Cleansing & Consecrating the Altar of Sacrifice

Today’s selected reading continues in the Old Testament prophetic book of Ezekiel, and more specifically, is found in verses thirteen through twenty-seven of the forty-third chapter. This particular section in the prophetic book of Ezekiel is actually quite unique, and is incredibly powerful, for it is in these verses where we find the pattern and design of the altar of sacrifice. Not only do we find in this passage the prescription, the pattern, the design of the altar of sacrifice, but we also find the prescription for the offerings that were to be offered upon the altar. It is imperative that the Spirit of the God of Israel reveal the pattern and design for the altar of sacrifice, for this was perhaps one of—if not—the most important piece of furniture within the Temple of the Lord. If you study the pattern and design of the Tabernacle and Temple, you will undoubtedly come to the conclusion that the Holy of Holies—and more specifically, the Ark of the Covenant—was the most important piece to the both structures. The truth of the matter, and my person conviction, is that the most important piece of furniture in the Temple was the altar of sacrifice. This altar, which was positioned in the outer court might seem like the least important place in the layout of the Temple, but it is the altar that makes provision for entrance to the Holy of Holies, and more specifically, to the Ark of the Covenant. What we must understand, is that the Holy of Holies could only be entered one time in the course of a year, and that was on the Day of Atonement. Only the High Priest of Israel could enter the Holy of Holies, and even that only with blood, which was to be placed upon the mercy seat concealed behind the veil. If the most sacred, the most holy, and the most important place of the Tabernacle and Temple was the Holy of Holies, then why was it only accessible once a year, and even that only by the high priest and with blood? If the Ark of the Covenant was the most important piece of furniture in the entire layout of the Tabernacle and Temple, then why was the High Priest allowed to come before it once a year? You would think that the Holy of Holies was the most important place in both the Tabernacle and the Temple, and that the Ark of the Covenant was the most important piece of furniture in both. The truth of the matter, and again, what I believe, is that it is the altar of sacrifice that is the most important piece of furniture in the entire layout of the structure. I am convinced that it is this place of sacrifice that is the most important place in the entire structure, for it was in this place where the blood was found, and it is in this place where the blood was shed. There would be no blood to present unto the Lord in the Holy of Holies and placed upon the Mercy Seat without and apart from the blood that was shed in the outer court before the altar of sacrifice. It was in the outer court where the death of the sacrifice occurred. It was in the outer court where the altar was placed upon the altar and offered unto God in the midst of the fire that burned upon the altar. It was in the outer court where the blood was shed, and it was that blood that was brought by the high priest into the Holy of Holies as an atonement and offering for the sins of the people.

I am convinced that the altar of sacrifice in the outer court is the most important place in the entire layout of the Temple, for the altar was the one piece of furniture that was used more than any other in the entire structure. The altar of sacrifice was in the outer court, for the people from among the children of Israel came daily to the Tabernacle and Temple in order to present their offerings and sacrifices to the Lord. The High Priest entered the Holy of Holies once a year, and drew near to the Ark of the Covenant only one time a year—on the Day of Atonement—yet the altar of sacrifice was used on a daily and continual basis. The altar remained in the outer court of the Tabernacle and Temple, for the priests and the Levites ministered around the altar on a daily basis. There were offerings and sacrifices that were brought to the priests daily, and each and every day the priests were presenting offerings and sacrifices upon the altar. The altar was the one place that was used year round, as the children of Israel came to appear before the Lord with their offerings and sacrifices. I am convinced that there is a powerful prophetic picture that is contained within this, for while entering into the presence of the Lord is the single greatest place we as the people of God can be in, it is the altar—the place of sacrifice—that is the most necessary. There can be no entrance, nor can there be any access to the presence of the Lord without and apart from sacrifice. Now, we know that Jesus Christ was the ultimate sacrifice, and that He made atonement once for the sins of humanity, and that it is by and through His blood that we now have access and entrance into the presence of the Lord. Even with that being said, I am convinced that the altar of sacrifice was used as a pattern and symbol for us as the people of God concerning our spiritual lives. I am convinced that the altar of sacrifice was the most important—and perhaps the most necessary—place in the entire layout of the Temple, for it was at the altar where sacrifices were presented and offered on a daily and continual basis. Remember the words of the apostle Paul when he wrote that he dies daily? Remember the words of the apostle Paul when he admonished and instructed us to present our bodies as living sacrifices unto the Lord, holy and acceptable, which is our reasonable service?

