And thou shalt make an altar to burn incense upon; of shittim wood shalt thou make it. And Aaron shall burn incense thereon every morning; when he dresses the lamps, he shall burn incense upon them. Exodus 30:1, 7 (KJV)
In the sixth chapter of the book of Hebrews, the writer admonishes believers in Christ to leave the elementary principles of the foundation of Christ, and press on to “perfection”, which is encapsulated in: ” maturity, fulfillment, and completion” (Hebrews 6:1-2).
Hebrews 6:1-2 (KJV)
Therefore, leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms and of laying on of hands, of the resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.
The author of the book of Hebrews further states that the Old Testament is a “shadow of things to come” (Hebrews 10:1).
Hebrews 10:1 (KJV)
For the law, having a shadow of good things to come but not the very image of the things can never, with those sacrifices that they offered year by year, continually make the comer thereunto perfect.
Hence, the New Testament is the actual fulfillment of all the things that the Old Testament depicted in types, shadows, patterns and symbolisms.
This means that the Old Testament Scriptures are coded with deep secrets of what the New Testament economy and dispensation will look like. One puritan puts it succinctly: “the new is in the old concealed, and the old is by the new revealed”. So everything in the Old Testament is symbolic of the New Testament realities, and it depicts profound truth about the realities of the New Testament Church and believer.
Additionally, all the things in the Old Testament, including the furniture, names, places, symbolisms, patterns, allegories, shadows, and people, are coded with profound truths that have far-reaching consequences for the New Testament Church and believer. They all have a meaning in their place (Romans 15:4).
Romans 15:4 (KJV)
For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
To this end, there is no symbolism or account in the entire Scripture that shows or depicts the roadmap into the Holiest of All, perfection, maturity, and holiness like the Tabernacle of Moses. The tabernacle of Moses had three main compartments, namely: ” the Outer Court”, “the Holy Place”, and “the Most Holy Place”. These three compartments or truine patterns in the tabernacle of Moses depict different things, from the “triune nature of God” as “three persons in one” to “the nature of heaven” consisting of “the first, second, and third heavens”. (1 John 5:7; 2 Corinthians 12:2).
1 John 5:7 (KJV)
For there are three that bear record in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one.
2 Corinthians 12:2 (KJV)
I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago—whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knows—who caught up to the third heaven
Furthermore , it depicts “the nature of “man” as a tripartite being as “spirit, soul, and body”, as well as “the nature of the church” namely: “the carnal christian” ruled by his senses, to “the renewed and transformed christian” whose mind has been enlightened by the light of revelation”, and to “the spiritual christian”, who walks in perfection”. (1 Thessalonians 5:23; Romans 8:5-9).
1 Thessalonians 5:23 (KJV)
And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Romans 8:5–9 (KJV)
For they that are after the flesh mind the things of the flesh, but they that are after the spirit, the things of the spirit. “To be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” Because the carnal mind is enmity against God, for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can it be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man has not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
It is instructive to note that from “the Outer Court”, to the “Most Holy Place,” there are seven pieces of furniture. These are symbolic of the different experiences of growth on the path to perfection. These items of furniture are: for the Outer Court: Brazen Altar and Brazen Laver; the Holy Place: the Table of Shewbread, Lamp Stand, and the Golden Altar of Incense; and for the the Most Holy Place: the Ark of the Covenant and Mercy Seat. Hence, there are two items of furniture in the Outer Court, three in the Holy Place, and two in the Most Holy Place.
In the opening verse of this discourse, we can see the Bible account of God instructing Moses “to make an altar of shittim wood where incense would be burned every morning” by Aaron, the high priest of Israel, as a perpetual ordinance. All these pieces of furniture and items are symbolic. The golden Altar incense is symbolic of the emotions of the believer which have been affected by the light of revelation received in the mind (intellect). The illumination of the believer’s mind is typified by the shewbread which is illuminated by the light on the lamp stand. But both “the temperate emotions” and “the illuminated mind” are set in motion by “the yielded will to God”.
It is instructive to note that the illumination of the mind (intellect) is dependent on the yielding of the believer’s will to God. The will is the strength of the soul, and it is the will that determines the direction of the soul and body (emotions). Hence, God begins His work in the believer’s will not in his intellect or emotions.
As stated earlier, God instructed Moses to build an altar of incense where frankincense would be burned every morning as a perpetual offering.
What is Frankincense?
It is a black, and an unattractive lump that when put in the fire, gives off a beautiful fragrance or scent.
What implication does this have for us as New Testament believers who live in this culture?
It is instructive to note that God permitted “frankincense” to be perpetually burned on the Altar of Incense but prohibited “honey” from being burned. (Leviticus 2:11).
Leviticus 2:11 (KJV)
No meat offering, which ye shall bring to the LORD, shall be made with leaven; for ye shall burn no leaven, nor any honey, in any offering of the LORD made by fire.
Although, honey is sweet in the mouth, and it is desirable to the eyes but God instructed Aaron that it must never be offered with fire on the Altar of Incense. This is because when honey is offered with fire on the Altar of Incense, it becomes messy, sticky, and gives off a foul smell.
There’s a profound truth therein!
To be sure, “frankincense is symbolic of the believer’s yielded emotions, and devotion to God”. Hence, when he makes a commitment to God, “he follows it through with an iron will”. Subsequently, when his devotion is subjected to a test, which is typified by “the fire” on the Altar of Incense, it passes the test. But “honey” is symbolic of another type of believer whose devotion isn’t backed by an iron will. Because when his devotion (commitment to God) is tested in the fire, he does not pass the test. This is because his devotion and commitment are just sweet and empty words. So when it is subjected to the test of fire, it becomes messy, sticky, and gives off a foul smell that is offensive to God.
It’s instructive to note that the “frankincense in the fire on the Altar of Incense is devotion made fragrant by the test of fire”.
God isn’t impressed or moved by any of our beautiful and sweet words, our empty religious talk and clichés which are like “honey in the mouth”, if they cannot go through the test of fire and process to prove their genuineness. Sadly, this is what king Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes, calls the “sacrifice of fools”. They are empty words and sweet talk which are not followed through with action and wholehearted commitment to God no matter what comes (Ecclesiastes 5:2, 4-5).
Ecclesiastes 5:2, 4–5 (KJV)
Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter anything before God: for God is in heaven, and thou on earth; therefore let thy words be few. When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools; pay that which thou hast vowed. It is better that thou shouldest not vow than that thou shouldest vow and not pay.
The crucial question is: what kind of devotion do you have before God— frankincense or honey?
There’s no need to be hasty in picking one or the other, as fire will test every man’s work, commitment, or devotion, of whatever sort it is! (1 Corinthians 3:12-15).
1 Corinthians 3:12–15 (KJV)
Now if any man builds upon this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, and stubble, every man’s work shall be made manifest, for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire, and the fire shall try every man’s work, no matter what sort it is. If any man’s work abides, which he has built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss, but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire.
In conclusion, what do you think made Jesus go to the cross? His emotions? No, it was His iron will! Dearly beloved, that is what will get the job done!
We should all ponder on these sobering and searching thoughts.