Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: “You shall also make a laver of bronze, with its base also of bronze, for washing. You shall put it in between the tabernacle of meeting and the altar. And you shall put water into it, for Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet in water from it. When they go into the tabernacle of meeting, or when they come near the altar to minister, to burn an offering made by fire to the LORD, they shall wash with water, lest they die. And it shall be a statute forever to them—to him and his descendants throughout their generations.”
Midway between the brazen altar, and the tabernacle stood the brazen laver (or basin), where the priests ceremonially washed after offering sacrifices and before entering the tabernacle itself. Though given last in the description of the pieces of furniture and less is said about this piece than any of the other. The laver was really the second piece of furniture which met the priest on his way into the tabernacle. Measurements for all the vessels were given, with the exception of the laver, and the golden lamp stand. But it was probably round and quite large. A bronze pedestal supported the basin, and possibly incorporated a lower basin in which the priests could also wash their feet. The size and shape of the laver wasn’t the important thing: it was the contents of the laver that really mattered. It held clean water, and the supply was replenished all day long by the Levites. Washing in the East was always done with running water, and the basin was probably supplied with taps from which the water would flow over the hands and feet of the priests. No mention is made of any other vessel in which the animal parts offered in sacrifice were washed; the basin probably served this purpose, too. The priests were required to wash from the laver before they could either serve at the altar or enter the tent.
They could not commune with the Lord nor truly serve Him until they had washed, every single time. If a priest neglected to wash at the basin before ministering in the tabernacle, he could be punished by death.
In the Old Testament, priests became defiled, not by sinning against God but by serving God! Their feet became dirty as they walked in the courtyard and in the tabernacle (there was no floor in the tabernacle), and their hands were defiled as they handled the sacrifices and sprinkled the blood. Therefore, their hands and feet needed constant cleansing, and this was provided at the laver. For the priests, washing in the laver wasn’t a luxury, it was a necessity. Keeping themselves clean was a matter of life and death. The priests were required to draw near to God, not only with clean hands and feet, but with a pure heart. No worship rendered by anyone can be pleasing to God, the Holy One of Israel, however clean the hands, if the heart is polluted.
The laver was made from the bronze mirrors the women brought with them from Egypt (Exodus 38:8). It was a freewill offering, and was probably a sacrifice on their part, even as it would be too many today. Normally these mirrors were instruments of vanity and pride that the Lord was able to transform into an instrument of cleansing. The thought of the mirror in connection with the laver is quite appropriate.
There are two ways of seeing ourselves: first in our own mirrors, where we have quite a good opinion of ourselves and yet a desire ever to improve our appearance; the other, in the light and mirror of God’s Word, where we see ourselves as God sees us, that is, unclean—so that we may say with Isaiah,“ Woe is me, for I am undone” (Isa.6:5).
But not all mirrors give a true picture. Mirrors can be distorted to produce nearly any desired effect. Mirrors that are used at amusement parks are examples of such. These mirrors do not give a true reflection. They distort what we see in our own eyes and in the eyes of others. They give a lying or deceiving impression. But James1:23 says:
“For if any be a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a mirror.”
The Word of God is a mirror! It gives us a true and clear image of ourselves as we are, as God sees us. But it also gives us a view of what we can be through Christ,
“I do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians4:13).
As we look into the Word of God, we see our need of cleansing. The Word reveals any defilements that need to be scrubbed off. There was water in the laver and water in the laver and water symbolizes the Word of God (Ephesians 5:25-26, John 15:33). The second thing that water, represents in the Word is the Holy Spirit (John 7:37-39). The water symbolizes the Spirit of God and that Spirit is like a well of water springing up into eternal life. The presence and the work of the Holy Spirit are absolutely essential if we are going to commune with God and effectively serve Him. No one can do the works of God. Only the Holy Spirit can do the work of God through individuals.—It is as simple as that (Zechariah 4:6).
You see in the scriptures the Word of God was a cleansing agent for the believer.
“How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word”(Psalm119:9).
“let us draw near with a pure heart sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water”(Hebrews10:22).
It is the Water of the Word that cleanses us from self-defilement. David is a prime example. When David committed adultery, he murdered a man and then lied to cover his sin. Then with a broken heart (when he was exposed), he turned to God. David cried out to God and with a broken heart wrote Psalm 51.
The laver is 1 John1:9 applied:
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
In other words, we are to confess those things we know make us dirty and dusty, those sins that are all over our hands and feet. We confess those things to Him, and immediately He is faithful to forgive. That means He will do it all the time. God doesn’t have a quota with you. His forgiveness is 24/7.
“Let us come boldly before the throne of Grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need”(Hebrews4:16).
It is the Water of the Word that cleanses us from self-defilement. The believer is freed from guilt of sin and its penalty by the application of the blood (Romans 5:9), yet there remains defilement of sin that comes through daily living. There is a sanctification which is complete and final through the blood of Christ, but there is also a sanctification which is continuous and practical. It paves the way for contained effective fellowship with God (John 13:10).
Exodus 30:19 tells us that Aaron and his sons had to wash their hands, and their feet every time they went into the tabernacle to perform their duties. However, they didn’t have to offer up a lamb every time they did this. The laver testifies that the believer doesn’t have to get saved over and over again, of which the brazen altar was a type, but that cleansing can be effected on a daily basis, even on a hourly basis by the Word of God.