Prayers of the Saints Sweet Smelling Incense
Prayers of the Saints Sweet Smelling Incense
Incense is a fragrant smoke obtained from burning resins. It was burnt ceremonially on an altar before the mercy seat in the Tabernacle. God said it was holy and should be burnt day and night for all of Israel’s generations. Why was it holy? What was its significance? And does it have any implications for Believers today?
When Moses received instruction to build the tabernacle he was told to include an altar on which his brother Aaron was to burn incense every morning and every evening throughout all of Israel’s generations,
And thou shalt make an altar to burn incense upon: And thou shalt put it before the vail that is by the ark of the testimony, before the mercy seat that is over the testimony, where I will meet with thee. And Aaron shall burn thereon sweet incense every morning: when he dresseth the lamps, he shall burn incense upon it. And when Aaron lighteth the lamps at even, he shall burn incense upon it, a perpetual incense before the LORD throughout your generations. Ye shall offer no strange incense thereon, nor burnt sacrifice, nor meat offering; neither shall ye pour drink offering thereon. (Exodus 30:1, 6 -9).
God provided a recipe from which the incense was to be manufactured, And the LORD said unto Moses, Take unto thee sweet spices, stacte, and onycha, and galbanum; these sweet spices with pure frankincense: of each shall there be a like weight: And thou shalt make it a perfume, a confection after the art of the apothecary, tempered together, pure and holy: And thou shalt beat some of it very small, and put of it before the testimony in the tabernacle of the congregation, where I will meet with thee: it shall be unto you most holy. And as for the perfume which thou shalt make, ye shall not make to yourselves according to the composition thereof: it shall be unto thee holy for the LORD. Whosoever shall make like unto that, to smell thereto, shall even be cut off from his people. (Exodus 30:34-38).
Incense is symbolic of the Prayers of the Saints. God said the incense was holy. David likened his prayer to incense, Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice. (Psalm 141:2). The incense was holy because it represented the prayers of the saints, And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours (incense), which are the prayers of saints. (Revelation 5:8).
The altar on which the incense was to be burnt was located before the mercy seat, which represented God’s throne. It was separated from the congregation by a veil through which only the high priest had access. Once a year he entered the holiest of all with blood to offer for the sins of the congregation. This ceremony foreshadowed the time when Yeshua the high priest of the New Testament, offered his own life for the sins of all mankind and entered the presence of God the Father on His throne in heaven (Hebrews 9:6-15).
At the precise moment Yeshua died the veil in the temple was miraculously torn in two (Matthew 27:51) signifying a major event had taken place. It meant that those whom God called through Christ, could now have direct access to the Father.
Effectively, in prayer, they could now come before the very throne of God, Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need, (Hebrews 4:16). Just as the priesthood in ancient Israel were given a recipe from which to manufacture their incense so have their spiritual counterparts in this age been provided with a recipe for their prayer. It was provided by non-other than our high priest, Yeshua, After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:9-15).
This provides a structure on which to build a prayer covering the things that are important and pleasing to God. The formula for prayer was not a mantra to be vainly repeated as many do (Matthew 6:7), but an outline of subjects to be considered (weighed and measured), expounded and discussed in person with God the Father with whom we have direct access. Not as if talking to a God hidden behind a veil, but face to face with a loving Father who is deeply concerned for our well-being and future. It is a structure to which can be added certain aspects represented by the ingredients of the incense to provide a well-balanced relationship with God through prayer.