There is a New Testament and New Covenant precedent and mandate for daily and regular sacrifice within our lives as the people of God. The altar of sacrifice was, and still is, the most important place for any among the people of God, for it is the altar of sacrifice that is used on a daily and continual basis. The Lord was showing through the altar of sacrifice that not only was sacrifice necessary to enter into His presence, but sacrifice was a daily practice. The presenting of offerings and sacrifices upon the altar of sacrifice didn’t stop just because the High Priest could only enter into the Holy of Holies once a year. It may very well be that the High Priest entering the Holy of Holies “once” was symbolic of Jesus Christ needing to enter the Holy of Holies by His blood once, and that there was no need to enter into it a second time. The altar of sacrifice was present within the outer court, for the outer court was accessible to all the priests who ministered before the Lord and around His sacred altar. The altar of sacrifice represented the reality that the son and daughter of God would engaged in sacrifice and offerings on a continual basis. Oh, I can’t help but wonder if there weren’t those from among the children of Israel who brought offerings and sacrifices to the priests at the Temple on a daily basis. What we must understand, is that the children of Israel could come to the Tabernacle or Temple as frequently and as often as they wanted to and desired. There was no limit to how many times they could appear before the Lord bringing their offerings and sacrifices with them. The altar of sacrifice was in the outer court, for it needed to be available day after day for those who wished to present their offerings and sacrifices unto the Lord. The altar of sacrifice needed to be available night and day throughout the year for the people of Israel to have their offerings and sacrifices presented upon it. What’s more, is that the fire that burned upon the altar of sacrifice was to burn continually both night and day, and it was never to go out. The fire that burned upon that altar was to burn continually, in order that sacrifices might always be able to be offered upon it. The altar of sacrifice was the most important place in the entire Tabernacle and Temple, for it required continual and daily maintenance, for the priests needed to daily add wood to the fire to keep it burning continually. The altar of sacrifice was the most important place for the children of Israel, for it was in that place where their offerings and sacrifices could be offered before and presented unto the Lord.

Oh that we would recognize and understand that sacrifice is something that is continual and ongoing, and is not something that should be treated lightly or as common. Just as the children of Israel could come to the Tabernacle and Temple as many times as they wanted bringing their offerings and sacrifices with them, so too we can come to the altar of sacrifice within our own lives as often as we want to and desire. There is no limit to how many times we can appear before the Lord with our sacrifices, and there is no limit to how frequently we appear before the Lord presenting our bodies as living sacrifices. The apostle Paul instructed us to present our bodies as living sacrifices, and I am convinced the word “living” is vital for our understanding of this, for living means that it is a continual and ongoing sacrifice. We are a living sacrifice, for it is a sacrifice that can continually be offered and presented before the Lord. There is no end, nor is there any limit to how many times we can appear before the Lord, yet the question that must be asked is how frequently do we appear before the Lord with our offering(s) presented before Him. How often do we come to the sacred and holy altar in order to present our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable unto the Lord? Are you taking full advantage of the tremendous freedom and liberty you have to come and appear before the Lord at His holy altar as many times as you want? Are you making the most of the access you have to the altar of sacrifice—to what the Scripture referred to as the table of the Lord? How often do you bring your offerings and sacrifices unto the Lord? How often do you visit the altar of sacrifice within your own life in prayer and worship? The altar of sacrifice was the most important, the most vital, the most integral part to the entire Tabernacle and Temple, for it was at that place where the Lord would receive the sacrifices and offerings of His people. It was at the altar of sacrifice where the Lord would see how frequently His people would appear before Him with their offerings and sacrifices. What’s more, is that it was there at the altar where the Lord could even see how the priests would minister before Him, and how they would treat and handle the offerings that were brought unto Him. It was the altar of sacrifice where the children of Israel would present their offerings and sacrifices in order that they might worship the Lord.

I can’t get over the reality of the words of the apostle Paul, and how he wrote of our presenting our bodies as living sacrifices, and how that word living speaks of an offering that can and is continually offered before the Lord in prayer, in worship, in sacrifice, in surrender, in intercession, in praise, and in submission. A living sacrifice means that it is an offering that can continually be brought before and presented unto the Lord as a holy and acceptable sacrifice. I don’t think I can read the words of the apostle Paul concerning a living sacrifice, and not understand it to be a powerful picture of a sacrifice that is continual and ongoing. Oh, we are called to be a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto the Lord our God—a sacrifice that is presented and brought before the Lord daily. Oh, tell me dear brother and sister—if you are aware of the admonition and instruction to present your body as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to the Lord, how often do you actually appear before Him presenting yourself to Him? The altar of sacrifice was found in the outer court, for it represented a powerful invitation for the children of Israel to come and appear before the Lord. You will recall that the children of Israel came from the various tribes of Israel to appear before the Lord at His Tabernacle in Shiloh, and then at His Temple in Jerusalem, in order that they might present their offerings and sacrifices unto Him. When the kingdom of Israel was split into two, there were actually priests, Levites, and various people from among the various tribes of Israel that transitioned to the southern kingdom of Judah, for they sought to be near the Temple of the Lord. More importantly, these individuals sought to be near the altar of the Lord where they could present their offerings and sacrifices. The altar of sacrifice was found in the outer court as an invitation to the children of Israel to come and appear before the Lord bringing their offerings and sacrifices to Him in worship. I am convinced that the reason countless priests, Levites and those from among the ten northern tribes of Israel migrated into Judah was because they wanted to be near the altar of sacrifice. They wanted no part of the false system of worship that was being implemented within their land, and they wanted to come before the true altar of the Lord. They neither wanted the golden calves which Jeroboam son of Nebat set up, nor worship at the altars and high places he set up and established. The altar that was found in the outer court was incredibly powerful, for it meant that sacrifice and offering was acceptable to all the children of Israel, and was available as often and as frequently as they sought to draw near to it. Oh that we would hear the powerful call and invitation to draw near to the altar of sacrifice, and that we would draw near to it with our offerings and sacrifices. If we have unlimited access to the altar of sacrifice, and if there is no limit to how much we sacrifice, or how often we sacrifice, why do we sacrifice and come before the altar so little? Why do we neglect the altar of sacrifice more frequently than we draw near to it bringing our offerings and sacrifices?

