The Laver
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Open your Bibles, please, to the book of Exodus, chapter 30:

Exodus 30

17And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
18Thou shalt also make a laver of brass, and his foot also of brass, to wash withal: and thou shalt put it between the tabernacle of the congregation and the altar, and thou shalt put water therein.
19For Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet thereat:
20When they go into the tabernacle of the congregation, they shall wash with water, that they die not; or when they come near to the altar to minister, to burn offering made by fire unto the LORD:
21So they shall wash their hands and their feet, that they die not: and it shall be a statute for ever to them, even to him and to his seed throughout their generations.

Please turn to chapter 38 of the book of Exodus. In chapter 30, we have read the instructions for building the tabernacle and the various pieces of furniture, and in chapter 38 we read about Bezaleel's compliance with the orders given by God. If we are to have a complete understanding of the tabernacle and its furniture, it is necessary for us to be familiar with both sections of Scripture, but we do not read each section in its entirety unless there is additional information in one that is not given in the other. There is such information in Exodus, chapter 38:

Exodus 38

8And he made the laver of brass, and the foot of it of brass, of the [notice] lookingglasses of the women assembling, which assembled at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.

We have been studying the furniture of the tabernacle, beginning with the Ark of the Covenant and the Mercy Seat in the Most Holy Place. In front of the curtain in the holy place were the incense, the table of shewbead, and the seven-branched candlestick. In the courtyard of the building, before the curtain that separated the building itself from the courtyard, we come to the brazen laver.

Basis Used for Cleansing

It is important, if we are to understand the Bible, to be acquainted with the English language. It is desirable to know something of Hebrew and Greek if you wish to delve into the secrets of the Word; but sometimes people do not understand the Bible because they just do not understand English. Many people have no idea what the English word “laver” means. The laver was a basin at which individuals were able to cleanse themselves. When the King James version of the Bible was translated, it was a good word; it was in everyday use. We do not use the word today, so it would be better to refer to this piece of furniture as a wash basin:

Exodus 30

19For Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet thereat:

Three is no description of the laver as to shape or size, and this is true only of the laver. We were given descriptions of the Mercy Seat, the Ark of the Covenant, the table of shewbread, and the altar of incense as to shape and size. Though we were not told the size of the seven-branched candlestick in cubits of inches as we were told in regard to other pieces of furniture, we were given a description of its appearance. We know that it stood taller than the other pieces of furniture in the tabernacle. But when we come to the laver, not one word is said about the size or the shape of the laver. There were other peculiar characteristics of this piece of furniture, and these peculiar characteristics have a lesson, we believe, just as do the features of every piece of furniture in the tabernacle.

The Last Piece of Furniture

I would like to mention them by way of introduction, and then I trust we will have time to notice their significance later. For example, the laver was the last piece of furniture mentioned when the directions were given for building the furniture. It was the last piece of furniture mentioned, and it was the last piece of furniture described when all the pieces of furniture were tabulated, and it was the last piece of furniture to be placed in its proper place in the tabernacle. That may not seem strange unless you stop to think that the first pieces of furniture mentioned were the Mercy Seat and the Ark of the Covenant. As we progressed from the inside out–we did that because the book of Exodus approaches it that way–each piece of furniture is mentioned in its proper place; but when we come to the place where the laver should be mentioned, it is not mentioned. The last piece of furniture mentioned when the pieces of furniture were placed in the tabernacle is the laver. I do not believe that was an accident; there must have been some reason for it. Every piece of furniture mentioned in the tabernacle had made for it a special covering that was to be placed over it when the tabernacle was in motion–as they moved from place to place, except the laver. Keep these special characteristics of the laver in mind.

Descriptions of the Laver

Even though there is no description of the laver presented to us in the Bible, we do have some idea of what it looked like. There are a number of suggestions that come to our minds from the Hebrew word itself. The word for “laver” is kiyyor , which describes excavating something by hammering–that is, making a depression by hammering. Immediately you can picture in your minds Bezaleel and his workmen taking a solid piece of brass and hammering it until it was fashioned into a round bowl. That word kiyyor also means “round”, or it cam mean “something that is bored”.

