|From the Pastors Desk|
|Tabernacle||Shadow Journey - Altar of Incense||Lesson 8|
Manchaca Bible Fellowship
|August 8 2001||Bible Lessons
The writer of Hebrews points out many Spiritual applications from the shadows and examples found in the "Old Covenant", known as the Law, the Mosaic Covenant, etc. He has also contrasts the "Old Covenant" with the "New Covenant". These contrasts show that the "Old Covenant" was good and glorious, BUT the "New Covenant" is better and far more glorious. Therefore, it was impossible to make any real comparison, only a dim shadow.
As this presentation in Hebrews continues, we are shown the arrangement and furniture of the Tabernacle, itself. These articles of furniture were the Lampstand, the Table of Showbread, the Altar of Incense and the Ark of the Covenant covered by the Mercy Seat.
The two rooms of the Tabernacle are pointed out, and the unique service performed in each is also outlined. There was the first room referred to here as the "sanctuary", and the second room called the "Holiest of All". Both of these rooms are referred to by several different terms throughout Scripture, and by still other terms by teachers.
In our passage, before us, the English translation uses a word for the first room (sanctuary), AND a different word for the second room (Holiest of All). In the Greek, both of these rooms are referred to by the SAME Greek word.
Often the context must be used to see which room is being referenced. The English translators usually use a different word to distinguish between these two rooms. Very clearly, the function and activity of each room was different. However, in BOTH rooms, their function and activities point to the only holy One, God incarnate as Jesus Christ.
In that first room, here called the sanctuary, were "shadows" of
These three items, as well as the Ark of the Covenant and Mercy Seat, foreshadowed Christ in life and ministry. The items of this first room also have some application to the Believer's ministry, and significant implications as to our walk in holiness. These many shadows and examples will be interesting as we study each in detail. For this lesson, I want to continue to see and learn from the overview of the Tabernacle and its service in general.
As we saw, from
For any in-depth understanding of this fact, or almost any in-depth understanding of any aspect of the Tabernacle and its service, we need to have a knowledge of the complete "service-plan" of the Tabernacle. We will gain this overall knowledge of the "service-plan" for the Tabernacle a little at a time, as we add line upon line.
The ministry of the Altar of Incense is seen through the study of several passages. However, one of those passages give us the needed information for this lesson.
The Altar of Incense was 36 inches high and 18 inches square. There are some similarities to the Brazen Altar where the burnt offerings were made. Yet, it was totally different.
Both are referred to as altars, and sometimes you must look closely to tell which altar is being referred to in a passage. Both used fire as the agent activating the "sacrifices" offered on them.
From the Brazen Altar came the continual stench of burning flesh and blood. From the Golden Altar (Altar of Incense) came the continual aroma of the finest incense. The Altar of Incense was placed before the veil. This was as near as the priests could come to the presence of God in their daily ministry.
For the Old Testament priest, the veil prevented him from going directly to the Throne of Grace with the sweet savor, and his intercessory for others. Since the cross and death of Christ, the "veil" has been rent in two, and we may come boldly to the Throne of Grace. A subject we will need to examine carefully.
Daily, the Priests ministered in the Tabernacle, and as they offered the incense of praise and prayer, they were close to, but not in the very presence of God. Yes, the sweet aroma of the sacrifice of incense circled up and filled the Holy Place. The aroma of the incense could do what the priest could not!!! That sacrifice of incense could permeate and go past the veil, and became a sweet smell to God in the Holy of Holies. Daily, the priest could come close to God's presence, BUT not quite in His presence.
However, once a year the High Priest COULD enter the very presence of God. BUT he dare not enter that sacred presence WITHOUT the blood and the incense. We'll take that Biblical journey with the High Priest later. For now, we want to look at how the incense was used in this entrance into God's presence.
Day in and day out, the priests came so near to standing in the presence of God. Some of them experienced that near miss of God's presence over and over again for a lifetime. Most of the priests would minister so, and go to their grave being close, but so far away. Only the High Priest, and then only once a year would even dare push aside that veil, and stand before the Almighty, the Creator of all things, the God of all gods.
