Exodus 30:1-10 Our weaknesses as human beings is also our greatest asset to bring the greatest pleasure to God.

Exodus 30:1-10 Our weaknesses as human beings is also our greatest asset to bring the greatest pleasure to God.

“Moreover, you shall make an altar as a place for burning incense; you shall make it of acacia wood. Its length shall be a cubit, and its width a cubit, it shall be square, and its height shall be two cubits; its horns shall be of one piece with it. You shall overlay it with pure gold, its top and its sides all around, and its horns; and you shall make a gold molding all around for it. You shall make two gold rings for it under its molding; you shall make them on its two side walls—on opposite sides—and they shall be holders for poles with which to carry it. You shall make the poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. You shall put this altar in front of the veil that is near the ark of the testimony, in front of the mercy seat that is over the ark of the testimony, where I will meet with you. Aaron shall burn fragrant incense on it; he shall burn it every morning when he trims the lamps. When Aaron trims the lamps at twilight, he shall burn incense. There shall be perpetual incense before the Lord throughout your generations. You shall not offer any strange incense on this altar, or burnt offering or meal offering; and you shall not pour out a drink offering on it. Aaron shall make atonement on its horns once a year; he shall make atonement on it with the blood of the sin offering of atonement once a year throughout your generations. It is most holy to the Lord.”

Background

The altar of incense represents God’s desire to walk with man and to share in the experiences of humanity. Throughout the day, our hearts produce a continuous incense that rises to God. It is through the incense that God partakes in our moments of joy and suffering. He senses the needs of the righteous and saves them from harm. God’s desire to understand human suffering culminated in the incarnation of Jesus Christ. For nothing pleases God more than the smell of incense that arises from Jesus. For He humbled Himself in obedience to the point of death. As human beings, we are located at the sweet spot to bring the greatest pleasure to God. Today’s devotion teaches us: Our weaknesses as human beings is also our greatest asset to bring the greatest pleasure to God.

Observation

The altar of Incense stood closest to the ark just before the veil that separated the holy place and the holy of holies. 

The altar was made from acacia wood overlaid with pure gold. It stood at 0.9 metres and was the tallest among the furniture. It was 0.45 metres square at the top and had around it a crown of gold. It had four golden horns and lower down on each side there were golden rings to insert poles for transportation.

The altar of incense was used for burning incense lit by the flames at the altar of sacrifice. Twice every day, the priest replenished the incense and tended the wick of the lamps so that the incense would be kept burning. Its horns were also sprinkled with the blood of the sin offering. The incense was created from a mixture of three precious spices (Satcte, Onycha, Galbanum) and blended with frankincense (see Exodus 30:34-38). The four parts were grounded into a fine powder and mixed equally. The incense formula was used only for the worship of God in the tabernacle. Private use by individuals was strictly forbidden.

Truth

God delights not just in the worship of His children, but also in understanding their joy and suffering.

The altar of incense represents God’s existential desire to share in the human experiences of righteous men and women. The four spices that constitute the ingredients of the incense represent the comprehensive experience of an upright man: the sweet, the bitter, the memories and attitudes. As God smells the incense, He identifies with his joys, sufferings and humility. Indeed, God delights not just in the worship of His children, but also in understanding what it feels like to be beset with human weaknesses. That said, to be human is to be subject to weaknesses, such as tiredness, hunger, death and temptation, but not to sin. Therefore, being human does not equate to being sinful. Ecclesiastes 7:29 says,

See, this alone I found, that God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes.

Throughout the day, our hearts produce a continuous incense, an aroma that rises to God. It is through the incense that God partakes in our moments of joy and struggles. The psalmist said,

You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book. Psalm 56:8

Indeed, God knows us intimately, our thoughts and motives. He also knows our needs and has made plans to meet them. At the same time, He reveals our weaknesses and sanctifies us. The psalmist said,

O Lord, you have examined my heart
and know everything about me.
2 You know when I sit down or stand up.
You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.
3 You see me when I travel
and when I rest at home.
You know everything I do.
4 You know what I am going to say
even before I say it, Lord…
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 Point out anything in me that offends you,
and lead me along the path of everlasting life. – Psalm 139:1-4, 23-24

Therefore, we must not withhold our negative emotions from God, but let them rise up to Him. The righteous were often uninhibited in voicing their anger, bitterness and disappointments before God. The psalmist said,

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? – Psalm 13:1-2

Indeed, the Lord empathises with our suffering and does not take offence at our complains. 

The incense of the righteous causes swift action from heaven

The incense of the righteous rises continuously to God. When He senses our pleas, He arises to answer our prayers with great power. Revelation 8:4-5 says,

And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up before God out of the angel’s hand. Then the angel took the censer and filled it with the fire of the altar, and threw it to the earth; and there followed peals of thunder and sounds and flashes of lightning and an earthquake. – Revelation 8:4-5

On many occasions, God smelled the incense of David and saved him from his enemies. King David said,

O Lord, I am calling to you. Please hurry!
Listen when I cry to you for help!
2 Accept my prayer as incense offered to you,

and my upraised hands as an evening offering.
3 Take control of what I say, O Lord,
and guard my lips… I look to you for help, O Sovereign Lord.
You are my refuge; don’t let them kill me.
9 Keep me from the traps they have set for me,
from the snares of those who do wrong.
10 Let the wicked fall into their own nets,
but let me escape.
– Psalm 141:1-3, 9-10

Indeed, God will not resist the prayers of righteous men and women. Therefore, let us wait patiently for God’s help for He has already made plans to come to our rescue.

Our weaknesses as human beings is also our greatest asset to bring the greatest pleasure to God.

God’s desire to understand the human predicament culminated in the incarnation of Jesus Christ. For He willingly emptied Himself of His divine form to become a human being. And nothing pleases God more than smelling the incense of Jesus as He humbled Himself in obedience to the point of death. To be humble is to have no rights, no possessions, and no plans apart from God’s. The apostle Paul said,

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. – Philippians 2:5-8

God does not take pleasure in the incense of angels because they are not beset with fleshly weaknesses. Hence, they can never please God the way human beings do. As human beings, we are located at the sweet spot to bring the greatest pleasure to Him. In the case of Jesus, God, being exceedingly pleased with Him, exalted Him to the highest station in all creation. Paul continued,

9 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. – Philippians 2:9-11

Therefore, our inherent weakness as human beings is expediently our greatest strength to bring the greatest pleasure to God. Those who despise their peculiar weaknesses, past failures and present circumstances cannot experience God’s supernatural power. Only when we come to embrace our propensity towards anger, confusion, lust and physical tiredness can we receive divine authority to rule. Only when we come to accept the peculiarities of others, and our dire circumstances can we experience true joy. When Paul asked God to remove his weaknesses and his current difficulties, God said to him,

“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9a

Hence, Paul came to the conclusion, 

“Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9b-10

Application

Instead of accepting your peculiar weaknesses, are you still making excuses to deflect blame? Instead of accepting your current circumstances, are you still grumbling while hoping for a change? 

Instead of denying your negative thoughts and emotions, let them rise to God. At a proper time, He will reveal Himself to you as He did for Job who suffered. 

Dear Lord, I thank you for the opportunity to experience the human life; its joy and suffering. As I learn to accept my weaknesses and current predicament. Cause me to rise up in your Spirit and overcome them. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.


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