORD. No chair and no floor in the Tabernacle meant that the priest’s feet were continually exposed to dirt. That’s the idea behind 1 John 1:8—

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.

Besides the priest handled the sin offerings and the blood needed to be washed from his hands so he would not be contaminated. Keep in mind that the FEET speak of our walk or conduct, and the HANDS speak of our service.

The BRONZE BASIN is at the heart of the Lord Jesus washing His disciples’ feet in the Upper Room. We read in John 13:6-10 —

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” Jesus answered, “A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.”

Christ’s words to Peter are extra important—”UNLESS I WASH YOU, YOU HAVE NO PART WITH ME.” There is a difference between UNION and COMMUNION. Peter was in UNION with Christ as one of HIS OWN through faith, but sin can break our COMMUNION with the Lord. There is a difference between SONSHIP and FELLOWSHIP. Only as we allow Christ to cleanse us can we remain in fellowship with Him and enjoy His presence and power.

In Exodus 30:10, Christ makes an important distinction between washing and cleansing. This verse reads literally—“He that has been once-and-for all washed all over does not need to do anything more than cleanse his feet.”

In Eastern lands, people used public baths; as they walked in the dusty streets, their feet became dirty. On arriving home, they did not need another bath; they needed only to wash their feet. So it is with the believer. When we are saved, we are washed all over; when we confess our daily sins to the Lord, we have our feet washed and our WALK is cleansed.

Remember Exodus 29:4—

Then bring Aaron and his sons to the entrance to the Tent of Meeting and wash them with water.

That’s a picture of salvation—the once-for-all washing! But God also provided the BRONZE BASIN for the daily cleansing that keeps the believer in COMMUNION with Christ. It is strictly a matter of communion—fellowship with Christ. Many believers make the same mistake Peter made; they want to be saved (have their bodies washed) all over again when all they need is to have their feet washed!

The point of the BRONZE BASIN and JESUS WASHING HIS DISCIPLES FEET is that we all need to go to the Lord for daily cleansing before we approach Him in worship and prayer. If we do not, we have no part in Him. The PRIVILEGE of worship and prayer is negated, even though our POSITION in Christ remains in tact, our PRACTICE before Him is unacceptable.

No priest could enter the HOLY PLACE, not even after serving at the altar of sacrifice, until his hands and his feet were cleansed. If a priest endeavored to do so, he would die. So the BASIN was provided so that he would not be struck dead by God. To think we can enter into the presence of a holy God in prayer and worship soiled with sin is sheer folly.

As we consider ourselves as God’s holy priesthood, it’s evident that we must deal with sin in our daily walk before we can expect to come into God’s presence to behold His beauty, to worship Him and to fellowship with Him. A life that is not spiritually clean prevents true worship and fellowship.

To bypass the BRONZE ALTAR negates the ritualistic worship defined by the Tabernacle The psalmist asked—

Who may ascend the hill of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart. (Psalm 24:3-4).

We’re delivered from CONDEMNATION at the BRONZE ALTAR. We’re cleansed from daily CORRUPTION at the BRONZE BASIN. You might want to study Romans 6-8 in the light of today’s message. Chapter 6 lays the foundation by revealing that our separation from the world is based on the fact that Jesus died on the Cross for us. Chapter 7 reveals the frustration that often comes in a believer’s life as he experiences the conflict between the flesh and the Spirit. Chapter 8 reveals the victory that results when the believer walks by the Spirit.

Two aspects of salvation—redemption and sanctification are seen in Exodus 29 and 30. So often in the spiritual realm the emphasis is on birth but not growth. On the one hand, the Scriptures indicate that the new birth comes through the Word of God. James 1:18 says—

He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.

1 Peter 1:23 says—

For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.

On the other hand, the Bible reveals that the Word is specifically used in sanctifying believers. Ephesians 5:26 indicates that Christ gave Himself for the Church “to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the Word.” In His high-priestly prayer, Jesus told the Father— Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.

Our constant contact with the world demands a daily washing by the Word of God. One doesn’t need to leave the house to be soiled, just turn on the TV? If you wallowed in the mud of this week’s news, you are contaminated —defiled, polluted, soiled, tainted! You fed your mind with filth rather than the pure milk and meat of God’s Word.

How sad the state of affairs in our nation. Adultery is acceptable; lying is not! Last time I read the Ten Commandments both acts were forbidden! Morality is in the eye of beholder, not God’s eyes! The psalmist asks—

How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word.

Folks, leave Word of God out your daily life and you’re bound to get soiled!

How often do we come for God’s Word for cleansing? There is no limit—the Basin is boundless! Consider Proverbs 28:13—

He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.

The repeated washings of the hands and feet of the priests depict a principle expressed throughout the whole Bible—to have a close relationship with the LORD, the people of God must learn to share His attitude toward sin. For this reason, we read in James 4:8-10—

Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

None of us would accept service at a restaurant if we had seen the waiter drop and then scoop up our food off the floor. We’d think twice before walking into a friend’s house with tar or mud on our shoes. Yet we are inclined to try to come into God’s presence with hands, hearts, and feet covered with the filth of our disobedience, lust, or Lukewarmness. Fortunately, our God has provided a place for us to clean up before we come into His house. Thanks be to God for He has made provision for cleansing with the WATER and BASIN!