We come to a real understanding of what the laver looked like when we notice the manner in which the word kiyyor is translated in another portion of the Word of God. Turn with me, please, to the book of I Samuel, chapter 2. The roots of the tabernacle run deep throughout the Word of God, and this is an illustration. In this chapter, you will find a reference to the instruments related to the worship of God in the temple. The tabernacle gave place to the temple, and there were many things similar in the tabernacle and in the temple:

I Samuel 2

12Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial; they knew not the LORD.
13And the priest's custom with the people was, that, when any man offered sacrifice, the priest's servant came, while the flesh was in seething, with a fleshhook of three teeth in his hand;
14And he struck it into the pan, or kettle, or caldron, or pot; all that the fleshhook brought up the priest took for himself. So they did in Shiloh unto all the Israelites that came thither.

Notice in verse 14 the word “pan”, which is a translation of the Hebrew word kiyyor . That gives us an indication of what the laver looked like; it was a round-shaped pan beaten out of a solid piece of brass.

When we were looking at chapter 30 of the book of Exodus, verse 18, we found that the instructions to Moses were: “Thou shalt also make a laver of brass, and his foot also of brass.” The word “foot” has no particular significance to us in the English language, and it is difficult for us to visualize what this laver was like with a word like that. But the word “foot” is translated from the Hebrew word ken , which elsewhere is translated by “base”, and immediately we begin to understand what we are talking about. Read in chapter 7 of the book of I Kings the story of how a number of these lavers were made; it describes how these lavers were set upon bases. This word ken is also translated “stand” and “pedestal”. So we have a picture from the words themselves of what this laver looked like–a round washbasin that sat upon a pedestal.

Regulations Concerning Washing

We are told in chapter 30 that water was to be placed in this basin so that Aaron and his sons might wash their hands and their feet. There is a great advantage in being familiar with extra-scriptural writings, although they are not inspired, because they do throw light upon customs and practices. If you were to read any such writings–Josephus being the most prominent–you would find that the priests had several regulations about washing. I mention them because I think it will help us to understand what this piece of furniture looked like.

For example, the priests would never dip their hands into a basin of water as we might do today if we were washing our hands in the lavatory. Rather, they would wash only under running water. They would have another vessel with which they could dip water out of the laver and pour it over their hands and over their feet; or they would have some kind of faucet or spigot that would permit the water to run out, for they washed only in running water.

Lavers have been found in some archaeological discoveries which suggest how this one might have looked. The top part was a round bowl, as I have said, and there were outlets operated by what we would refer to as spigots or faucets today, that let the water out of the top basin into the lower basin, which was also the base of the big basin.

Spiritual Significance of the Laver

We have been endeavoring to discover in regard to each of the pieces of furniture in the tabernacle some suggestions as to its spiritual significance. When we began our study of the tabernacle, we noticed a number of passages of Scripture which taught us that we should not look upon this as just a piece of architecture with very interesting pieces of furniture. Rather, we should look upon it as something that would teach us a spiritual lesson if we would take the time to try to learn what it meant. So we want to learn the spiritual significance of the laver.

We learned that the altar of incense indicated the manner in which we might have communion with the Lord. We learned that the table of shewbread indicated the manner in which we might have our sustenance in the Lord. We learned that the seven-branched candlestick indicated the manner in which we might serve the Lord in the light of the Lord and in the light of His Word.

So we ask: What is the significance of the laver that stands completely outside the building in the courtyard? We learned when we looked at chapter 30 that the purpose of the laver was to provide a place where Aaron and his sons could wash their hands and their feet. The word “wash” is interesting; it is translated from the Hebrew word rahats , and it speaks of washing one's own hands and feet. There is more than one word for “washing” in Hebrew; if you were talking about washing someone else, you would use an entirely different word. If you were talking about washing yourself–your doing the work–you would use this word.

Two Washings Necessary

Turn, please, to chapter 29 of the book of Exodus and notice there are two kinds of washings in connection with the worship in the tabernacle. There was one which was ministered to Aaron and his sons by another, and there was one which they ministered to themselves:

Exodus 29

1And this is the thing that thou shalt do unto them to hallow them [that is, Aaron and his sons] , to minister unto me in the priest's office: Take one young bullock, and two rams without blemish,
2And unleavened bread, and cakes unleavened tempered with oil, and wafers unleavened anointed with oil: of wheaten flour shalt thou make them.
3And thou shalt put them into one basket, and bring them in the basket, with the bullock and the two rams.
4And Aaron and his sons thou shalt bring unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and shalt wash them with water.

