PREPARING THE ALTAR OF INCENSE
The Altar of Incense that we will discuss in today’s COME AS A CHILD post is not exactly like what you see represented here by this opening photograph; but there are many similarities.
This colorful photo is actually a place I once discovered which is the studio of a very successful artist. For many reasons this photo reminds me of The Altar of Incense that God designed and asked Moses to build.
If you think that is rather a strange statement; consider the following facts:
I have always thought of God as the greatest artist of all. He is our Creator. He designed and articulated every thing that exists.
IMAGINE EVERYONE’S PRAYERS BEING DEPOSITED AT GOD’S THRONE AT ONCE
I posted the photo because it reminds me of what an altar truly represents; the many mixed colors of millions of different and unique souls in prayer as they are offered up before God’s throne all at once.
This is an event that is happening continuously, all the time throughout the vast universe everywhere at once.
A CONTINUOUS WORK
The prayers of God’s people are never-ending, never-ceasing and all of them are different and unique in some way, just as each person is different and unique in some way.
The amazing mystery is that God knows and remembers each one. He collects them up until the unique timing comes in which He gives His answer.
Not one answer from God is ever wrong, or too late. Every answer is just right and perfectly logical; from God’s perspective. We may not see this at first, just as when the artist paints the painting goes through various stages of development and we can’t know the results until the end.
Often we cannot see that from where we are standing. It all just looks like a big mess. God sees the whole picture; and He knows what He is creating the whole time.
TRANSFORMATION IS ALWAYS TAKING PLACE; EVEN IN THE MIDST OF CHAOS
Sometimes our many prayers must look a lot like this colorful mess of spots splashed upon a canvas as God begins His work of transformation.
Then; God takes those prayers and arranges our lives in perfect order. He creates what we could never conceive in our minds by ourselves as He brings one color to the center and begins using some different colors in the middle and the background.
He mixes certain textures and combinations in a way that bring us to a beautiful portrait of all the seasons of our lives.
WE PRAY BEFORE THE GREATEST ARTIST OF ALL
It is very important that we come before God’s altar with the same such wonder and expectation as we would have whenever we are viewing an accomplished work of a disciplined and excellent artist.
When we first enter the studio there will be work that is unfinished; still going on and it may look a mess at first.
After all; God is putting the brushstrokes on the pages of our lives, and we should be approaching the studio of a such a great artist with reverence and awe as He is always about to paint his next greatest masterpiece.
GREAT ARTWORK CANNOT BE IMITATED
It would be insane for us to approach the work of a common and unaccomplished artist and attach the name of the greatest artist that ever existed onto it. That would be counterfeit and dishonest. That would totally devalue the honor of the true artist. No one would ever allow this; unless they were deliberately trying to deceive people for their own gain.
Such is my thinking as I approach the place of God’s next instructions to Moses.
Welcome to Thursday’s weekly bible study called COME AS A CHILD. Throw away your preconceived notions and join in with our discussion of Exodus, Chapter 29.
GOD’S INSTRUCTIONS TO MOSES CONCERNING THE ALTAR OF INCENSE
God instructed Moses to make an altar of acacia wood for burning the incense.
God said to make it square, a cubic long and a cubic wide and two cubits high.
The horns were to be one piece with the altar. They were to be overlaid with pure gold as well as the top and the sides of the altar.
The altar would have two gold rings on each side to hold the poles that would carry the altar as the nation traveled through the wilderness.
This altar was to be placed in front of the curtain that hid the Mercy Seat, where the Ark of the Covenant with the tablets of the law were kept inside. God would meet the people, through the priest, in this place as they approached this altar.
THE IMPORTANCE OF THE USE OF ACACIA WOOD
Remember what we have learned so far about the characteristics of acacia wood? If you would like to refresh your memory there is a whole article about it here: https://theinseasonlifestyle.com/httpwp-mep8woph-if/.
The fact that this Altar of Incense was made of acacia wood makes it special. It tells me this altar was to be long-lasting and a permanent fixture in worship. This was the altar for the burning of incense.
Why do you think the burning of incense was so important to God?
THE IMPORTANCE OF THE CORRECT USE FOR THE BURNING OF INCENSE
I have many theories:
I think the burning of incense was God’s way of teaching us how to pray.
The Psalm of David in Psalm 141:2 states: “May my prayer be set before you like incense.” I think David might have been suggesting that he hoped his prayers rose up before God like the smoke of sweet incense with a pleasant aroma before God’s throne.
Some times our prayers do smell sweet and are accepted by God and enjoyed by God.
Things that smell sweet, as a rule, are generally always accepted by everyone.
Something that stinks is NOT always accepted, but it us usually rejected.
In other words David was hoping and praying that God would overlook his many stinking sins of the past, and find his prayers acceptable and sweet; and that he would be heard by God.
