Today we will talk about the final piece of furnishing in the holy place: the Altar of Incense.
“You shall make an altar on which to burn incense; you shall make it of acacia wood. 2 A cubit shall be its length, and a cubit its breadth. It shall be square, and two cubits shall be its height. Its horns shall be of one piece with it. 3 You shall overlay it with pure gold, its top and around its sides and its horns. And you shall make a molding of gold around it. 4 And you shall make two golden rings for it. Under its molding on two opposite sides of it you shall make them, and they shall be holders for poles with which to carry it. 5 You shall make the poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. 6 And you shall put it in front of the veil that is above the ark of the testimony, in front of the mercy seat that is above the testimony, where I will meet with you. 7 And Aaron shall burn fragrant incense on it. Every morning when he dresses the lamps he shall burn it, 8 and when Aaron sets up the lamps at twilight, he shall burn it, a regular incense offering before the Lord throughout your generations. 9 You shall not offer unauthorized incense on it, or a burnt offering, or a grain offering, and you shall not pour a drink offering on it. 10 Aaron shall make atonement on its horns once a year. With the blood of the sin offering of atonement he shall make atonement for it once in the year throughout your generations. It is most holy to the Lord.” Ex 30:1-10 (ESV)
And he shall take a censer full of coals of fire from the altar before the Lord, and two handfuls of sweet incense beaten small, and he shall bring it inside the veil 13 and put the incense on the fire before the Lord, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that is over the testimony, so that he does not die. Lev 16:12-13 (ESV)
Can you imagine how carefully the priests prepared for the atonement ceremony? Can you picture getting ready – making sure every detail in the priestly garment was correct and perfect, doing or saying every motion, every action, every word that God had commanded him so that he wouldn’t die? Do we look at worship that seriously today?
In the New Testament, we see the story of Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist.
Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, 9 according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. 11 And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. Luke 1:8-11 (ESV)
The people were praying while he entered the temple of the Lord. This is an altar of prayer.
And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, 4 and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel. Rev 8:3-4 (ESV)
So we see that the altar of incense inspires prayer. The tabernacle was patterned after things in heaven, and it’s a pattern of worship – and …
This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant. 23 The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, 24 but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. 25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. Heb 7:22-25 (ESV)
What does the incense represent?
What happens along with the incense?
Who holds a permanent priesthood?
What does Jesus live to do?
Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice! Psalm 141:2 (ESV)
And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. Rev 5:8 (ESV)
Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thess 5:16-18 (ESV)
Our prayers are incense! We are commanded to pray without ceasing. How can we do that in our everyday lives?
How does prayer relate to worship? Are you worshiping God through prayer every day? Could your prayer life be improved? Mine can!
This week has been packed full of truth. It’s time to examine what we’ve learned.
Jesus is the true bread of life. If we honor Jesus, we must honor His word in our lives. Do you spend time in the Word every day? If not, what changes can you make so that you spend that important time with Jesus? Does your church pay “lip service” to the Bible – perhaps reading a couple verses, but the sermon doesn’t refer to the Bible at all? Does your pastor give practical life lessons from the pages of Scripture, or is the sermon from the funny pages or the newspaper pages? I pray that your pastor gives the Word of God the prominent spot in his sermon! Mine gives references, cross references, and shows the Word on the screen :-}
Jesus is the true light. Does your walk testify to your respect, fear and love of God?
Jesus is our High Priest. Did you find comfort in knowing that Jesus intercedes for you? Do you talk to Him (pray)? Do you seek His direction for your life, or do you keep parts of your life out of His hands?
We all need to make changes to walk a walk of worship. For some (me!) it’s adding more prayer time. For others, prayer is easy but reading God’s Word isn’t so simple. Is it because you don’t have enough time? Then get rid of something! Prayer and study of God’s Word are to be a central focus of your worship of God.
This week you might want to consider “praying your way through the tabernacle”. Stop at each object – the door, the brazen altar, the basin, the door, the showbread, the lampstand, and the altar of incense – and thank God for what that means to you!
If you have questions or comments, please feel free to leave them here or email me. See you next week.