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113 - More than Air Freshener (24 Sept 2022)

More Than Ink / Pastor Jim Catlin & Dorothy Catlin
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September 24, 2022 1:00 pm

113 - More than Air Freshener (24 Sept 2022)

More Than Ink / Pastor Jim Catlin & Dorothy Catlin

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September 24, 2022 1:00 pm

Episode 113 - More than Air Freshener (24 Sept 2022) by A Production of Main Street Church of Brigham City

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You pick up your Bible and wonder, is there more here than meets the eye?

Is there something here for me? I mean, it's just words printed on paper, right? Well, it may look like just print on a page, but it's more than ink. Join us for the next half hour as we explore God's Word together, as we learn how to explore it on our own, as we ask God to meet us there in its pages.

Welcome to More Than Ink. Hey, when you hear that expression to follow your nose, that means you've smelled something beautiful and attractive, an aroma that draws you in. Right, yeah, it's a beautiful smell. It's a wonderful fragrance. Well, today as we enter in the tabernacle again, we're going to encounter a fragrance that is unique and we're going to find out what it symbolizes today on More Than Ink. Well, good morning and welcome to our dining room table. I'm Dorothy.

And I'm Jim. And this is More Than Ink and we are here talking about the book of Exodus. Yes. And we come today to the one piece of furniture that is in the tabernacle that we didn't come to before. It got left off. To show up on the list.

Yeah, weird. And it's placed in this place for a reason. So we're going to be talking about that today. The altar of incense and the incense that's burned on it.

Yeah. So, you know, just kind of to start off here, how fragrant is incense, right? I am a person who is highly reactive to fragrances and if there's too much incense in the air and we do run into it occasionally, that it makes me sneeze and I have to back away. Yeah, I always remember when we walk in front of those candle stories in the mall and the smell comes out and you go, ugh.

But this is a unique incense that you didn't smell anywhere else. In fact, we're going to read in a minute how you were forbidden from using this particular fragrance in any other way than right there in the tabernacle. Now this is interestingly out of place because you have to go back to chapter 25 for us to talk about the things that were inside the tabernacle. Right, the furniture. You know, in terms of like the Ark of the Covenant and the showbread table and all that kind of stuff, the big golden lampstand. Those are all back there and if you were to walk into the tabernacle, that front door of the tabernacle in that first room, you would see those three things for sure.

But then you'd also see this, the altar of incense. Okay, but this is very small. It's very small, but isn't it interesting that it wasn't covered then? So we'll kind of see if we can answer that question as we go along here.

It's really quite unique. It's been pulled out all by itself. And just to remind you, we've covered how to build the tabernacle. That was in chapter 26. We've covered what goes inside the tabernacle with the exception of this in 25. We've talked about the people who do stuff inside the tabernacle, high priests and stuff like that. We've talked about what goes on in the altar outside. We've talked about all that stuff. We've got it covered.

We even got the courtyard covered and what goes on. But this is left off, so here we are. We're going back inside the tabernacle. Well, okay, and it comes in the text right following that statement at the end of chapter 29 where it says, There I'll meet with you. There I'll meet with the people of Israel to consecrate the tent of meeting and the altar I will dwell among the people. So there's all those I will statements by God. So at the end of chapter 29, we've just been drawn into this very intensely personal encounter with God. And then the next thing we find is the altar of insects. Is this. So maybe it has something to do with meeting with God.

This has a really powerful picture to it. So see if you can figure it out what it means as we read along. So shall we start into chapter 30? Let's just read.

Let's just look at it. So I'll read for us. Verse 1 of chapter 30. So you shall make an altar on which to burn incense. You shall make it of acacia wood.

A cubit shall be its length and a cubit its breadth and it shall be square and two cubits shall be its height. Its horns shall be of one piece with it. You shall overlay with pure gold its top and around its sides and its horns. And you shall make a molding of gold around it. And you shall make two golden rings for it. Ah, back to the golden rings. Under its molding on two opposite sides of it you shall make them and they shall be holders for poles with which to carry it.

And you shall make the poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. Let's stop there. Yeah, let's stop there. Yeah, so now we have this relatively small thing. You know, it's 18 inches square on the top and about waist-high. It's about three feet tall. So it's a small thing and all we're burning on it is incense. And it's completely covered with gold. Completely covered with gold and very close to the veil before you go into the Holy of Holies.

