So far, we’ve learned about five of the seven pieces of furniture associated with the tabernacle: the ark and mercy seat, the table, the lampstand, and the altar. We have the altar of incense and the bronze laver left, which we’ll learn about this week. Remember, Moses is still on Mount Sinai receiving these details instructions from the Lord. Everything the Lord is instructing has a divine connection and meaning – it all points to Christ. It makes me stop and think about the “furniture” which takes up residence in my temple. What story does my thoughts, actions, family, career, bank account, free-time, and so forth tell? Do they all have significant meaning and point to Christ Jesus? Or, are there things taking up residence in my heart which don’t belong? Lord, show us what creates clutter.
Altar of Incense
“You shall make an altar to burn incense on; you shall make it of acacia wood. 2 A cubit shall be its length and a cubit its width—it shall be square—and two cubits shall be its height. Its horns shall be of one piece with it. 3 And you shall overlay its top, its sides all around, and its horns with pure gold; and you shall make for it a molding of gold all around. 4 Two gold rings you shall make for it, under the molding on both its sides. You shall place them on its two sides, and they will be holders for the poles with which to bear it. 5 You shall make the poles of acacia wood, and overlay them with gold. 6 And you shall put it before the veil that is before the ark of the Testimony, before the mercy seat that is over the Testimony, where I will meet with you.
- This altar wasn’t for sacrifice, but to burn incense. It sat in front of the curtain that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies. It was relatively small compared to the brazen altar – a square that was 1 ½ feet wide on each side and three feet tall.
7 “Aaron shall burn on it sweet incense every morning; when he tends the lamps, he shall burn incense on it. 8 And when Aaron lights the lamps at twilight, he shall burn incense on it, a perpetual incense before the Lord throughout your generations. 9 You shall not offer strange incense on it, or a burnt offering, or a grain offering; nor shall you pour a drink offering on it. 10 And Aaron shall make atonement upon its horns once a year with the blood of the sin offering of atonement; once a year he shall make atonement upon it throughout your generations. It is most holy to the Lord.”
- The perpetual burning incense was a symbol of the prayers and intercessions of the people going up to God. We are told in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 to pray without ceasing! So this incense was to burn unceasingly because His house will be called a house of prayer for all nations (Isaiah 56:7).
- The idea of prayers wafting up to heaven like incense is captured in David’s psalm and also in John’s vision in Revelation:
o “May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice” (Psalm 141:2).
o “Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all the saints, on the golden altar before the throne. The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of the saints, went up before God from the angel’s hand” (Revelation 8:3-4).
The Ransom Money
11 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 12 “When you take the census of the children of Israel for their number, then every man shall give a ransom for himself to the Lord, when you number them, that there may be no plague among them when you number them. 13 This is what everyone among those who are numbered shall give: half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary (a shekel is twenty gerahs). The half-shekel shall be an offering to the Lord. 14 Everyone included among those who are numbered, from twenty years old and above, shall give an offering to the Lord. 15 The rich shall not give more and the poor shall not give less than half a shekel, when you give an offering to the Lord, to make atonement for yourselves. 16 And you shall take the atonement money of the children of Israel, and shall appoint it for the service of the tabernacle of meeting, that it may be a memorial for the children of Israel before the Lord, to make atonement for yourselves.”
- The Israelites could never “buy” righteousness or atonement. The giving of the money was simply an offering that said, “Only You are enough.”
- A shekel wasn’t a coin, but a weight. The silver was actually used to help form the tabernacle frame (Exodus 38). Was half a shekel enough to build sockets for the posts? No. But through the obedience of all the Israelites, the silver was taken, melted together, and formed. How true this is of our lives as believers. It’s through the obedience of all believers that Christ can most mightily move and form His church.
The Bronze Laver
17 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 18 “You shall also make a laver of bronze, with its base also of bronze, for washing. You shall put it between the tabernacle of meeting and the altar. And you shall put water in it, 19 for Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet in water from it.20 When they go into the tabernacle of meeting, or when they come near the altar to minister, to burn an offering made by fire to the Lord, they shall wash with water, lest they die. 21 So they shall wash their hands and their feet, lest they die. And it shall be a statute forever to them—to him and his descendants throughout their generations.”
