The Altar of Incense and The Veil
H Rhodes, Leeds
7. THE ALTAR OF INCENSE AND THE VEIL
The Altar of Incense.
This was made of wood and overlaid with pure gold, with crowns of gold forming a border, Exod. 30. 1-10. Four horns were made, one at each corner, and two rings were constructed by which it was carried. It was 1 3/4 ft. square and 3 1/2 ft. high, and it stood in the holy place very near to the inner veil.
Points to Note.
- On this altar, incense, not sacrifice, was offered, thereby presenting to us a type, not of Christ on the cross, but in glory ever living to make intercession for us, Heb. 7. 25.
- Instructions for the contraction of this altar were not given until after the details of the consecration of the high priest, Exod. 28-29, implying its connection with the priestly office of man’s approach to God. This is also emphasised by the position in which it stood, and also by the fact that on the day of atonement the incense was carried into the holiest of all, Lev. 16. 11-13. It was this cloud of incense covering the mercy seat upon the testimony that secured Aaron’s preservation in the presence of God, “that he die not”, v. 13.
- The Lord Jesus is the anti-type of this incense altar, since it is by Him that we offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, Heb. 13. 15. It is in His name that we make our requests, John 14. 13, 14; 15. 16; 16. 23-27. Because He is accepted of God, so are we. “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus . . . let us draw near”, Heb. 10. 19-22.
- Its composition and its use were all ordered by God, Exod. 30. 34-38. Its ingredients were to be tempered together, pure and holy unto the Lord. Here we see something of the beautiful and balanced perfection of the Lord Jesus. As no ingredient outweighed the other and all is unmeasured, so in Christ every beauteous grace finds a perfectly balanced expression which emits a constant fragrance to God. “This is my beloved Son, in whom I have found my delight”, Matt. 3. 17 j.n.d. No mortal man of Adam’s race could have yielded such fragrance to God - hence the stipulation that none should make this composition for himself.
- Some of it was to be beaten small and placed before the testimony, Exod. 30. 36; this suggests that God put a high value on the small things of life. The finer the perfume, the more exquisite would be the odour. The more the Lord was pressed by Satan and by men, both in life and in death, the more the odour issued forth: “I do always those things that please him”, John 8. 29. That it was kept before the Lord would indicate God’s appreciation and valuation. When angels and men have gazed on and wondered at the glorious perfection of the Lord Jesus, there will still be that which God alone can measure.
- The incense also speaks of prayer, Ps. 141. 2; Rev. 8. 3, 4. The Christian serves at the golden altar when engaged in prayer and worship.
To all our prayers and praises
Christ adds His sweet perfume;
And love the censer raises
Its odours to consume.
- Thus it was at a similar altar that Zacharias stood in Luke 1. 9-11 when he received a revelation. As we engage in similar holy exercise, let us never forget that we are heard by God because of Christ, who takes all to the Father in His own merit. He who searches the heart knows the mind of the Spirit and makes intercession according to the will of God, Rom. 8. 27.
Before considering the ark within the holy of holies, we shall look at the veil that divided between the holy place and the holy of holies. Hebrews 10. 20 leaves us in no doubt as to what it signifies, namely His flesh.
Points to Note.
- No one passed through this veil except the high priest on one day each year, and that only because he was a type of the Lord Jesus. This would teach us that until Christ died on the cross and put away our sin by the sacrifice of Himself, there could be no access to God.
- Notice how Matthew in his Gospel describes the closing moments of the Saviour’s agony on the cross: “Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom”, 27. 50, 51. His death is the rending of the veil. That it was rent from the top (out of man’s reach) would indicate divine action. It is God who has completely and for ever, in Christ’s death, removed every obstacle standing in man’s way of approach to God, so that all who will may come.
- The form of the cherubim inwrought on this veil would tell us that justice forbade the approach of sinful man, but in Christ’s death justice has been satisfied. God is fully revealed; man need stay at a distance no longer. We are made nigh by the blood of Christ, Eph. 2. 13.