Chapter 27:1-8 (ESV) - “You shall make the altar of acacia wood, five cubits long and five cubits broad. The altar shall be square, and its height shall be three cubits. And you shall make horns for it on its four corners; its horns shall be of one piece with it, and you shall overlay it with bronze. You shall make pots for it to receive its ashes, and shovels and basins and forks and fire pans. You shall make all its utensils of bronze. You shall also make for it a grating, a network of bronze, and on the net you shall make four bronze rings at its four corners. And you shall set it under the ledge of the altar so that the net extends halfway down the altar. And you shall make poles for the altar, poles of acacia wood, and overlay them with bronze. And the poles shall be put through the rings, so that the poles are on the two sides of the altar when it is carried. You shall make it hollow, with boards. As it has been shown you on the mountain, so shall it be made.
Question to consider: Why was the Altar of Incense in front of the curtain into the Holy of Holies?
The Holy Place in the tabernacle contained three furnishings which seem to point to the triune nature of God in that each furnishing had elements of all three persons of the Trinity while at the same time each had a distinct purpose. The table containing the bread of the Presence pointed to Christ as the bread of Life and yet was gold like the Lampstand and contained bowls of frankincense that was burned on the Altar of Incense. The Lampstand was hammered out of a talent of gold, and the seven branches pointed to the Holy Spirit, and yet it provided light to the sanctuary as Christ was the light of the world.
So it is no surprise that the Altar provided safe passage into the presence of God the Father by way of a bloody sacrifice and the burning of the incense. The Holy Spirit intercedes for us in prayer like the incense rising up to God. Paul wrote of the Holy Spirit in Romans 8:26-27, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”
Of course the Messiah would provide the bloody sacrifice. Jesus was a stumbling block for many. The Pharisees expected a Messiah who would be Chief of the Pharisees, and yet Jesus rejected their traditions and their religious authority while eating with tax collectors and sinners. The Sadducees didn’t even believe in the Messiah, and Jesus particularly offended them by running their tradesmen out of the temple courts. The Zealots couldn’t accept that the kingdom of God was not going to take the world by force. However, the biggest stumbling block of all was that Jesus was crucified, for Deuteronomy 21:23 explicitly stated that a man hung on a tree had been cursed by God.
While it was true that Jesus had been cursed by God, the reason He was cursed was symbolized in the Altar of Incense. He was the perfect, bloody sacrifice needed to permanently open the way to the Father. As Isaiah put it, “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:4-6)
Dear heavenly father, thank You for providing safe passage for us to Your mercy seat through Christ Jesus. May we receive Your beautiful forgiveness with a joy and gladness that overflows out into the world. Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Amen.