Brethren Archive
2 Chronicles 4

The Brazen Sea

by C.H. Mackintosh

 “And Solomon made a molten sea of ten cubits from brim to brim, round in compass, and five cubits the height thereof; and a line of thirty cubits did compass it round about. And under it was the similitude of oxen which did compass it round about; ten in a cubit, compassing the sea round about. Two rows of oxen were cast, when it was cast. It stood upon twelve oxen, three looking toward the North, and three looking toward the West, and three looking toward the South, and three looking toward the East; and the sea was set above upon them, and all their hinder parts were inward. And the thickness of it was an handbreadth, and the brim of it like the work of a brim of a cup, with flowers of lilies; and it received and held three thousand baths .... the sea was for the priests to wash in.” (2 Chr. 4: 2-6).

In order to a have a clear understanding of the doctrine taught us in this beautiful and significant figure, three things demand our attention — the material, the contents and the objects. May God the Spirit guide our thoughts and speak to our hearts as we dwell upon these things!

The material. Solomon's molten sea was made of brass, the apt symbol of divine righteousness demanding judgment upon sin (as in the brazen altar) or demanding judgment upon uncleanness (as in the brazen sea). The Lord Jesus is spoken of in Revelation 1 as having “His feet like unto fine brass as if they burned in a furnace.” It is thus He is seen walking among the candlesticks. He cannot tolerate evil, but must, in the exercise of judgment, trample it beneath His feet. This will explain the reason why the altar where sin was expiated and the sea where defilement was washed away, were both made of brass. Everything in Scripture has its meaning and we should seek in a spirit of prayer to ascertain what that meaning is.

It is most comforting and establishing to the heart to be assured that the sin which God freely pardons and the uncleanness which He freely removes have been both fully and forever judged and condemned in the cross. Not a single jot or tittle of guilt, not a single trace of uncleanness, has been passed over. All has been divinely judged. “Mercy rejoiceth against judgment” and “grace reigns through righteousness” (James 2: 13; Rom. 5: 21). The believer is pardoned and cleansed: his guilt and uncleanness were judged on the cross. The knowledge of this most precious truth works in a double way. It sets the heart and conscience perfectly free and also causes us to abhor sin and uncleanness with an ever growing intensity. The altar of brass told forth in silent yet impressive eloquence, its double story: guilt had been divinely condemned, dear testimony to the fact that uncleanness had been divinely judged, and on that ground, could be divinely washed away.

What deep consolation for the heart in all this! And yet it is holy consolation. I cannot gaze upon the antitype of the altar and lightly commit sin. I cannot think upon the antitype of the molten sea and indifferently contract defilement. My consolation is deep and solid because I know I am pardoned and cleansed, but my consolation is holy because I know that Jesus had to yield up His life to procure my pardon and cleansing. God has been perfectly glorified; sin and uncleanness have been perfectly condemned; I am set eternally free; but the death of Christ is the basis of all. Such is the consolatory yet holy lesson taught us in the material of the brazen altar and the molten sea. Nothing is passed over by God, yet nothing is imputed to me because Christ was judged for all.

Let us now consider the contents of Solomon's molten sea. “It received and held three thousand baths” of water. If at the altar I see brass in connection with blood, at the sea I find brass in connection with water. Both point to Christ. “This is He that came by water and blood, Jesus Christ; not by water only, but water and blood” (1 John 5: 6). “But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced His side and forthwith came there out blood and water” (John 19: 34). The blood that expiates and the water that cleanses both flow from a crucified Savior. Precious and solemn truth! Precious, because we have expiation and cleansing; solemn, because of the way in which we get them.

But the brazen sea contained water, not blood. Those who approached thereto had already proved the power of the blood and therefore only needed the washing of water. Thus it was in the type and thus it is with the antitype. A priest under the law, whose hands and feet had become defiled, did not need to go back to the brazen altar, but forward to the brazen sea. He did not need to again apply the blood to constitute him a priest, but only to wash with water to enable him to discharge his priestly functions. So now, if a believer fails, if he commits sin, if he contracts defilement, he does not need to be again washed in the blood as at the first, but simply needs the cleansing action of the Word whereby the Holy Spirit applies to the soul the remembrance of what Christ has done. So the defilement is removed, the communion restored and the spiritual priest fitted afresh to discharge his priestly functions. “He that is washed needeth not except to wash his feet, but is clean every whit” (John 13: 10). “The worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins” (Heb. 10: 2). Does this make little of defilement? The very opposite! Did the provision of a molten sea, with its 3000 baths of water, make little of priestly defilement? Did it not rather prove how much was made of it, what a serious matter it was in the judgment of God, how impossible it was to go on with a single soil upon the hands and feet?

