And thou shalt put it before the veil 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
(Ex. 30:1, 6-9)
These are God’s divine, heaven-sent orders for the placing of the fifth article of furniture in the tabernacle of the congregation, another one of the several types of the Lord Jesus Christ in His work of redemption. It was an altar made of wood, overlaid with pure gold. It is again a picture of the Lord Jesus in His humanity and in His deity, the wood pointing to His humanity, and the gold speaking of His unchangeable deity. It was three feet high and one and one-half feet square. It was the tallest piece of furniture in the holy place, and speaks of the highest act of worship possible, that of prayer and priestly intercession.
It occupied the central position in the holy place, between the table of shewbread and the golden candlestick. It stood directly in front of the veil and the ark of the covenant in the holy of holies, with its covering of the bloody mercy seat. Upon it was to be offered a continual offering of incense upon coals taken from the brazen altar at the door of the tabernacle. It is the most complete type of our Savior now in heaven as our interceding High Priest.
Some scriptures that speak of Christ as Intercessor:
For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us. – Heb. 9:24.
But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; Heb. 7:24-26
Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Rom. 8:34
Our advocate with the Father:
My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: 1 John 2:1
The Holy Spirit:
Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. Rom. 8:26, 27
The Tabernacle was in every detail a shadow and type of the coming Redeemer. The holy place was a figure of the true; the priest was a figure of the Lord Jesus Christ; his ministry at the altar of incense a figure of Christ in heaven offering the incense of His prayers in our behalf, so that the smoke of the incense rises constantly before the ark and the mercy seat, representing the throne of God.
At the brazen altar Christ came to earth and died for us, shed His blood, reconciled us to God, and made us forever secure in Him. But at the golden altar He lives in heaven to intercede for those for whom He has already died, and who are already saved. The brazen altar (altar of judgement) speaks of the death of Jesus Christ; the golden altar speaks of the living, resurrected, ascended Lord Jesus Christ. The two altars, therefore, speak of the death and the resurrection, and constitute the full message of the Gospel,
That Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he arose again the third day according to the scriptures (I Cor. 5:3-4.)
The Lord Jesus, therefore, today is in heaven offering the incense of His own intercessory work on the basis of the blood of the Cross of Calvary. Incense is a common Biblical type for prayer and for intercession on the part of God’s people. David says in Psalm 141:2, Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense.
The need for the priestly intercession was constant, for the priests were daily defiled by contact with the earth upon which they walked. They needed continuously to be washed in the brazen laver, and also needed confession and intercession at the golden altar. We today are New Testament priests. We have been justified at the Cross, but we are still in a wicked world, which is no friend to grace, and we carry with us the old nature, and are constantly defiled by contact with the world and the flesh. Our Lord Jesus Christ is in heaven to meet this provision and to intercede for all believers.
The golden altar is a flat denunciation of any claim to perfection in walk which the priest or minister might make. The incense, rising before the veil was a constant reminder to the priest that he still had the old nature, that he still came short, that he still needed the intercession and the work at the altar of incense.
Only the Blood
The basis of the efficacy of the golden altar lay in the blood, taken from the altar at the door of the tabernacle. In contemplating all of these articles and works of the Tabernacle, we should never believe that any of it can be accounted to our own efforts. Our only hope is in the power of the Blood. Our only work is faith in the One Who accomplishes all of these great works. Anything that we do in our Christian life, then, is only an outgrowth of the One Who lives in us, accomplishing His will in us. When we lose sight of this, we return miserably to works of the flesh, which can accomplish no good thing. Paul admonishes us to be filled with the Spirit, and to walk in the Spirit and we will not fulfill the works of the flesh. (Gal. 6:16) It is only as we allow Christ to live in and through us, by His Spirit, that He can be Lord to us, and that we can accomplish those things that are according to His will. So our daily confession should always begin in humility mixed with faith that He is our all in all, and that His will, not ours, is to be accomplished in us. All things that we do for God and humanity, we do by His power and the glorious fact that He is seated on the right hand of the Father, interceding for us.
As Christ ministers through us, one of those ministries is intercessory prayer, which is one of the highest callings of the believer. So the Altar of Incense speaks of believers’ prayer offered up to God. Prayer is the sweetest thing that we can offer to God, who is more pleased with our worship than with our service, for there can be no acceptable service until we have stopped to worship first at the golden altar. Martha served, but Mary was commended for sitting first at Jesus’ feet before she served. Martha was not reproved because she served, but because she had served without first stopping to worship. The greatest privilege, therefore, from God, is the privilege of prayer and intercession, in preparation for our service for Him.
Christ our Mediator – Contemplation and/or Discussion With Others
All things that pertain to the Tabernacle speak of Christ as the Mediator between God and man. Contemplate how the Mediatorship between God and Man is fulfilled in Christ.
Hebrews 8:6 But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. (Whole Chapter: Hebrews 8 In context: Hebrews 8:5-7)
Hebrews 9:15 And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. (Whole Chapter: Hebrews 9 In context: Hebrews 9:14-16)