These were words of instructions to Moses. Moses was told that he should wash Aaron and his sons. The word “wash” here describes a complete washing–what we might today call a bath. In other words, the priests–Aaron and his sons–were bathed by Moses at the brazen altar before they ever began to do anything at all in connection with the tabernacle. But as they approached the service of the Lord in the tabernacle, another washing was necessary, and that washing occurred at the laver. Notice the distinction: At the brazen altar it was Moses who did the washing, and at the laver it was the priests themselves who did the washing.

Symbolic of Cleansing for Fellowship

Turn, please, to the book of Hebrews, chapter 10, which is a commentary on much that we find in the book of Exodus in connection with the tabernacle, and also to the book of Leviticus, which describes the worship services which were carried on in the tabernacle. In the book of Hebrews, the author encourages Christian Jews in the Old Testament language to enter into full fellowship with the Lord, as far as the New Testament is concerned.

Hebrews 10

22Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.

The two things that are necessary are that our hearts be sprinkled from an evil conscience, and that our bodies be washed with pure water. He is talking about the same thing in reverse. “Bodies washed with pure water” represents what happened at the brazen altar. “Consciences made clean” represents what happened at the laver.

May I suggest that the laver symbolizes the washing which provides continual communion with the Lord. The washing of the body at the brazen altar symbolizes salvation; the washing at the laver symbolizes the cleansing that is necessary after salvation, if we are to enter into any kind of communion or fellowship with the Lord. The washing at the brazen altar occurred once; it need not occur again and again. If you should take the time to read the account in Exodus, you would find that the washing at the laver occurred continually. Whenever they took a step, they had to wash again at the laver because the floor was dirty and their feet got dirty. Whenever they went from the brazen altar to the altar of incense, they had to wash their hands; their hands got dirty. So there was no limit to the number of times the laver had to be used. The washing at the brazen altar, one time; the washing at the laver, numerous times.

Illustration of the Upper Room

Turn, please, to the Gospel of John, chapter 13, for an illustration of this in the life of our Lord. The Feast of the Passover was near and the disciples had gathered with the Lord in an upper room for the purpose of eating the Passover. Since it was in a borrowed room and there was no certain host, there was no one there to perform the ordinary functions of a host in an Oriental household. For example, if I were a host in an Oriental household, I would either take a basin of water and bathe the feet of everyone present, or I would have one of my servants do it. People walked up and down the streets in open-toed sandals and their feet were dirty. They would no more think of sitting down to a meal with dirty feet than we would think of sitting down to a meal with dirty hands.

Since there was no host in this upper room, and since none of the disciples volunteered to do it because of their pride, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself performed the functions of the host. Therein lies the story we want you to notice. Look at verse 4:

John 13

4He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself.
5After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded.
6Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet?
7Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter.

What He meant was, “Peter, I am doing something far more than just doing any ordinary function related to sanitation.”

John 13

8Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.

Here He was teaching Peter a spiritual lesson, and Peter immediately grasped its import.

John 13

9Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.

Peter was weak and he failed often, but there was one thing he knew: He wanted to be the Lord's completely, and whatever it took, he was willing to do. When the Lord said, “If I don't wash your feet, you cannot have any part with me,” he was not willing to take a chance. He said, “Don't talk about my feet; give me a bath all over!”

John 13

10Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all.
11For he knew who should betray him; therefore said he, Ye are not all clean.

He said to Peter, “Peter, you don't need a bath; you have already had one.” By this time Peter knew he was talking to him about spiritual things. “You have already been saved, Peter; you don't need to be saved all over again. But you do need to be cleansed because you have been walking up and down on the earth, and you have become contaminated in our associations if in no other way. Your feet must be cleansed, but you don't need a bath all over!”

Notice the accuracy of the Scripture in verse 8. When Peter said unto Him, “Thou shalt never wash my feet,” Jesus answered, “If I wash thee not, thou has not part with me.” Circle the word “with”; He did not say, “Thou hast no part in me”, but “You have no part with Me.” There is a difference. When we are saved, we are immediately placed into the Lord Jesus Christ. When we have our bath–in the terms we are using–we are placed in the Lord Jesus Christ. Many people who are in Christ have no fellowship with Christ because they have not been to the laver. You come to the brazen altar to be placed into Christ; you come to the laver to maintain your communion with Christ.

