Exodus 30:1-10 Incense Altar

The aroma of the incense was always before God.

This is the last piece of indoor furniture for God’s house; the altar of incense. This will hold God’s special aromatherapy pieces.

Forgive me if I sounded flippant when describing where we are going today. I’m not trying to be. It is that this altar will hold a special fragrance that is ONLY to be made for God. His own scent. No perfumer will be allowed to make it for ANY other reason.

This piece of furniture is taller than all the other pieces in the tabernacle. I don’t know for sure if it is taller than the ark WITH the mercy seat attached though. We have no height for the lampstand though so I can’t judge against that either.

Gold and acacia wood were used in this piece’s construction, like the rest of God’s inside furnishings but this one gives us another unique feature besides its height. It only has two rings for carrying it instead of four. It would be carried in the shape of a diamond. I’m wondering if it was set in the temple in that orientation too. God didn’t say the poles were to be left in place so squaring it up with the curtain shouldn’t have been an issue.

The altar was to have molding around it like the table of showbread did. It was also to have horns on it like the bronze altar did. I think it had the molding because, like the table, it was intended to hold items on it. Having horns linked both altars in my mind. The horns were where the blood was to be applied in both cases too.

This altar was special. It would only receive ONE form of sacrifice; that of God’s special incense. I’m certain we will get the recipe later on. But there was one day a year when this altar would hold something different. On the Day of Atonement its horns would hold the blood of that special offering.

I am almost certain that the original in Heaven received Jesus’ blood for our salvation. Jesus had to go to His Father and clean Heaven after His death. His blood is what purified Heaven. He was our lamb; our atonement.

Something else about this altar, it kept the smell of death away from the Holy of Holies. God “smelled” the burnt offerings being rendered to Him. He saw the death that those offerings demanded. But inside His sanctuary the smell of death and blood was kept at bay. The incense purified the air within the tent and especially in His most holy place. Death didn’t come behind the curtain, even in scent form.

I was drawn to the last sentence in our reading today: “It is most holy to the Lord” (verse 10b). I’m not sure why this phrase struck me but it did. Of all the pieces that God has described to Moses THIS ONE bears that phrase. Moses is admonished several times to make whatever is being shown him “as it has been shown you on the mountain.” Moses is even told that God will meet with His people at the Mercy Seat, but not even this piece is given the “most holy to the Lord” status. Somehow I think this is God’s favorite piece. Is that because of the special sacrifice it will receive?

Scientists have found that smell is the strongest sense for triggering memories. Did the smell of the incense serve as a reminder for God? When He smelt the fragrance as it lifted from the table each morning and night, did it remind Him of what was to come? Did its aroma carry on its waves the promise that would be fulfilled in the future? If it did, were those thoughts filled with joy or sorrow?

One day when I was living on the opposite side of the U.S. from my parents I went into a grocery store. It was an ordinary trip for supplies but this day the particular store I visited was in the middle of a remodeling project. When I neared the area where the activity had been taking place earlier in the day I smelled sawdust. INSTANTLY I was reminded of my dad. I had helped him SO MANY TIMES over the years on one building project or another. My biggest contributions were holding the boards as he cut or nailed them into place. The smell of sawdust was always present when we worked together. That smell in the grocery store brought so many of those times rushing back to me. I could hear his voice, feel his calloused hands, hear his laughter, and even feel his arms wrapped around me. For that moment I was in my daddy’s arms again even though we were thousands of miles apart. I HAD to call him as soon as possible and when I did he got to share all the old memories with me. We have since done other projects together and that smell still remains but now it holds a place of honor in my heart. Whenever I catch a whiff of sawdust it brings me back again to that grocery store and the knowing that my dad is always in my heart.

Father God, thank You that my father is in my life as well as my heart. He is my hero in so many ways. Thank You for giving me to him. Not every experience with him was perfect and rosy but the good ones FAR outweigh the bad ones. And the fact that he cared enough to address the “bad” ones is even more telling of my earthly hero and role model for You. No. He is not perfect but he is the perfect choice You made for my life.

I know I’ve gone way off track here in the end Lord but it’s where I believe Your Spirit led me. The smell of the incense in Your temple took You places too. I wish I could smell Your special fragrance. Was it a sweet smell? Was it a musky one? It was one pregnant with LOVE. I can’t wait to smell it on You when You wrap me in Your arms. Is that what came to Moses’ mind when You welcomed him home? “I know this smell! It’s my Father’s smell!” Did You make a fragrance that reminded You of Jesus’ smell? I wonder what Jesus smelled like. I want to bury my nose in His hair and inhale deeply as He wraps me in His arms one day.

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