The three alters the Lord commanded the Israelites to build, represent the three areas of the greatest spiritual battle that believers encounter today. The first of the three altars in the Old Testament was made of stone. During the time of the development of the nation of
Israeltheir altars were made of twelve stones, each one representing one of the twelve tribes of . Before the time that Israel was a nation, after Jacob, there is no example of using twelve stones, but they did make altars of stone for sacrifice. Israel
Then there was the brazen altar of the Tabernacle of Moses and Herod’s
Temple in the outer court of the Temple. The third altar in scripture is the golden altar of incense in the Holy place in the Tabernacle.
Joshua 8:30-33 “Then Joshua built an altar unto the LORD God of Israel in mount Ebal, As Moses the servant of the LORD commanded the children of Israel, as it is written in the book of the law of Moses, an altar of whole stones, over which no man hath lift up any iron: and they offered thereon burnt offerings unto the LORD, and sacrificed peace offerings. And he wrote there upon the stones a copy of the law of Moses, which he wrote in the presence of the children of
.” This is the altar of stone. Israel. And all Israel, and their elders, and officers, and their judges, stood on this side the ark and on that side before the priests the Levites, which bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD, as well the stranger, as he that was born among them; half of them over against mount Gerizim, and half of them over against mount Ebal; as Moses the servant of the LORD had commanded before, that they should bless the people of Israel
Exodus 27:1-2 “And thou shalt make an altar of shittim wood, five cubits long, and five cubits broad; the altar shall be foursquare: and the height thereof shall be three cubits. And thou shalt make the horns of it upon the four corners thereof: his horns shall be of the same: and thou shalt overlay it with brass.” This is the brass altar.
Exodus 30:1-3 “And thou shalt make an altar to burn incense upon: of shittim wood shalt thou make it. A cubit shall be the length thereof, and a cubit the breadth thereof; foursquare shall it be: and two cubits shall be the height thereof: the horns thereof shall be of the same. And thou shalt overlay it with pure gold, the top thereof, and the sides thereof round about, and the horns thereof; and thou shalt make unto it a crown of gold round about.” This is the golden altar.
The word altar comes from the Hebrew word meaning to slaughter, slay or kill an animal. Here are some altars mentioned in the Bible:
(1) Noah built an altar after the flood. Genesis 8:20
(2) Abraham built an altar near
Bethel. Genesis 12:7
(3) Abraham built an altar on
Mt. Moriah and named it Jehovah-jireh. Genesis 22:14
(4) Isaac built an altar at Beer-sheeba. Genesis 26:25
(5) Jacob built an altar at Shalem. Genesis 33:18
(6) Moses built an altar and called it Jehovah-nissi. Exodus 17:15
(7) Joshua built an altar on
Mount Ebal. Joshua 8:30
(8) Gideon built an alter and called it Jehovah-Shalom. Judges 6:24
(9) Manoah built an altar on a rock. Judges 13:20
(10) Saul built an altar to the Lord. 1 Samuel 14:35
(11) David built an altar and stopped the plague. 2 Samuel 24:21
Temple was built by Solomon and that became the main altar.
All of these altars were the places of offering something to God. The stone and brazen altar was for animal sacrifices and the golden altar was to offer incense up before God.
The word sacrifice is very interesting. In Hebrew there are several words translated in English as sacrifice. The most common words mean to slay or kill and animal that is offered as a sacrifice. One Hebrew Word is the word ‘corbin’ and it means to come near and approach. This is important. In the Old Testament Hebrew, the concept of a sacrifice is not to give up something, as to give the Lord something you can’t afford and make a sacrificial offering. That is not the intent of the word sacrifice. It means doing something and striving to get nearer to God. That changes the meaning of sacrifice. It is not the idea of giving up something for God but the idea of doing something to draw nearer to God. That is why King Solomon made the great sacrifices at the Tabernacle. 1 Kings 8:5, 10-11 “And king Solomon, and all the congregation of Israel, that were assembled unto him, were with him before the ark, sacrificing sheep and oxen, that could not be told nor numbered for multitude… And it came to pass, when the priests were come out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the LORD, So that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud: for the glory of the LORD had filled the house of the LORD.”