So we would say that the laver symbolizes the washing that provides continual communion with the Lord. More specifically, we would say that the water in the laver symbolizes the Word of God, as the laver symbolizes the Lord Jesus Christ in the administration of the Word of God as a cleansing agent. You will notice they did not wash themselves in the laver; they washed themselves in the water, but it was the laver that made the water available.

Word of God as a Cleansing Agent

So we will say that the laver symbolizes the Word of God as a cleansing agent in our lives when it is administered by the Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible bears that out, for the two are always mentioned together. Let us look at an illustration or two.

Turn, please, to the book of Hebrews, chapter 4:

Hebrews 4

12For the word of God is quick,…

That is, it is living. This does not mean that it acts quickly; it may take a long time for it to act. Some of us have realized that when we have given out the Word of God to individuals and have longed to see the results immediately, but have not seen them immediately.

Hebrews 4

12For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged 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.

Notice how deep the Word of God will pierce into the heart and the conscience of an individual. Notice the connection. I said that the written Word and the living Word are always mentioned together, and so we read in verse 13:

Hebrews 4

13Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.

The Word of God lays us open, just as the sacrificial knife–for that is what it is, instead of a sword that you fight with–lays open the animal for the sacrifice, and all its inward parts are made visible. The Word of God discerns between the thoughts and intents of the heart, and leaves us naked before Him with whom we have to do. We would be discouraged, indeed, if we had to stop reading there, but you will notice in verse 14 that our eyes are turned toward the Lord Jesus Christ:

Hebrews 4

14Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our [confession] .
15For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin [apart from sin] .
16Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

Do you see what happens? The Word of God causes us to realize our need. We turn to the Lord and find cleansing. So it is the written Word and the living Word that provide our cleansing.

Turn back, please, to chapter 15 of the Gospel of John. This section, beginning with chapter 14 and concluding with chapter 17, is the farewell speech of our Savior to those whom He left upon the earth. He said a great many things to them:

John 15

1I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.
2Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.

Look at the word “purge”. It means “cleanse”. The picture that is presented to us is of a branch down on the ground and all covered with sand and dirt; if it stays down there, it will just grow on under the ground and not produce any fruit, so it is lifted up and cleansed. The Lord Jesus Christ makes the application in verse 3:

John 15

3Now ye are clean [purged] through the word which I have spoken unto you.

The Word of God is a cleansing agent. Turn, please, to chapter 5 of the book of Ephesians for an even more distinct statement. The Psalmist asked, “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word” (Psalm 119:9). So you see, the laver represents a cleansing agent that maintains communion; this is consistent with the Word.

Cleansing of the Church

Notice verse 25 of Ephesians, chapter 5:

Ephesians 5

25Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;
26That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,

The Church is not an organization in this passage of Scripture; it is an organism made up of born-again believers, regardless of their denominational affiliation or the lack of it. This passage says that He purchased the Church; it says that He cleanses the Church as well. He purchased the Church here at the brazen altar, but the Church must be cleansed at the laver. He purchased the Church once and for all; He paid only one purchase price for it. At the laver, the Church must cleanse itself again and again and again.

One of the sad things about Christian living today is that many people do not realize that. They think that that moment they profess faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, everything will be smooth sailing from then on out. They will never sin again and they will never make mistakes again, but they do. They make mistakes, and then they get discouraged and throw the whole thing out. They says, “What is the use of following on if we cannot do any better than this?” All in the world they need to do is to go to the laver.

Communion Maintained By Obedience to the Word

With this thought in mind–that the laver represents that which maintains our communion–let us notice how the details bear out this testimony as they are given in relation to the laver itself.

Back in Exodus, chapter 30, we read the word “foot” in verse 18. We mentioned that it is translated from the Hebrew word ken , which can be translated “pedestal” or “stand” or “base”; but it is also translated in another way, which to my mind emphasizes again the verbal inspiration of the Scriptures in the original text.

