9 August, 2020 – Opening with Hebrews 10:19-27, the sermon looked at important lessons for our faith that are provided in the book of Exodus dealing with the construction of the tabernacle. The priority for Israel was not to rush to the Promised Land, but first to follow the heavenly pattern shown to Moses and construct the tabernacle according to God’s instructions so that God may dwell with his people. Many think of salvation as simply getting to heaven, but clearly, salvation is about coming to God and learning to live with him first. We must know and follow God’s will to be able to pass through the wilderness of life and enter his kingdom. One of the most important things we must learn is to commune with God through prayer. The altar of incense (Exodus 30:1-10) symbolizes prayer (Ps 141:2, Luke 1:10, Rev 5:8), and so looking at this altar, we can learn about what our prayer life should be like, since what Moses was shown was a heavenly pattern according to which all was built.
First, the fire for the burning of the incense was to be taken only from the bronze altar of sacrifice, not any fire was to be used (Lev 16:12-13). The sacrifice points to the cross of Christ which is our altar and the only sacrifice for sins that is needed. And so our prayer must always be in the name of Jesus, it must be based on the sacrifice of Christ. A true prayer is not about powerful or beautiful words, but one that exalts the works of Christ. What an amazing blessing we have, that God gave us a way to pray and have communion with him! For how is it that the holy God should hear the prayer of sinners, and yet he hears us when we come to him through Christ. Secondly, the incense was a mixture of specific spices (Ex 30:34-38), not any kind of blend would do. And so our prayer must not be a senseless babbling, but it should follow the pattern of the Lord’s prayer that Jesus gave to his disciples. We must receive the Spirit who helps us in our weakness and who leads us in a prayer that is according to the will of God (Rom 8:26).
Lastly, the prayer was to be seasoned with salt (Ex 30:35) which was a symbol of purity and holiness, and also God’s covenant (Lev 2:13). And once a year, on the day of Atonement, the priest would cleanse the altar of the burned offering with the blood of the atoning sin offering (Ex 30:10). And so we must remember that we are in a holy covenant with God, through the blood of the Lamb, and offer prayer that is pure and holy. We must repent and be renewed first, for how can God receive a prayer from a sinful and unrepentant heart? And so we see, that the making of the tabernacle was not about making furniture but a pattern of life that taught God’s people how to properly approach him, receive his grace and live a life that is a living pleasing sacrifice to God. And we will do well to learn and follow the pattern shown to us in Christ as well.