I do not believe it to be coincidence that this passage was the focus of my Bible study today—the day after the National Day of Prayer. For those of you who participated in yesterday’s event, I hope you do not see it as coincidence either. For myself, it is as if this morning Jesus sited a coda upon last night’s final petition—a reminder of His continual efforts and how privileged we are to do similarly. Picture Jesus Christ as we inspect the Altar of Incense and let us see our reflection in its golden exterior also.
Lord, I cry out to You; Make haste to me! Give ear to my voice when I cry out to You. Let my prayer be set before You as incense, The lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice. Psalm 141:1-2
An altar to burn incense…
This is not the brass altar standing in the courtyard of the Tabernacle. That fixture speaks of both judgment and sacrifice and it is uncomplicated to see it embodying Christ’s finished work on the cross. This altar, located in the Holy Place, is a gold-covered wood device, the likes of which depict our Jesus in both His humanity and deity.
We have an altar (of brass) from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat. For the bodies of those animals, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned outside the camp. Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate. Hebrews 13:10-12
A cubit shall be its length…
This piece of furniture is the smallest in the tabernacle—approximately eighteen inches square and three feet high. It brings to mind that although Jesus makes continual intercession on our behalf, it is simply sufficient. He would in fact tell us that the length and scope of our prayers is not what matters, but rather the potency or sincerity of them.
Do not be rash with your mouth, And let not your heart utter anything hastily before God. For God is in heaven, and you on earth; Therefore let your words be few. Ecclesiastes 5:2
A molding of gold all around…
This molding speaks of a golden crown for our King Jesus, while at the altar of sacrifice a crown of thorns was thrust upon His head. This altar’s rim also had a purpose—to keep the incense on the table so that not one piece (or prayer) falls to the ground. Imagine if this were not the case with Jesus; if He occasionally dropped a prayer, if His intervention for us wavered before the Throne. Our lives are not tough, for a tough life is one where Jesus no longer interceded for us.
Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them…Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, And to present you faultless Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy… Hebrews 7:25; Jude 1:24
Put it before the veil…before the ark of the Testimony
There is nothing closer to the Ark of the Testimony than the Altar if Incense. That demonstrates for us that there is no way to be closer to the Throne of God then to come before Him in prayer. It is what Jesus does continually and it should be what we do as well.
Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Romans 8:33
Burn incense on it…perpetual incense
As it pertains to Jesus, this speaks of His present ministry of perpetual prayer on our behalf and to us it speaks to our aspiration and purpose in Christ Jesus. Our enemy desires to take us down one-by-one and his efforts towards that end our incessant. No One is more aware of this fact than Jesus and like the Good Shepard, He watches over His flock with persistence and determination unlike any other. Therefore, it is our reasonable service to respond as the Shepard guides us.
And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” Luke 22:31-32
Make atonement upon its horns once a year
Finally there is the blood. There was to be no sacrifice on this altar, but there was to be a memorial. ‘Horns’ throughout the Bible speak to power and there is no exception here. The horns unto themselves possess no power, but they speak to the power of Jesus our Lord. There is also power in the blood—His blood and the ritual here reminds us to be ever mindful of the power of Christ’s sacrifice and that by His act we might have relationship through prayer with the Most High.
For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. 2 Corinthians 2:15