Emblems of Grace


Emblems of Grace

July 26th, 1959 @ 8:15 AM

Exodus 20:24

An altar of earth thou shalt make unto me, and shalt sacrifice thereon thy burnt offerings, and thy peace offerings, thy sheep, and thine oxen: in all places where I record my name I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee.
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Dr. W. A. Criswell

Exodus 20:24

7-26-59     8:15 a.m.



You are sharing with us the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas.  This is the pastor bringing the morning message entitled Emblems of Grace from the Sacred Law.  And you can easily follow the message if you turn to the twentieth chapter of the Book of Exodus; the twentieth chapter, chapter 20 of the Book of Exodus.  In the third chapter of Galatians, verse 24, Paul wrote, “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ” [Galatians 3:24].  We are going to sit this morning in the school of the great Master and let Him teach us some of the beautiful things in the grace and mercy of Christ Jesus. 

Now, the school is like a kindergarten, and the Lord teaches us as He would little children.  First on the blackboard, He would draw pictures, and emblems, and symbols, and signs.  And then He teaches us what they mean.  All of this old covenant is filled with symbols, and signs, and emblems, and drawings, and pictures that we come to know what they fully mean in the revelation complete in the New Testament.  But back here in the old law, God has drawn many symbols and many emblems and many pictures of His saving grace. 

Now the first one is in the twentieth chapter in the Book of Exodus.  Exodus 20 is famous because it lists the Ten Commandments [Exodus 20:1-17].  I suppose there is no intelligent man in the earth that has not read this chapter.  The Ten Commandments are the basis of civilized life in government, in society, in our social order.  All the wise men of the world, I suppose, have read the twentieth chapter of the Book of Exodus.  But they overlook a beautiful, little picture that is in the chapter.  The truth of the matter is I have read the twentieth chapter of the Book of Exodus the Lord only knows how many times, and I never did notice these things until time came for me to prepare this sermon.  In the twentieth chapter of the Book of Exodus in the twenty-fourth verse:


An altar of earth thou shalt make until Me, and shalt sacrifice thereon . . . and I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee.  And if thou wilt make Me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stone: for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it.  Neither shalt thou go up by steps unto Mine altar.

 [Exodus 20:24-26] 


I never noticed that was there.  What I notice in reading this twentieth chapter of the Book of Exodus, what I have noticed heretofore has been the thunder and the lightnings and the mountain that burned with fire and that quaked under the mighty hand of God [Exodus 20:18].  What I had noticed was the Ten Commandments and the curses of the law that accompanied it. 


Cursed shalt thou be in thy rising up, cursed shalt thou be in thy lying down.  Cursed shalt thou be when thou goest forth and cursed shalt thou be when thou comest in if thou continuest not in all things of the law to do it. 

[Deuteronomy 27:26] 


That’s what I noticed.  And on Mount Sinai, the visible presence of God in the thick darkness, and the thunder, and the reverberation, and the lightning, and the quaking of the mount, even so much that Moses said, “I exceedingly fear and tremble” [Hebrews 12:21]; I never notice that there.  Before the reverberation of the thunder had ceased, and before the peal of the lightning had died away, and before the mist of the thick darkness had dissolved, and before the very mountain itself had quit its trembling, there is the symbol of the grace and mercy of God.  For at the foot of the mount—and we’ll see where it was built in a moment—for at the foot of the mount that burned with fire, there is an altar [Exodus 24:4]

What kind of an altar?  One of those gorgeous altars that you see depicted in Greek literature?  One of those embellished monuments that you read about in ancient story?  No, the altar of God is to be made of common clay or of a tile of uncut stones—nothing elaborate, no statuary, no embellishment—just a heap of dirt, or a pile of stones [Exodus 20:25].  And God’s altar is always to be simple and plain and unadorned.  That has in it a marvelous picture for us.  Anywhere, anywhere is a good place to build an altar unto the Lord.  It doesn’t take fine marble, nor does it take the hand of a genius or an artist.  Anywhere is a good place to build an altar and to call on the name of the Lord.  And the materials that form it are such that any man can afford it.  Wherever there is a pile of dirt, there can a man call on the name of God.  Wherever a fellow can heap up a pile of stones, there could he offer sacrifices unto God.  A kitchen corner is as fine a place to pray as the greatest cathedral ever heaped up by the genius and artistry of man.  Your bedroom, the closet, the living room, down on the floor, a hotel room, anywhere is a great place to call upon the name of the Lord. 

