Then he made the sea of cast metal. It was round, ten cubits from brim to brim, and five cubits high, and a line of thirty cubits measured its circumference. Under it were figures of gourds, for ten cubits, compassing the sea all around. The gourds were in two rows, cast with it when it was cast. It stood on twelve oxen, three facing north, three facing west, three facing south, and three facing east. The sea was set on them, and all their rear parts were inward. Its thickness was a handbreadth. And its brim was made like the brim of a cup, like the flower of a lily. It held 3,000 baths. He also made ten basins in which to wash, and set five on the south side, and five on the north side. In these they were to rinse off what was used for the burnt offering, and the sea was for the priests to wash in. II Chronicles 4:2-6 ESV
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. Hebrews 10:19-23 ESV
Before doctors can perform surgery on their patients, they have to wash up. This is a lot more complicated than just washing up before dinner. They have to wash their hands and arms with special soap that kills germs. They have to clean under their nails with a nail file, and scrub the front and back of their hands and around each finger for two minutes. When they scrub their arms, they have to keep their hands higher than their arms the whole time. They have to wash all around their arms to three inches above the elbow for one minute. When they rinse the soap off their hands and arms, they can’t move them back and forth under the water. They can only rinse them off in one direction, from the fingers to the elbows. Then they walk into the operating suite holding their wet hands above their arms, and dry them off on sterile towels there. This keeps them from getting germs into the people they do surgery on, because germs can cause serious infections.
When Solomon built the temple, he knew that the priests would need a place to wash up before they could offer sacrifices to God. The problem wasn’t that the priests had germs, but it was that the priests had sin. They could only come before God if they were clean from sin, and washing with water showed that they understood their need to be set apart for God’s service by washing their sins away. Solomon made a huge pool of water for them to use, and it was so big that it was called a sea. There were twelve metal oxen holding this basin on their backs, and the basin itself was shaped like a huge lily. There were also smaller basins to the side for washing the animals for the burnt offerings. Everything that came into God’s presence had to be clean and set apart from the ordinary.
The water in the metal sea couldn’t really wash anyone’s sins away, but it pointed ahead to what God was going to do through Jesus. Jesus died on the cross and took all the punishment for our sins when he did that. Only Jesus’ blood can wash away our sins. When we are baptized, God takes what Jesus did on the cross and makes it ours. Baptism is like washing up, because God works through our baptism to wash our sins away. Because Jesus died for us and through our baptism we can come to God for help and forgiveness every day.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for sending Jesus to wash my sins away. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.