THERE MUST BE A SWEET FRAGRANCE FOR THE PRAYERS TO ENTER INTO A HOLY PLACE
Upon the original burning of the incense at the altar the prayers would then rise before God who would be residing in the Holy of Holies.
This altar was in front of the veil and the smell of the incense drifted back toward the place of the highest holiness where God was dwelling among the people.
The smoke from the altar of incense would “rise up” just as our prayers do when they make their way toward heaven today.
THE INCENSE CARRIED THE PRAYERS TO A SPECIFIC PLACE
The prayers made when the incense was offered needed to be directed toward God and God alone. They needed to be headed in the direction of the place where God was dwelling. If they headed to a different place; they would not be heard or answered by God.
Some cultures existing today use incense for all the wrong reasons. They direct their prayers to pagan gods and use pagan rituals as they offer these prayers. This type of prayer was forbidden by God. They would be considered “strange” before God; because there are truly no other gods out there.
Those offering pagan prayers with pagan rituals are communicating with spirits and demons that are posing as god. This is detestable to the true God of Heaven and Earth. The use of incense as a prayer tool must be done properly and in the way that God ordained; or the person using the incense is in danger of angering and dishonoring God.
PRAYERS WERE TO BEGIN THE DAY AND TO END THE DAY
God instructed Moses that Aaron should burn incense on the altar every morning when he came to trim the lamps. He should burn incense again in the evening when he came to light the lamps at twilight.
This meant that the incense would burn all the time before the LORD for all generations to come.
THE PRAYERS AND THE LIGHT CAME TOGETHER
I find it interesting that God associated the burning of the incense with the lighting of the lamps.
In the parable of the ten virgins we are taught to always keep oil in our lamps. The lamps filled up with oil are comparable to God’s Holy Spirit filling our souls. The oil is symbolic of God’s Holy Spirit; but God’s Holy Spirit comes to us through the form of prayer.
The more prayers that are offered up to God; the more light He shines upon our daily paths. Prayer is a way of preparing to meet the coming Groom; Jesus Christ. The incense is symbolic of the prayers that we offer up to God.
A PERPETUALLY PLEASING AROMA BEFORE GOD
The burning of this certain recipe for incense designed specifically by God from morning till evening every day and then refreshed again meant that prayers were being offered perpetually before God’s throne forever without ceasing.
The smoke of this altar indicated that God’s people were praying continuously and never stopping. This was the thing about the perfume of the incense that was the most pleasing to God.
NO STRANGE FIRE OR INCENSE WAS TO BE USED
Nothing else was to be offered here. Only what God had specifically prescribed and designed.
No more incense, no burnt offerings, no grain offerings, no drink offerings were to be offered.
Only the specified incense that God had required of the priesthood would be acceptable.
The prayers had to be directed ONLY to GOD and never to a pagan god.
The incense used had to be of the mix that God found pleasing; and not something that men found to their own liking.
The people were not to pervert God’s instructions.
ONCE A YEAR PRAYERS OF ATONEMENT WERE OFFERED IN THE HOLY OF HOLIES
Once a year Aaron was to make atonement for the horns of this altar of incense. The atonement was to be made with the blood of the atoning sin offering for generations to come.
In those days this procedure was all that mankind could offer for atonement.
The smoke of the incense would be thick and serve to protect the priest offering the prayers from seeing God; because unless a man was completely holy and pure; he could not look at God and live. Until the coming of Christ; no man was perfect and sinless. Jesus lived as a man and showed us that this was possible.
The smoke of the incense offering up the prayers served as protection for the priest and the people.
With the covering of the smoke from the incense the priest was able to stand before God and offer the atoning sacrifices until the time of Jesus, when a more perfect sacrifice was provided. Jesus was the only One that could stand before God and not be afraid. It was His sacrifice that made this possible for us; but in the days of Moses; this was not possible. Heavy incense had to be used on the Day of Atonement in order for the High Priest to enter The Holy of Holies.
A MOST HOLY ALTAR TO BE USED AS SPECIFIED BY GOD
All of this preparation for The Altar of Incense was important. This altar was to be most holy to the LORD. The sacredness and holiness of God was extremely important to consider at The Altar of Incense.
God had brought the people safely and miraculously into another place.
He had delivered them from a time of bondage and slavery and from a culture that practiced pagan rituals to false gods.
The burning of incense had also been used in Egypt; but this type of ritual was displeasing to God. It was not the same as the incense offered up to God from the Altar of Incense in the Wilderness Tabernacle.
UNDERSTANDING DIFFERENCES IN OFFERINGS
Judaism and Christianity; which both originated eventually from the making of the Hebrew people into a people of God; were commanded to never worship other gods.
