Saturday, April 3, 2021

The Cross of Christ – Alter of Sacrifice


Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the LORD: we have blessed you out of the house of the LORD.   God is the LORD, which hath shewed us light: bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar. Psalm 118:26-27

This Psalm is one of which we can have no doubt speaks prophetically of Jesus.  That was confirmed by Jesus himself (Matthew 21:42) and later by the apostle Peter (Acts 4:11).  The portion I would like to bring your attention to is the end of verse 27.  Bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar.  The alter spoken of here is obviously meant to bring our thoughts to the alter for which Moses supplied the blueprints: “And thou shalt make an altar of shittim wood, five cubits long, and five cubits broad; the altar shall be foursquare: and the height thereof shall be three cubits.  And thou shalt make the horns of it upon the four corners thereof: his horns shall be of the same: and thou shalt overlay it with brass.” (Exodus 27:1-2) This alter would be a fixture in the Tabernacle that traveled with the Children of Israel and later in the Temple in Jerusalem.

As you probably know, the whole sacrificial system (and the objects used therein) of ancient Israel was designed by God to provide a “foreshadowing” or picture of the coming Messiah and the salvation from sins which he would provide.  When Israel would offer a sacrifice as an atonement for sin, it would be upon this alter.  The alter upon which the true sacrifice, which those Old Testament sacrifices pictured, was also one made of wood.  This alter was the cross on which the Son of God was crucified. 

Bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar.  Here is where there are differing opinions as to the exact meaning, though the differing opinions all agree with the fulfillment in Jesus Christ.  One understanding of binding the sacrifice with cords involves ropes or cords which may have been used to fasten the sacrificial lamb to the horns of the alter before it was slain.  If this is correct, that picture would have been fulfilled with ropes (as well as nails) fastening Jesus to the cross.  Another understanding of the statement in the Psalm states that the animals sacrificed in the Old Testament were not fastened to the alter at all, but rather that the “cords” were only used in leading the lamb to the alter and that fastening it to the alter would present an inaccurate picture of the sacrificial lamb attempting to flee, contrary to Jesus willing submission to death on the cross. This view would go on to point out that several texts substantiate that Jesus was “bound” and taken to the Roman Governor Pilate.

Consulting several different translations of the passage, it seems that either viewpoint could legitimately be taken from the passage.  One other interesting point, found in Charles Spurgeon’s commentary on this verse is that “the word rendered cords carries with it the idea of wreaths and boughs, so that it was not a cord of hard, rough rope, but a decorated band.”  This immediately brings to mind the twisted together crown of thorns which Jesus was adorned with by the Roman soldiers shortly before the crucifixion. That too, may be the explanation.

Whichever of these views of the passage you agree with, there can be little doubt that Jesus the Messiah fulfilled everything the Old Testament sacrificial system foreshadowed. Jesus Christ, King of kings, died for our sins and rose again in victory over death so that we might be accounted as righteous before God!

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