Tuesday, November 8, 2011
Oh, that smell...
A few years ago, a summer camp near here constructed a full size replica of the tabernacle that the Israelites built according to God's instruction and carried around the desert during their years of wandering. I went often to see it, sitting and praying and just looking, trying to get some feel for a place God literally inhabited. The images I stored up during those sunrises and sunsets, during those sweet hours of contemplation, still serve me well, not only as still spots in a stream, but as pictures of God's physical presence preserved in wood and linen by His specific command.
It turns out that each construct within the tabernacle exists to explain something about God's character and desires.
Make an altar of acacia wood for burning incense. Put the altar in front of the curtain that is before the Ark of Testimony--before the atonement cover that is over the Testimony where I will meet with you. Aaron must burn fragrant incense on the altar every morning when he tends the lamps. He must burn incense again when he lights the lamps at twilight so incense will burn regularly before the Lord for generations to come.--Exodus 30:1, 6-8
In the Bible, incense always indicates prayer, and promises to usher in His Very Presence.
May my prayer be set before you like incense, may the lifting of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.--Psalm 141:2
So God commanded constant prayer, refreshed intentionally every morning and evening, but burning steadily at all times. This prayer was not optional. God commanded it--like the daily sacrifices, like the tithing. Every day, a priest offered up new incense, went out into the courtyard to kill and dismember the day's sacrifices, then washed his hands and came back to the incense again. As the incense framed the priest's dirty business, as it burned and drifted up along with the burning of offerings, so does my prayer need to do the same.
Prayer has nothing to do with results, with my mood, with my location, companions, or circumstances. Prayer is not just for church or even for the side of my bed, but for days filled with work and other concerns. Although life may be bloody, prayer, like incense, brings sweetness.
The New Covenant of Christ has made me a priest and I must pray. It is the constant offering of the hours of life, of constant praise, of constant lifting of my spirit toward my God. My suns must rise and set with it. I can never let my incense go out.
Pray continually.--1Thessalonians 5:17