All of this is to emphasize the simplicity that God likes in His faith.  The simplicity that is in Christ is a phrase in 2 Corinthians 11:3, “the simplicity that is in Christ Jesus,” always that; the altar to be made of earth, of common clay, or a heap of uncut stones [Exodus 20:24-25].  “If thou shall confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thy heart that God raised Him from the dead, that He liveth, thou shalt be saved” [Romans 10:9].

The simplicity of our approach unto God—“Neither shalt thou go up by steps” [Exodus 20:26]—there might be some feeble, old sinner that couldn’t climb steps.  So God says, “My altar is to be made without steps” [Exodus 20:26], where anybody can approach it, anybody can come to it.  Don’t you wish that these churches you find all over the nation that are built way up there somewhere, and when you go you have to climb ten, twelve, fifteen, thirty flights of steps; don’t you wish they had read this in the Bible where it says “…thou shalt not go up to My altar by steps” [Exodus 20:26].  God wants His church built on the street level, where you can just fall in it, or be dragged in it, or crawl in it.  That’s the way God wants His church built.  My church in Muskogee, Oklahoma was as high up in the air as they could possibly build it and yet had it down on the earth.  I have often thought about the people who build those church houses way up there at the top of thirty flights of steps, more or less, figuratively speaking.  That is no way to do; put it where people can easily get to it.  To my right, on the San Jacinto side of this church, that entrance right there doesn’t have any steps.  And if there is somebody invalid in a wheelchair, if there is somebody that has difficulty because of a hurt or illness or infirmity to climb a step, you come in that door there.  That was made for you.  And if God ever gives me the privilege of building a church auditorium, there is not going to be a step in it, not a one.  All the doors into the church house are going to be made without steps.  That pleases the Lord, lest some feeble, old sinner might not be able to make it.  That’s a little emblem of God’s grace here in this chapter of thunder, and lightning, and curses, and the Ten Commandments [Exodus 20:1-26]

For you see, an altar speaks of the death of Christ.  It speaks of the Lamb, slain for the sins of the world [Revelation1 3:8].  Isn’t that a remarkable thing how God does that?  In the same breath, in the same chapter, in the same place where the thunder and the lightning and the mountain, all so forbidding and so terrible and so awful, go beyond us and above us—in that very chapter where all of that occurs [Exodus 20:18-21], is this little mound of dirt at the foot of the mount, where God allows these cursed and damned and condemned and judged sinners, through the expiation of the blood, to approach the Lord without fear [Exodus 20:24-26].  Come bold; there is a little altar at the foot of the mount [Exodus 24:4]

Well, that is one little emblem of grace from the law.  Now let’s look at the next one.   God has His Book full of them.  In these next verses, chapter 21, the first picture was the altar of earth [Exodus 20:24-26].  The second picture is the Hebrew servant. Exodus 21:


If thou buy an Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve: but in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing.  If he came in by himself, he shall go out by himself: if he were married, then his wife shall go out with him.  If his master have given him a wife, and she have born him sons or daughters; the wife and her children shall be her master’s, and he shall go out by himself.  And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free: Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an awl; and he shall serve him for ever. 

[Exodus 21:2-6]


There is the second picture of the grace of God in the midst of this ancient law.  In my words to sum up what we have read, here is a man who is a slave.  And at the end of his period of servitude, he is free.  He can do as he chooses.  The door is open.  But, while the man was in servitude, his master gave him a wife, and the wife was a slave also.  And there was born to the man and this wife given him by the master, there was born children in those six years.  So the time comes when the law freed the man.  You are at liberty to go, but his wife was still a slave, and his children belong to the master.  And though the man was free to go, he says plainly, “I love my master, my wife, and my children.  I will not go.  I will not leave them.”  When he says that, then the master shall take him and bore a hole with an awl through his ear, and he shall be identified with that family forever. 

