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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Exodus 27; Furniture in God’s Tent – The Grill and The Courtyard

04/01 Exodus 27 Furniture in God’s Tent: The Grill and The Courtyard

God told his people to “make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst” (Ex.25:8). We have been studying God’s tent, the place where God taught his people what it means to have a holy God living with them. God started by describing the function and the inner beauty of his presence and worked backward, out away from the visible manifestation of his glory. The glory of his presence would be there above and between the golden cherubim, who served as his throne. These angelic creatures formed part of the lid that covered the documents of the covenant, which were contained in a box overlaid with gold. This cover is where sacrificial blood was applied once a year, on the Day of Atonement. This room was made by exquisitely decorated tapestry draped over a gold overlaid framework that provided the structure for the tent, and a curtain of the same tapestry separated this room from the rest of the tent. Outside the curtain, there was a gold table, piled high with an abundance of bread and wine, and there was a gold almond tree with seven olive oil lamps illuminating the room. Over the linen tapestry there were three more protective layers; goats hair, tanned ram’s skins, and the hides of the sea cow. There was another curtain, also ornate, but lacking the cherubim, that served to separate the tent itself from the outer courtyard. It is outside the main tent, to the altar and the courtyard that we turn our attention today. We will start by looking at the altar.

The Altar of Burnt Offering

Exodus 27:1 “You shall make the altar of acacia wood, five cubits long and five cubits broad. The altar shall be square, and its height shall be three cubits. 2 And you shall make horns for it on its four corners; its horns shall be of one piece with it, and you shall overlay it with bronze. 3 You shall make pots for it to receive its ashes, and shovels and basins and forks and fire pans. You shall make all its utensils of bronze. 4 You shall also make for it a grating, a network of bronze, and on the net you shall make four bronze rings at its four corners. 5 And you shall set it under the ledge of the altar so that the net extends halfway down the altar. 6 And you shall make poles for the altar, poles of acacia wood, and overlay them with bronze. 7 And the poles shall be put through the rings, so that the poles are on the two sides of the altar when it is carried. 8 You shall make it hollow, with boards. As it has been shown you on the mountain, so shall it be made.

And we read of the actual construction in chapter 38.

Exodus 38:1 He made the altar of burnt offering of acacia wood. Five cubits was its length, and five cubits its breadth. It was square, and three cubits was its height. 2 He made horns for it on its four corners. Its horns were of one piece with it, and he overlaid it with bronze. 3 And he made all the utensils of the altar, the pots, the shovels, the basins, the forks, and the fire pans. He made all its utensils of bronze. 4 And he made for the altar a grating, a network of bronze, under its ledge, extending halfway down. 5 He cast four rings on the four corners of the bronze grating as holders for the poles. 6 He made the poles of acacia wood and overlaid them with bronze. 7 And he put the poles through the rings on the sides of the altar to carry it with them. He made it hollow, with boards.

God gives us a glimpse into the glory of his presence, and then describes how it is that we, sinners, are to be restored to a right relationship with him. The sacrificial altar is central to the worship of God. Without the altar of sacrifice, there is no way for a sinner to stand in the presence of the holy God. Functionally, it might help to think of the altar as a large barbeque grill. It was 7.5′ square with bronze sides standing 4.5′ tall, an open top and bottom, and a bronze grating suspended halfway down the inside. For a comparison, most large backyard bbq grills have about 300 – 600 square inches of grilling surface area; room to grill 24 – 30 burgers. The bronze altar would have 8,100 square inches of grilling surface; enough room to grill over 500 burgers at once. Along with the altar, the bronze utensils that would be used with it are described; ash pots, shovels, sprinkling basins, meat forks, and fire pans.

God’s Just Judgment

Bronze is a metal that withstands high temperatures well, which is why it is associated with judgment in the bible. In Revelation 20, we see God seated as the final judge.

Revelation 20:11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

Notice in this passage that people are judged according to what they have done, and everyone who is judged based on performance is condemned. Only those whose names are in the book of life are exempted from judgment. All who are judged on the basis of their works are thrown into the lake of fire, because as Isaiah tells us “all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment” (64:6); and the author of Hebrews tell us we must repent of our dead works (6:1; 9:14). The Psalmist pleads for mercy rather than justice. In Psalm 143 he says:

Psalm 143:2 Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you.

