Exploring the Tabernacle Pattern – Part 7
by Connie Chamberlain
Golden Altar of Incense
Now that we have been feasting on the bread of His Word, which reveals His awesome and mighty nature, it is only fitting that we are drawn to the altar of incense to release and offer back to Him our praises and worship for who He is. The altar is our last stop in preparation for entering our final destination beyond the veil, the throne room of God.
In the description of this altar (Ex. 30), the priest was commanded to burn incense both morning and evening so that the fragrant odor was continually going forth. The formula used for the incense consisted of four equal parts of the sweet spices called stacte, onycha, galbanum, and pure frankincense. Included in the process of the perfumer was to “beat some of it very fine.”
The spices had to be crushed. Ask anyone who knows me and you’ll find that my culinary expertise is severely lacking. But one thing I have learned from my chef friends is that you don’t just sprinkle the basil in the mix, you crush it first. Ahh, now get a whiff of that! Yet again, the reminder that Jesus was crushed for our iniquities echoes throughout the Holy Place—beaten olives for the lamp oil, beaten grain to the make the bread, and now beaten spices.
The golden altar represents our prayers and intercession, as reflected in John’s revelation of the “golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.” (Rev. 5:8) The psalmist also says, “Let my prayer be set before You as incense, the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.” (Ps. 141:2)
The root of the word perfume means to smoke and incense means to burn. We want to be on fire for the Lord, passionate about our relationship with him, which results in that sweet-smelling aroma to those around us. Zeal for Your house has consumed me. (John 2:17)
How the Seed of Local Self-Government is Planted.
We remember from the brazen altar that the principle of self-government has to do with death to our flesh so that Christ may have complete control. Self-government begins with the individual and flows out to one’s home, church, school, community, and nation as stated in the principle. So I see this principle of planting the seed of self-government as representing spreading of His gospel and evangelism birthed in prayer.
It is interesting that the two principles regarding self-government correspond to the two altars, the places of fire. It was, after all, the coals of the brazen altar that were brought in to ignite the fire on the golden altar. The first altar addresses the individual, while the second altar extends the government of Christ ruling from our heart in a more corporate way.
“For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life.” (2 Cor. 2:15-16) If we have yielded up our lives to become His, then we have made it possible for others to catch the scent.
The image of a flower gone to seed and being blown by the wind speaks of this kind of propagation. Just as its fragrance wafted on the breeze earlier in its life cycle, so now the seeds are carried to land in their appointed places. Within each seed is the potential for life to spring forth.
The Ascending Aroma
Remembering that we are His temple, we want our house to be filled with that sweet aroma. This only comes by worship. I cannot help but think of the woman who poured out the perfume to anoint Jesus’ feet and wiped it with her hair. It was recorded that “the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.” (Jn. 12:3) “And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God” (Rev. 8:4) and was memorialized forever. Now that was extravagant worship!
The four kinds of spices used in the incense can represent four different aspects of prayer, based on an acronym I have heard to describe prayer, which is ACTS: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. These four encompass every other kind of communication with the Lord.
More importantly, we note again that it is through the light of the candlestick, the Holy Spirit, that prayer is understood. We pray in the Holy Spirit (Jude 20, Eph. 6:18) and also by the Holy Spirit. “We do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself makes intercession for us.” (Rom. 8:86-27) Jesus said, “My house shall be called a house of prayer” and we are the temple of the Holy Spirit. What an amazing thing it is that God will answer the prayer that He himself prays in our temple!
Jesus said that if we ask anything in His name, He will do it. (John 14:14) This statement does not leave much room for unanswered prayer. It is important that we do not allow our experiences and circumstances to negate this powerful truth. There is one prayer that will most definitely be answered, and that is the prayer declared by Jesus Christ in John 17:22, “That they may be one, even as We are one.”
Oswald Chambers writes, “It is not so true that ‘Prayer changes things’ as that prayer changes me, and then I change things.”
Experiencing each station of the Holy Place has brought us to a deeper level of change and transformation in our soul. Our mind has been enlightened at the lampstand, our will has been conformed to His through His Word, and our emotions have experienced what they were created for at the golden altar—to honor with extravagant love. The Holy of Holies now awaits our arrival!
To Consider and Ponder:
Just as the incense was to burn continuously, we are instructed to pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17). Describe how this is possible.