Every morning and evening, Aaron would burn incense on the golden Altar of Incense located immediately before the veil separating the Holy Place from the Ark of the Covenant in Holy of Holies. Constantly burning, it was the closest object in the Tabernacle to the glorious Presence of God.
The incense was made from a unique recipe given by God in Exodus 30:34-38. This was God’s fragrance – “most holy unto the Lord” – reserved solely for this purpose. As it was consumed, it produced a sweet aroma and smoke ascending day and night. Once a year, on the Day of Atonement, the priest would cleanse the Altar of Incense with sacrificial blood.
Why am I telling you this?
Because the Altar of Incense is a picture of the prayers of God’s people. Prayers of faith reserved solely for the Lord being offered day and night – a fragrant aroma ascending like smoke to the Throne of God. David connects the dots for us, “May my prayer be set before You like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice” Psalm 141:2.
And before you say, “But I’m not living in the Old Testament and haven’t been to the Tabernacle lately,” consider this. Having been cleansed by the blood of the Lamb, this altar can also be seen as a picture of Christ’s glorious mediation. Our Great High Priest sits at the right hand of the Throne of God always making intercession for us.
But there’s more.
What is no longer found in an earthly tabernacle or temple, now rests in a Heavenly One. At the Throne of God, Revelation 5:8 shows us “golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints” and Revelation 8:3-4 describes an angel “at the altar, holding a golden censer; and much incense was given to him, so that he might add it to the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up before God out of the angel’s hand.”
So, when you pray, why not picture this incredible scene in heaven? See your prayers ascending like a holy offering of incense from the temple of your heart to the Throne of our great God!
Pray without ceasing. 1 Thessalonians 5:17