I mean, very close right there. And now, you know, incense is kind of a foreign thing to a lot of us in Western culture. For me, I remember my closest connection with incense is way back in the hippie 60s. You know, and incense was a cool thing to burn in apartments of friends and stuff like that because, you know. Okay, but it came out of the Eastern influence, right? When there was a lot of Indian philosophy and religion.

And they still do it to this day. So if you smell incense burning in a house, it's really quite distinctive. And it has many different smells.

I mean, you can compose the incense so many different ways. But it's usually a little smoking, I don't know what you want to call it, thing. Like a wick. Like a wick, yeah. And as it burns, it smokes and the smoke is in the air. And it's the smell of the smoke that's really pleasant.

That's what we're talking about here. So we have a place to do that right in front of the veil. Okay, and probably we should say at this point that the Hebrews were not the only people who burned incense in their worship, right? Many, many religions of all speeds and varieties burn incense because of the symbolism of that smoke rising up to the gods.

Right. So this is an important picture. And the fact that it is indeed outside the Holy of Holies, but very close to the Holy of Holies, says something about what it's trying to picture for us. Well, and it's all covered with gold, so it's associated with those pieces of furniture that are there in the holy place. Yeah, and it has a holy purpose and it's set apart for this. Actually, we didn't read far enough for me.

I blew the surprise verse six. And you shall put it in front of the veil. Oh, there it is. Yeah, put it in front of the veil that is above the ark of testimony. In front of the mercy seat that's above the testimony where I'll meet with you. I will meet with you.

So why would God play such an interesting symbol, an interesting graphic for us? Like, you know, picture it again. You walk in the court of the tabernacle. You walk past the altar of sacrifices you've done. You walk in the front door on the eastern side of the tabernacle proper. Now, you can't do this unless you're a high priest, but you go through that and now you're in that front room of the tabernacle. And there on your right is the table with the bread. On your left is the big golden lampstand. And as you continue to go forward to aim toward going into the Holy of Holies, you're stopped just before the veil by this looks like a little nightstand that's covered with gold. And it's got smoke coming off of it that smells really nice.

What's the picture? Well, you just said something, though, that we probably need to clarify, and that is that other priests were allowed to come and go in this holy place. In the front room. Right. The only one who went into the most holy place, the Holy of Holy Places, was the high priest. And that's why significance at this altar is called most holy. Most holy. Right. Because it's associated with that duty assigned to only the high priest.

He's the only one. In fact, wasn't that what Zacharias, the father John the Baptist, was doing when the angel – To burn incense. Yeah, he went in to burn incense.

He was doing it at this thing itself when this angel came to him and said, your prayers have been answered. Yeah. So it's just interesting. It's one more thing before you actually get through the veil into the Holy of Holies. It's right there. Right outside it.

Let's just keep reading and see if we can gain some more insight into that. So I'll reread 6 again. And you shall put it in front of the veil that is above the ark of the testimony, in front of the mercy seat that is above the testimony, where I will meet with you. So that's the ark of the covenant. Verse 7. And Aaron shall burn fragrant incense on it, and every morning, when he dresses the lamps, he shall burn it.

And when Aaron sets the lamps at twilight, he shall burn it. A regular incense offering before the Lord throughout your generations. And you shall not offer unauthorized incense on it.

I like that. Unauthorized incense. Or a burnt offering, right, of animals. Or a grain offering.

You shall not pour a drink offering on it. Aaron shall make atonement on its horns once a year. And with the blood of the sin offering of atonement, he shall make atonement for it once in a year throughout your generations. It is most holy to the Lord. That's our whole instructions on the altar of incense. And it's in a very prominent place.

Okay, but did you hear it? Atonement, atonement, atonement. Atonement, atonement, atonement. But didn't we have atonement when we sacrificed animals outside in the courtyard? Well, and this apparently is some of the blood is brought in to put on the altar of incense. Right. So in a sense you can say that atonement is not accomplished on this little altar, but this little altar benefits from that atonement. Ah, ah, ah.

It does something. And isn't it interesting that in the previous chapter we're told about the sacrifices, mourning and twilight. And here we have then after that the burning of the fragrant incense in the morning and at twilight.

So at the beginning of the day and at the end of the day. Right, right. Yeah, so what is going on? What is this picture? And why does it have to be physically so close to the veil that's just on the other side of the Ark of the Covenant? Well, you know, the visual imagery of the incense with that smoke rising up has always, and as I said before in other religions even, symbolized prayer.