- There were no specific measurements given for the laver, but we know it was made of bronze and was meant for the washing of hands and feet. The application for believers today is that we are forgiven through Christ’s work on the cross, but we are washed through His Word. We need to be washed daily in His Word to cleanse ourselves, so that we can serve and minister before Him.
o “…Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to Himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless” (Ephesians 5:25-27).
o “Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled [with blood] to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:22).
The Holy Anointing Oil
22 Moreover the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 23 “Also take for yourself quality spices—five hundred shekels of liquid myrrh, half as much sweet-smelling cinnamon (two hundred and fifty shekels), two hundred and fifty shekels of sweet-smelling cane, 24 five hundred shekels of cassia, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, and a hin of olive oil. 25 And you shall make from these a holy anointing oil, an ointment compounded according to the art of the perfumer. It shall be a holy anointing oil. 26 With it you shall anoint the tabernacle of meeting and the ark of the Testimony; 27 the table and all its utensils, the lampstand and its utensils, and the altar of incense; 28 the altar of burnt offering with all its utensils, and the laver and its base. 29 You shall consecrate them, that they may be most holy; whatever touches them must be holy. 30 And you shall anoint Aaron and his sons, and consecrate them, that they may minister to Me as priests.
31 “And you shall speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘This shall be a holy anointing oil to Me throughout your generations. 32 It shall not be poured on man’s flesh; nor shall you make any other like it, according to its composition. It is holy, and it shall be holy to you. 33 Whoever compounds any like it, or whoever puts any of it on an outsider, shall be cut off from his people.’”
- We know from scripture, oil is a reference of the Holy Spirit (see 1 John 2:20 that talks of how we have the anointing from the Holy One). This Holy anointing oil was only to be used by the priests. It had a strong fragrance and anyone who walked near the tabernacle, its furniture or utensils, or a priest could smell the fragrance. In John 12:3, we read about how Mary took a pound of costly oil and anointed Jesus. Imagine the smell of that house – and Jesus – with so much oil being used to anoint Him. Be drenched in the oil of the Spirit today. May our life have the aroma of Christ!
- The anointing oil wasn’t to be replicated and used by common man as a smell-good to dab on your neck and wrists before you went to market. It’s sad to look at the world today and see how false teachers have taken what is Most Holy, tried to “produce” it themselves, and in doing so, have deceived many into following them instead of following the pure and unadulterated Word of God.
34 And the Lord said to Moses: “Take sweet spices, stacte and onycha and galbanum, and pure frankincense with these sweet spices; there shall be equal amounts of each. 35 You shall make of these an incense, a compound according to the art of the perfumer, salted, pure, and holy. 36 And you shall beat some of it very fine, and put some of it before the Testimony in the tabernacle of meeting where I will meet with you. It shall be most holy to you. 37 But as for the incense which you shall make, you shall not make any for yourselves, according to its composition. It shall be to you holy for the Lord. 38 Whoever makes any like it, to smell it, he shall be cut off from his people.”
- The golden altar of incense also required a special incense to burn. The incense was to be “most holy.” Why? Because it’s not enough just to pray, we must have a right heart as we pray. Anyone can toss up works to the Lord, but the Word tells us in James 5:16 that the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. It doesn’t say the prayer of a person is powerful and effective – they must be righteous. Meaning, they must operate under the righteousness of Christ Jesus (by accepting His grace).
- A popular verse these days for those attached to the “prosperity movement,” is John 14:13, which reads, “And I will do whatever you ask in my name.” Some folks have taken this out of context and tacked on “in the name of Jesus” to their prayers. While I do believe in the powerful name of Jesus Christ, look at what the other half of that verse says: “so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” Who is being glorified? THE FATHER. When someone prays for the BMW or names-and-claims this financial blessing or that physical want, who does it glorify? THE FLESH. But Christ is telling us in John 14:13 that whatever we ask in His nature, it will be given. The things we ask for in prayer should align with the heart of Christ. God does promise that He will supply all our needs – but not our greeds. May our prayers, desires, thoughts, and dreams be aligned with God’s will. What is God’s will? The Word spells it out right here: “For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day." His will is that we make disciples (Matthew 28:16-20) of all nations. May we not create incense for ourselves, but allow our prayers to be in alignment with Christ’s nature and the will of the Father, so that He may be glorified. Amen.