And Paul tells us in Romans that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (3:23); and that the law “speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight” (3:19-20).

Provision of a Substitute

There is no escape for sinners from the just wrath of a holy God; rebels who refuse to respect their Creator, wretches who prefer to run after their own desires rather than worship their God. There is no escape, unless God provides the sacrifice of a substitute. And this is exactly what God did.

Leviticus 17:11 For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life.

“The wages of sin is death” (Rom.6:23), and God allowed the death of an innocent substitute in place of the offending sinner to bring reconciliation. The use of this altar is described in Leviticus 1.

Leviticus 1:3 “If his offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he shall offer a male without blemish. He shall bring it to the entrance of the tent of meeting, that he may be accepted before the LORD. 4 He shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him. 5 Then he shall kill the bull before the LORD, and Aaron’s sons the priests shall bring the blood and throw the blood against the sides of the altar that is at the entrance of the tent of meeting. 6 Then he shall flay the burnt offering and cut it into pieces, 7 and the sons of Aaron the priest shall put fire on the altar and arrange wood on the fire. 8 And Aaron’s sons the priests shall arrange the pieces, the head, and the fat, on the wood that is on the fire on the altar; 9 but its entrails and its legs he shall wash with water. And the priest shall burn all of it on the altar, as a burnt offering, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the LORD.

This is a graphic bloody scene, because our sin is a gruesome offense against the honor of our good God who loves us. I must acknowledge that I have offended a holy God, and that my sin warrants the fire of eternal death. I must lay my guilty hands on the head of the innocent substitute, and God accepts that substitute in my place.

A Perpetual Offering

This was an ongoing, perpetual offering, because I am a repeat offender. Continually, I refuse to love and honor God above all else. Continually, I am guilty before him of breaking his greatest commandment.

Leviticus 6:9 “Command Aaron and his sons, saying, This is the law of the burnt offering. The burnt offering shall be on the hearth on the altar all night until the morning, and the fire of the altar shall be kept burning on it. …12 The fire on the altar shall be kept burning on it; it shall not go out. The priest shall burn wood on it every morning, and he shall arrange the burnt offering on it and shall burn on it the fat of the peace offerings. 13 Fire shall be kept burning on the altar continually; it shall not go out.

A Celebration

The whole burnt offering was the primary, foundational offering, the one that answered our sin problem. The whole animal went up in smoke to signify the severity of our sin and to satisfy God’s justice. But the whole burnt offering was not the only kind of offering to be placed on this altar. There was the gift offering – a gift of food, part of which was burnt on the altar to God, and the rest given as food to the priests. There was the fellowship offering, a response to the results of the burnt offering, celebrating peace with God. This fellowship offering could express a sacrifice of thanksgiving, a vow, or a freewill offering (Lev.7:11-21). These are some of the offerings listed in Deuteronomy 12.

Deuteronomy 12:6 and there you shall bring your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and the contribution that you present, your vow offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herd and of your flock. 7 And there you shall eat before the LORD your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your households, in all that you undertake, in which the LORD your God has blessed you.

…11 then to the place that the LORD your God will choose, to make his name dwell there, there you shall bring all that I command you: your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and the contribution that you present, and all your finest vow offerings that you vow to the LORD. 12 And you shall rejoice before the LORD your God, you and your sons and your daughters, your male servants and your female servants, and the Levite that is within your towns, since he has no portion or inheritance with you. (cf. Deut.14:26; 27:7)

These offerings were to be characterized by rejoicing, celebrating the goodness of God in providing salvation and his abundant blessing. A portion of the animal sacrificed was left on the altar as an offering for the Lord, but much of the meat was grilled there and then eaten by the worshipers in the courtyard. Let’s look at the courtyard.