Yes, prayer. Which rises to the heavens. Yeah, so let's work on that as the symbol. Well, Revelation tells us actually, Revelation 5-8 and in chapter 8, 3 and 4, that the bowls carry this fragrant incense that is the prayers of the saints.

Yeah, I've got it here. It's really pretty overt in the Revelation 5 passage of verse 8. And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the 24 elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. So this incense, you know, which when you burn it goes into the air and it kind of dissipates. In this particular sense, he's saying these prayers, like incense, rise up, but they're actually collected by God in a golden bowl. They don't just dissipate, you know, in the air. They're something, it's precious. So if you see prayer as something that kind of rises up from us and makes its way into the presence of God. And is it a pleasing smell to God?

Yes. It is. It's a pleasing aroma. It's incense.

And that's the whole point. It's in stark contrast in terms of what you're smelling as you're experiencing the tabernacle to the killing that's going on in the animals outside and the roasting and the meat and all that kind of stuff. You get here just on the doorstep of coming in the presence of God. And here these prayers are something that is supposed to symbolize the fact that it's sweet in God's smelling is the prayers of the saints.

It's sweet. And I might add as well, it's interesting that its placement next to the veil is interesting because although we are not permitted to come into the Holy of Holies, our prayers do. They make their way through the veil into the very presence of God. And that says a lot about our prayers too. I mean, we may be tainted with sin and can't come into the presence of a holy God, but our prayers make it and they ascend and they smell sweet to God.

That's what the picture of the incense is. I found one place in the Psalms where David actually writes in Psalm 141, he says, O Lord, I call upon you, hasten to me. So this is a prayer.

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 is the evening sacrifice. So he even says that overtly, what we saw in Revelation. Let my prayer be counted as incense, rising up to you for you to smell. So yeah, this incense is the prayers of God's people coming into his presence. And that opens the idea that when Jesus says, I'll dwell within you, my spirit will be in you, that this holy place, this Holy of Holies becomes in us where we meet with God. And so as our prayers rise, we are freed from having to go to the tabernacle and burn the stuff and do the thing and offer the animal.

Do all that external stuff. All of that takes place in the realm of the spirit when we are indwelt by God's Holy Spirit. Yeah, yeah. And I might add too, the nice smell, and we're going to look at the recipe for this incense in a second. But the nice smell is, it's so wonderful in so many respects. And it's so pleasing to smell.

And I went into a lot of strange shops in the 60s with the hippies where it didn't smell that great, but it was strong and it was very different. And it permeates. And it permeates.

It fills the entire thing. So that's why I like the picture of it being on the other side of the veil from where God is in that particular sense. Because even though we're not allowed in there, our prayers do make it in. And it does too.

This smell would permeate and actually go through the veil. So it's a wonderful statement of hope about the efficacy of our prayers. Does God listen to us? Are our prayers actually reaching to where he is? Does he even care that we pray? Are our prayers good to him to smell or not?

Well, they are. He delights them. And he collects them in a golden bowl, according to Revelation. Our prayers are not only effective, but it's something that God loves to smell, if you want to put the metaphor in that way. It's something that's pleasing to him. So if you're in a position where you're praying because of needs or whatever it is, and you wonder, does God really care about me? Remember the fact that your prayers are rising up to him very naturally in a way that he's smelling them and going, yes, that's a sweet smell to me, the prayers of the saints. I would even go beyond that to the idea that we, because we're indwelt by the Spirit, we smell good to God.

Because his very presence is in us. And Paul talks about that in 2 Corinthians 2. And he says, God always leads us in triumph in Christ and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. So to some it smells good, and to some it doesn't smell good, but it is the indisputable evidence of the aroma of the presence of God. Yeah, it's a unique smell to them. And depending on where you're at with God, it can either spell doom or great hope.

One of those two, that's what he's saying. But there's no getting around it. The fact is that you are making a fragrance where you go. And how it's received is different. But never be discouraged about whether your prayers are being listened to.

Because what God's saying very strongly here is there is no barrier that stops your prayers from coming into the very presence of God. Nothing. And he loves the smell of it.

Loves the smell of it. Yeah. I was thinking too, there's an event that happens in Acts. Remember that centurion Cornelius up in Caesarea?