We can't take time to see all that's involved in this once a year journey behind the veil, in this lesson. There is even more involved in the use of the incense in this act, than we can see today.
But please see just a little of what is needed to make this journey proper and safe. Allow me to state, without taking the time to fully establish from Scripture, that one of the main shadows and examples of the incense is the prayer of Christ and the Saints. We will take time, Lord willing, to thoroughly search out these facts in the process of this series.
The High Priest must start at the Brazen Altar. The ONLY basis for prayer is the blood sacrifice on the Brazen Altar. That sacrifice, in shadow form, points to Christ and His death on the cross. Without the sacrifice of the Brazen Altar, there could be no sacrifice on the Golden Altar. Without blood NO ONE would DARE enter the presence of God..... LEST THEY DIE.
The High Priest would take live coals from the Brazen Altar and put them in his censer. He would fill his hands with "sweet incense", and THEN move into the presence of God. When past the veil, the incense MUST be placed on those live coals so that the cloud of incense would "cover" the Mercy Seat.
We have some idea of the need for, and value of the "sweet incense" of Christ's intercessory prayer. We see that in His prayer on our behalf, just before His death. Because of lack of time, we will not look at all of Christ's prayer, but see a part that is very pertinent to our subject of today.
Christ prayed for a number of things, MOST of which are never mentioned in our prayers. Maybe that should tell us something.
Christ did not pray that:
Christ did pray that:
Christ prayed for these and other things, NOT so we would be comfortable, BUT so we would live in such unity that the world would Believe in Christ.
Please look with me at the Divine commentary on this matter of incense as a "shadow" of the prayers of the saints.
Please understand that there is not enough time in a whole lifetime to
carefully tie each of this passages together, in harmony, in a short lesson
once a week. I ask you to allow the Holy Spirit to bring back to your
memory those things which we have already studied. Such as the phrase in
This passage in
Maybe you feel you've stood at the Altar of Incense and offered up
prayer after prayer.., AND it's just not
working. Well, I want you to know that every one of those proper prayers are heard and used by God for His
ultimate purpose. Notice in
I don't know how God is going to do it, but that's His problem AND He is big enough to handle it. Somehow, the prayers of all the saints are use by God in this last great defeat of sin and Satan. The next time you think, "My prayer doesn't count!" Turn back to Revelation and read the account of YOUR prayers being used by God to bring righteousness to the world.
Oh, yes!! Your prayers count!!!!!!!
Like I said, this subject is bigger than both of us!! BUT please see that you are important to God, and your proper prayers are potent against sin, Satan and the evil forces of this world.
Let's walk with the High Priest, as He prepares and moves into the presence of God. The Holy Spirit said that these were written so we would have examples. So..... let's look at our example in the Old Testament, and then let's look at our instructions in the New Testament to see if we can learn anything about moving into the presence of God. Remember, we are looking at a "shadow" of a Believer entering the presence of God for blessed fellowship, NOT an example of a sinner coming for salvation.
As we walk along side the priest on this journey, we will only look at the very simple and generic aspects of his preparation. The details will come later, and at that time, this journey will mean even more.
The journey into the presence of God starts at the Brazen Altar. The earthly priest had to make a sacrifice and atonement for his sins, the sins of his family and the sins of the nation. There is no way you take the first "little" step towards the presence of God, without first taking care of the sin problem in your life.
The next step in this journey was to the Laver. The Laver was for the sole purpose of personal cleansing, and that is a constant need for all Believers. We can't move closer to the presence of God until we have personally accepted the constant cleansing from our sins. The Laver was especially for the hands and feet. We will see the Spiritual significance of this washing later.
We need both aspects of
Both articles, the Altar and Laver being "bronze" have many Spiritual lessons. More later. Once we've accepted the forgiveness of the sacrifice and have experienced the cleansing, THEN and only then are we ready to enter the "Sanctuary" or the Holy Place.
