The Laver for Washing
September 27th, 1959 @ 7:30 PM
Hebrews 9; Exodus 30:19
THE LAVER FOR WASHING
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Hebrews 9; Exodus 30:19
9-27-59 7:30 p.m.
There are several associations that song Brother Till has just sung, and they always come back, of course, to my mind when I hear it. The lyric, the words of the song, were found written with a pencil on the wall of a cell in which a poor wretch in an asylum had died. And when the poor afflicted, demented creature had passed away and they had taken his body out of the cell, somebody noticed he’d written something on the wall, and you have just heard that song:
Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the sky of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above,
Would drain the ocean dry.
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky
O love of God!
[From "The Love of God," by Frederick M. Lehman, 1917 (author of above verse unknown)]
I suppose that in the providence of heaven, all of these afflictions have an ultimate and final good. They are very difficult. When the pastor seeks to comfort and to explain and to make appeal, some things are so harsh and so hard and so impossible – no reason, no understanding, no seeing – but there is an ultimate and final good known to God. I don’t know who that demented creature was. I guess his name is perished from the earth, but that song came out of the terror and the fears and the lostness of his poor, demented mind, and he turned in his helplessness to God: "O Love of God" – O strong Son of God.
Now, in our Bible, we turn to the thirtieth chapter of the Book of Exodus: Exodus 30. In our preaching through the Book, we’ve come to that ninth chapter of Hebrews, and he speaks of the tabernacle. The whole message of his book is based on the grace and revelation of God in the tabernacle. So we’re looking at it. This morning, we spake of the altar located at the gate in the outer court [Exodus 27:1-5; Leviticus 1:5]. Just beyond the altar was the laver [Exodus 30:18], and we’re reading the pattern God gave to Moses: how to make the laver and how it was to be used.
There are just about five verses. We read them together: Exodus 20:17-21. Exodus – wait a minute – Exodus 30, Exodus 30:17-21. We have it? Exodus 30:17-21. Now, let’s read it together:
And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying:
"Thou 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,
For Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet thereat.
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:
So they shall wash their hands and their feet, that they die not. And it shall be a statute forever to them–even to him and to his seed throughout their generations."
This message on the laver completes our presentation of the outer court. Next Sunday, we enter into the tabernacle itself.
Everything in the outer court was made or covered with brass [Exodus 27:19]. The standards that held up the curtains that comprised the outer court were brass [Exodus 27:18]. The columns that made the gate were brass [Exodus 27:14-17]. The altar was made out of brass [Exodus 27:1-2], and the laver was made out of brass [Exodus 30:17-18].
All in the outer court spake of the judgment of God upon sin, the necessity for atonement, for expiation, and for cleansing, for washing. Brass: the burning judgment of God on our iniquities, and the two pieces of furniture in the outer court before the door of the tabernacle was first the altar as you entered through the gate [Leviticus 1:5], and then beyond between the altar and the door of the tabernacle itself, this laver filled with water [Exodus 30:18].
The altar is the cross – the doctrine of atonement and expiation [Hebrews 10:1-4, 11-12]. The laver is the Word of God and the Holy Spirit of God – the doctrine of sanctification. The altar was for a lost sinner. There is nothing that a lost sinner can do but to come in contrition and faith and belief to the cross of the Son of God [Acts 16:30-31]. The laver is for God’s people that they might be washed from the contamination of their daily sins [John 13:10].
The sinner comes to the altar. God’s child comes to the laver. The altar is the death of the Son of God [Hebrews 10:1-4, 11-12]. The altar is Calvary [Luke 23:33]. The altar is the cross. The laver is the heavenly ministry of Christ who makes intercession for His people that they might be cleansed from their sins [Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25, 9:24].The altar is Golgotha [Mark 15:22-24]. The laver is Pentecost [Acts 2:1-36]. The altar is the pureness of heart. The laver is the cleansing of our hands.
The altar is for the sinner approaching God, and the laver is in constant use by those who have come to God by faith and who offer their service of love and devotion to Christ. It was located between the altar and the door of the tabernacle [Exodus 30:18], and was doubtless used more than any other of the articles of furniture. Before a man could minister at the altar [Exodus 30:20], before a servant could minister at the seven-branch lampstand [Exodus 25:31-40]or the table of showbread [Exodus 25:23-30]or the golden altar of incense [Exodus 30:1-10], or before he could enter into the Holy of Holies [Exodus 26:31-35], there, before the ark of the covenant, always he first had to wash his hands and his feet at the laver [Exodus 30:19-21].