Turn to the book of Judges, chapter 12, please, as I think with you a bit about this. In the original text the Bible is verbally inspired. The Holy Spirit did not leave the writer of the Word of God to use just any old word that might come to mind; He selected the words very carefully, sometimes words that were not even in the writer's vocabulary, but that He brought to their minds in order to bring forth a specific truth. I think that is true in Exodus, chapter 30. It becomes more evident when we look at chapter 12 of Judges. This is the story of how people demanded a certain agreement, and if they could not have it, things were going to be bad. This story in the Bible has become the basis for a great many stories in secular literature; it has become proverbial among statesmen in connection with treaties among nations:

Judges 12

4Then Jephthah gathered together all the men of Gilead, and fought with Ephraim: and the men of Gilead smote Ephraim, because they said, Ye Gileadites are fugitives of Ephraim among the Ephraimites, and among the Manassites.
5And the Gileadites took the passages of Jordan before the Ephraimites: and it was so, that when those Ephraimites which were escaped said, Let me go over; that the men of Gilead said unto him, Art thou an Ephraimite? If he said, Nay [they wanted to be sure whether they were Ephraimites or Gileadites, so they put them to this test] ;
6Then said they unto him, Say now Shibboleth: and he said Sibboleth: for he could not frame to pronounce it right. Then they took him, and slew him at the passages of Jordan: and there fell at that time of the Ephraimites forty and two thousand.

This matter of pronouncing “Shibboleth” has become proverbial: If you agree with me, you had better say “Shibboleth” instead of “Sibboleth”; if you don't, I will not have anything to do with you. That is the idea of the passage. Notice the phrase in verse 6, “pronounce it right”; notice the word “right”. It is very interesting to me that the word “right” is the translation of the Hebrew word ken . When the Holy Spirit was seeking a word that would describe the piece of furniture that was to regulate our communion with the Lord, He chose a word that described doing right. That is the only way we can maintain our communion with the Lord–by doing right, by living right.

In John, chapter 1, verse 7, we are told that if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son, cleanseth us from all sin. But we are told also in verse 6 that if we say that we have fellowship with Him and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth. Fellowship is characterized by doing right.

Material Used In the Laver

The laver was made of brass, and if you keep that in mind, you will learn a very interesting lesson. The word “brass”, or the material brass is used in the Scriptures always as a symbol of judgment. We will not take the time to examine that, because when we come to the brazen altar we will give more attention to it.

How familiar are you with what the critics have to say about the authenticity of the Word of God? How familiar are you with those passages of Scripture to which they point and say, “The Bible is not inspired.”? Well, this is one of those passages. Some say that the book of Exodus says that the laver was made of brass and that the altar was made of wood covered with brass, when brass was not even known at the time of Moses. So they say that the Bible could not possibly be inspired; if it were, it would not make a mistake like that.

Actually, the Bible does not say that the laver was made of brass, nor does it say that the altar was made of brass. The translation says it, but not the original text. The original text says that this piece of furniture was made of copper. Among the biggest producers of copper at that time were the Jews, there in the land of Palestine, for this particular word that is translated by our English word “brass” is from the Hebrew word nechosheth. So you see, the Bible is true. When men think it isn't true, it is just because they don't try to take the time to understand it.

When I point out to you this word nechosheth as being used for the material for the laver because of its translation in another place, will you look with me, please, at the book of Ezekiel, chapter 16. The prophet Ezekiel is speaking to the nation of Israel in terms of adultery. The terms are used as though they refer to physical adultery, but actually he is speaking of the wandering of the children of Israel away from the Lord. Their worship of idols, etc., is called spiritual adultery:

Ezekiel 16

36Thus saith the Lord GOD; Because thy filthiness was poured out, and thy nakedness discovered through thy whoredoms with thy lovers, and with all the idols of thy abominations, and by the blood of thy children, which thou didst give unto them;
37Behold, therefore I will gather all thy lovers, with whom thou hast taken pleasure, and all them that thou hast loved, with all them that thou hast hated; I will even gather them round about against thee, and will discover thy nakedness unto them, that they may see all thy nakedness.

Look back at verse 36 and notice the word “filthiness”. It is a translation of this word nechosheth . Do you see the connection? The laver is the place where the Israelites in priestly service were cleansed from the filthiness of contamination with earthly things. When God selected through the Holy Spirit the word that would describe the material out of which the laver was made, He chose this particular word. Again, the verbal inspiration of the Scripture is vindicated.

