The Tabernacle 7
For the last two weeks we have examined the Holy Place, first the Table of Shewbread and then the Golden Candlestick. Today, we will be looking at the third and final piece of furniture in the Tabernacle’s first room, the Altar of Incense.
Moses describes for us what it looked like:
Exodus 37.25 And he made the incense altar of shittim wood: the length of it was a cubit, and the breadth of it a cubit; it was foursquare; and two cubits was the height of it; the horns thereof were of the same.
26 And he overlaid it with pure gold, both the top of it, and the sides thereof round about, and the horns of it: also he made unto it a crown of gold round about.
27 And he made two rings of gold for it under the crown thereof, by the two corners of it, upon the two sides thereof, to be places for the staves to bear it withal.
28 And he made the staves of shittim wood, and overlaid them with gold.
29 And he made the holy anointing oil, and the pure incense of sweet spices, according to the work of the apothecary.
Basically a wooden box, one cubit square and two cubits tall, it was covered in gold and decorated with a horn on each corner similar to the Brazen Altar. Like other Tabernacle furniture, it had attached rings designed to hold the staves used to carry it with.
This altar had one use, as a receptacle for the burning of a fragrant incense each morning and evening perpetually.
Exodus 30.7 And Aaron shall burn thereon sweet incense every morning: when he dresseth the lamps, he shall burn incense upon it.
8 And when Aaron lighteth the lamps at even, he shall burn incense upon it, a perpetual incense before the LORD throughout your generations.
Incense in the Word of God was used to represent praise or worship, a sweet fragrance given in honor of someone. It could be literal incense as that offered by Mary to Jesus. Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. (John 12.3) It could also be the praise you offered God via prayer as the psalmist describes. Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice. (Psalm 141.2) Here David is asking God to view his praise of Him with the same delight he felt on beholding the morning and evening offering of incense on the Altar in the Holy Place.
It is in this latter sense that we see it in the actual Temple in Heaven, as the connection between incense and our prayers of praise. And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel’s hand. (Revelation 8.3-4)
I have stepped into salvation, and am now surrounded by a perfect righteousness that is supported by redemption. The atoning death that is necessary for this is seen, as is the cleansing which flows from it. This salvation comes via the Messiah and is available to me no matter where in the world I am from. I am now in Him and He in me, secure world without end.
What is my reaction to all of this? What else can it be but tears of joy and shouts of praise? Praise to God for a Messiah who saved me, redeemed me, made me righteous, died for me, cleansed me, and brought me securely to Himself no matter who I am.
…and as I kneel in humble adoration my Heavenly Father inhales the sweetest of fragrances, a sinner’s praise for the Saviour who made all the difference.