Now, the meaning of that is very plain and very clear in the Word of God. In Titus 3:5 are written these words: "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit." The Greek word for laver is loutron. The Latin word is lavacrum – laver. And this is the word in the passage: "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the laver of regeneration, the renewing of the Holy Ghost" [from Titus 3:5]. So the laver represents the regenerating, washing, cleansing of the Holy Spirit of God.
There was no measurement given for the laver [Exodus 30:17-18]. Did you notice that? Everything else so many cubits, so many cubits, so many heights, so many widths and breadths. Not the laver. We do not measure deity, and that water represented the Spirit of God and God gives His Spirit without measure [John 3:34]. We can have as much of God’s moving power in these services as our hearts will accept, and a man can have as much of the dynamic, moving, changing Spirit of God in his soul and life as his heart will open to accept [Mark 6:5-6; 1 Thessalonians 5:19]. The laver is the regenerating, washing, cleansing of the Holy Spirit of God without measure.
One other place in the Bible – in Ephesians 5:25-26: "Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water in the word." You have it translated "by the word" – "in the word," en rhēmata, "in the word." Now, the word translated there "washing" is the same thing: "that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the loutron, the laver, of water in the word." So the laver represents the cleansing, keeping, washing, sanctifying power of the Word of God. In John 15:3, the Lord said to His disciples: "Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you."
There’s a remarkable thing about how this laver was made. In [Exodus] 38:8, it says: "And he made the laver of brass and the foot of it of brass, of the looking glasses of the women assembling, which assembled at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation." They didn’t have any glass in those days. That’s a modern invention. And a looking glass, a mirror, back there was made out of burnished, highly polished [brass], in which all the vain people – and that’s women – all the vain people looked.
Doesn’t say "looking glasses of men." It says "looking glasses of women." So all of the women – I never saw a man look at himself in the mirror in my life. Men are not vain. The only reason we use a mirror is to shave by or something like that but never to look at ourselves as such. That’s the women. Highly polished, burnished brass – and Moses took those mirrors, and out of them he made the laver. That is the Word of the Lord [Exodus 38:8].
In James, the first chapter, he describes a man – oh, I got to take it all back. Says here in the Bible: "A man looking in a glass" [James 1:23]. That shows you I ought to preach the Bible and not what I think. Isn’t that right? Ought to stay with the Book. "Like a man beholding his natural face in a glass, he looks at it, immediately forgets what manner of man he was" [James 1:23-24]. And that’s a benediction and a blessing. I’d hate to go around all day thinking how I looked. Forget it. "Whoso looketh in the perfect law of liberty" [James 1:25], then he continues. So the Law, James says, is a mirror. It’s a glass in which a man can see himself.
In the third chapter of Second Timothy and the sixteenth verse: "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be mature – grown up – thoroughly furnished unto all good works" [2 Timothy 3:16-17]. The Law of God is a mirror. The Word of God is a mirror in which a man can see himself, and it is profitable for doctrine and for correction and for instruction in righteousness. That is the laver.
"Sanctify them through Thy truth. Thy Word is truth," prayed Jesus in John 17 [John 17:17]. So the laver for cleansing and for washing is the Holy Spirit of God in the holy Word of God, and these are the instruments, agents, by which God cleanses His people from their daily contamination with sin.
Now, I want to show that to you again. There are two kinds of washings in the Bible. One is whole, all over, and the other is partial and repeated. The washing all over is done just one time, just once, but the washing that is partial is done again and again – repeated again and again.
Now, the overall washing – the whole washing done one time: In Leviticus 8 and 5: "And Moses said unto the congregation, ‘This is the thing which the Lord commanded to be done’" [Leviticus 8:5]. And that command is in Exodus 29 and the fourth verse. And this was the command and Moses follows out: Moses brought Aaron and his sons and washed them with water all over [Leviticus 8:6]. And when he had washed them with water, he put upon them the coat, girded with the girdle, clothed them with the robe, put the ephod upon them, girded them with the curious girdle and the ephod, bound it therewith, put the breastplate upon them – the mitre, the Urim, the Thummim – and there the priest was consecrated for the service of the Lord [Leviticus 8:5-36]. That was never repeated. That was his introduction into his ministry as a servant of God, as a child of the Lord representing the people of the Lord: never repeated again – bathed all over, washed all over just that one time.
You find Jesus referring to that in the thirteenth chapter of the Book of John.
And Peter said to Him, "Lord, You don’t wash my feet!" And the Lord said, "If I wash thee not, thou has no part with Me."
Simon Peter saith unto Him, "Then, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!"
And Jesus saith to him, "He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit."
That is, the man who is regenerated, born again, washed of the Holy Spirit of God, he never needs to be washed all over again, regenerated all over again, born over again, saved over again, but he needs to wash his feet. That is, as he goes through the pilgrimage of this life, he is contaminated by contact with sin, and he needs, according to the Word of the Lord, in the laver to wash his hands and his feet.