Do you see in that a picture of what Jesus has done for us?  Our Lord is free.  He is at liberty.  He can stay in the heights of glory forever.  He could live in the splendor and adoration of angels, world without end.  He didn’t have to identify Himself with us.  He didn’t have to come down here and share with us our reproach and our servitude, He was free.  But our Lord said, “No, My heart is with My people.”  And our Lord identified Himself with us forever [Philippians 2:5-7].  He took our sicknesses, our infirmities, and He took upon Him the weakness of our nature [Isaiah 53:4], and He was tried at all points like as we are [Hebrews 4:15].  He lived our life, He wept our tears, He was weary with our burdens.  And the scars of that servitude are upon Him.  In His hands, in His feet, in His side do I see them [John 20:27], and our Lord is identified with us world without end.  He is still the same Christ in heaven that He was here in the earth, and the marks of His humility are still upon Him, He is known by His scars [Luke 24:39].  This is a little emblem of grace that we find in the ancient law.

Now, let’s turn to another.  We turn now to the twenty-fourth chapter of the Book of Exodus.  Exodus 24, the twenty-fourth chapter of the Book of Exodus, beginning at the fourth verse, Exodus 24:4:


4And Moses wrote all the words of the Lord, and rose up early in the morning, and builded an altar under the hill, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel.  And he sent young men of the children of Israel, which offered burnt offerings, and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen unto the Lord.  And Moses took half of the blood, and poured it in basins; and half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar.  And he took the Book of the Covenant, and read in the audience of the people: and they said, All that the Lord hath said will we do, and be obedient.  And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant, which the Lord hath made with you concerning all these words.  Then went up Moses, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel:  And they saw the God of Israel: and there was under His feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness.  And upon the nobles of the children of Israel He laid not His hand: also they saw God, and did eat and drink.  And the Lord said unto Moses, Come up to Me into the mount. 

[Exodus 24:4-12]


Why, I can hardly believe my eyes as I read that.  Bless your heart! It was not but yesterday that that mount burned with fire and trembled under the mighty presence of God.  It was not but yesterday that God had said, “Draw not nigh, stand afar off, if so much as a beast shall touch the mount, it shall die” [Exodus 19:12-13].  And the people, in terror, moved afar off [Exodus 20:18], and beheld the mount in its’ angry fury in the fire and flame, in the sounding of the trumpets that frightened them to death, saying unto Moses, “You go for us, but let not God speak to us, lest we die” [Exodus 20:19].  That’s the same mount.  We are talking about Mount Sinai, Mount Horeb, this same mount right here.  Just yesterday, that awful flame and fury and fire and burning [Exodus 19:18], and today, look at it; there are Moses, and Aaron, and Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the princes of the people; they are invited to come up to the top of that same mount, and they looked upon God.  And they banqueted with the Lord, they did eat and drink [Exodus 24:9-11].  And upon the nobles of the children of Israel, God did not even lay His hand [Exodus 24:11]

What has happened?  What an unusual turn!  Why, bless your heart, here again is one of those emblems of the grace of God.  They approached the Lord through the blood [Exodus 24:5-6].  First—let’s remember in my reading the passage—first, Moses built that little altar at the foot of the hill, at the foot of the mount [Exodus 24:4].  There it is, a little pile of dirt or a pile of stone, uncut, unadorned, unembellished; and on that earthen altar, they pour out the blood of the sacrifice.  And the blood is sprinkled on the people, and through the blood, the mount ceases its burning, and the anger and judgment and the wrath of God is turned away [Exodus 24:5-8].  And there is that same mount; in azure calm, in heavenly peace.  Why, it is an astounding thing! 


Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which He hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, His flesh; And having an High Priest over the house of God; Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith…

[Hebrews 10:19-22]


Boldness to enter into the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, Hebrews 10:19.  That’s what it was over here; all of those forbidding sights and the curses that attended the law, through the blood they are invited to come. 


And the Lord said unto Moses, Come up Me into the mount.  And there went with Moses, Aaron, and Nadab, and Abihu and seventy of the elders of Israel.  And they saw the God of Israel: and there was under His feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness.  And they banqueted with the Lord, and upon the nobles of Israel He laid not His hand

[Exodus 24:1, 9-11]

Through the blood, through the blood [Hebrews 10:19].

When a man seeks to come to God in his own righteousness and goodness, nothing but fire, and fury, and judgment, and damnation, and wrath; but when we approach God through the blood of His Son, through the sacrifice of Christ, there is welcome, there is peace.  You who are justified by faith in Jesus Christ have peace with God, and there is no other peace outside of the peace that comes in the faith, in the atonement, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ [Ephesians 2:14].  He that climbs up some other way is a thief and a robber [John 10:1], “I am the door into the fold” [John 10:7].   “No man cometh unto the Father, but by Me” [John 14:6].  “There is none other name given under heaven among men, whereby we must be saved” [Acts 4:12].  Our access into the presence of God is through Jesus.  Our prayers are in His name.  He forgives us; God forgives us, for Jesus’ sake [Ephesians 4:32]; this little emblem of grace in the ancient law. 

Now I have time briefly for one other.  In the next chapter, chapter 25:


And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring Me an offering: of every man that giveth it willingly with his heart ye shall take My offering.”

[Exodus 25:1]


And now the eighth verse:


And let them make Me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them.  According to all that I show thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it.

[Exodus 25:8-9]


Now some of these days, we are going to take a year, a solid year and follow the type, the emblem, the symbol, the picture of the grace of Jesus in the tabernacle.  I have all of that material prepared, and some of these days—not now because we are going on with Joshua.  When I am through these little summaries of the life and ministry of Moses, we are going to Joshua and right on through—but some of these days, we are coming back and look at the tabernacle. 

In just the little moment that remains this morning, may I follow in a little summary; the emblem of grace that God gave in the midst of His ancient law in building that little tent?  The Lord said to Moses, “Moses, make it exactly according to the pattern that I show thee on the mount” [Exodus 25:9, 40].  And in the midst of the wilderness, there is the tent of the congregation of the people of the Lord [Exodus 39:32].  It looks very crude from the outside, just common boards and covered over the top of the tent with badger skins.  Very rough looking on the outside, but  on the inside it is beautiful, with the most gorgeously embroidered curtains of the richest color and the most beautifully fashioned furniture of burnished, polished, shining, pure gold [Exodus 39:33-38]

And when you go inside of the little court made by the first group of curtains, there you will find a plain altar [Exodus 39:39].  Then you will find a laver [Exodus 39:39].  Then you come to the small tent itself [Exodus 26:1-30], and on the inside is a room twice as large and one other room half as large [Exodus 26:31-33].  In the first room to your left is a candlestick, seven branches [Exodus 25:31-40, 36:35].  To your right is a table on which loaves of bread are placed [Exodus 25:23-30, 36:35].  Immediately in front of you is a small, golden altar of incense [Exodus 40:6, 26].  Just beyond is another curtain, a veil, beautifully embroidered with cherubim interwoven [Exodus 36:35].  Beyond is the inner sanctuary in which is an ark [Exodus 26:33]; the top of it a mercy seat and cherubim, with eyes looking full upon it [Exodus 25:17-20] and above, the light, the shekinah, the burning of the presence of God [Exodus 25:22]

Every detail of that, “Make it exactly according to the pattern I have showed thee on the mount” [Exodus 25:9, 40], every syllable of that speaks of the grace and mercy of God in Christ Jesus.  The tabernacle itself does, “Let them make Me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them” [Exodus 25:8], in the burning wilderness, in their pilgrimage, God says, “Where you pitch your tent, I will pitch My tent.”  And every day, there was laid out from the gracious hands of God, the bread of life [Exodus 16:35].  That’s what God said about Jesus.  John 1:14, “And the Word of God was made flesh, and tabernacled among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of God,) full of grace and truth.” 