When you take scripture as a whole, which is more Biblically sound? The stand of men like David Wilkerson who after telling of their many ministries and outreaches they support, says “If you are a widow, elderly or living on Social Security or limited funds, please do not feel badly that you are unable to help. We would be most blessed if you will pray over all of these missionaries and their ministries.” Or that which says, if you only have $5 or $20 left, what good is it going to do you, what difference will it make, you might as well sow it as a seed so that God can multiply it as the oil and meal of the widow who gave her last to feed Elijah. The one allows those who wish to give, but it doesn’t pressure them, make them feel obligated to give what they don’t have or try to put them under a guilt trip or use emotions to extract out of them that which they can’t afford to give. God doesn’t want you to make an offering to Him that leaves you unable to pay your bills. I believe you start with tithing and prayer, and then as God blesses and multiplies what you have, that you then give more.
Yes God will recognize and bless those who give sacrificially out of love and desire for Him, give out of their lack, as the widow Jesus spoke of who gave the two mites in Mark 12:42. Yes, they will receive a great heavenly reward, not based on how big their gift was, but how great their heart was and their love toward Him and the amount they gave in relationship to what they had. But God puts no pressure or demand that you make such a sacrificial offering, though He will accept and reward that which is willing and out of love, not out of compulsion. 2 Corinthians 9:7 “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.”
But the first thing God looks at is your motive. Look what He said about David’s desire to built a house for worship. 1 Kings 8:18 “And the LORD said unto David my father, Whereas it was in thine heart to build an house unto my name, thou didst well that it was in thine heart.” Hebrews 4:12 “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”
So when you make a sacrifice before the Lord, is it to get back from Him, to get something from Him, or is it to draw nearer to Him and have His presence and blessing upon you? Simply, where is the focus, is it upon Him because you love and want more of Him or is it you because of selfish desires? Wrong motives negate spiritual blessing and benefit of what we do “for the Lord” and of our sacrifices.
Leviticus is part of the Torah, the five books of Moses also called the Law. In the book of Leviticus God never uses the word Elohim in reference to an offering. Every time you read where there is an offering, He uses His sacred name which is only four Hebrew letters, YHVH yod, hay, vav, hay. According to the Hebrew scholars, the correct pronunciation has been lost and no one is sure how it is pronounced. Anyway, some call it Jehovah, but there is no J in Hebrew, but the letter Y and it is something like Yahweh, but is in itself a mystery.
In the book of Leviticus God never uses Elohim, but his sacred covenant name, YHVH. It is the name He used in covenant. It is the name He revealed to Moses.
We are working toward dealing with the three altars and the satanic battles that take place at them and how we can apply that to our lives today, what it says to us. First there is the altar made out of stone. It had to be made with whole stone (Deuteronomy 27:6). “Thou shalt build the altar of the LORD thy God of whole stones:..” They could not chisel or cut out these stones. They were used the way they came out of the ground. When Noah built an altar that is how he built it. When Abraham built an altar on top
Mount Moriah to offer Isaac; that is how he built it. This altar would have had wood laid on the top of the stones and then the sacrifice put on top of that.
Joshua 4:3 “And command ye them, saying, Take you hence out of the midst of Jordan, out of the place where the priests' feet stood firm, twelve stones, and ye shall carry them over with you, and leave them in the lodging place, where ye shall lodge this night.” When the crossed the Jordan river, they took twelve stones from the river bed, that would have been smooth because of the water pouring over them and put them on the Israeli side and built an altar. Then they took twelve stones from the wilderness and put them into the
Jordan River near Bathabara. They did this in the same place where Jesus, which means Joshua, was baptized. John 1:28-29 “These things were done in Bethabara beyond , where John was baptizing. The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” Jordan
One reason God told them to take the stones and built the altar without using an iron tool was because in the Bible iron always represents fighting and war. This is a place of approaching God and you cannot have fighting and war going on when you are attempting to approach God. “I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting” (1 Timothy 2:8). The word for wrath means any anger, vengeance, indignation. You can’t worship with war in your heart.
In Solomon’s time they precut the stones at the quarry and then brought them to the
Temple. Deuteronomy 27:5 “And there shalt thou build an altar unto the LORD thy God, an altar of stones: thou shalt not lift up any iron tool upon them.” 1 Kings 6:7 “And the house, when it was in building, was built of stone made ready before it was brought thither: so that there was neither hammer nor ax nor any tool of iron heard in the house, while it was in building.”
The brass altar is important for several reasons. It was made from a special acacia tree wood that grew in the desert. The older the tree got the stronger it got. The brass altar was 5 cubits by 5 cubits, a square. There was a grate the wood was placed upon and the ashes fell through the grate and they lifted the altar up each day and swept the ashes from under the altar. The brass altar was large enough to have three main fires; the main fire, then a smaller one and then a last smaller one, each to back up the other so that the fire on the altar never went out. Jewish tradition says that no rain ever put out the fire upon the altar which is a miracle in itself. The main fire was used for the animal sacrifices, and then another used to light the altar of incense on the golden altar. They offered a lamb in the morning and another in the evening. They had five major offerings connected to the brazen altar. They had the trespass offering, the peace offering, transgression offerings and two more.
