The Laver In The Tabernacle

(Exodus 30:17-21)

“And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Thou shalt 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 laver for washing was one of the very first vessels of the tabernacle as one entered the linen enclosure for sacrifice was first of all, and then it was the laver. Both the altar and the laver are repeatedly said to be at the door of the tabernacle (Exod. 29:4; Lev. 17:6, etc.).

Thus to enter the building where God had His dwelling place, one had to enter the door by the altar and by the laver. This was arranged to teach us spiritual lessons. There is a door, an altar, and a laver, still in the way to God. The Lord Jesus teaching in Jerusalem, said to the Jews, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved” (John 10:9). Then He said to His disciples, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). The door of the tabernacle, being a picture of Christ, the way to God, was made very wide. This seemed to say, there is room for all. But, by the door was, first, the altar and, then, the laver. The altar said. You must come by way of the sacrifice for sins; you must trust the precious blood that alone cleanseth from all sin. Then the laver said, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). In the New Testament that laver is called “the laver of regeneration” (Titus 3:5; margin).

The Water Was Most Important

The laver was about the only vessel of the tabernacle of which no measurements are given. What is important in the laver is the water it contained and the use to be made of that water. It meant death to the priest to enter the presence of God without first washing at the laver. At his consecration the priest was bathed by Moses at the laver (Lev. 8:6); then every time after that on entering the holy place the priest must wash his hands and his feet (Exod. 30:19-20). The bathing by another had to be done but once; the washing of his hands and feet must be done often. It is so also with us. There must first be the bath of regeneration as our Lord said to Nicodemus, “Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again” (John 3:7). This is a complete cleansing by the new birth. Peter speaks of this when he writes, “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever” (1 Pet. 1:23). Paul also refers to this washing when he wrote, “Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it; that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word” (Eph. 5:25-26). It is not by literal water that we are regenerated, but by washing of water by the Word. The Holy Spirit uses the Word to accomplish this regeneration. The Apostle James writes in his epistle, “Of his own will begat He us with the word of truth” (Jas. 1:18). The regeneration of the idolatrous Thessalonians is written of in these words: “For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost…ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; and to wait for His Son from Heaven” (1 Thess. 1:5, 9-10). It was the Gospel that wrought this mighty and radical change in these people; the Gospel in the power of the Holy Ghost. These people, when they heard the Gospel and believed it, were cleansed from all their old ways; it was the bath of regeneration. As Moses bathed Aaron at the door of the tabernacle, so these heathen on believing the Gospel were cleansed all over. At the first great conference of the Church at Jerusalem, the Apostle Peter acknowledged that God had purified the hearts of the heathen by faith (Acts 15:9). This is the laver at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. It teaches the absolute necessity of the bath of regeneration on entering the Kingdom of God.

The New Birth A Necessity

It is to be regretted that thousands, like Nicodemus, are trying to serve God without having had this new birth at all. They are sincere souls like him; the pity is, no one has ever told them of this needed preparation and the great enemy of souls wants to keep them blinded. The foolish virgins of the parable wondered why their lamps were going out instead of continuing to burn; they said to the wise, “Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out”; but the wise answered, “Go ye rather to those that sell and buy for yourselves.” In their late exercise about this matter the Bridegroom came and they were left outside. Their cry, “Lord, Lord, open to us,” was too late (Matt. 25:8-10). The matter of obtaining the oil, like this matter of regeneration, should not be left till the door is shut. The water of the laver as well as the blood of the altar was of the utmost importance; both were at the door of the tabernacle and it was death to the priest who entered without attending to each.

Christ Is The Door

The truth of these types is easy to read. There is a door to be entered and that door is Christ. There are no difficult steps to climb, the door is on the level of the wilderness. The door is wide enough for you and it is hung with curtains of lovely colors that speak of the moral perfections of our Saviour. There is no excuse for mistaking it. Our Lord said plainly, “I am the door, by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved” (John 10:9). By that door stands the altar of the cross. The entrance to God’s favor and to His home is a blood sprinkled way. “Without the shedding of blood, [there] is no remission” (Heb. 9:22). If you despise the blood, you will perish. The greatest sin of the catalogue is said to be counting the blood of the covenant an unholy thing and doing despite to the Spirit of grace” (Heb. 10:29). It was death for the priest to pass the laver of the tabernacle without washing at it; and it will be judgment to you, should you attempt to enter heaven without being born again.

David prayed, “Purge me with hyssop and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow” (Ps. 51:7). David knew there was a washing that could accomplish what no earthly washing could do. There is no water or soap of earth that can make that which was filthy whiter than the snow. David said to God, “You wash me.” Job lamented that if he washed himself in snow water, it would not make him permanently clean (Job 9:30-31). Only the washing by God Himself will prepare the soul of a man for communion with Him.

Material Of The Laver

The laver of the tabernacle was made of brass. This was the metal of the tabernacle that stood for the judgment of God upon sin. Brass was that metal best suited to stand the fire. Our Lord went through the fire of God’s judgment to provide a laver of regeneration for us. Brass was in the altar of burnt-offering, and brass was the metal of the laver. The brass of the laver seemed to say, now that a sacrifice has been offered by Christ and accepted by God, there is a fountain opened for sin and uncleanness and water to wash the foulest clean.