Yeah. Eventually Peter comes up to him and baptizes the house and stuff like that. Well it's said in that passage that when, like three in the afternoon, an angel appears to him as he's doing his devotions. And the angel says, your prayers have ascended to God. So it's that same kind of idea.

Right. Your prayers have ascended as a memorial before God. It's very incense-y in its language right there. That sets me thinking about, you know, I've been doing some studying on prayer.

And when Jesus said, when they asked him to teach us to pray, he said to pray this way. Our Father who's in heaven. Right? Just underscoring. God is separate. He's other.

He is above you. Right. Right. However, and we've talked about this a lot, there's a tension here in the tabernacle where God is stating clearly he wants to be with us and be in our midst. Right. And yet when he specifies his tabernacle, his tent, you can't come into the very core where he is.

So he wants to be with you but you can't come all the way in. And again, that's because of sin. We've talked a lot about this very clearly figured in the imagery of the altar and so much. And yet even though we are excluded from walking into his presence because of our sin, that does not mean that he disregards our prayers. And that was clear for Cornelius, you know, when he does, he's praying and they ascended to God.

And it doesn't matter that he's a gentile centurion of the Roman army. His prayers still make it up into the presence of God and smell sweet and God responds to it. Yeah. Let's come back to the actual fragrance again before we read the rest of this passage because in the consecration of Aaron, remember he was anointed with a particular oil. And we'll talk about the oil in a week or two. But again, it had a very special recipe. It smelled in a particular way that was only associated with the ministry of the priest who served God on your behalf.

And you weren't supposed to use that recipe for the oil in any other place. Right. And here we have the high priest closely associated with burning the incense. So that is going to permeate his garments when he goes in and does that and comes out. Oh, interesting. He's going to smell like what he's just been doing.

Yeah, yeah. And it's interesting too that he is, how do you put this, he's enabling the prayers of the saints. He's actually in a role where as high priest, he's making it so that the prayers ascend. Right, he's offering them up. He's offering them up, yeah. It's through his service that the prayers ascend.

Yeah. And since this is an altar, in a way, it's really saying that there's something being accomplished here. It's different from the altar outside where the animals are sacrificed. But there's something being accomplished here that glorifies and serves God. And that very thing is the offering up of our prayers. In a sense, it's like those are a sacrifice as well because it's an altar. Which comes after, right? The sacrifice outside comes first and then going in and offering the fragrant incense on this altar.

Yeah, yeah. And you know, as we stand inside the holy place, that's the first room in the tabernacle, now we have all the elements in there, right? Left is the golden lampstand, right is the table with the showbread. Straight ahead, just before the veil, is this little table with the incense. And as you stand and look at those three things, you can ask yourself, you know, what are these three things separately telling us?

And we talked about this before. The bread speaks a lot of fellowship, breaking bread with somebody. It talks really about meeting with God. Yeah, it's called the bread of the presence. Bread of the presence. So here, sitting at the table with God. Sitting with God.

So it's very fellowship meeting oriented. And then on the left, you've got that lampstand that's just providing light in a dark place. So now you have light, you have understanding of the way things are, you have truth, I mean, a lot of aspects of who God is from that. And then straight ahead, you have these prayers that are offered up that make their way, regardless of the veil, into the presence of God.

It's just really, that's the outer room before you come in the presence of God, is you know a lot about who God is just based on that outer room. Yeah. Let's read on. Yeah, so we're going to skip ahead in chapter 30 because there's some interesting things we'll come to next time.

You know, the bronze labor and stuff like that. There's a few more items we need to look at. But we're going to skip down to the end where we actually get the recipe for the incense. Yeah, and it happens in verse 34. In verse 34, I'll read. Read that?

I'll read. So the Lord said to Moses, Take sweet spices, stacte and onycha and galbanum, sweet spices with pure frankincense. Of each there shall be an equal part. So this is an actual recipe.

It's a recipe. And make an incense blended as by the perfumer, seasoned with salt, pure and holy. You shall beat some of it very small and put part of it before the testimony in the tent of meeting where I shall meet with you. It shall be most holy for you. And the incense that you shall make according to its composition you shall not make for yourselves. It shall be for you holy to the Lord. Whoever makes any like it to use as perfume shall be cut off from his people. Wow. So this is completely unique.

Not for any other use. Yep, completely unique. And I like that he starts it by saying take sweet spices. Yeah, not accurate spices.