By the way, the Holy Place, or if you prefer the Sanctuary is a place of service. We will see that later. There's a LOT to see later, isn't there?? The service by the priest in the Holy Place did not gain merit for him, so he would qualify or be good enough to enter God's presence. He served because he was forgiven and cleansed. Therefore, he was qualified (by grace) to serve and enter God's presence.
Please note the increasing and progressive privacy of this journey.
At the Brazen Altar receiving forgiveness, and at the Brazen Laver for cleansing, the only observers were fellow priests, or possibly one of the congregation also receiving forgiveness for sins at the Altar. Once the priest progressed into the Sanctuary, on his journey into the presence of God..,
He was totally alone!!!
Even the priests in their daily ministry were out of the public eye, and only seen by a few other priests, as they also served in the Holy Place. I'm sure your minds can recall many passages, and even the teaching of Christ concerning privacy in giving, service, prayer, etc.
Notice something else that was absent on the journey into the presence of God. There were no "Praise Bands", there were no "Choirs".., there wasn't even anyone humming "Do Lord". Worst of all.., they didn't have any announcements or offering. The latter being the greatest omission (I'm sure)!!!
I don't know, for the life of me, HOW they could have had a worship service without those things! Well.., I really do know.., because MOST of what we do in the name of worship has little, if anything to do with worship. Any one of those things and many more can have a proper place in a church service. However, entering the presence of God is a very personal matter.
There is a place for "Group Worship", that TOO will be brought out later. Sad to say, much of what we do in the name of group worship has little to do with the group, and far less to do with worship. In most group "worship" services, very few are engaged in any act of worship.
Most of those in the group are only observers of others as they perform. Occasionally the group claps... so, I guess there is some participation. No doubt, many of these group worship services are very enjoyable. After all a good concert, good play or a good performance of anything - even Monday Nite Football is enjoyable, to some.
We're not talking about enjoyablity. We are talking about the presence of God, and being there is very seldom the height of human pleasure.
Then someone says, "We don't live under the Old Testament. We have a greater liberty, because we live in the New Testament realm." Boy! That's a mean one, isn't it. Not much way of arguing with that!! That is solid theology.
It looks to me like Paul hadn't heard about this kind of "New Testament only Theology". He seemed to think that the Old Testament had great value for New Testament Believers.
The problem is, we don't rightly divide the Scriptures. We only pick and choose what we want from them. The Bible says we are to come boldly unto the throne of Grace. We are to come boldly,but not arrogantly. It just might be a good idea, if we looked to see what it really says, AND see just how close the New Testament instructions come to the Old Testament picture.
The reality - of the New Testament - is pretty close to the picture - of the Old Testament, isn't it? Let's look at some other New Testament instructions that refer back to the Old Testament picture.
In Christ, we do have a NEW and LIVING way into the Holy of Holies. However, it is still true.., IF we want to be in the presence of God for glorious fellowship, we STILL have to accept His forgiveness, and receive His cleansing.
You can't get to the Throne of Grace or the Mercy Seat without passing the Altar of Incense -- The place of intercession.
Look at Heb 4:16 again. You will see two things:
If you are reading from the NIV, it says that we may find grace to help US in OUR time of need. I'm sorry, but the words just aren't in the original Greek. It is nice of the publishers of Bibles to add words in order to help the English reader understand the gist of the passage, BUT sometimes the added words only bring confusion. The truth is taught elsewhere in Scripture that God will give us grace for our time of need, BUT that is not what is being said in this verse, or its context.
The Altar of Incense, the place of prayer and intercession, was located as close as possible to the presence of God. Oh!!! So close to the heart of God. We can NEVER be closer to the heart of God than when we:
That is near to the Heart of God. That is the very heart throb of God. God so loved the world that He gave His Son. With His Son, He continues to freely give us all things.
You will NEVER know the FULL joy of God, if you come asking only for selfish things.
|© Clyde White, Austin TX, 2001|