Our hands and our feet are representative of the action and the words and deeds of our lives, and as we walk through this world and live this life, we become contaminated, sinful: sins of omission, sins of our lips, sins of our hearts, sins of our thoughts, sins of our visions and dreams and ambitions, sins of our mistakes, and sins of our shortcomings. There is no man that sinneth not [1 John 1:7-10] – and every day we are to wash our hands and our feet in the laver. That is, every day we are to confess our weaknesses unto God and ask God to forgive us of the sins of that day [1 John 1:9].
We’re born again just once [John 3:3], bathed all over just once, really baptized just once [Ephesians 4:4-6], but we need a daily cleansing of our hands and our feet as we walk through the wilderness of this life. "No, Simon, he that is washed needeth not save but to wash his feet" [John 13:10].
Now, that double cleansing is found all through the Word of God. For example, it says here: "Forever, forever." Look at this passage. In the Gospel of John, he says:
When they came to Jesus, they saw that He is dead already. They break not his legs.
But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water.
He that saw it bear record, and his record is true.
Blood and water: atonement and sanctification that we might be saved and that we might be washed and cleansed.
You find the same thing, once again, in First John, the fifth chapter: "This is He that came by water and blood–even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood" [1 John 5:6]. The altar and the laver: atonement and sanctification, the expiation of our sins and the cleansing of our souls – both of them unto God.
Now, the agent, the instrument, of the cleansing of our Lord is found in the Holy Spirit in the Word. It is never presented separately – never. A man is converted by the power of the Holy Spirit in the Word of God, nor is any man ever saved apart from the convicting, regenerating power of the Spirit of God in the Word of God. No man is ever saved apart from the Word of God. If a man lives in the heathen part of the world and doesn’t know the gospel of the Son of God, that man is lost according to the Bible. No man is ever saved apart from the message of the Book. "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. But how shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they haven’t heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?" [Romans 10:13-14] The message of God, the Word of God, must be delivered. The Holy Spirit works in the Word of God.
When Simon Peter was in Joppa, the angel said to Cornelius up at Caesarea: "Send down and get Simon Peter who will come up and tell thee words whereby thou and thy house may be saved" [Acts 11:13-14]. Why didn’t the angel tell him the "words whereby he and his house might be saved"? Because no man is ever saved apart from the Word of God, the delivery of the message of Christ! [Romans 10:13-14] We come to know God through the regenerating power of the Spirit in the Word [Romans 10:8-10].
Now, those two are invisibly connected in all ways and in all things. The Word of God in itself is powerless, and dry, and dull, without convicting power. The Word of God in itself is nothing. But the Word of God in the Spirit, delivered in the matchless power of God, is powerful to the subversion of kingdoms and to the destruction of empires and to the breaking down of stone walls and to the breaking of iron chains [John 8:32; Hebrews 4:12]. There is no limit to the power of the Holy Spirit of God in the Word of God, but it takes the two together. The Holy Spirit of God never works apart from the Word of the Lord, nor does the Holy Spirit of God ever contradict the Word of God [John 14:26, 15:26; 2 Peter 1:20-21].
I had some of these spiritualists come out to my house one time, and they said to me they had a message from Jesus Himself.
I said, "That’s wonderful. What is the message from Jesus Himself?"
And they began to tell me a whole slew of stuff about what Jesus said, and I broke in after a while and I said to those spiritualists – I said, "Listen, what you’re telling me contradicts the Bible."
And they replied to me, "The Bible was written 1,900 years ago by men who did not understand its message. This word we’re bringing you is the direct word from Jesus Himself."
I said, "That’s a lie! That’s a lie! That’s not so. The Holy Spirit of God always speaks according to this Book and never contradictory to it" [John 14:26, 15:26].
That’s the reason that when God’s people get together, whenever a man delivers his soul, if he’s a true servant of the Lord, his message will always conform to the Book – always [Matthew 7:15-23; Acts 17:11]. And the revelation of God and the Spirit of God and the work of the Lord always is in keeping with the Book, with the Word [2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20-21] – the laver, the Holy Spirit of God in the Word and revelation of the Lord.
That’s the way we are saved: We heard the message of God. Like we said one time, "Sometimes we hear and hear and hear, and then one day we hear." It’s words until the convicting power of the Spirit [John 16:8] seizes upon it and thrusts it into our heart like a sword, called "the sword of the Spirit" [Ephesians 6:17].
