We do not read of the early Christians using incense in their worship, but there is an interesting spiritual application in the Psalms and in Revelation. Today we read about the small second altar that Moses was commanded to make. It was less than a metre high and less than half a metre square and was overlaid with gold. It was placed in front of the veil in front of the Mercy Seat in the Holy Place .
Aaron was to burn incense on it “at twilight” as he lit the lamps (Exodus 30:1-8). Sense the atmosphere as the fragrance of the smouldering incense filled the Tabernacle. Incense was made of special ingredients and no one else was allowed to make anything similar, “whoever makes any like it to use as a perfume shall be cut off from his people” (verse 38) is the warning given following the details of its five ingredients (verses 34-36). It was “pure and holy”.
David’s Psalm 141 contains his appeal to the LORD, “Give ear to my voice when I call to you! Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!” (verses 1,2). In Revelation, when the seventh and final seal is opened, an angel stands “at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints rose before God …” (8:3,4) and in chapter 5 we read of the 24 elders falling down before the Lamb having “golden bowls full of incense which are the prayers of the saints” (verse 8)
Prayer is a wonderful privilege, we must give the utmost thought to what we are doing and saying when we decide to pray, and the purpose of our prayer.
Psalm 88 is a prayer of desperation, “I, O LORD, cry to you; in the morning my prayer comes before you. O LORD, why do you cast my soul away?” (verses 13,14). May we learn to pray and appreciate what a privilege it is that we can “with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).