Thursday, October 4, 2012

Unity and Fellowship

And thou shalt make an altar to burn incense upon: of shittim wood shalt thou make it. A cubit shall be the length thereof, and a cubit the breadth thereof; foursquare shall it be: and two cubits shall be the height thereof: the horns thereof shall be of the same. And thou shalt overlay it with pure gold, the top thereof, and the sides thereof round about, and the horns thereof; and thou shalt make unto it a crown of gold round about...And Aaron shall burn thereon sweet incense every morning: when he dresseth the lamps, he shall burn incense upon it.  And when Aaron lighteth the lamps at even, he shall burn incense upon it, a perpetual incense before the LORD throughout your generations.  Ye shall offer no strange incense thereon, nor burnt sacrifice, nor meat offering; neither shall ye pour drink offering thereon.
Exodus 30:1-3 and 7-9

Like every other piece of the tabernacle God instructed Moses to build, the altar of incense is filled with shadows pointing to Christ and our relationship with God through His mediation.  With all that is going on in the world around us we need to stop and rest at this altar often.  The altar of incense is that special place of relationship with God in Christ that prepares us to go beyond the veil into His holy presence.  Chaos and confusion disappear in the face of God.  Come and see.

By now you know that even the measurements of the furniture of the tabernacle have something to teach us.  The dimensions of this altar which symbolizes daily prayer is no different.  The altar measured one cubit wide x one cubit deep x two cubits tall.  One is always a number that speaks of unity.  For God, this is His greatest goal for us as believers.  He wishes that we would live our lives in complete unity with Heaven.  What can we do for God if we are out of fellowship with Him anyways?  Absolutely nothing!  For this reason the LORD wants us to see this number that also denotes primacy as an important message.  First and foremost, there must be unity with God whether we move forwards, backwards, left or right (length and depth).  Our relationship with Him and with others through Him must be first place.  (Isn't that the first commandment?) When we have nothing else between us and Him we will bear the fruit needed to be a witness to a lost world.   On a similar vein, I was sharing with someone the other day about the letters Jesus addressed to the 7 churches in Revelation 2 and 3.  What was the problem with the first church?  They were doing much--but they left their first love.  Jesus was reminding Ephesus that there is nothing more important then your relationship with God in Christ.

Two also has an important message as we examine this incense altar.  Which dimension was measured as two cubits?  The height was.  All of us usually speak of reaching "up" to God.  It is for this reason that the height is two as this is a number that is related to Christ and His fellowship with suffering.  Two always speaks of Jesus.  What member of the Trinity is He?  What cross was His on the day He was crucified?  Which "Adam" is He?  The point is that Christ is the "middle man", the mediator, the daysmen, the go-between, our Great High Priest.  Two also speaks of fellowship.  Amos asked, "Can two walk together except they be agreed?"  Can there be unity with God without fellowship through Christ?  Absolutely not!  If you reach up to God it must be through the person and work of Jesus Christ the LORD.  There is no other way.  

To strengthen that point the Holy Spirit also shared that the incense burnt on the altar daily had to be burnt using fire from the brass altar.  Leviticus 10 relates the story of two sons of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, who offered strange fire before the LORD and were destroyed.  There is no great mystery as to what the strange fire was.  It was just that--strange fire.  They used a source of heat other than the brazen altar to ignite the incense.  Maybe they just used a branch from their campfire?  Who knows?  However, it was not the ordained source of fire clearly revealed by God.  Any prayer that does not originate from the altar of sacrifice was and still is strictly forbidden.  In other words, there is no prayer outside of the sacrifice God appointed for unity with Heaven.  That sacrifice is Jesus.  There is no acceptable prayer outside of Jesus Christ's name!

The incense itself is the symbol of prayer.  There is one more message as well associated with the acceptable incense.  As we are associated with Jesus the Lamb of God, we are to be a living sacrifice at His altar. Where do you begin (and end) your journey with God?  At the cross.  That cross speaks of repentance.  Prayer without a life lived at the altar is just as deadly as prayer offered in the name of another.  If there is to be true unity and fellowship with God--it must be in and through Christ in a spirit of total dependence on His atoning work.  When there is this agreement, then the power of our prayers will reach out to all of the world around us.  This is the message found in the four horns around the top of the altar.  They represent the power of prayer through Jesus name while in unity with Heaven that breaks every stronghold.  Is your prayer life in unity and fellowship with God in Christ?  Keep looking "up" in Christ as He is Soon2Come!

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