The most sacred peace of furniture as far as the altars were concerned was the golden altar, or altar of incense. Eleven types of incense were burned upon this altar. It was made of the same Acacia tree and overlaid with gold. It had handles for carrying it. It had four horns that represented the north, south, east and west. There was a bowl in the middle where the coals were placed and then the incense was then offered and it was to go up perpetually.
Now, the struggles at the altar. The altar upon which Abraham offered Isaac. Genesis 22:3-13 “And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him. Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off. And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you. And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together. And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together. And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood. And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me. And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son.” Tradition says that it was the altar built by Noah after the flood that his son Shem, who was Melchidezek used. That is the name mentioned in Genesis 14:18, which comes from two words meaning king of righteousness. It’s not a name as a person’s name, but a title. Caesar was not a name but a title. Many Hebrew teachings as Jasher say that it was Shem, the righteous son of Noah, who was alive at the time of Abraham. This altar of stone; is what Abraham offered Isaac upon.
Then in Zechariah 3:1 there was a battle at the brass altar. “And he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him.” When the Jews returned from Babylonian captivity, the gates were burned, the walls torn down and the Lord was trying to get the people to bring money into the
Temple to rebuilt it.
One of the problems they had, was as they were rebuilding the altar, the brass altar, Satan came and stood on the right side of the altar to resist the high priest. Satan was resisting the high priest because according to Zechariah’s prophecy in Zechariah 3:3, the high priest was clothed in garments that were dirty. “Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments (which represents sin), and stood before the angel.”
One of the things about the priestly garments was that they had to be kept clean and white. So the captives had returned. The priest had gotten out these old garments, we don’t know from where, and Satan is standing at the right side of the altar to stop him from approaching God. The angel of the Lord rebuked Satan in Zechariah 3:2. “And the LORD said unto Satan, The LORD rebuke thee, O Satan; even the LORD that hath chosen
?” Here it was not an intentional rebellion against God’s requirement or sin on the part of Joshua the High Priest, but most likely all that he had at the time. The Hebrew word for “brand”, ('uwd, ood) comes from a root word meaning a rake or poker used to turn the embers of a fire. Joshua was a one God plucked out of the fire, for His own use. This fire is the fire of His judgment. Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire
Satan was saying that Joshua was unfit for the priesthood, he was unsanctified. They are standing before the pre-incarnate Christ and Satan is there as the accuser. Joshua is accused as being unworthy and unclean, but is justified but not by himself. He appears as one unclean, who is purified and sanctified by the Lord for His own purposes. Zechariah 3:4 “And he answered and spake unto those that stood before him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment.”
Christ did not justify or love the filthy garments, no; but He did not put away His high priest because of his filthy garments. God does that for those whom He chooses to be priests unto Him. The guilt and stain of sin is taken away by His grace and mercy that pardons our sin. This is a picture of what Christ does for all who come to Him in true repentance. He washes away our sin with His blood, and He clothes us with a robe of His righteousness.
Revelation 19:7-8 “Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.” The righteousness of the saints, both imputed and implanted is represented by the fine white linen in which they are dressed. In this vision that Zechariah is given of Joshua, we see the reality and victory of Revelation 12:10 “And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.”
Joshua was a brand plucked from the fire for God’s use, as
was saved from the fire of Babylonian captivity. Jude 23 “And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.” What is sad is when God puts His people into the fire because of sin but they don’t repent and return to Him for cleansing. Amos 4:11 speaks of such a people. “I have overthrown some of you, as God overthrew Israel Sodom and” When we return, when the prodigal repents, we are cleansed. One day, the prophetic picture of this scene is Zechariah chapter 3 will be realized when Gomorrah, and ye were as a firebrand plucked out of the burning: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD. returns to the Lord and bows to the Lordship of Jesus, their Messiah. They will become a brand plucked from the fire they are going through to prepare them for that time of revelation the greatest of which will be the “great teibulation”. Israel
Then the third unusual situation has to do with the golden altar in Luke 1:9-13. “According to the custom of the priest's office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense. And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.”
Zechariah, who will be the father of John the Baptist is there doing his priestly duties and offering incense at this golden altar. Then all of a sudden an angel of the Lord stands there on the right side of the altar. Now according to the restriction that God had put on the priests, only one man was allowed to be there standing at the altar and so Zechariah was afraid that the judgment of God was about to fall upon him and this other person because there wasn’t supposed to be anyone else there. Even their tradition said if you are there at the altar and you see a being appear on the right side, of the golden altar it’s God Himself. You can image how he felt. It was the angel Gabriel and he tells this great priest that he would have a special son.