Now, we’re sanctified by the Word of God. Not only are we saved by the Holy Spirit using the Word of God – the message of Jesus, the gospel of Christ – but we are sanctified by the Holy Spirit using the Word of God. Listen to these typical passages. Psalm 119 and verse 9: "Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Thy word."In that same octet of verses, Psalm 119 and 11: "Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against Thee." Again, 119th Psalm and the 105th verse: "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path" [Psalm 119:105].
We are clean through the Word which Christ hath spoken unto us [John 15:3]. There is a washing in the Word of God, and every day, every day, God’s people ought to visit the laver to wash their hands and their feet: to read the Word of God and open our hearts to the Spirit of Jesus that He might wash us and cleanse us and forgive us as we journey through the wilderness of this life [1 John 1:7, 9]. The laver for cleansing: the Holy Spirit of God in the Word, in the Book.
I have said I’m going to shorten these sermons. I come to the last paragraph however much there might be left to say.
In the temple, the laver was made very ornate and very large; and it was called the sea, and it held 24,000 gallons of water [1 Kings 7:23-26]. When John looked into that final and ultimate celestial city of heaven, there was a sea of glass, but no water: "And I saw a new heaven and a new earth, and there was no more sea" [Revelation 21:1].
Up there, in glory, the Holy Spirit of God has ceased His work of cleansing and regeneration. All of us, in the presence of the great King, shall be clean and white and without fault and without spot and without blemish [Ephesians 5:26-27; 1 John 3:2-3; Revelation 19:7-8], and there’ll be no need for the laver, no need for the sea, no need for the cleansing fountain. The Holy Spirit has finished His work, and God’s people, spotless, shall live forever in the love and grace and glory of the Lamb [Revelation 22:3-5].
We have Him now because we need Him. The gift of Jesus upon His return to heaven: the Spirit of God blessing the Word of the Lord to your hearts [John 14:16-17, 15:26-27, 16:7, 13-14]. That’s the way we’re saved: by listening, by accepting, by opening our hearts to the regenerating power of the Spirit of God, and that’s the way we’re kept clean – by washing our hands and our feet daily in the laver of the Word, in the washing of the renewing of the Spirit of God.
Every service, every service, the Holy Spirit calls some to respond. This morning, again tonight – every time this Book is faithfully preached, the Spirit of God uses it to knock at the door of somebody’s heart. He makes appeal through the preaching of His Word. There are some here tonight who ought to come – some by confession of faith, giving your heart and trust to Jesus; some of you putting your life in the fellowship of the church.
Every service, the Spirit of God speaks to some heart and bids them come. Is that you? Is it you? Is it a family you? Is it one somebody you? While our people prayerfully, earnestly sing this song of invitation and appeal, will you come and stand by me? "Pastor, tonight, tonight, I open my heart to the Holy Spirit of God. I trust Jesus by faith to forgive my sins. I look to the cleansing power of the Holy Spirit to regenerate, to give me a new heart and a new life, and, in His power, to be cleansed with the passing of every day – trusting, believing, yielding, committing. Here I am, and here I come."
In this balcony round, down one of these stairwells and to the pastor; on this lower floor, into the aisle, and down here to the front: "Here I come, and here I am" – a family you or one somebody you. While we sing the song, will you make it tonight while we stand and while we sing?
THE LAVER FOR WASHING
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Hebrews 9, Exodus 30:17-21
A. Two articles of furniture in the outer court – altar and laver
B. Everything in outer court was made of or covered with brass
C. The altar is the cross, the doctrine of atonement and expiation
D. The laver is the Word of God and the Holy Spirit
E. Laver positioned between the altar and the door of the tabernacle
II. Meaning clearly defined in Holy Scriptures
A. The laver represents the regenerating, washing, cleansing of the Holy Spirit(Titus 3:5)
1. No measurements given for it – God gives His Spirit without measure
B. The laver represents the cleansing, washing, sanctifying power of the Word of God(Ephesians 5:25-26, John 15:3)
1. Made of the brazen mirrors of the women(Exodus 38:8)
a. Word of God is a mirror(James 1:23-25, 2 Timothy 3:16, John 17:17)
III. Two kinds of washings
A. Entire, whole, all over – done once for all(Leviticus 8:5-9, Exodus 29:4, John 13:8-10)
B. Partial – repeated; a daily action(Exodus 30:19-21, John 13:10)
C. Double cleansing a principle from which God never departs (John 19:33-35, 1 John 5:6-8)
IV. The cleansing agent
A. The Holy Spirit in the Holy Scriptures(Romans 10:13-14, Acts 11:13-14)
B. Word of God in itself is powerless – but there is no limit to the power of the Holy Spirit of God in the Word of God
C. Saved by the Holy Spirit using the Word of God, the gospel
V. The laver was called "the sea" of the temple
A. In heaven a sea of glass, but no water – no need for further cleansing(Revelation 21:1)