The Tabernacle: The Laver
As we advance through the courtyard, we next approach the Brazen Laver. In moving past the Altar, we are already beyond the furniture that was available to the common man. The Altar, while attended by the priest on behalf of the offerer, was where a man came to bring his sacrifice. But the Laver, despite its courtyard location, was only for the use of the priest in readiness for service.
There were two distinct ministries associated with the Laver. First, there was its use at the initiation of one of the family of Aaron into the service of the priesthood. Taken by Moses to the Laver, Aaron and his sons were washed and then dressed in the priest's garb. The picture here is clear: before functioning as a priest, a Levite must first receive a once for all washing. Thus, in type, the Laver speaks of the cleansing of regeneration. Before we are fit to worship we must first be born again.
At the Altar, the guilty received atonement for sins by the shedding of blood. This speaks of justification. But the sinner has another problem besides sin guilt. What I've done is only half the problem; what I am is as offensive to God. I need the 'washing of regeneration' (Tit 3:5), and it is this that the Laver foreshadows. Thus the Laver has a backwards-looking ministry. It depicts the regeneration we received at conversion. This connects it with the 'Altar at the door.'
But the Laver also looked forward. Further to the once for all washing was a regular cleansing required before serving in the tent. The Lord makes the reason clear to Moses;
When 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: (Ex. 30:20)
They were to wash before going into the tent, or back to the Altar for fear of death. Such is the holiness of God that it was unthinkable to have a man before Him unwashed.
This picture transposes to the New Testament. As we come before the presence of the Lord (a privilege open to all believers in this age), we must first be cleansed. As we move through the world, we pick up its defilement. Sometimes because we have sought it out. Other times because it has happened across our path. As a result, it is necessary to avail of the ongoing cleansing of the Laver.
The Laver, of course, speaks of Christ. It pictures the cleansing of regeneration that took place at conversion. But it also depicts the constant cleansing that is available through Him. 'If any man sin' says the Apostle John, 'we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And He is the propitiation for our sins' (1 Jn 2:1-2). Both of these cleansings are founded on His finished work upon the cross.
Give thanks for His cleansing that gave us the desire to remember Him. And give thanks for His cleansing that fits us to worship Him.