Let my reader ponder this matter. Let him examine it in the light of Scripture. Let him make sure he really understands it. There is, in many cases, a great lack of clearness as to the doctrine set forth in the brazen altar and the molten sea. Hence, so many earnest Christians get into spiritual darkness and trouble as to the question of daily sins and daily defilement. They do not see the divine completeness of their cleansing by the blood of Christ. They therefore entertain the idea that they must, on every fresh occasion, go as at the beginning to the brazen altar as if they had never been washed at all. This is a mistake. When once a man is purged by the blood of Jesus, he is clean forever. If Christ has cleansed me, I am divinely, eternally clean. I am introduced into a condition to which perfect cleanness attaches and I can never be out of it. I may lose the sense of it, the power of it, the enjoyment of it. Peter speaks of some forgetting that they were purged from their old sins. If sin be trifled with and if self be not judged, it is hard to say what a Christian may come to. The Lord give us to walk softly and tenderly before Him every day so we may not come under the blinding and hardening influence of sin!

But be it remembered that the most effective safeguard against the working and the influence of sin is to have the heart established in grace and to be clear in the understanding of our standing in Christ. To be dark or doubtful as to these things is the sure way of falling into Satan's snares. If I am seeking to live a holy life in order to establish my position before God, I shall either be propped up in pharisaism or be plunged into some horrible sin. But when I know that all my sins and all my defilements were judged and condemned in the cross, and that I am justified and accepted in a risen Christ, then I stand on the true ground of holiness. And if I fail, as I do constantly, I can bring my failure to God in confession and selfjudgment and know Him as faithful and just to forgive me my sins and to cleanse me from all unrighteousness.

I judge myself on the ground that Christ has been already judged before God for the very thing which I confess in His presence. If it were not so, my confession would be of no use. The only ground on which God can be “faithful and just to forgive and cleanse” is that Christ has already been judged on my behalf. And most assuredly, God will not execute judgment twice for the same thing. Blessedly true it is, I must confess and judge myself if I have gone wrong. A single sinful thought is sufficient to interrupt my communion. Every such thought must be judged before my communion can proceed. But it is as a purged one that I confess. I am no longer viewed as a sinner, having to do with God as a Judge. I am now in the position of a child having to do with God as a Father. He has made provision for my daily need, a provision which does not involve a denial of my place and portion or an ignoring of the work o£ Christ, but a provision which tells me at once of the holiness and grace of Him who made it. I am not to ignore the altar because I need the sea, but I am to adore the grace of Him who provided both the one and the other.

Having said thus much on the material and contents of Solomon's molten sea, a few words will suffice as to the object thereof.The sea was for the priests to wash in.” There came the priests from day to day to wash their hands and feet so they might always be in a fit condition to go through their priestly work. This is a striking type of God's spiritual priests — of all true believers whose works and ways need to be cleansed by the action of the Word. Both the brazen laver in the tabernacle and the brazen sea in the temple foreshadowed that “washing of water by the Word” which Christ is now carrying on by the power of the Holy Spirit. Christ in Person is acting up in heaven for us; by His Spirit and Word, He is acting in us and on us. Only thus are we enabled to get on. He restores us when we wander; He cleanses us from every soil; He corrects our every error. He ever lives for us. We are saved daily by His life. He maintains us in the full power and integrity of the position in which His precious blood has set us. All is secured in Him. “Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for it; that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5: 25-27).

Finally, one word as to the “oxen” which held up the brazen sea. The ox is used in Scripture as the symbol of patient labor. Hence their significant place beneath the brazen sea. From whatever side the priest approached, he was met by the apt expression of patient labor. It mattered not how often or in what way he came, he could never exhaust the patience that was devoted to the work of cleansing him from all his defilements. What a precious figure! And we have the substance in Christ. We can never weary Him by our frequent coming. His patience is exhaustless. He will not tire until He presents us to Himself without spot or wrinkle or any such thing.

May our hearts adore Him who is our Altar, our Laver, our Sacrifice, our Priest, our Advocate, our All!


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