23 September 15
Exodus 30:1, 3, 4
(All scripture is from the New King James Bible unless otherwise noted.)
In our last blog, we discussed An Altar Of Earth, the first altar built by the Israelites after they received the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai. There were two more sets of instructions given by God to construct altars for use in daily worship: the bronze altar (Exodus 27:1-8) and the altar of incense (Exodus 30:1-10). It is this altar of incense we will look at today. For brevity’s sake, here is just a part of the instructions given – Exodus 30:1, 3 and 4:
You shall make an altar to burn incense on….and you shall overlay its top,
its sides all around, and its horns with pure gold….Two gold rings you shall
make for it under the molding on both its sides, and they will be holders for
the poles with which to bear it.
The altar was to be 36 inches high and 18 inches square. It was to be placed within the tabernacle (later the temple), in front of the veil that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies (Exodus 30:6). And it was not to be used for any kind of burn offering, but only for burning incense (Exodus 30:7, 8). And – because it had poles with which to carry it, it was A Movable Altar!
Incense is symbolically connected with the prayers of the saints – God’s people (see Revelation 5:8; 8:3, 4). And since we can pray anytime and anyplace, we have A Movable Altar!
Anytime and anyplace? Yes! We actually have a more privileged position than even the Jewish high priest of old! Now prayers could (and were) offered anytime and anyplace in the Old Testament period. Just think of David on the run and hiding in the wilderness from King Saul. Recall all the prayers he offered during that time of being a refugee. Many of the psalms are David’s prayers during this time. But only once a year could the high priest enter into the Holy of Holies, and that on Day of Atonement! On that day he entered three times with the blood of the sacrifice (see Exodus 30:10; Hebrews 9:6, 7).
But “…the veil was torn in two from top to bottom…” (Matthew 27:51) when Jesus died on the cross – indicating the way into the very presence – before the very throne – of God was now (and is now) open and accessible! (See Hebrews 10:19-22). Hence, we can partake of the invitation given Hebrews 4:14 through 16:
Seeing, then, that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the
heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let hold fast our confession [of faith]. For
we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses,
but was in all points tempted [tested] as we are, yet without sin. Let us
therefore, come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy
and find grace to help in time of need.
How can this be? How can we come boldly right into the throne room of God – right up to His very throne? It is because we are in Jesus Christ when we accept Him as Savior! And, as it says in Ephesians 1:6, we are “…accepted in the Beloved.” He has cleansed us from our sins and given us His own righteousness (see Isaiah 61:10; II Corinthians 5:21; I John 1:7), so we can come right into God’s holy presence – accepted as much as the Father would accept in own Son! As it says in I Peter 3:12, “…the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers….”
Can you see why it is A Movable Altar? Anytime and anyplace! I might also add, in any position! I love the little poem entitled The Proper Way To Pray. It goes…
“The proper way for men to pray,” said Deacon Thomas Keys,
“The only proper posture is down upon our knees.”
“No, I should say the way to pray,” said Reverend Doctor Wise,
“Is standing straight with outstretched arms, with rapt and upturned eyes.”
“No, no, no!” said Elder Snow,“Such posture is too proud!
A man should pray with eyes fast closed, and head contritely bowed.”
“It seems to me his hands should be together clasped in front;
With both thumbs pointed to the ground,” said Reverend Doctor Blunt.
“Last week I fell into my well, head first,” said Farmer Brown,
“With both my heels a stickin’ up and my head a pointin’ down!
“And I done prayed right then and there – best prayer I ever said,
“The prayinest prayer I ever done prayed – a standin’ on my head!”
So take this Movable Altar with you wherever you go! Pray at all times and in every situation – offering up the incense of prayer unto God. As Paul exhorted us in I Thessalonians 5:17, “Pray without ceasing…,” even “…a standin’ on your head!”