The Horns of the Altar

The Horns of the Altar – Light out of the Shadows Chapter 2

As the penitent sinner came leading his lamb to the door of the Tabernacle seeking forgiveness for his sin, the first thing that caught his eye was a huge piece of furniture just inside the door. It was the great Brazen Altar standing in the midst of the Tabernacle yard squarely between him and the Tent where dwelt the Mercy seat. We read of it in 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 thee horns of it upon the corners thereof: his horns shall be of the same and thou shalt overlay it with brass.”

The number five in Scripture speaks of Grace, while three is the number of God’s Divine Perfection. How symbolic this is! For here at the Cross (for the Brazen Altar represents the Cross of Christ) man meets with the divine perfection of God only by grace! Glory be to God, how wonderfully He has it pictured. Notice that in the description of the altar that there are horns on each corner, and I want to limit our study today just to these horns.

An Altar of Wood

Basically this altar and its horns were made of wood. This is symbolic of the human nature. Let me tell you, friends, that it was the MAN Christ Jesus who died on the Cross! God cannot die. It was man who died on that cross. And He died for man. Some say that it doesn’t matter what we do in the flesh, sin as much as you want, for only the spirit shall be saved anyhow. But it’s the human nature God is taking to the cross, and it is man God is dealing with. Now “Horns” in the Bible are symbolic of strength and power. This is shown in 1 Kings 22:11, 2 Chron. 18:10, as well as other places.

Now the horns first of all were made of wood. This tells us of the power God has invested in man. Before he fell into sin, man was the most powerful of all God’s creation. The fear of man was upon every creature. He had dominion and ruled over all. I could not fully put into words here the strength, the wisdom, the ability, the beauty of this original man. But suffice it to say that God was very pleased with him. No scientist ever lived that had the wisdom of that first man, no athlete ever had his strength or ability, no poet could ever compare with his sensitive spirit. He was the crowing glory of God’s creation.

Brass Over the Wood

Brass symbolizes Judgment. When sin came, judgment came. And the brass completely covered the wooden horns. If man was strong, the judgment was much stronger. And once man cried out: “My punishment is greater than I can bear.” (Gen. 4:13) There was no escape, there was no part of man that was not under judgment. His sin had been great, and his judgment was great. He was not able to atone for it. Oh, friends, if I could make you see the awful terrors of sin, and the end of a sinful life, you would flee from wickedness and would embrace the Cross as your only hope. Men are prone to make light of judgment, to speak of “shoveling coal” or “having lots of company down there”. But I tell you it’s not an amusing thing. The Bible says that “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:31). “God is angry with the wicked every day” (Psa. 7:11). With all his strength, and wisdom, and ability. man could not overcome the terrible judgment that was upon him. Man has tried many ways to get rid of the brass, to lighten the judgments of God or do away with them. such as the doctrines of “Eternal Security”, “Reconciliation”, “Free Grace”, “Annihilation of the Wicked”, “Purgatory”, etc. But even if they were true, the brass remains, and sin must be judged. Beloved, there is only one thing that can spare us from the judgments of God and blot out the brass on the horns of the altar.

Blood Covers the Brass

Exodus 29:12 makes provision for blood to be put on the horns of the altar. In order for there to be blood, a life must be poured out. In the case of the Israelite, it was the life of the innocent lamb that was to be given. One who had done no sin of his own, but was only there as a substitute for the real sinner. But it was accepted. Until the perfect sacrifice came. “The Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). And hear me today. if man was strong, and if the judgment was much stronger. then the Blood of Jesus Christ that covers the brass of man’s judgment is far stronger than the most terrible crime ever committed. When God said, “He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him”, He meant it! From the guttermost to the uttermost! Praise God, you’re never too deep in sin, never too far gone for Him to redeem by His precious blood! For this blood covers over the brass, it is victorious, it is our only hope! “We were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold. but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without spot and without blemish” (1 Pet. 1:18). Friends, it cost something for this to be possible. It cost Christ that precious life. that sinless perfect life that continually glorified the Father. We who were rebels and enemies of God, now receive of that life. For in redeeming us, He is not just stripping off the brass and taking us back to the original state of Adam. Oh no. For we are not to receive of the Adamic life. but He is taking us far beyond that in His plan of redemption. He is giving us that divine life that was poured out for us on the Cross. “That we might manifest the life of Jesus in our mortal flesh” (2Cor. 4:11). Glory to God, what a plan! What a glorious destiny for Adam’s race! It will be worth it all, every trial, every heartache, every sorrow, every affliction will be forgotten in the eternal glory of God’s great purposes. The joy and blessing we have now is only a first-fruits of our inheritance! No one could do this but Christ Jesus our Lord!

Blood on the Earth

There was far more than enough blood than was needed to put on the brass. There is much more included in the plan of redemption than just the forgiveness of sins and a heaven somewhere. Thank God, there is no limit to what God is going to do, and the wonders of His Grace, “that in the ages to come He might shew the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:7). One of the provisions made for the blood (Ex. 29:12) was that some was to be poured out upon the ground at the bottom of the altar. There is redemption provided for the physical creation. Yes, because of the blood of Christ, the curse shall be lifted from the whole earth. Rom. 8:19, 21 tells us that the glory which shall be revealed in us includes deliverance for all creation. “For the earnest expectation of the creation waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. Because the creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.” Everything today in the physical creation wails in a minor key because of the curse, but thank God that as the Sons come into their glory, the universe shall sing a different song. It shall be a joyful song of victory and praise! Praises unto the Lamb, whose blood has redeemed His Own!

Bill Britton

Bill Britton

The Horns of the Altar