We find the BASIN FOR WASHING to be made of BRONZE, but nowhere do we read concerning the SIZE of the basin. It is the only furnishing without minute instructions for exact size. The courtyard, fence, gate, curtains, rooms—the size is given for all of them, but not so with the Bronze Basin. Why? It is LIMITLESS in its application. There was no limit to is size, or to the amount of water which it might hold.

The basin was for continual cleansing of the priest. Every time he became defiled—washing was necessary. Besides God had commanded that every time the priest approached the altar to minister, he had to stop and wash. It may have happened a hundred times a day, over and over again, and so there is no limit to the size of Basin given to Moses.

The Water and Basin represent God’s Holy Word in a very real sense. The question now confronting us is: How does the BASIN speak to us of God’s Word, inasmuch as the Basin is made of BRONZE?

We have already seen in past messages how BRONZE speaks of divine JUDGMENT. The Bible refers to itself as tpvm (mishpat), that is JUDGMENT. The NIV often translates MISHPAT as LAW when it refers to the WORD OF GOD. For instance, Psalm 119:7 reads—

Let me live that I may praise you, and may your laws [JUDGMENTS] sustain me.

JUDGMENTS in the sense of God’s Laws have a positive effect upon our life—there is SUSTAINING POWER in God’s JUDGMENTS! Certainly, when you and I read God’s Word we soon find that we are being judged. To begin with, we are judged as sinners, condemned at every turn, and without Christ— eternally lost. This judgment upon us is boundless. We cannot fathom the terribleness of our sin in the eyes of infinite and absolute holiness. So the BRONZE BASIN was immeasurable, in the sense that no size or weight was given to it.

Interestingly, mirrors of the ANE were made of polished BRONZE or SILVER, not glass. The mirrors rested horizontally on tables so that the person who wished to see his reflection had to bend and look down. Then he would see but a poor reflection of himself.

Now, a mirror reflects the natural features of an individual looking into it. Mirrors are for the glorification of the flesh, and the gratification of the old nature. They are a symbol of human vanity and human pride. The sight of a people, stopping at every window to look at themselves is a picture of human vanity.

Guess where the metal for the BRONZE BASIN came from? Exodus 38:8—

They made the bronze basin and its bronze stand from the mirrors of the women who served at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting.

Did you guess right? Why was the basin made from bronze mirrors?

Vanity is to be replaced by humility. At the Bronze Basin, there is a cleansing from the FLESH and from the WORLD and from the OLD NATURE with its PRIDE and LUSTS, HABITS and SINS. So after we are saved, the next step is separation.

Jesus illustrated SEPARATION as a necessary aspect of salvation in the third soil in the Parable of the Sower, Seed and Soils. Mark 4:18-19—

Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.

The WORD OF GOD will be choked in our life if we do not separate ourselves from appetites of the world and flesh. In other words, separation or sanctification is a continuous step in growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Born again believers cannot continue in their old life, in their questionable business and pursuits, and carry all the trappings and paraphernalia of their old sinful life with them into their new-found Christian experience.

Symbolically, the woman gave up their bronze mirrors to be made into the bronze basin in self-judgment of their sins and worldliness.

A picture, especially one that portrays us as we are, is worth a thousand words. We see ourselves daily in the reflection in a mirror; before we leave the house in the morning, during the course of the day, and several times in the evening. Mirrors are part of life. But the repeated returns to the mirror establish the point that our memories are like sieves. James 1:23-24 says—

Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.

Here’s the point of comparison. The person who looks into the polished bronze mirror to see his own image and promptly forgets is like the person who hears the Word of God proclaimed but fails to respond to it. He sees his reflection in the mirror, quickly adjusts his external appearance, and walks away.

He hears the the the Word of God preached, makes minor adjustments, and goes his own way. He doesn’t let, however, God’s Word penetrate his heart or change his internal disposition. The mirror is an object used to alter man’s external appearance; the Word, however, confronts man internally and demands a response.

Why does a person forget what he looks like almost as soon as he walks away form mirror? That seems incredible and yet it is true. Many people hear a sermon on a Sunday and a week later cannot remember a single word of that sermon. The person who only listens to the Word goes away and fails to respond to its demands—quickly forgets! The word must be impressed by the doing of it.

James, therefore, goes on to write in the next verse—

But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.

Look at the contrast. The person whose ears and heart are open to what God has to say literally bends over to look into the Law of God, much the same as he does when he looks into the mirror that is placed horizontally on a table. However, the difference is that while he studies the perfect law of God he does not walk away from it, as does the person who casts a fleeting glance into a mirror. He continues to look intently into the Word. He meditates on it and obediently puts it into practice.

James calls the Word of God the PERFECT LAW, causing us to recall Psalm 19:7-11—

The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring for ever. The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb. By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.

Why is the Law is PERFECT? Because it gives freedom and it alone sets man really free. That is the law of God through Jesus Christ set man free from the bondage of sin and self-centeredness. Within the boundaries of God’s Law, we are set free—for there we live in the environment God designated for us. When we cross the boundary, we become a slave to sin. As long as we keep the law, we are free!

The Christians who look into the perfect law and keep it will be blessed in what they do. Why are these Christians blessed? Because they know that the precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart and the commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes. They find joy in their work, joy in their family, and joy in their LORD. They know that God is blessing them in all that they do!

Being blessed is a matter of looking and doing, of washing our hands and feet in the water of God’s Word!

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