This was forbidden for a reason most simply stated; because THERE ARE NO OTHER GODS.
The pagan religions from the areas where they were enslaved believed in the plurality of many gods. They had a god for grass, a god for tree, a god for this and a god for that.
God informed His people that this practice was wrong.
He alone was the ONE God of Heaven and Earth.
He made the grass. He made the trees. The people were to worship their Creator; not the creation that He had created. The only reason for coming before The Altar of Incense was to participate in the worship of The One True God of The Universe.
DO NOT BE DECEIVED INTO FALSE WORSHIP BY THE CULTURES THAT SURROUND YOU
Many religious groups and cultures of today DO use incense in their worship of other false gods. Some people do not really seem to understand the concept that if they are burning incense in sympathy to the people of such cultures, they might be dishonoring the true God of Heaven and Earth.
This act would not be true worship. It would be false worship; thus idolatry. It would be going right back to the place that God had delivered Israel from; that place of Egyptian false worship.
In today’s culture this takes many shapes and forms.
WHY THE BUDDHIST BURN INCENSE
In Buddhism, the offering of incense is a way to honor the triple gem of Buddha.
Buddha is not God.
This is false worship.
The teachers of Buddhism like to claim that burning the incense and producing the pleasing aroma purifies the mind and burns away the negativity of a person’s soul.
This is very ironic given that they are using false worship for purification. Any thinking person could see that this is bad logic.
Instead of using the incense to pay your highest respect to your true creator; you are using it to honor a false god. This would be considered “strange fire” and it would not be pleasing to the One True God; not then and not now.
WHY THE HINDU BURN INCENSE
In the Hindu tradition incense is offered up to “the gods.”
You can quickly see that the Hindu religion believes that there are multiple deities, and not ONE specific God of Heaven and Earth.
It all may look and sound like they are worshiping the same God that Christians and Jews worship upon first glimpse; but a longer look will reveal many pagan practices.
A DECEPTIVE INCENSE
The use of the incense in this culture is to purify your mind (once again) and to help you to have clarity and focus. The use of incense in Christianity and Judaism is to please God. The incense in the Hindu culture is basically to aid the user more than to please the false gods that they serve.
The aid of clearing your mind is actually a way to open your mind up to all the false deities. This is a type of “first-step” into the Hindu culture that “prepares” you for greater things.
Don’t be surprised if those “greater things” turn out to be demons.
A TRUE HEART AND MIND TOWARD THE ONE TRUE GOD SHOULD NOT BE MANIPULATED BY FALSE PRACTICES
A person serving The One True God of Heaven and Earth would not allow their mind to be manipulated in such a way.
Remember the lesson of the turban and the crown? https://theinseasonlifestyle.com/turban-crown/ A person following the true God would keep his mind clear of false religions and not open up their spirit to entertain false gods.
WHY OTHER PAGAN RELIGIONS BURN INCENSE
There is yet another sad culture out there today. It is a religion of satanic worship and wiccan rituals.
Be very careful that none of your religious rituals fall into the same practices that these cultures use. They are very deceptive and counterfeit. Many APPEAR to be like those prescribed by The One True God; but they are fake.
There will be some slight alteration, some unnoticeable opposite, some pagan practice thrown in to change the whole pattern of the worship. It will take the focus away from The Creator and substitute an imitation and/or the creation in His place.
Deception and lies are the usual route taken by Satan and his army of false worshipers. Nothing about their tricks are new or unique. They have used the same approach since the beginning of time.
Be very careful what you do.
Don’t think that your actions do not matter.
KEEP ALL WORSHIP GOD-CENTERED, HONEST AND PURE
When you are attempting to keep worship honest, pure and good; everything matters.
Consult the scriptures and do your homework.
Turn your heart and worship to the One and Only God. Trust His Son Jesus Christ. Follow God’s Holy Spirit and His Word into pure prayers and honest worship.
God was very careful when He gave these first “learning” techniques to His chosen people; Israel. We do well to take note and follow the patterns that the TRUE God set into motion.
THE PROPER USE OF THE ALTAR OF INCENSE
So from all we have learned so far; you might be asking yourself; what is the proper use of the altar of incense in worship for a person trying to live a Christian life today?
Simply put; the altar of incense is used properly when we come before the TRUE God with pure hearts and offer our heart-felt and sincere prayers. Then God will hear us from Heaven and answer our prayers.
God will paint a new masterpiece from the colors of our souls that we leave at the foot of His altar of incense in Heaven.
When we look back at the seasons of our lives and see what he was creating all along yet unrecognized to us; we will rejoice and be glad and worship Him even more than before, because we will be able to SEE with our own eyes what a great and mighty God that we serve.
If we simply take those daily trips to the altar of prayer, every morning and every evening, to offer Him our worship, prayer and praise; anything is possible.