That’s the way it is going to be in heaven.  I heard a great voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men.  And God,” you have it translated, “shall be with them.”  The same word is used in Greek, “and God shall tabernacle with them” [Revelation 21:3].  That is the exact word used here: tabernacle.  The presence of God with us, in our midst, in the presence of Jesus, “The Word was made flesh, and tabernacled among us” [John 1:14]

When you go to bed at night, if you invite Him, Jesus will be present with you.  And while you sleep, He guards you.  When you get up in the morning, if you invite Him, the Lord will be with you.  And when you go to the tasks of the day and come back in the evening, when you face all the decisions that you have in your life, wherever you are, Jesus is with you.  “Let them make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them” [Exodus 25:8]; the tabernacling of God in our midst.

Then those beautiful symbols; I marvel at the meaning.  First is the altar [Exodus 39:39], first the King of Righteousness; the altar of sacrifice, that He might be just, and the justifier of the ungodly [Romans 3:26]; first the altar, where our sins are expiated, where they are atoned for, where the cross washes our sins away [Hebrews 9:26; 1 John 2:2].  Then the laver of regeneration [Titus 3:5], the Spirit of God using the word of the Lord to cleanse us and the wash us clean [Ephesians 5:26].  Then on the inside, the seven-branched lampstand [Exodus 25:31-40], the light that illuminates our hearts and our souls [John 1:4].  The table of showbread [Exodus 25:23-30], where we eat and live, daily manna, the bread of life [John 6:35]; then the altar of incense [Exodus 30:1-10], our prayers reaching up unto God [Revelation 8:4]; then the veil in between [Exodus 26:31].  Beyond the veil, there in the innermost sanctuary is the mercy seat [Exodus 25:17-20], the God of grace Himself, and the cherubim looking full upon it [Exodus 25:18-20].  The old dispensation could not look in.  They had to stay out, they had to look afar off, they had to worship outside [Hebrews 9:6-8], but through the veil of His flesh [Hebrews 10:20]—another emblem of grace, rent from top to bottom by the hand of God [Matthew 27:51]—through the veil of His flesh we enter in [Hebrews 10:19-20]; we can look full into the sanctuary itself.  And today, we can live in the light of the knowledge of God in the face of Jesus Christ [2 Corinthians 4:6].  There is the sanctuary open to view, and Jesus our merciful and gracious High Priest bidding us come boldly to the throne of grace to find help in time of need [Hebrews 4:14-16].

Ah, what a marvelous thing God hath done for us!  “Come boldly,” He says [Hebrews 4:16]. “Come just as you are,” He says. “Come humbly [James 4:6], all ye that have need, come, and welcome.” “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden” [Matthew 11:28].  Come, come, come. 

Now we are going to sing a stanza of a hymn, and while we sing it, somebody you give his heart to the Lord.  Somebody you put your life in the fellowship of the church, while we sing this song, “Amazing Grace,” In this balcony round, on this lower floor, a family to put your life with us in the church, or one somebody you to come, while we make appeal, while we sing this song, would you give me your hand?  “Pastor, this morning I give you my hand, and I give my heart to Jesus.”  Or “This morning we are placing our lives in the fellowship of the church.”  While we stand and sing.


Exodus 20:24


The altar of earth

1.    Common materials

2.    Anyplace is a
good place to call upon the name of the Lord

3.    Simplicity in
our approach to God

Hebrew servant, Exodus 21:2-6

1.    Picture of
incarnation of Christ

2.    Jesus identified
Himself with us forever

Vision of God through the blood

1.    Yesterday the
mountain shook and people trembled in fear, Exodus 19:12-13

2.    Today there is a
feast with God on the same mountain, Exodus 20:19

Tabernacle, Exodus 25:8-9