The final piece of furniture in the living room or the Holy Place is the Altar of Incense. It’s the closest piece of furniture to the last and most wonderous place. It’s the place where God came down and met with humankind, the Holy of Holies. Only a curtain (Solomon’s/Herod’s) or veil (Moses’ Tabernacle) separated the altar from the Holy of Holies. The smoke and scent molecules were small enough to seep through the veil and fill the chamber of the Holy of Holies. The priest couldn’t see into the Holy of Holies, but the incense could go past the veil and into the presence of God. How amazing is it that God likens incense to our prayers? This is how we touch God.
Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!Psalm 141:2
Incense and Prayer
When we pray, our prayers reach a realm that’s beyond our sight; they reach God. Our prayers are meant to be incense. We invite the Holy Spirit to come and ignite them. It’s in prayer that it all changes form. We exchange our weakness for God’s strength, our sins for forgiveness, our heartbreaks for healing. When we lift them and they become that smoke that filters through the veil, they are no longer our weight, but they become God’s.
34 The Lord said to MoBut he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.Exodus 30:34-35
Oozing from Trauma
God required the incense to be made from exact ingredients and they were resin-based. Resin comes from the plant’s trauma. When these plants are injured, they “bleed or tear” their sap. This hardens to protect the wound and the plant, and once sufficiently hardened; they are cut off and made into incense. An expert blends them and then salt (a known purification agent), also referenced by Jesus in Matthew 5:13. No one lives life without wounds and scars. As a result, we may see God as punishing, uncaring, mean, neglectful, or exploitive. We can break those hardenings that have oozed out from trauma, insecurity, or even imaginings that come from our limited understanding. When we offer these to Godi n prayer, it becomes a sweet-smelling aroma to him. It fills the Holy of Holies, and he’s ready to appear in our lives to change us and aid us in life.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”Matthew 11:28-30
The Great Exchange
In prayer, our worldly cares, weaknesses, sins, burdens change form as they are lit by the Holy Spirit, they are reconstituted as the smoke that seeps through the fine veil into the throne room of God.