Cleansed for Service

Will you go back now to chapter 30 of the book of Exodus and notice verse 19:

Exodus 30

19For Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet thereat [at the laver, specifically their hands and their feet]:

The feet speak of the walk, and the hands speak of the service. Surely we should learn from this that if we are to walk with the Lord well-pleasing, or, as Paul puts it in his letter to the Ephesians, “Walk worthy of the vocation wherewith we are called,” it will be necessary to make frequent stops at the laver. If our service is to be well-pleasing to the Lord, then it will be necessary for us to make frequent stops at the laver; the Scriptures say that they that bear the vessels of the Lord must be clean (Isaiah 52:11).

This would be sufficient, perhaps, but we would not be examining the Scriptures thoroughly unless we notice the next two verses. There are so many individuals today who emphasize the fact that they have been through the washing at the brazen altar, and they don't seem to be concerned about going to the laver. That is the attitude that is expressed by individuals who say, “Oh, I'm saved, so I can do anything I want. What difference does it make?” And by people who flippantly say, “Oh yes, I'm a Christian, but I'm not living for the Lord,” as though it mattered not at all. Look at verse 20:

Exodus 30

20When they go into the tabernacle of the congregation, they shall wash with water, that they die not; or when they come near to the altar to minister, to burn offering made by fire unto the LORD:
21So they shall wash their hands and their feet, that they die not: and it shall be a statute for ever to them, even to him and to his seed throughout their generations.

Get the picture in your minds. They come to the brazen altar; they are bathed; a sacrifice is offered, and if they do no more than that, they are taken care of. They are Israelites redeemed. But if they are going into this sacred, dedicated place, they must stop by the laver before they go. If they dare go to the altar of incense, which symbolizes communion, without having stopped at the laver, they are in danger of death. That is a serious thing, if we stop to think of it.

We have a New Testament counterpart of that truth that I would like for you to notice for its significance. Turn with me, please, to I Corinthians, chapter 11. This chapter describes some irregularities among the saints when they are assembled together for the purpose of worship. A number of things are dealt with. There are references made here to women prophesying and praying without their heads being covered and how this displeases the Lord, and women being in public service without their heads being covered. I am well aware that this seems old fashioned to many. “It is like Catholics,” is the argument some people give in relation to it. Others say that this was related to a purely local situation and has no reference to us today; but that does not hold water, as we would see if we should take the time to study the passage of Scripture.

Concerning the Lord's Supper

There were irregularities concerning eating in the Church, and here in the first Corinthian letter, chapter 11, the practice of having kitchens in the Church is definitely condemned from a Scriptural standpoint. People do a lot of rationalizing about it, but this is what the Word of God says. The thing we really want to get to is the irregularity that is discussed here in regard to the Lord's Supper. Notice verse 23:

I Corinthians 11

23For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread:
24And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.
25After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.
26For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come.

This is a description of how the Lord's Supper should be carried on in public worship, and it pretty well explains itself. We are all familiar with it. Now verse 27:

I Corinthians 11

27Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.

This is an unhappy translation, and it has led many people to refrain from participating in the Lord's Supper because they say they are not worthy; they are not good enough. Actually, this word “unworthily” could better be translated “in an unworthy manner,” because it is not a matter of whether you are worthy. If you're saying that Christ died for you when you sit down at the Lord's table, you're saying you're unworthy. And if you're worthy, you ought not to partake of it. But this speaks of an unworthy manner; if you partake of it in an unworthy manner, then you are guilty of crucifying the Lord Jesus Christ again. That is what the passage of Scripture says.

Discerning the Lord's Body

How may we eat, or not eat, in an unworthy manner? We are not told specifically, but look at verse 28:

I Corinthians 11

28But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.
29For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily [in an unworthy manner] , eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body.

So the unworthy manner is related to the wrong attitude of heart.

Time will not permit us to describe all the various wrong attitudes that could be included in this statement. The word “damnation” could better be translated “condemnation”, because it is not damnation of the soul; it is the condemnation of the Lord. He condemns any or all of us if we are displeasing to Him. The condemnation comes because we do not discern the Lord's Body; that is, we do not have a proper understanding or appreciation or respect for this thing. If you can come here on Sunday morning and partake of the elements of communion and flip your shoulder as you do it, as though it means nothing to you, you are not properly discerning the Lord's Body. You do not have the right appreciation of it. That is why we must be careful about children's participating in the Lord's Supper before they know and understand what they are doing. The main thing I want you to notice is in verse 30:

I Corinthians 11

30For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.

