Summary: This series of 6 messages looks at the design of the tabernacle as a template for drawing near to God. The Altar of Incense represents worship. In worship we are transported into God's presence, transformed by God's power and transfixed by God's glory.
THE ALTAR OF INCENSE
Let’s play a word association game. I will say a word and you say the first thing that pops into your head when you hear that word. Apple – Car – Husband – Donut – God … What came into your mind when you heard the word GOD. AW Tozer once wrote that “what comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” We were created by God to worship him.
What is worship? The word comes from the original English word “worth-ship”. It is placing worth or value on someone or something. A good way to define worship is "ascribing to God His worth".
The fifth piece of furniture in the Tabernacle was the Altar of Incense. It was located just in front of the curtain which lead into the Hoy of Holies. Incense was continually burned on the altar so that the tent was always filled with it’s fragrance.
Ex 30:1 "Make an altar of acacia wood for burning incense. 2 It is to be square, a cubit long and a cubit wide, and two cubits high--its horns of one piece with it.
In the church today the fragrance that we offer to the Lord is our prayers and worship. Like Mary who brought the expensive perfume and poured it on the feet of Jesus we bring our sacrifices of praise and worship out of a thankful heart to God and seek to bless Him and lift Him up.
John 12:1 Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 Here a dinner was given in Jesus' honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. 3 Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus' feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume .
What Mary did here was an act of worship. She took what she had and in an act of unselfish love poured it out as an expression of thanks to Jesus. The result was that the house was filled with the fragrance (or evidence) of the act.
In a similar way we see in Revelations that incense is referred to as the prayers of the saints. The context in which the incense was offered was worship.
Rev 5:6 Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. 7 He came and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. 8 And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9 And they sang a new song: "You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.
The heart of worship is that we offer ourselves to the Lord; heart, soul, mind and strength. We exist because, out of the overflow of love in the heart of God, we were created as objects of His love. Our primary purpose as created beings is to learn to love God back. This is what worship is. Worship is knowing God and learning to love God back. It is offering ourselves to Him. What happens when we worship?