How do these three altars apply to us today? First, the stone altar represents the altar of personal sacrifice. Abraham had to give up something on that altar, that which was the most dear, important and valuable thing in his life, his only son, his promised son by his wife Sarah. The brass altar represents dealing with your flesh. It is where the animal was taken, where the skins were taken off the animal and dealt with. In the New Testament there are numerous scriptures about the flesh. Romans 8:1 “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” There is a real requirement and if in that verse to be in the place where there is no condemnation. John 6:63 “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing:…” We are too walk after the spirit, not the flesh for the flesh profits nothing. We will get no where and accomplish nothing that God is pleased with, by the works and efforts of our flesh.
We are not talking about your physical flesh and dealing with it. The Greek word for flesh speaks of the carnal nature, the carnal man or the carnal way of thinking. This altar in the Old Testament was the altar where the skin of the animal was removed and the flesh burnt and represents dealing with your flesh and we have a continuous battle with our old fleshly man. That is why Paul said, “I die daily” (1 Corinthians 15:31). It’s dying to the flesh and its will that you can follow and walk in the will of God. It is the reality of dying to self to take up your cross and follow Jesus. Matthew 16:24 “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” You can’t follow Jesus until you take up your cross, and you can’t do that until you deny self. That means that where your will and the will of God come into conflict, you reject your own will and you die to it that you can then take up the will of God and follow Jesus. There is no other way and no other meaning to this verse.
Then at the golden altar there is a battle in how you deal with worshipping God and trusting God. So there is the stone altar, the brass altar and the golden altar. Now brass is much more valuable than stone and gold much more valuable than brass. So there is a progression in God when you move in the spirit. When you first come to God you have to deal with yourself and give yourself over to God when you repent. That is making a personal sacrifice and turning your life over to God. Many times it is there that God asks you to deal with that which was in your life that hindered and kept you from Him. You are then asked to lay that on the altar so that you can approach and come nearer to God.
Then in your progression with God is to come to the brazen altar where you have to deal with the works of your flesh and crucify them. We are first cleansed from our sin by the blood, then we have to be cleaned by the Spirit and Word of God of our old sinful habits and fleshly ways and worldly thinking by having our minds renewed to the truth so that we stop making wrong decisions. We make wrong decisions because of wrong thinking that is according to this world and that which we learned and were taught in the world we call our worldview. Our minds have to be transformed from a fleshly worldview to a godly worldview.
An example of this can be seen in the current battle for proposition 2 in
Texas to amend the state constitution to say that marriage is between a man and a woman. Yet, we see there are preachers and ministers on both sides of the issue both trying to claim the moral high ground. Those who don’t know the ways of God and who have not allowed the Word to change their thinking and influence their actions and decisions, stand behind the rights of homosexuals and say we shouldn’t discriminate against them. It is particularly grievous to me to see Jewish rabbis standing for homosexual rights and marriage as being just before God and that He accepts us all equally, when the Torah, the so adamantly claim to follow, is clear about homosexual relations. This shows how wicked worldly thinking can override the Word of God among the most religious. Only God can transform our thinking because we ask Him to and desire to please Him.
Paul said it well in Romans 12:1-2 “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” We cannot do or prove in our lives that which is right before God and His will for our lives until we allow His spirit to implant the Word into our minds and transform our thinking for you will always make decisions and act in accordance with how you think.
Then you come to the golden altar and struggle to learn to pray and worship. If you don’t think it is a struggle, try praying for an hour. Try praying for 30 minutes. Watch your mind wander. The enemy will throw everything at you, remind you of things to do, worldly cares and problems that need attention, etc.
So, these are the three levels of battle. At the stone altar you battle your will versus God’s will as what happened to Jesus in the
Garden of Gethsemane in Matthew 26:42. “O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.” Then at the brass altar you deal with your flesh versus your spirit as Jesus did that in Matthew 26:41. “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Then at the golden altar you deal with praying and praising God and Jesus had disciples who slept while he prayed. There in the Garden, in Matthew 26:40-45, Jesus went through all three of those battles. “And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done. And he came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy. And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. Then cometh he to his disciples, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.”
It is important to understand the battles we go through and know that is what these altars are all about. Everything in the Old Testament was a type and shadow of spiritual truths to teach us in picture form, living parables for as the natural, so is the spiritual.
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