This is the very soul of the Gospel. “Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3); the price of redemption is already paid. “We have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Eph. 1:7). The God who provided the door, the altar, and the laver for Israel, has provided a Saviour for us, and He answers to all three. If you know your guilt and sin, come now to this Saviour who is so willing as well as mighty to save.

Continuous Washing

The priests were bathed by Moses at the laver on the day of their consecration (Exod. 29:4). This work was done but once. Our Lord referred to this when He said to Peter, “He that is washed (bathed) needeth not save to wash his feet” (John 13:10). Although the bathing was but once, there was a continuous washing at the laver that has its counterpart with us also. The daily washing was done by the person himself; the bathing was done by another. (Compare Exod. 29:4 with Exod. 30:19-21).

The washing or bathing of regeneration (Tit. 3:5) was done for us by the spirit of God; the cleansing daily from the filthiness of the flesh and spirit, we do for ourselves (2 Cor. 7:1; Ps. 119:9).

When our Lord washed the feet of Peter, He said, “If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me” (John 13:8). This was having part with the Lord in testimony and service. Peter had part in the Lord by the grace that had saved him; but if he would now serve with the Lord he needed his feet washed. This is the constant cleansing by the washing of water by the Word. Our Lord prayed to God for us, “Sanctify them through thy truth; thy word is truth” (John 17:17). The things of God are holy and to handle them we need continuous self-judgment. “If we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged” (1 Cor. 11:31). The hand of God’s discipline will surely be upon us if we minister about holy things without washing at the laver.

Where The Brass For The Laver Was Obtained

“And he made the laver of brass, and the foot of it brass, of the looking-glasses of the women assembling, which assembled at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation” (Exod. 38:8). This was evidently a special kind of brass; it carried a high degree of polish and brightness. This brass that acted as a mirror for the maidens of Israel, was voluntarily surrendered to make the laver of cleansing, a mirror to the priest, who bent over it, as he prepared to minister for them, in the presence of the Lord. Thus, instead of reflecting the beauty of the women to satisfy their vanity, this brass now reflected the brilliant stones of the priest’s breastplate, where the names of the tribes of Israel were inscribed. As you look into a glass, if any earthly beauty be there, it is fairness that will soon pass away. “Fairest flowers soon decay; youth and beauty pass away.” All that seems to be lovely in the countenances of youth is but grace and fashion that will perish. How great a change to repulsiveness a few years make in faces where malice and guile are cherished in the heart; even when those faces were once thought to be lovely! The story of beauty that is only told by a mirror is short lived. The women who gave their looking-glasses to Moses for the laver had a memorial of beauty, in the stones of the priest’s breastplate, reflected in the bright brass of the laver, as those names shone in the sparkling colors of the precious stones on which they were written, when Aaron bent over the laver for them in the tabernacle! That memorial in the garments of the high priest was an abiding memorial. There the beauty did not fade. As long as Israel had a priest at all that priest wore the ephod and the breastplate, and there the names of the tribes were carried before the Lord continually. This beauty the brass of the laver reflected.

What Is Better?

Instead of looking in a glass now to see if youthful fairness be withering, it is better to look up to Him upon the throne who carries our names in a beauty that can never decay. Let us look also in that glass where the glory of the Lord is beheld, for that continuous looking will make a practical and noticeable difference in our own countenances. “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor. 3:18).

The Bible is the only looking-glass that will make anybody beautiful. The use of God’s laver is far more important for a merry heart and cheerful countenance than any invention of men. The Lord Jesus, wearing a crown of thorns, is more lovely to His people than any king arrayed like Solomon in all his glory. Lips of truth and eyes of sympathy are more beautiful than those whose only loveliness is created by art and man’s device. “Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us” (Ps. 90:17), then there will be that comeliness of David that madei those who had observed him say, “The Lord is with him” (1 Sam. 16:18).

Baptism not the New Birth

A lady of Devonshire, who married a converted Par-see, or fire-worshiper, and was for some time serving Christ with him in Bombay, returned to England and fell asleep in Christ. During her illness she said she would like these words put on her tombstone, to tell of God’s grace to her:


“Happy day, when Jesus washed my sins away.” To these words the clergyman in whose churchyard the tombstone was placed objected, but the husband, desirous of carrying out his wife’s wish, appealed to the Consistory Court at Exeter. Before this court, the preacher produced a certificate to prove that the lady was baptised at West Leigh on April 19, 1847, and his objection to the statement on the tombstone was that it contradicted the declaration that she was regenerated or, born again, in her baptism as an infant. The learned Chancellor of the diocese held that the words need not be so understood, giving the late Archbishop Summer and the present Bishop of Exeter as his authority for concluding that there was no erroneous doctrine in them, and he therefore decided that the stone might be erected. It will appear to many that the lady’s distinct statement that she was “born again” sixteen years after her baptism as an infant, is a clear expression of her conviction that she was not, “born from above” by that ceremony. She evidently meant that on “21st June, 1863,” she was led to receive Christ as her own Saviour, and to believe in Him for the forgiveness of her sins, according to Acts 10:43, “To Him give all the prophets witness, that through His name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.” This she expressed in the words of the well-known hymn: “Happy day, when Jesus washed my sins away.”