“Moreover, you shall make an altar as a place for burning incense; you shall make it of acacia wood.” (Exodus 30:1)
Dr. Scofield, in his Scofield Reference Bible, called Exodus 30 “The Great Worship Chapter.” Chapters 28 and 29 moved the focus away from the Tabernacle itself and its furniture and looked at the consecration of the priests who would serve therein and the procedure for their ordination. Now, in Chapter 30, we return to the properties of the Tabernacle by looking at the Altar of Incense.
It is interesting to note that the Altar of Incense was not mentioned back in Chapters 25-27 when all of the other furniture was described. This suggests a distinct type of function of the Altar of Incense which separates it from the other objects. Although the Altar was to be annually cleansed with the Blood of Atonement (v. 10), it symbolizes more the worship of God than Atonement itself.
The burning of incense in the Bible speaks of prayer. The Psalmist writes:
“Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.” (Psalm 141:2 KJV)
Revelation 8:3-4 connects incense with the prayers of the saints. Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, was standing before the Altar of Incense within the Temple when the angel appeared to him saying,
“…Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John” (Luke 1:13 KJV)
The priest whose duty it was to light the incense would offer up prayers for himself and the people of Israel as he did so.
Christ Our Intercessor
“Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25)
The Altar of Incense is a type of Christ as our Intercessory High Priest. Verse 8 of Exodus 30 tells us that the Incense is to burn perpetually, forever carrying with it the prayers of God’s people. It symbolizes the intercession that the Lord Jesus makes for us with the Father, bringing our prayers and petitions to Him. As pure smoke rising to Heaven for the pleasure of God alone, the incense represents holy and undefiled worship of the Lord (cf. v. 37).
To God goes all glory. In service to Him,
**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.
[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?”]