But take sweet spices. So again, the idea is that the smell of this will be pleasant. It smells good. It's attractive. And as it rises up visually it's attractive and pleasant in God's smelling as well. Yeah, it's a fragrance that he likes is what you're trying to say which is why we're doing this. And we don't want to use this incense just to kind of make your house smell good.

You don't want to use it for any other purpose. Because what it wants to do is be the unique representation of our prayers to God. That's what it represents and every time you smell that you should think prayer. This is the fragrance of intimacy with God. Exactly. Which again takes us back to that 2 Corinthians 2 passage that he manifests the sweet aroma of the knowledge of him in every place.

Why? Because we've been in intimate fellowship with him. And we smell like it. Yep, and we smell like it. We so undersell what prayer, the value of prayer not only to us but to our relationship with God.

And I don't know why that is. I think in the modern church we tend to think prayer is just kind of... Well, it's something we have to do. It's a ritual. It's a thing we do. It's a duty. Right.

And it is that. But it is more, it is an enjoying of a communion, an enjoying of a relationship. And it doesn't always involve words. Doesn't always involve words.

And we forget the fact that it's something that's tremendously pleasing in fragrance to God. He loves it. If you are with someone that you love and who is profoundly committed to your good, you don't always have to be talking to enjoy their company. Yeah, yeah.

You can just be with them and enjoy the quiet fragrance of their presence. Yep. And that I think is involved in the picture here.

Yeah, yeah. It's really a very beautiful thing. I think it's one of the most striking images in the entire tabernacle design.

Not only, well I think it is. I mean not only what it is in terms of smelling it, but what it does in terms of rising by itself to where God is in terms of broaching the barriers like the veil into God's presence. And in a way it's like the last thing before you come in the presence of God is the fact that your prayers come into the presence of God first. I think that's just, it's just a striking symbol. I think that's why he set it apart so we cover it here rather than we did five chapters before. Because he's really putting a special spotlight on it right here.

This is a very special thing. It finishes the what's inside the tabernacle. But in a funny place because like you mentioned at the end of the last chapter God wants to meet with us and it starts with prayer.

Ah, it just makes a whole ton of sense that it would be right here. Well it starts with a sacrifice. Well no, I know.

And then followed by. I mean just before you come into God's presence is prayers. What you know you might think. Oh I see what you're saying. I'm separated from God.

I can't come into his presence, but my prayers can. Right, and this altar is right there associated with the holy, holiest of holy places. Yeah, yeah. I see what you're saying. This is like the only thing in the most holy place that actually is outside the veil.

And that's the prayers of the saints. Yeah. So they could see it. Don't you love that the smoke rising is just a visual representation. It's a great visual. I know. Prayer rising. I know.

It's lovely. Because the idea is God is up and our prayers just naturally go up. They make it to him.

There's nothing that stops them. I'm gonna read this Revelation 8 passage. Okay. Because now that we have such a full picture it'd be a great way to cap this off. Beautiful, yeah. This is Revelation 8 verses 3 and 4. And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer. That's the thing that burns the incense. 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 from the hand of the angel. Wow. That's how precious and central our prayers are in God's economy for us.

Amazing. Well, we got one minute. Any closing thoughts? No, I am just captivated by the idea of the sweet fragrance. The sweet fragrance. Of being in God's presence. And it is unique.

It's not something that you experience anywhere else. Yeah. You think the smell leaked out from the tabernacle to the people outside? I think it was associated. I mean, it was on the garments of the high priest. Yeah. So everywhere he went he would've smelled like it.

If he was wearing those garments you would've smelled him. Yeah. And if they caught the symbology, which I think they did, they'd say, my prayers have been brought into the presence of God himself. Yeah. And that would be evidence just because of his wafting from the high priest. I think it is.

I think the smell is there for them to realize that. So anyway, we've done the altar of incense. I'm Jim.

And I'm Dorothy. Wonderful symbology. Next week we'll come back, we'll fill out some more items that are in the tabernacle area as we meet together on More Than Ink. More Than Ink is a production of Main Street Church of Brigham City and is solely responsible for its content. To contact us with your questions or comments, just go to our website, morethanink.org. Oh man. Stupid. My tongue just got tired. I got so excited I couldn't say anything.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-01-09 00:35:37 / 2023-01-09 00:48:00 / 12

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