The word “sleep” here means “die”. This passage of Scripture says that many people come to the Lord' table with the wrong attitude; some of them get sick, and some of them even die. This does not say that everyone who gets sick has come to the Lord's table in the wrong manner. It does not say that everyone who dies has. But it does say that this is a possibility, because the Lord's table is the communion of the Lord. It is called that in chapter 10 of the first Corinthian letter.

Judgment That Results In Chastening

Get the picture in our Old Testament study. The altar of incense is the place of communion. If the high priest and his sons had gone immediately from the brazen altar where they were saved, up to the altar of incense without washing at the laver, they would have been struck dead physically. This is the Age of Grace, and God does not work in open judgment as He did at that time, but what He is saying here is that if we come from the place where we are saved to the communion table with unconfessed sin in our lives, we are coming with the wrong attitude; and if we persist in it, God may see fit to take our lives. He explains what He means in verse 31:

I Corinthians 11

31For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.

When we judge ourselves, we stop at the laver; that is the meaning. If you stop at the laver to wash your hands and your feet, you are judging yourself.

I Corinthians 11

32But when we are judged [by the Lord, that is] , we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.

You see, He cannot send us to Hell because He saved us; we have been to the brazen altar. He could not let us go to Hell; that would deny everything He ever taught. But He cannot let us get away with foolishness, either, or sin. If we don't stop at the laver, He will chasten us, and that chastening may result either in sickness or in death. So the laver in the tabernacle is symbolic of self-judgment as the Word of God makes us realize our need of the Lord.

Attention to the Inner Man

Turn to chapter 38 of the book of Exodus and notice verse 8. This chapter presents a description of the manner in which Bezaleel complied with the blueprint for the tabernacle. But in verse 8, we are told something that we were not told in chapter 30:

Exodus 38

8And he made the laver of brass, and the foot of it of brass, of the lookingglasses of the women assembling, which assembled at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.

This laver was made out of the copper looking-glasses of the women. They did not have glass as we do today. Their mirrors were made not of glass, but of copper. If you will compare this statement with the one we read in chapter 25 of the book of Exodus, you will read that they willingly gave these mirrors.

I do not know that this means that they did not have any others, but suppose for the sake of discussion that that it did mean that. Don't you think it would be an unusual thing for a woman to give up the last mirror that she had with the possibility of never having another one? Women, rightly or wrongly, spend a great deal of time before the mirror; and though there is a certain need for neatness and for cleanliness, let's face the fact that a great deal of time before the mirror may indicate pride in the flesh in varying degrees. Please don't misunderstand me. I am not recommending that you get rid of your mirrors. It is much easier on me if you keep them and use them, because I have to look at you. But I am suggesting that they may be indicative of pride in the flesh. It is only as we come to the realization that something is more important than the flesh that we can walk with the Lord in sweet communion.

Turn, please, for an illustration of this fact to Paul's first letter to Timothy. Many people spend more time on what the Bible refers to as outward adorning than they do on the adorning of the inner man. The Bible does not forbid outward adorning, but it does suggest that you strike a happy medium between the two. In fairness, I ought to say that women are not the only ones who use mirrors and spend time before them.

Paul says in I Timothy, chapter 2:

I Timothy 2

9In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with bridled [braided] hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array;
10But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.

We do not have time to look into this with great detail, but it does not rule out braided hair; it does not rule out gold or pearls. It asks you to strike a happy medium. If you want something really to adorn you, don't spend all your time adorning the flesh. Adorn the inner man with good works. Perhaps even clearer is a suggestion along this line in the first epistle of Peter, chapter 3:

I Peter 3

1Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives;
2While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear.
3Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel;

This is a comparison. If it were not, you could say this passage of Scripture teaches that you should not wear clothes at all, and that is not true. Don't put the emphasis on that. Rather, in verse 4:

I Peter 3

4But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.

This passage of Scripture says that women who want to interest their husbands in the things of the Lord would do better to spend more time on the inner woman than they do on the outer. Sometimes they spend all their time on the outer woman, making it attractive, but they are virtual hellcats to live with, and there is no opportunity for a witness or a testimony.

Conclusion

What I am saying is that when these women willingly gave up their mirrors, they learned that it was better to spend some time on the inner person than on the outer. Even at the risk of being misunderstood, I would like to say that it would be much better to spend time in cleansing the spirit than in cleansing the body.


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