I read this particular passage of Scripture in the book of Ezekiel, and I can’t help but be drawn to the powerful reality that there were specific measurements which were set forth by the Spirit of the Lord. When it came to the altar of sacrifice that was to be found in this Temple that would once again stand in the midst of the city of Jerusalem, there was a very specific pattern and design to it. In other words, the altar could not be built any other way than according to the exact pattern that was set forth by the Spirit of the Lord. Oh, there have been many attempts to build altars unto the Lord according to our own pattern and design, yet those altars have fallen drastically short. Much damage has been done by men and women who have attempted to fashion an altar unto the Lord that is not after the prescribed pattern and design which He set forth. I am convinced that the reason we read of a pattern and design for the altar of sacrifice is that when it comes to the place of sacrifice, we dare not attempt to define it according to our own imagination, pattern or design. When it comes to the place of sacrifice, we dare not attempt to fashion our own pattern or design, nor impose it upon that place. The Lord has set forth in His Word a very specific pattern and design for the place of sacrifice, and the altar must be built exactly as He has specified. What’s more, is that when you read this passage, you will read that the steps of the altar should face the east—face the direction the glory of the Lord came from. Oh, our altar(s) should always be directed toward the glory of the Lord. Our altars—the place of our sacrifice—should always be directed toward that place where the glory of the Lord is found. Too many times we have attempted to fashion our altars and have directed them toward anything but the glory and presence of the Lord, and we have found ourselves experiencing the absence and glory of the Lord. The steps of the altar of the Lord were to face the east which would mean that the priests would make their way up to the altar by way of the direction the glory of the Lord came. There is a specific pattern and design of the altar of the Lord—the place of sacrifice—and there is a specific way we are to approach it, and come near to it.

Oh that we would search the Scriptures and understand how we are to come and appear before the Lord at His holy altar—at that appointed and prescribed place of sacrifice. We must be very careful when we approach the altar of sacrifice, for there is a true worship that takes place there, and there is a false worship that also takes place. The Lord didn’t just reveal a pattern and design for the altar of sacrifice, but He also provided instruction for the offerings which were to be offered upon that altar. Moreover, the Lord spoke of cleansing the altar of sacrifice, which is a tremendous reality we must understand concerning the altar. “You shall take some of its blood and put it on its four horns and on the four corners of the ledge and on the border round about; thus you shall cleanse and make atonement for it” (Ezekiel 43:20). This is incredibly important, for I am convinced that there is a great need in this generation for the altar of the Lord to be cleansed. I am convinced that many of us have polluted and corrupted the altar of the Lord with our tainted offerings and sacrifices, and have defiled the holy altar of the Lord. I believe that the altar of the Lord in many of our churches and sanctuaries need to be cleansed with the blood of the Lamb, and must once again be consecrated and made holy unto the Lord. Oh that we as the priests of Jesus Christ consecrate and cleanse the altar of sacrifice through prayer and intercession. Oh that the Spirit of the Lord would cleanse the altars of our homes, the altars of our hearts, and the altars of our churches with the blood of Jesus the Christ. Let us understand what we are to present upon the altar of the Lord, and that we would consecrate and cleanse the altar with our sacrifices. Oh that we would offer sacrifices aright and anew before the Lord, and that we would cleanse and sanctify the altar with sacrifices and offerings that actually please the Lord. Oh that we would understand and pay attention to what we are presenting unto the Lord upon His sacred and holy altar, and that we would consecrate the altar with offerings and sacrifices that are actually pleasing and acceptable in the sight of the Lord.
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