Summary: How do you smell to God? This altar inside the Tabernacle proper is beautifully contrasted to the brazen altar out in the courtyard. The symbolic aromas in the air cannot be ignored. Link inc. to formatted text, audio, PowerPoint.
Altar of Incense
‘How Do You Smell?’
It has been a wonderful study of the Tabernacle so far, and the best is yet to come as we enter the Holy of Holies next time. But as of now, we have looked at the first 5 articles of furniture...the 2 outside and now the 3 in the Holy Place. Hold on to your hat – check out this powerful parallel...
We see Jesus in every furnishing, and even in their order, when you compare them to the Gospel of John:
1. Brazen Altar – John 1, Jesus, the Lamb of God
2. Brazen Laver – John 4, Jesus, the water of life
3. Table of Shewbread – John 6, Jesus, the bread of life
4. Golden Lampstand – John 9, Jesus, the light of the world
5. Altar of Incense – John 17, the Great High Priestly prayer of Jesus!
As soon as we enter the Holy Place our sense of smell takes over...first it is the fresh bread, then the olive oil, but the prevailing aroma is that of sweet incense from this altar. All 3 of these indoor furnishings speak of worship.
The Altar of Incense is only 18” square and 3’ tall. Not large and imposing like the outdoor altar of brass we looked at.
Basically we have 2 altars, one outdoor and one indoor.
• One is brass, the other is gold
• The outdoor one has no crown, the indoor one does
• Outside we see Christ in humiliation, inside in exaltation
• Outside we see what Jesus did on earth, inside we see what He’s doing right now in heaven, living and making intercession for us
Every time the High Priest would light the golden lampstand he would also burn incense. He would take a golden censer [shallow bowl] and gather burning coals from the brazen altar outside. That was put inside the altar of incense, and then sprinkle the incense upon it. The smoke and smell would rise up, symbolic of our prayers going up to heaven.
Joke—the late, great Curtis Hutson used to tell a story about an old black preacher out in the country. He wanted to preach on this text, and illustrate it by burning incense in the service. He instructed the deacons, “We don’t have golden bowls, but get some coffee cans and put burning coals in them and bring ‘em down the aisle when I call for you.” He got into the message, so eloquent, and began to say, [sung] “Hmmm...Bring on the incense pots.” Nobody came. He sang it again, and again. “Brother deacons...bring on the incense pots!” Finally they came down the aisle looking distressed. The pastor said, “Hmmm...what happened to the incense pots?” One answered, “Hmmm...brother pastor, we threw ‘em out the window when the bottoms got hot!”
Incense in the Bible is a picture of prayer.
Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.
And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints.
God is saving our prayers in heaven. They are manifested there as incense in golden bowls! No prayer goes unnoticed! Even better...