Sunday, October 7, 2018

The Laver

The Tabernacle 4

Note: These kinds of studies, types and figures, et al, often find one man slightly disagreeing with another. If you disagree with my conclusions in this series and your disagreement is an educated one I welcome hearing it. Perhaps you may help me. Hopefully, along the way, I will help you too.

Exodus 40:30–32
30 And he set the laver between the tent of the congregation and the altar, and put water there, to wash withal.
31 And Moses and Aaron and his sons washed their hands and their feet thereat:
32 When they went into the tent of the congregation, and when they came near unto the altar, they washed; as the LORD commanded Moses.

bronze-laver-priestOffering sacrifices is a bloody business. Practically speaking, having a source of water near at hand helps tremendously in cleaning up. As the old saying goes, cleanliness is next to godliness, and that was never more true than it was for the Jewish people. Leviticus, the priestly manual of operations, emphasizes the necessity of moral and physical and ceremonial cleanliness constantly. This emphasis found a ready heart in the Jewish religion of the Old Testament, and in this culture a laver – a wash basin set on a pedestal – makes perfect sense. What was it for? The answer is simple: cleanliness.

There is here, however, more than meets the eye, for the Laver was used by the priests two ways. First, it was used by them on their commissioning to wash themselves in entirety. (Exodus 40.11-16) Second, it was used by them on a daily basis to wash their hands and feet only. (Exodus 30.19-20)

I find clear parallels to these two uses in the New Testament. First, we are to be washed entire, cleansed of our sin, upon salvation. Paul calls this in Titus 3.5 the washing of regeneration and in Corinthians 6.11 says the same: And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of God. Both of these clearly liken salvation to be cleansed wholly via water.
There is also, however, a second illustration repeated in the New Testament in relation to washing. In this case it was not for the entire body, but only for the feet. The practical reason for foot washing was that the dusty roads of Palestine combined with the open-toed sandals of the day made for a grimy result. But that regular custom of hospitality was clearly used by our Saviour in a spiritual way at the Last Supper.

Christ Washing the Disciples Feet by Tintorreto
c 1580
John 13:4–10
4 He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself.
5 After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded.
6 Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet?
7 Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter.
8 Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.
9 Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.
10 Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all.

Jesus is not using this as an illustration of salvation. The Apostles were already washed in that sense – he that is washed – but yet they still needed some additional, or I should say, regular cleansing – needeth not save to wash his feet. Spiritually speaking, their feet got dirty and needed cleansed.

The Psalmist uses a curious turn of phrase in Psalm 49.5, the iniquity of my heels. What is the iniquity of my heels? I am saved, cleansed entirely of my sin by the washing of regeneration. I am thus justified. But as I journey through life (as I walk the dusty roads of Palestine in the process of living my daily life) I inevitably find myself with some sin or other clinging to me. If I let it continue unchecked I will be the like the boy who grew turnips in his ears because he refused to take a bath. I will be miserably unhappy. I will be out of fellowship with God’s people. God will not hear my prayers. I will be living apart from Him rather than abiding in Him. I must needs take a spiritual bath every time I sin. Why? To cleanse the iniquity of my heels, to restore fellowship, to grow deeper into my intimacy with Christ. Without this I, like Peter, have no part with Him.

John said it this way in the epistle he wrote about sixty years after Jesus washed his feet at the Last Supper: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (I John 1.9) From time to time in my Christian journey I have met those who insist that this passage does not teach anything like regular confession of daily sin. They assert that instead it represents salvation and that is all. They could not be more mistaken. Why? Simply put, because the epistle of I John is plainly directed toward those who are already Christians.

John addresses his readers as my little children. (2.1) He calls them brethren. (2.7) He tells us he is writing to those who already know the truth. (2.21) John tells them to continue in the Son. (2.24) He explicitly says his readers are already now the sons of God. (3.2) He says his readers already love God. (4.19) He says that God hath given to us eternal life. (5.11) He closes with the assumption that we are in him that is true. (5.20) There can be no doubt whatsoever. The epistle of I John is not directed toward the unsaved in an effort to get them saved; it is directed toward those who are already the children of God that their fellowship with God and with each other might be improved.

The danger of rejecting this interpretation and application is two-fold. First, I have hamstrung my prayer life. If I am living in known sin I do not jeopardize my salvation but I do jeopardize my hearing before God. (Psalm 66.18) Second, I have deceived myself and instead of walking in the light I am walking in darkness. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. (I John 1.8). If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (I John 1.10) John is talking about the man who is already a Christian. If that man denies the necessity of confession in order to obtain fellowship he is simply deceiving himself.

In this John lines with all kinds of scriptural precept and illustration. In addition to the Laver illustration in the Old Testament and our Saviour at the Last Supper, Paul, in Ephesians, says that a Christian has both a standing and a state before God. In standing he is entirely sanctified; in state he is somewhere in the process of sanctification that comes between being birthed into the new life and being formed fully into the image of Christ. God views me right now as though I were already in Heaven fully possessed of the righteousness of Christ; that is my standing. But my actual state at the moment is not nearly as holy as my standing.

John writes I John so that, amongst other reasons, my actual condition or state in this life progresses in holiness. He writes so that I sin less. My little children, these write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. (I John 2.1) What tool is necessary to accomplish this? The tool of daily confession of sin, of bowing my heart before His throne and telling God I am sorry for the sin that has accumulated in life.

jesus_washing_feet02God and I cannot partner together if I allow unconfessed sin to pile up in my life. I have already washed, but the iniquity of my heels is the problem. I still need to wash my feet on a regular basis as I serve Him. It is the only way I can have a part with Him.

You long ago used the laver of salvation. Get alone somewhere today and use the laver of confession. Without it, you are not fit to serve Him.

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