The Golden Incense Altar


‘Make an altar of acacia wood for burning incense. It is to be square, a cubit long and a cubit wide, and two cubits high—its horns of one piece with it. Overlay the top and all the sides and the horns with pure gold, and make a gold moulding around it. Make two gold rings for the altar below the moulding—two on each of the opposite sides—to hold the poles used to carry it. Make the poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. Put the altar in front of the curtain that shields the ark of the covenant law—before the atonement cover that is over the tablets of the covenant law—where I will meet with you. ‘Aaron must burn fragrant incense on the altar every morning when he tends the lamps. He must burn incense again when he lights the lamps at twilight so incense will burn regularly before the LORD for the generations to come. Do not offer on this altar any other incense or any burnt offering or grain offering, and do not pour a drink offering on it. Once a year Aaron shall make atonement on its horns. This annual atonement must be made with the blood of the atoning sin offering for the generations to come. It is most holy to the LORD.’ Exodus 30:1-10

The Golden Incense Altar was made of acacia wood overlaid with gold. It was situated just in front of the Veil, the curtain which separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies. It was square: half a metre by half a metre wide, and one metre high.

The priest had to burn incense at this altar in the morning and at twilight, Exodus 30:7-8, as a perpetual fragrance before the Lord. The burning incense signifies prayer and points us to the prayer of the Lord Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, John 17 and Mark 14:32-42.

Psalm 141:2 ‘May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.’

Revelation 5:8 ‘And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people.’

Similar to the Showbread Table, the Golden Incense Altar had a golden crown round the top of it. This signifies

‘Jesus, crowned with glory and honour’. Hebrews 2:9

However, because the Golden Incense Altar is the place of prayer, the crown and the prayer together give us a hint of a kingly priesthood.

This thought is developed in the Book of Hebrews: the Messiah,

‘Jesus Christ has become a priest according to the order of Melchizedek’. Psalm 110:1 and Hebrews 7

He can sympathize with us as our great High Priest, Hebrews 4:15 and He is able to minister His supply of mercy and grace to us as the King of righteousness and King of peace. Hebrews 2.

Hebrews 7:25 ‘Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.’

Hebrews 4:16 ‘Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.’

Genesis 14:18 ‘Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High.’

Prayer is very important in the daily life of all believers in the Lord.

Daniel 6:10 ‘Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.’

Matthew 6:5-13 ‘And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. ‘This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’

We should pray without ceasing, 1 Thessalonians 5:17, using all kinds of prayers and petitions with thanksgiving, praying at every time in the Spirit, watching and persevering in prayer not just for ourselves but for all our brothers and sisters,

Ephesians 6:18 ‘And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.’

Prayer is becoming increasingly important, especially as the battle intensifies and utterance of the gospel becomes harder.

Ephesians 6:19 ‘Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel.’

However, when our prayer is genuinely at the Golden Incense Altar, the Lord causes much incense to be added to our prayer. That incense rises back to Him as we pray according to His will, and the results are dramatic.

Revelation 8:3-4 ‘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 God’s people, on the golden altar in front of the throne. The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of God’s people, went up before God from the angel’s hand.’

The Tabernacle is the house of God, His dwelling place, Exodus 25:8-9 and a foreshadow of both Christ and the Church.

Colossians 2:9 ‘For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.’

1 Timothy 3:15 ‘If I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.’

Ephesians 2:21-22 ‘In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.’

It is God’s desire that His house should

‘be a house of prayer for all nations’. Isaiah 56:7

For us to pray at the Golden Incense Altar, blood must first be applied, Leviticus 4:7, the blood of the Sin Offering. Then the incense must be prepared with genuine acknowledgements and experiences of the Son’s Name, His purity, holiness, subjection, faith and dependence on God the Father. Then

‘whatever you ask the Father in My Name, He will give it to you; ask and you shall receive, that your joy may be full’. John 16:23-24

One of the ingredients of the incense was salt, to make our prayer neither sentimental nor formal. We should pray at every time in the Spirit, Ephesians 6:18 in the Son’s Name. This will be a sweet incense to God the Father.

Jesus’ ministry was not just healing and teaching people; it was also a service to God the Father in His living and in praying

Mark 1:32-35 ‘That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. The whole town gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was. Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.’

The night before He chose His twelve disciples, Jesus spent the whole night in the

‘prayer of God’, Luke 6:12

His admonition

‘Pray that you may not enter into temptation’ and His observation regarding praying that ‘the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak’. Matthew 26:41

so obviously come from One who is qualified to comment.

Hebrews 2:14 ‘Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil.’

Hebrews 2:18 ‘Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.’

In His prayer in John 17, Jesus utters such meaningful requests, with such adoration of the Father, acknowledging His own position as a man and that of the Father as Giver of all authority, John 17:2, as Holy Father, John 17:11, as Righteous Father, John 17:25. This prayer is no ‘last night’ performance; it is rather the continuation of a life of previous prayer, as indicated by the phrase

‘Father, the hour has now come’. John 17:1

Here in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus is at the Golden Incense Altar, on the night before the Veil, that is His flesh, Hebrews 10:20 will be torn from top to bottom, by God His Father.

Matthew 27:46 ‘About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ (which means ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?).’

Matthew 27:51 ‘At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split.’

Jesus’ prayer is for eternal life for all those the Father has given to Him. Jesus is like the high priest in the Tabernacle, bearing the names of the disciples, and those who will believe through their word, John 17:20 on His heart, the Breastplate.

His prayer is that the Father will

1. Keep the disciples, guarding them all in the Father’s own holy name, in unbroken oneness, as the Father and the Son are one.

John 17:6-12 ‘I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.’

2. Sanctify them in His word of truth, setting the disciples apart to the Father as Jesus Himself had been set apart to the Father, for their impact in the world with the gospel, that generations of believers may be one, one in Them, the Father and the Son.

John 17:13-21 ‘I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. ‘My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.’

3. Send the glory of the Son, John 1:14 and John 17:1 to the believers, that they may be perfected in oneness, so that the world may see the love of the Father for His only begotten Son and also the Father’s love for His many children. John 1:18+12-13 and John 3:5-6 and John 20:17

John 17:22-26 ‘I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. ‘Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. ‘Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.’

This is the prayer for eternal life,

‘that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent’ John 17:3

Jesus said

‘I am come that they may have life and have it abundantly’ John 10:10

Eternal life is simply to know the Father and the Son and their oneness, truly, for eternity. This is Jesus’ prayer for eternal life; may it also be ours.

Such a fragrance of incense exudes from this deep prayer by the great High Priest for all those in the House of God! Let us also come to the Golden Incense Altar and thence boldly through the Veil to the throne of grace (the Ark of the Covenant), that we may find the mercy and obtain the grace He has prayed for us in this great time of need!

Hebrews 3:6 ‘But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory.’

Hebrews 4:14-16 ‘Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.’



"This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers."

1 John 3:16