Flesh Hooks And Fire Pans

Paul McCauley, Belfast, N. Ireland [SEE PROFILE BELOW]

Part 4 of 4 of the series The Utensils Of The Altar

There came a moment

The flesh hooks were used in the positioning of the sacrifice upon the altar. A man brought his victim to the altar; it was slain, skinned and divided into its parts; but then there came a moment when no human hand would touch that sacrifice again and no human eye would behold that sacrifice again. A priest with a flesh-hook would lower the spotless offering into the midst of the altar to be devoured in the heat of the fire, and there the sacrifice ascended to God.

Only the hand of God could deal with sin

There are several important lessons to be learnt here in relation to the work of our Lord at Calvary. While it was true that men caused God’s Son to suffer, and men led Him out to Golgotha, and men nailed Him to the tree, we must not think that anything men did to Him could ever pay for sin. When the Lord Jesus suffered at the hands of men He was suffering ‘for righteousness sake’, 1 Pet. 3. 14. That is, His righteousness caused men to hate Him, He loved righteousness but they hated it. But when it comes to those sufferings for sin, Scripture is clear; it was not during His life; neither was it in Gethsemane; it was not in Pilate’s Judgment Hall; it was only on the tree, 1 Pet. 2. 24.

After the hands of men touched Him for the last time, something happened that men could never see, ‘The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all’, Isa. 53. 6. Sin’s penalty was not paid by anything man did to Him; sin’s penalty was paid by what God did to Him when He hung alone, forsaken upon the cross. The sufferings of Christ from the hands of God are what the Holy Spirit had in mind when He inspired the words, ‘But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed’, Isa. 53. 5. In Matthew 16 verse 21 we read, ‘From that time forth began Jesus to show unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes’. The Lord showed them what He must suffer from men, but He could never show them what He would suffer from God. Finite minds cannot take in, and human eyes can never see, or hearts feel, the depths of agony that He passed through when He went into the midst of the altar.

The flesh-hooks ensured full exposure to the fire

The flesh-hooks were then used to make sure every part of the sacrifice was positioned correctly on the altar, so that every part of it was exposed to the fire. How significant this is when we consider that one great sacrifice at Calvary. When He was upon the cross every single fibre of His being was exposed to the fire. Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego entered into the furnace, but they never felt the fire that burned all around them. When our Lord entered into the furnace He experienced the full fury of the fire to the very depths of His being.

Just as the Passover lamb was not to be sodden at all with water, so nothing came between the holy soul of Christ and the fire to lessen its intensity. He could describe it as a ‘baptism to be baptized with’, Luke 12. 50. He would be totally immersed in the infinite judgement of God. We find expressions of this in Psalm 69, ‘Save me, O God; for the waters are come in unto My soul. I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing: I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me’, Ps. 69. 1-2. They flowed into Him, above Him, and below Him, totally encompassing Him so that He was without relief.

God’s promise to His people was, ‘When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee’, Isa. 43. 2. No such promise was given to His Son, as He was left alone to sink beneath that awful flood that should have engulfed a guilty world. He suffered in His body, for He bore our sins ‘in his own body on the tree’, 1 Pet. 2. 24. He suffered in His soul, when God made, ‘his soul an offering for sin’, Isa. 53. 10. It even affected His spirit, for when He considered the betrayal and all that would ensue, ‘He was troubled in spirit’, John 13. 21. How profound then are the words, ‘who loved me and gave himself’, Gal. 2. 20.

The flesh-hooks speak of God required order

As the priest would use those flesh-hooks to put the sacrifice in order upon the altar, so today we should make sure that what we offer to God, whether in our worship or in our service, is orderly and spiritually intelligent. Each part of the sacrifice was positioned in the fire: the head, the fat, the inwards and the legs; and each part ascended to God. The lesson we learn is that God is looking for worshippers who can take different aspects of the person and work of Christ, and offer them to Him with that kind of touch that shows a deeper knowledge of what Calvary entailed.

What an exhaustless supply of material we have for worship when we consider Him. If there is ever staleness in our worship then the fault is entirely ours, for God has eternal pleasure and fully delights in His Son. Let us saturate our souls with sweet savours of the Saviour and seek to delight the Father’s heart as we offer them to Him.

5. FINALLY THERE WERE THE FIRE PANS

The fire essential for true appreciation

The fire pan was the censer that was used by the priest in his approach to God. H. W. Soltau states, ‘The purpose for which they were made was to contain burning coals taken from off the altar of Burnt Offering when incense had to be offered to God’. We learn from this that if we are going to approach God and minister for His pleasure it can only be done with an appreciation of the altar. Religious men may want to bypass the altar in their approach to God, and the sad story of Nadab and Abihu stands as a solemn warning to the consequences of such an attitude, Lev. 10. 1, 2. We must ever remember we can only minister to God because of Calvary, and if our service and worship are to be acceptable to Him we must do it in appreciation of that sacred place.

Is this not something we take for granted? When we are engaged in communion with God are we aware that it took the sacrifice of Christ to make it possible? When Mary was going to worship the Lord she did so with His death in mind. Understanding this drove her to do it even though it brought her criticism. It resulted in the Lord’s commendation. She was not ‘going through the motions’, but the reality of the cross had gripped her heart and she could not hold back, she had to offer to the Lord what she had prepared. Little wonder the house was filled with the fragrance, and the people of the district knew Christ was there, John 12. 3-9.

The fire essential at the remembrance Supper

In the assembly at Corinth we find that believers were trying to engage in the most holy of privileges with no appreciation of Calvary. They met together at the Lord’s Supper and turned it into a farce. The apostle brings them back to the altar and fills their thoughts with memories of the Lord and His sacrifice, 1 Cor. 11. 20-29, teaching that these should be the things that occupy our hearts as we come to ‘break bread’. Contemplation of Christ and His cross would have preserved them from such a departure and such indiscipline, and it will preserve us as well. Sadly we too can so easily turn the Lord’s Supper into a social occasion, replacing it with various innovations we feel to be superior, but if we are often at the altar then we will never abandon the precious privilege of spending time simply remembering Him.

The fire essential for service

Preparation is needed for service. Let us get to the altar to view again the mighty sacrifice of Calvary, and realize our complete indebtedness to God’s blessed Son who gave Himself to make us His own. The lesson we learn from the fire pans is that God desires that His people serve Him with an ever fresh appreciation of Calvary. May He ever keep us near the cross.

O teach me what it meaneth,

That cross uplifted high,

With One, the Man of Sorrows,

Condemned to bleed and die!

O teach me what it cost Thee

To make a sinner whole;

And teach me, Saviour, teach me

The value of a soul!

AUTHOR PROFILE: Paul McCauley is in fellowship in the assembly at Cregagh St. Gospel Hall, Belfast, N. Ireland, and has a special interest in the tabernacle and its teaching. He is married and employed as a civil engineer.