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The Ninth Hour

C.W. Slemming has another potent illustration of the incense offering:

I have sometimes thought of this little piece of furniture [the incense altar] standing before the veil as an electric plug such as we use to tap the electric power laid behind our walls. Behind the veil of the tabernacle was the Shekinah Glory of the presence of the Lord, and behind the veil of the sky are all the resources of the great triune Godhead. By putting in the plug of prayer with the hand of faith, we are able to tap those resources and find that “prayer changes things.”6

Do your prayers permeate the world around you as the incense permeated the miles surrounding Jerusalem?

Slemming ties the scent and ritual of the incense directly into the power of prayer. I think we’ve already demonstrated that the two are inextricably linked. The myriad of Hebrews at the temple would fall on their faces every day for prayer. To use Slemming’s illustration, they were “plugged-in!” Add to this what we have talked about, that prayer can be an invasive aroma, and we have a powerful picture of prayer, indeed!

This always makes me pause and ask myself the same question, “What is the state of my prayer life?”

What about your prayers? Do they have the attitude of someone plugged-in? Are they offered up daily? Are they offered up confidently, that we are righteous before God? Do they rise up to heaven before the very throne of God as a sweet-smelling aroma? Do your prayers permeate the world around you as the incense permeated the miles surrounding Jerusalem?

The incense offering and subsequent prayer-time was nearly the final act of the day. Only one more service would be carried out by the High Priest, to pronounce the blessing from Numbers 6:24-26:

The LORD bless thee, and keep thee:
The LORD make his face shine upon thee,
and be gracious unto thee:
The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee,
and give thee peace.

This, if you will, draws a prophetic picture for us. Compare these two texts, the first from Bible scholar Alfred Edersheim, the other from the book of Revelation.

“The whole multitude of the people without withdrew from the inner court, and fell down before the Lord, spreading their hands in silent prayer. It is this most solemn period, when throughout the vast Temple buildings deep silence rested on the worshipping multitude, while within the sanctuary itself the priest laid the incense on the golden altar and the cloud of ‘odours’ rose up before the Lord”7

“And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour. And I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets. And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel’s hand.”8

I think that, if God follows His own established pattern, it is very possible that these events in Revelation will take place—at about the ninth hour. What a day that shall be!

Perhaps you view this panoramic view of the temple and the incense service as interesting, and of some academic interest, but nonetheless, done away with in the New Testament era. In this author’s opinion, the incense offering has not been done away with. Certainly the physical structure of the temple in Jerusalem is gone, but the spiritual principle of the service remains. It has not been abrogated, but translated.

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Category: Biblical Studies, Summer 2000

About the Author: Kevin M. Williams, Litt.D., H.L.D. has served in Messianic ministries since 1987 and has written numerous articles and been a featured speaker at regional and international conferences on Messianic Judaism.

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