Then Washed I Thee
During their wilderness journey from Egypt to the Promised Land, the Lord through Moses instructed the Israelites to build Him a sanctuary. This structure was meant to visually unfold to the people the plan of salvation. A special metal object called “the laver” was placed within the confines of the court which surrounded the sanctuary. It was located between the altar of burnt offering and the door to the holy place of the sanctuary. In Exodus 38:8 we read a description of the laver: “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.” The looking glasses were polished brass mirrors that were donated by pious women who sacrificed some of their costly worldly possessions. Perhaps these women felt convicted to part with these mirrors as a symbol of renouncing the world. Their personal vanity and pride were sacrificed so they could follow the Lord more fully.
A mirror can reveal imperfections or uncleanness to the viewer. When the priests came to the brass laver, they most likely saw their own faces. “But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.” James 1:25. Thus God’s law clearly points out man’s shortcomings and sins. Only when one compares his life with the standard expressed in the Ten Commandments do character flaws become apparent. Once we recognize the ugly spots and blemishes in our character, we can choose to wash and cleanse ourselves of all impurity. Yes, there is hope for the sinner! Dear brother, sister, friend, have you taken the time to look into the perfect law of liberty and discovered that you are vain, selfish, proud, and hypocritical? Has the Holy Spirit spoken to your heart and convicted you of breaking the law and urged you to reform your life? God’s Spirit is appealing to us to examine our hearts and to seek a spiritual cleansing.
The laver of cleansing
“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.” Exodus 30:19, 20. God specifically required that the priests wash their hands and feet before ministering before the altar of burnt offering or upon entering the holy place of the sanctuary. The laver provided clean water for the removal of all defilement. “Be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord.” Isaiah 52:11.
What can we learn from the instructions given to the priests when they ministered before the Lord? God does not change and He expects us also to be clean when we come to worship Him, especially on the Sabbath. Sister White has given us some timely and good instruction regarding cleanliness—both our personal hygiene and our clothing. This is what she wrote under inspiration about one hundred years ago: “On Friday, let the preparation for the Sabbath be completed.
See that all clothing is in readiness and that all the cooking is done. Let the boots be blacked and the baths be taken…. Many need instruction as to how they should appear in the assembly for worship on the Sabbath. They are not to enter the presence of God in the common clothing worn during the week. All should have a special Sabbath suit to be worn when attending service in God’s house.” –-Child Guidance, pp. 528, 531.
Most likely the laver was a bowl of considerable size. No specific description is given as to its size and shape in the book of Exodus. All of the priests’ washing was not done in but at the laver. This indicates that the water for washing was drawn from the laver by some type of faucet and evidently the priests washed themselves in this flowing water. The laver had to be full of water and always ready for immediate use by the priests.
The water represented the free and unlimited supply of the cleansing power of Christ’s salvation. Jesus is the Water of Life which cleanses the sinner of all defilement and rottenness of character. The pollution of sin must be washed away before the sinner can properly worship and minister before the Lord.
What needs to be cleansed?
“Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.” James 4:8. God desires us to be clean both inwardly and outwardly. Our natural hearts are full of wickedness and filthiness. The apostle Paul gives a very graphic description of the state of the human heart: “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murder, drunkenness, revellings, and such like…” Galatians 5:19-21.
Are we guilty of some of these sins? Let us be honest and confess our wrongdoings to Jesus. Once we acknowledge our sins, He will graciously provide the remedy to cleanse our hearts of all sins. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9. Jesus is the remedy for our sins and He is available to all people at all times. We only need to approach the fresh flowing fountain of water—the Lord Jesus Christ. His mercy and love will make us completely clean. Will you not let Him cleanse your rebellious heart?
In the past, the only place where purification took place was at the laver. Today Jesus Christ purifies us. As we approach the New Year, we need to recognize the role and symbol of the laver in the ordinances of feet washing and baptism. Firstly, the rite of feet washing can provide for continual cleansing of the heart. “Christ had come to wash the heart from the stain of sin.” —The Desire of Ages, p. 646.
When we defile ourselves by sin, we can come to this sacred ordinance where we renew our baptismal vows and receive forgiveness. Have we refrained from participating in this ordinance because we have not forgiven a brother or sister who has offended or hurt us deeply? Are we holding on to bitterness toward a spouse, neighbor, or brother or sister in the faith? Are you striving to become united to a loved one who has spread unkind gossip about you? Isn’t it high time to forgive others and approach the “modern laver” of foot washing so that you can be cleansed of sin? Do not delay in responding to the gracious invitation of the Lord Jesus. Before entering the New Year, our fervent desire should be to be cleansed and united to Jesus. “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation…” Hebrews 2:3.
Closely connected to the ordinance of feet washing is the rite of baptism. The Scriptures present baptism–outward cleansing–as a testimony and symbol of the inward or spiritual cleansing of our sins by means of the precious blood of Christ. “And now why tarriest thou? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” Acts 22:16. If you have not been baptized yet, shouldn’t you give heed to this admonition? Baptism symbolically cleanses the sinner from every sin ever committed. What a wonderful thought!
Jesus forgives and washes away all the sins of a lifetime! Only He can pardon, cleanse, and make you perfect. How many of you have thought about baptism, but still have not taken this important step? Perhaps the Holy Spirit is calling you today to repent and take your stand on God’s side. Wouldn’t it be wonderful for you to become a living part of God’s remnant church? Give your heart to Him today! He is waiting for you to decide. Go to Jesus and to the cross where He died for you and me. Isaiah the prophet urges all: “Seek ye the Lord while He may be found, call ye upon Him while He is near.” Isaiah 55:6.
Where can Jesus be found today? Where do we need to go? Officer Peter O’Hanlon was patrolling on night duty in northern England some years ago when he heard a quivering sob. Turning, he saw in the shadows a little boy sitting on a doorstep. With tears rolling down his checks, the child whimpered, “I’m lost. Please take me home.” “Where do you live, child? What street?” asked the officer; “I don’t know.” the little boy sobbed. The policeman began naming street after street, trying to help him remember where he lived. When that failed, he repeated the names of the shops and hotels in the area, but all without success. Then he remembered that in the center of the city was a well-known church with a large white cross that towered high above the surrounding landscape. He pointed to it and asked, “Do you live anywhere near that?” The boy’s face immediately brightened. “Yes, Sir, take me to the cross. I can find my way home from there!”
We will never find the way to our heavenly home unless we begin our journey at the foot of the cross. May the Lord help us today to go to the cross for cleansing, healing, and salvation.