The Tabernacle, The Altar of Incense, Doing It Godís Way, Part 2 - Lesson 28
Exodus 30:1-10, And thou shalt make an altar to burn incense upon: of shittim wood shalt thou make it. 2A cubit shall be the length thereof, and a cubit the breadth thereof; foursquare shall it be: and two cubits shall be the height thereof: the horns thereof shall be of the same. 3And thou shalt overlay it with pure gold, the top thereof, and the sides thereof round about, and the horns thereof; and thou shalt make unto it a crown of gold round about. 4And two golden rings shalt thou make to it under the crown of it, by the two corners thereof, upon the two sides of it shalt thou make it; and they shall be for places for the staves to bear it withal. 5And thou shalt make the staves of shittim wood, and overlay them with gold. 6And thou shalt put it before the veil that is by the ark of the testimony, before the mercy seat that is over the testimony, where I will meet with thee. 7And Aaron shall burn thereon sweet incense every morning: when he dresseth the lamps, he shall burn incense upon it. 8And when Aaron lighteth the lamps at even, he shall burn incense upon it, a perpetual incense before the LORD throughout your generations. 9Ye shall offer no strange incense thereon, nor burnt sacrifice, nor meat offering; neither shall ye pour drink offering thereon. 10And Aaron shall make an atonement upon the horns of it once in a year with the blood of the sin offering of atonements: once in the year shall he make atonement upon it throughout your generations: it is most holy unto the LORD.
We note from this description of the altar of incense the requirement of God for a golden crown to surround its top.
Again we see royalty pictured in this table as we have seen royalty in the Table of Showbread and the Ark of the Covenant.
And as in these two pieces this altar of incense crown signifies a sovereign but not any sovereign for this crown signifies the royal one who has all power both in heaven and in earth.
And of course this royal One is Christ the Son of God, Christ the King.
So we are given to picture a royal altar for the purpose of burning incense which is given to symbolize prayer.
This of course reveals to us that this sovereign is acting as manís intercessor before the throne of God, that throne pictured in the Most Holy place which adjoins the Holy Place where is located the Altar of Incense.
It is this King Jesus who is now crowned with glory and honor as our King-Priest at the right hand of God and what is He doing there but representing all who have received Him as their Savior.
Now this is something to get excited about!
This is something to jump for joy over.
If you ever felt the need to bring forth from your mouth a series of Hallelujahs this is the thought that should make it happen!
This is something to meditate upon and to keep in the forefront of your mind instead of those dreary and depressing thoughts that we sometimes have when we focus on ourselves wherein dwelleth no good thing instead of our King-Priest, Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ is at work each day interceding on your behalf and he will be successful in that venture.
Remember Judeís absolute confidence in this when he wrote in verse 24 that this King-Priest is able to keep you from falling and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy.
Higher than you count on the rising of the sun, can you forever count on Jesus Christ interceding for you every day.
Because he intends to present you faultless and this purpose for you will not be thwarted for Jesus Christís intentions will be realized, for he is the one with absolute power.
We can depend with absolute certainty of His intercession for us for we read of it in Hebrews 13:5-6, Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. 6So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.
I will not fear because King Jesus is beside me and guarantees me success for He intends to present me faultless to the Father.
So why dwell on this corrupted vessel in which we live when we can dwell on this truth of intercession?
Now Godís instruction to Moses concerning the Altar of Incense continues with
details concerning the rings which were placed upon it for the purpose of
carrying the altar from place to place.
When God describes the rings to be placed on the Ark of the Covenant, the
Table of Showbread, and the Burnt Altar He specified four rings, one on each
In the description for the Altar of Incense God calls for two rings.
So it appears that each corner did not have a ring, but only two corners had rings, diagonally opposite each other about 25 inches apart when we assume that each side was 18 inches.
See how the Pythagorean Theorem comes in handy in Bible Study!
So if this is true the Altar of Incense was carried on two rings with the un-ringed corners fore and aft, carried like a diamond shape.
The use of two rings may be to show a type of the two persons of the Godhead engaged in the intercessory work, the Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.
And of course the two golden rings provide for places to insert the staves to bear the Altar of Incense.
Exodus 30:4-5, And two golden rings shalt thou make to it under the crown of it, by the two corners thereof, upon the two sides of it shalt thou make it; and they shall be for places for the staves to bear it withal.  And thou shalt make the staves of shittim wood, and overlay them with gold.
The two staves of "incorruptible wood overlaid with gold were used to carry the Altar when the Israelites traveled in the wilderness.
This again speaks to us that we are strangers and pilgrims on this earth passing through as we travel to our eternal home.
The Lord Jesus prayed not that we should be taken out of the world, but that we would be kept from the evil that is in the world and it is in His intercessory work that He sees to it that we will be kept from the evil.
Now as to the altarís location, that is completely specified by God for its location is intended to teach us much.
Exodus 30:6, And thou shalt put it before the veil that is by the
ark of the testimony, before the mercy seat that is over the testimony, where I
will meet with thee.
The only thing that separated these two pieces of furniture was the veil, which we will, Lord willing, discuss in future lessons.
The Altar of Incense was the nearest piece of furniture to the Ark of the Covenant and therefore the nearest to the Shekinah Glory of God demonstrated by smoke during the day and light during the night.
Paul in Romans 8:24 told us of the position of Jesus Christ as he makes intercession for us, Who shall lay any thing to the charge of Godís elect? It is God that justifieth. 34Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.
Being at the right hand of God is the closest place that one can be to God.
The right hand man is the one closest to the power and because of this can see to it that things get done.