The Courtyard

Exodus 27:9 “You shall make the court of the tabernacle. On the south side the court shall have hangings of fine twined linen a hundred cubits long for one side. 10 Its twenty pillars and their twenty bases shall be of bronze, but the hooks of the pillars and their fillets shall be of silver. 11 And likewise for its length on the north side there shall be hangings a hundred cubits long, its pillars twenty and their bases twenty, of bronze, but the hooks of the pillars and their fillets shall be of silver. 12 And for the breadth of the court on the west side there shall be hangings for fifty cubits, with ten pillars and ten bases. 13 The breadth of the court on the front to the east shall be fifty cubits. 14 The hangings for the one side of the gate shall be fifteen cubits, with their three pillars and three bases. 15 On the other side the hangings shall be fifteen cubits, with their three pillars and three bases. 16 For the gate of the court there shall be a screen twenty cubits long, of blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen, embroidered with needlework. It shall have four pillars and with them four bases. 17 All the pillars around the court shall be filleted with silver. Their hooks shall be of silver, and their bases of bronze. 18 The length of the court shall be a hundred cubits, the breadth fifty, and the height five cubits, with hangings of fine twined linen and bases of bronze. 19 All the utensils of the tabernacle for every use, and all its pegs and all the pegs of the court, shall be of bronze.

And we read of the actual construction in Exodus 38.

Exodus 38:9 And he made the court. For the south side the hangings of the court were of fine twined linen, a hundred cubits; 10 their twenty pillars and their twenty bases were of bronze, but the hooks of the pillars and their fillets were of silver. 11 And for the north side there were hangings of a hundred cubits, their twenty pillars, their twenty bases were of bronze, but the hooks of the pillars and their fillets were of silver. 12 And for the west side were hangings of fifty cubits, their ten pillars, and their ten bases; the hooks of the pillars and their fillets were of silver. 13 And for the front to the east, fifty cubits. 14 The hangings for one side of the gate were fifteen cubits, with their three pillars and three bases. 15 And so for the other side. On both sides of the gate of the court were hangings of fifteen cubits, with their three pillars and their three bases. 16 All the hangings around the court were of fine twined linen. 17 And the bases for the pillars were of bronze, but the hooks of the pillars and their fillets were of silver. The overlaying of their capitals was also of silver, and all the pillars of the court were filleted with silver. 18 And the screen for the gate of the court was embroidered with needlework in blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen. It was twenty cubits long and five cubits high in its breadth, corresponding to the hangings of the court. 19 And their pillars were four in number. Their four bases were of bronze, their hooks of silver, and the overlaying of their capitals and their fillets of silver. 20 And all the pegs for the tabernacle and for the court all around were of bronze.

This courtyard was created around God’s tent by 7.5′ tall linen curtains hung on silver hooks from pillars set in bronze bases. The courtyard would be 150′ long and 75′ wide, with one 30′ entrance in the center of the east wall. The screen for the gate was made to match the colorful embroidery of the front covering of God’s tent. This was a large courtyard, providing over 10,000 square feet of space for worshipers to come sacrifice and celebrate and eat in God’s presence. All who would come on God’s terms were welcome. Hundreds if not a thousand could gather at one time in God’s courtyard to enjoy his goodness. Outdoor cooking and eating would be the social norm for a tent community; cooking and meals would not happen inside a tent, so God would be perceived as a generous and hospitable king, welcoming all to come and eat with him in his courts. We can see from this that God enjoys his people gathering together to worship him and to celebrate his forgiveness.


The first thing a worshiper would see as they enter the courtyard through the gate on the east end was the continual fire burning on the large altar, reminding of their sin and need for sacrifice. Jesus may have had this in mind when he said

John 10:7 So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. … 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

In 1 Corinthians 10, in warning us against participation in idolatry, Paul parallels Israel eating the Old Testament sacrifices with our taking the bread and the cup in communion.

1 Corinthians 10:16 The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. 18 Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar?

All of Israel was to come to the one altar. There was one means of dealing with sin. There was only one method of forgiveness that they all had in common. The people of Israel were unified in that they all participated in the one altar, and that altar pointed toward Jesus. We, as God’s new covenant people, are united in that there is only one sacrifice that is sufficient to deal with all our sin; the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. We who are many become one because we have one thing in common, we find full and free forgiveness in Jesus, the Lamb of God. We participate in the blood of Jesus as needy sinners who cling to nothing but the blood of Jesus for salvation. We participate in the broken body of Jesus as we feed on him and draw strength and sustenance from him.

The author of Hebrews points us to Jesus, who is so far superior to the Old Testament system, which was merely a shadow pointing us to him.

Hebrews 13:10 We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat.

Jesus is our altar.

He goes on to point us to the kind of sacrifices that we, who have been forgiven by Jesus, should offer.

Hebrews 13:15 Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. 16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. 17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~

April 1, 2012 - Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , ,

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