The Altar of Incense (Hebrews 9:3-4)

And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all; Which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant” (Hebrews 9:3–4a, KJV 1900)

I am grateful to have a wife who has a gift of faith that is manifested in intercessory prayer. She maintains a meticulous prayer journal and intercedes for others faithfully, every day. Even when we are driving somewhere for a day trip, she reserves time to spend in prayer. I have seen many of her prayers specifically answered. I am positive that many of the positive things that have happened in my life and ministry were influenced by her prayers. We all need an intercessor.

The author of Hebrews has been describing the furnishings in the Tabernacle. Yesterday, we discussed the location of the golden altar of incense. This altar was constructed of acacia wood and covered with pure gold. It was about 18 inches square and 3 feet high and located in front of the veil to the holiest place. Every morning and at twilight, the high priest was to burn incense upon it (Exod 30:1-10). Once per year, on the Day of Atonement, the high priest would take a censer of live coals from the altar of incense into the holiest place and burn the incense there so that the cloud of the incense would cover the mercy seat (Lev 16:11-14).

The golden altar of incense pictures the Lord Jesus Christ and His work of intercession. First, the construction of the altar being made from acacia wood covered with pure gold can represent the incarnation. The wood representing His humanity and the gold His deity. Jesus is truly unique in that He is fully God and fully man.

Second, the fragrant incense is a picture of the continuous intercessory work of Jesus. Prayer is associated with prayers in various places in the Scriptures. David indicated this in Psalm 141, “Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; And the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.” (Psalm 141:2, KJV 1900) In the book of Revelation, the incense is identified as the prayers of the saints (Rev 5:8; 8:3-4).

The Scriptures tell us that Jesus is seated in the holiest place in heaven and there He intercedes for us. The writer of Hebrews already attested to this work (Heb 7:25). The Apostle Paul wrote in detail on this intercessory work.

Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. 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.” (Romans 8:33–34, KJV 1900)

The intercessory work of Jesus for us goes on continuously. In the context of Paul’s writing to the Romans, this intercession comes in many forms. Jesus intercedes as our advocate (1 John 2:1) in the accusations made against us by our adversary the devil. He intercedes for us in the trials and tribulations of life to guarantee our victory. He also intercedes to keep us secure in our salvation as nothing can separate us from His love.

I am grateful for those who intercede for the saints for their intercession is like a fragrant offering to God. Moreover, I am eternally grateful for the intercession that Jesus makes for us at the right hand of God. He never lets a moment go by when He is not interceding for us.

Published by Steve Hankins, Th.D.

Steve has had extensive military, business and ministry experience. He has served for over 16 years in full time vocational ministry and many years of part time ministry in churches. He has led churches through start-up and recasting of vision. Now He resides on the Outer Banks of North Carolina where he is working to help smaller churches and believers to renew their hearts and regain the joy of the Lord.

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