The location of the Altar of Incense communicates the intercessory ministry of Christ.
It communicates his right hand man status for there is no other piece of furniture closer to the Shekinah Glory of God in the Most Holy Place.
God gives us in this tabernacle picture, a powerful message.
It means that the more we worship through intercession and prayer the closer we draw to a loving God who wants intimacy with us.
That was the entire purpose of the Tabernacle that God was teaching, His desire to dwell among His people, not occasionally visit but to dwell.
God, in the tabernacle was teaching His people that He desired to inhabit, not visit.
The ministry of intercession, prayer and worship are at the very heart of God for these are the nearest things to the glory of God!
For in this ministry Jesus Christ as Jude said, presents you, very you, faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy.
You cannot get closer to the Father than that!
And this presentation was to be perpetual for in Exodus 30:7-8 Aaron was told to keep the incense burning at all times.
Exodus 30:7-8, And Aaron shall burn thereon-sweet incense every morning: when he dresses the lamps, he shall burn incense upon it. And when Aaron lights the lamps at even, he shall burn incense upon it, perpetual incense before the Lord throughout your generations.
We are instructed in this to be a praying people.
We are instructed in this to recognize Christís intercessory ministry on our behalf.
We are to seek counsel from the throne of God through Christ Jesus.
We are to be a "pray without ceasing" people as Paul told the Thessalonians in I Thessalonians 5:17 lest we quench the Spirit of God.
And we are to pray in the Spirit of God and none other, for God will not hear such prayer.
This is pictured in the instruction of God to Moses with reference to strange incense and strange fire on the Altar.
Exodus 30:9, Ye shall offer no strange incense thereon, nor burnt sacrifice, nor meat offering; neither shall ye pour drink offering thereon.
There was to be no strange fire or strange incense on the Golden Altar for remember the fate of Aaronís sons, Nadab and Abihu who took it upon themselves to offer strange fire and strange incense which ended up burning and devouring them.
The first fire on the Altar was directly lit by God.
On the day of the dedication of the Tabernacle, God showed His approval by lighting the Brazen Altar in the Outer Court with Divine Fire coming out from the Glory of God resting upon the Ark of the Covenant.
Leviticus 9:24, And there came a fire out from before the LORD, and consumed upon the altar the burnt offering and the fat: which when all the people saw, they shouted, and fell on their faces.
When the fire on the Brazen Altar was lit, the coals were taken off from the Brazen Altar and used to light the Golden Altar and the Candlestick.
Hence, the fire was a divine fire.
Any other fire was "strange fire."
Any incense other than the prescribed incense was "strange incense."
Anyone who attempted to offer such an offering on the Golden Altar would be punished by being cut off from the Presence of God.
This strange fire and incense is typical of all false worship!
God is not interested in worship that is excited by mere religious feelings as is found in many religions and cults that are around today, both inside and outside Christianity.
There is much strange fire and incense going on today in the substitute religions and witchcraft which are an abomination to God and will come under Divine Judgment in due time.
God only accepts that fire which originates with himself on the basis of the blood atonement accomplished at Calvary.
God lit the fire in the Church on the Day of Pentecost.
God is only interested in worship that is rooted in Spirit and in Truth.
God only accepts incense that He has prescribed.
Jesus Christ is the only mediator between God and man.
I Timothy 2:5, For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;
No man can approach God the Father except through the Son, Jesus Christ.
Incense, which means prayer, apart from being offered in the name of Jesus Christ is an abomination to the Lord.
There was to be no burnt offering, meal offering or drink offering upon this altar.
There were no sacrifices of blood here.
Incense is all that was to be burned upon the Golden Altar in the Holy Place.
The Outer Court was the place of sacrifice.
The inner court was the place of worship and service.
It speaks to us of Christ fulfilling the law at Calvary and dying once for all.
He now lives in the Power of an endless life to make intercession for us and will never die again for death no longer has a hold on Him nor does it have a hold eternally on those who are His!
Romans 6:9-10, Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. 10For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. 11Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Now the Altar of Incense was built to be transported, as were all parts of the tabernacle.
In the wilderness wanderings all the articles were covered with their appointed coverings.
As far as the furnishings are concerned the picture given in scripture is that of bundles being carried on the shoulders of four men through the use of staves.
The human eye, observing the vast congregation of Jews in transit, would only behold these "bundles" which would not be very attractive to the natural man.
The beauty of all these things would only be seen when they were arranged in the tabernacle in accordance with Godís instruction.
They were not to be seen except by certain individuals appointed to keep them functional and in their proper place in order for Godís plan of redemption to be clearly seen.
It was a very precise and orderly process and was to be without any contribution from the imaginations of men.
Now the transport of the Altar of Incense is described in;
Numbers 4:11, And upon the golden altar they shall spread a cloth of blue, and cover it with a covering of badgersí skins, and shall put to the staves thereof:
Again we see a beautiful picture of the Godhead in these coverings.
The covering of blue, as in the blue of the sky, points to the Lord from heaven.
The badgers' skin, as we have spoken of before speaks of the Word being made flesh among us, in the person of Jesus the Son.
There was no beauty in the badgersí skin and this is what is spoken of in Isaiah 53 where we are told: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.
In other words Godís Son was not sent to attract to himself followers on the basis of beauty, or outward appearance.
This is the worldís economy but God only attracts followers on the basis of faith in His Word.
And lastly the Altar itself emphasizes the ministry of Christ the anointed one who ever lives to make intercession for us in heaven and the Holy Spirit who is making intercession in us and through us here on earth.