The golden altar
Scripture: Exodus 30:1-10
There were two altars in the Tabernacle — the brazen altar at the gate and the golden altar in the holy place. One was visible to all and the other only to the priests. Both are necessary to a full revelation of the ministry ofChrist as the priestly mediator for His people. In His humiliation He offered Himself a sacrifice to satisfy Divine justice and in His exaltation He offers intercession and praise on the behalf of His people. Both views of Christ are necessary to communion with God. Cp Psalm 84:3.
Once more we step into a place where no natural light illuminates, a place where we go beyond the power of the natural mind to see or understand. It is only as we have the perfect illumination of the Spirit of Christ that we can see anything of Christ in His glory in this golden altar.
The golden altar represents Christ in His role as High Priestly intercessor in heaven offering up to God prayers and praise on the behalf of His people.
I The position of the golden altar.
The details of this are given in Exodus 30:6.
The ark of the covenant represented the immediatepresence of God upon earth. It was here in the holiest of all that God dwelt. This was His seat, His throne from which he ruled and guided the people of Israel. Here was stored His royal Law. From here His royal decrees were issued. Before this ‘throne’ there stood the golden altar. The picture is of Christ before the throne of Heaven. It is there that he now acts on the behalf of His people. Cp Hebrews 9:24.
Specifically, the golden altar stood:
a) before the vail, Exodus 30:6. The priest as he stood at the golden altar could not see the ark, nor dare he even look upon it.
b) before the mercy seat, Exodus 30:6. This was the place of the presented blood of atonement.
The focus of the one at the golden altar was the blood upon the mercy seat, which although unseen by him in a physical sense he saw by faith and rested in it. As the priest approached this place of communion with God to worship he comes into the immediate presence of God and it is here that he needs an acceptable basis on which to offer up his worship before God. This link between the vail, the mercy seat and the golden altar indicates exactly what the basis of approach to God in worship is — faith in blood shed and presented to God.
This focus on completed sacrifice is again seen in that the incense was offerred on fire taken from the brazen altar, Leviticus 16:12-13, Numbers 16:46. It is on the basis of the finished work of sacrifice and atonement that incense was offerred. Cp John 17:4. Incense offerred on any other basis was strange fire and unacceptable, Leviticus 10:1-2. It is only on the basis of shed blood and atonement accepted on our behalf that we come to God. This is further emphasized, Exodus 30:10 — a solemn reminder that even our holiest activities are polluted with sin. The prayers offerred at this altar were of such a nature that once ayear on the great day of atonement blood must be applied to the horns of the altar.
II The purpose of the golden altar.
The purpose of this altar was to burn incense upon Exodus 30:1, 7. The burning of this incense pictures —
1. Prayer, Psalm 141:2, Revelation 5:8. The offering of incense symbolises the prayer that Christ presents to God
(i) His own petitions on behalf of His people. Hebrews 7:25, Romans 8:34, John 17:9, 20.
(ii) the petitions of His people. Cp Luke 1:9-10, As their High Priest He offers their prayers to the Father. Our prayers are only acceptable to God as they are presented to God by Christ, 1 Peter 2:5.
The sweet smelling incense also typifies Christ’s offering of praise to God. Cp Hebrews 2:12, 13:15.
This incense was offered regularly and continually. Morning and evening the incense of intercession and praise was burned in the holy place. This was to be the perpetual practice, Exodus 30:8. The holy place was constantly filled with its sweet smell.
a) The prayers and praise offerred by Christ before the throne of God on the behalf of His people are incessant. Cp Heb 7:25.
b) The people of God as NT priests are to be careful to maintain regularity in the offering of prayer and praise to God — in private and in public. The house of God is to be a house of prayer. The Christian’s constant practice should be to be in the prayer meeting.
The offering of incense was linked with the shining of the light, Exodus 30:7-8. The burning of the lamps was freshest and brightest at this time. Dullness and ignorance is no fit state to pray etc. This is what closes our mouths in prayer! When the Holy Spirit illuminates our hearts by His word and causes them to burn that is the time to pray and praise. Prayer/praise is to be an illuminated exercise — no mysterious or unintelligible prayer tongue!
The golden altar offered a prevailing platform on which to approach God in prayer and praise. The prevailing merit of Christ as our approach to God is seen in
a) The horns of the altar — the horn is the symbol of authority and power. Horns marked by blood! The prevailing power of prayer is the power of the blood of Christ.
b) The crown of the altar — Christ exalted to be a prince and a saviour, crowned with glory and honour. He is King of Kings and as such He pleads on the behalf of His people. Where the word of a king is, there is power, Ecc 8:4.
We need not fear rejection or wrath if we come in such a manner.
The golden altar was taken with the people and covered while on the move. It was first covered with a cloth of blue — Christ’s heavenly origin and the place of His present ministry; then with a covering of badgers’ skins — the glory of Christ as the basis of approach to God in prayer etc is hidden from the eyes of the world.