Friday, January 20, 2023

2023.01.20 Hopewell @Home ▫ Exodus 30:1–10

Read Exodus 30:1–10

Questions from the Scripture text: What are they to make (Exodus 30:1)? To do what upon it? Out of what? With what dimensions (Exodus 30:2)? What will be of one piece with it? With what will it be overlaid (Exodus 30:3)? What else will border it? What will go under this molding (Exodus 30:4)? How many on each side? To hold what? For what purpose? Of what are the poles to be made (Exodus 30:5)? And overlaid with what? Where will this incense altar go (Exodus 30:6)? What is behind the veil? What is on top of the ark? What happens there? What will the high priest do on it (Exodus 30:7)? When? What else will he do at that time? And When else (Exodus 30:8)? What else will he do at that time? So, when will incense be going up? What four things must they not offer on it (Exodus 30:9)? What will the high priest do upon its horns (Exodus 30:10)? How often? Until when? Why?

What does God highlight by putting the instructions for the incense altar at this point in Exodus? Exodus 30:1–10 looks forward to the p.m. sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In these ten verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that God does not only meet with His people to speak with them, but also even to hear them. 

The Lord now commands the construction of another altar. It is similar in shape and materials (though smaller in size) to both the ark and the table. The Lord does not tell us exactly why He places its description here, rather than with the other furniture. But simply by its isolation here, the incense altar is highlighted. And, coming after the ordination of the priesthood and the instruction for the morning and evening sacrifices, the text intensifies the focus on the high priest’s service at this altar at those times (cf. Exodus 30:7-8).

This altar is strictly for incense, and strictly for God’s incense. No other recipe or other manner of offering incense is permitted on it (Exodus 30:9a). No other type of offering is permitted on it (verse 9). We understand that this most holy (Exodus 30:10) incense altar  is for burning sweet incense (Exodus 30:1Exodus 30:7Exodus 30:8). 

From other passages (cf. Luke 1:8–11, Psalm 141:1–2, Revelation 8:3–4) we know that this communicates the commending of our prayers to God with the sweet aroma. Apart from atonement, our prayers are offensive to God (cf. Isaiah 1:14–15; Isaiah 59:1–3; Micah 3:4; Psalm 66:19; Proverbs 28:9). But with it, they go up to Him and are received as pleasing and sweet.

Although the high priest will only go into the Holy of Holies once a year, he is to go right up to the front of it twice a day. Just as the light of the lamp is never to go out, so also the sweet smoke of the incense is never to stop going up. Aaron makes the lamps good in the morning (Exodus 30:7) and causes them to rise in the evening (Exodus 30:8) as a reminder that the light of the favor of God never stops shining down upon His people. And every time that Aaron goes in there to do that, he is to replenish the burning of the incense as a reminder that God never stops receiving Christ-atoned prayer as a sweet aroma. 

Where does this take place? Right in front of the veil. This is significant because Exodus 30:6 teaches that this connects the altar rather directly to the veil, and to the ark, and to the mercy seat, and to the Testimony. The favorable receiving of His people’s prayers, then, is an emphasized feature of God’s dwelling among His people. Not only does He meet with His people to speak to them (cf. Exodus 29:42), but so great is His grace that He also meets with His people to hear them!

In the Revelation of John, there is a golden altar before the throne (cf. Revelation 8:3). This corresponds not to the bronze altar, which pointed forward to the cross of Christ and His once-for-all sacrifice, but to this golden altar upon which incense was offered. The prayers of the saints continuously go up to God, and have a central role in the Lord’s great work upon the earth. In Jesus, the throne has become the location of our praying itself (cf. Hebrews 4:14–16), so that we may confidently join our plea with the Psalmist, “Let my prayer be set before You as incense” (cf. Psalm 141:1–2)!

Where is the “ark” now? Where is the “golden altar”? Who has access to it, and how? What use are you making of that access? How are you responding to the access that you have?

Sample prayer: Lord, we thank You and praise You for atoning for our sins in Christ. And for bringing us near in Christ. And for receiving our prayers as sweet and pleasing to you in Christ. Now, grant that Your Spirit would conform us to Christ, so that like He, we would continually lift our prayers to You, we ask in His Name, AMEN!

 Suggested songs: ARP141A “I Call You, Lord” or TPH522 “Behold, the Throne of Grace!”

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