The Sweet Incense

Harold S. Paisley

The choice words of David, the sweet singer, are worthy of meditation. "Let my prayer be set before thee as incense, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice" (Psalm 141:2).

The need and value of the prayers of the Lord’s people can never be stressed too much. We all confess weakness in this realm of drawing near to the throne of God in prayer with supplication and thanksgiving.

David desired that his prayers would rise to God as the sweet incense, that precious perfume which was alone for Him, made after His prescription (Exodus 30:34-37). The incense could not be imitated. There was nothing for man’s flesh in it, as God only must enjoy its fragrance. The incense was made of the chief and sweet spices, "stacte, and onycha, and galbanum; these sweet spices with pure frankincense: of each shall there be a like weight, tempered together, pure and holy." Some of this was to be beaten small and stored before the testimony in the tent of meeting. It was to be for the Lord alone. None were to make any for themselves or to imitate its sweetness. Like the holy annointing oil of the previous verses, none was to be compounded like it.

The smaller it was beaten, the more fragrant the odor became. The High Priest was to burn the incense every morning when he trimmed the lamp and again in the evening when he lighted the lamp. Thus in the presence of God there was a continual fragrance ascending to Himself.

The Golden Altar of Incense was made of acacia wood of the desert, it was covered with fine gold and had a golden crown round about. Its place was before the beautiful veil in the holy place (Exodus 30:1,10). The burning of incense was special to the Aaronic priesthood. "The sons of Amram; Aaron and Moses: and Aaron was separated, that he should sanctify the most holy things, he and his sons for ever, to burn incense before the LORD, to minister unto him, and to bless in His name for ever" (1 Chron. 23:13). How instructive to note that the "hour of incense" was the hour of prayer (Luke 1:9-10). It is important to note also that the sweet incense could never be separated from the golden altar upon which it was offered. This wonderful and precious altar sets forth our blessed Lord Jesus Christ as the glorified Man in heaven, ever living before His God and Father for us.

In the white acacia wood, we see His holy, perfect, unspotted manhood. He endured every trial and was holy and sinless in all His pathway here below in the desert of this world. The fine gold overlay presents His divine glory which He ever had, even when Hecame into our world. He never laid aside one of His attributes of deity, yet He became a perfect man in a scene of shame, suffering, poverty, loneliness and rejection. "There only can the Spirit trace a perfect life below."

The horns of the altar were one with the altar, being of one piece. This sets forth a precious picture of truth: the power of the Lord Jesus to sustain, support and sympathize with every one of His redeemed people. As our Great High Priest, He is the antitype of the Golden Altar. He is now crowned in the glory and is the suport and helper of His people in every time of need and distress.

In light of these shadows, what a wealth of meaning is ex­pressed in the lovely words of David in our meditation, "Let my prayer be set before thee as incense."

The sweet and fragrant incense beaten small tells of the sweet­ness that ever ascends to God from the precious Name of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. This is especially true on account of His humiliation unto the shame and death of the cross. Was not the sweet incense beaten small when our blessed Lord was despised, derided, spat upon, and finally taken by wicked hands and nailed alive upon the tree of shame and the curse?

The smaller the spices were beaten, the more fragrant the odor that ascended when the fire was applied. Was not this evident at the cross? The full value of the Lord Jesus and His mighty sacrifice can only be fully appreciated by God His Father.

It is through our blessed Lord alone that our prayers and praises are acceptable to God. These must ever be presented in that worthy Name (Eph. 5: 19-20; John 16:2).

May our prayer be with dignity and reverence and being fragrant with His Name, as ointment poured forth, ascend daily to the eternal throne.

God delights in our thanksgiving, worship, praise and petitions and for the sake of His beloved Son, will send the answer. May we thus draw near "lifting up holy hands without wrath and doubt­ing."

To all our prayers and praises
Christ adds His sweet perfume
And love the censer raises
Their odors to consume.