In the series, we have explored quite a number of areas of the Old Testament

1. The Fall Feast (Part 1)
2. Pauls Explanation Of Col 2 (Part 2)
3. Day Of Atonement (Part 3)
4. Feast Of The Tabernacles (Part 4)
5. Clean And Unclean Meat (Part 5 , Part 6)

Introduction

For the next few post I would be talking about the roles of priest under the Mosaic Covenant

“Aaron shall burn on it sweet
  incense every morning; when
  he tends the lamps, he shall burn
  incense on it. And when Aaron lights
  the lamps at twilight, he shall burn
  incense on it, a perpetual incense
  before the Lord throughout your
  generations.”- YHWH (Ex 30:7-9)

Under the Mosaic Covenant, Priest ought to burn incense before God daily. It had to be burnt every morning and evening.   We understand from Part 3 that when Jesus came in the flesh, he came to establish the spiritual temple of the new Covenant. In this new temple. there is no longer need to burn incense within it.

The Other Meaning Of Incense

But both in the Old Testament and New Testament, there is another definition of incense.

“Let my prayer be set before You as incense,
The lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.”-David (Ps 141:2)

“Now when He had taken the scroll,
  the four living creatures and the
  twenty-four elders fell down before
  the Lamb, each having a harp, and
  golden bowls full of incense, which
  are the prayers of the saints.”-John (Rev 5 : 8)

Throughout the old testament and the new testament, incense is often used to represent prayers. God wanted his priest to burn incense for him day and night. This tells us how much God esteem our prayers.

“And you shall beat some of it very fine,
  and put some of it before the Testimony
  in the tabernacle of meeting where I will
  meet with you. It shall be most holy to
  you”-YHWH (Ex 30:36)

From here we know that incense is something holy to the Lord. His priest is suppose to burn it whenever they are in his presence.

Today many Christian feels that they only need to pray when they have a request to bring before God. So when there are not request, there is no longer a need for prayer. But Prayers ought to be our meeting with God, it is our chance to worship him. God wanted man to approach him through prayer. For Jesus says, “My house shall be called a house of prayer”

Christian sometimes forget that the main purpose of coming to church is to meet God. In the past whenever Abraham travelled to a location, he would erect an altar to worship God. It is a testimony of how Abraham esteem praying and worshipping God daily. He had made God his priority and as the result God had esteemed Abraham as well. That is why God called Abraham his friend.

Today Christians are chosen by God just like Abraham. But is our relationship close to God? Do we regard God as something good to have but can do without? Gods attitude toward us is the same as our attitude towards him.

That is why prayer is an essential aspect of our faith that we cannot regret. Prayer is just like a thermometer of our faith, it indicate our closest with God. Today as spiritual priest in the spiritual temple of the messiah let us not neglect our prayers to God. 

In the Torah God gave Moses the composition of the incense.

“Take sweet spices, stacte
  and onycha and galbanum,
  and pure frankincense with
  these sweet spices; there
  shall be equal amounts of
  each.”-YHWH (Ex 30:34)

There are four materials, which are spices, onycha, galbanum and frankincense. They must be equal amount of each. These are 4 components of prayers that we must not neglect.

Stacte : A Type of Gum From The Tree Bark

Stacte is a type of gum that is extracted by cutting the bark of the tree. As you collect Stacte, it will look as if the plant was bleeding. While Jesus was praying in the garden of Gethsemane. his prayer is just like Stacte, and the bible describes that as earnestness.

“And being in agony, He prayed
  more earnestly. Then His sweat
  became like great drops of blood
  falling down to the ground.” Luke(Lk 22:44)

Blood flows faster than water, it is an indication that Jesus is perspiring greatly. But there is something we ought to take note of, for Jesus was captured on a cold month, for Jn 18:18 tell us that it was cold when Jesus was captured. For Peter need to enter the courtyard for fire, that was when the people confronted him.

It is usually difficult to perspire in cold weather, yet Jesus is perspiring as if he is bleeding, can we see the earnestness in that? Sometimes Christians are unable to grasp what it mean to be earnest in prayer. Will we pray till our sweat becomes like drop of blood?

This is the example of Jesus, his sweat is like blood, that is a sign of his earnestness, that is a prayer that God delights in.

 Onycha : A Type Of Seashell ‘

The biblical onycha cannot be fully identified today. But it is often believed to be a type of shell that must be pounded to extract fragrance. This type of pounding is often a reminder of submission. For the material need to break itself down in order to give fragrance.

In the same way, the prayer of Jesus at Gethsemane is one with Onycha  for he pleaded with God to take away his bitter cup. But in that prayer we see Jesus breaking himself down to submit to God. That is why in every prayer he said  “Not my will but yours be done”

Prayer is not about telling God what we want and desire. We need to submit to God as well. we must be like Onycha, a shell that is willing to be pounded for fragrance.

Today if God does not accede to our request, are we willing to break ourselves down?  Are we willing to put aside our preference and submit to God?  This is something we need to consider, as our prayers often carries our desire and our will. We need to be willing to change and submit to God. We need to let go of our preference and desire , then the will of God will be done.

Galbanum : A Medicinal Sap That Chases Snakes Away

Galbanum is a type of sap that i different from Stacte. It had sulphuric content that could repel snakes and pest. It is used as a medicine as well. The prayers of Jesus is just like that, it could heal the pain of others. It can even cast the demons away. It is not done for his own sake, but to help those who are around him.

Is our prayer filled with Galbanum? Do we often pray for ourselves or do we pray for others?

“Therefore I exhort first of
  all that supplications, prayers,
  intercessions, and giving of
  thanks be made for all men,
 
for kings and all who are in
  authority, that we may lead a
  quiet and peaceable life in all
  godliness and reverence.””- Paul (1 Tim 2:1-2)

There are many Christians who knows how to pray, but they do not pray for others. Even if they do, they will only pray for their family and friends. Our prayers are often selfish, focus only in our own matters.

But Paul tells us to pray for all man, yet we reason among ourselves and ask “why is it important? How do we pray for them? How would we know if our prayers are effectives?” that is why our prayers are so pragmatic and we often pray only for ourselves

Why did Paul encourage us to pray for everyone? For God desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of truth. Very often even when we pray for our loved ones, our prayers tend to focus only on the things on earth. We ask for healing, and help for the people around us.  

Praying For The Salvation of others

That is why we do not feel obligated to pay for others. for we do not even know what to say.

But those who knew the will of God will pray according to his will. For God wants all men to be saved. He did not want us to focus only on our worldly problems. That is why Christians ought to pray for the salvation of others. We need to pray for ourselves, at the same time pray for others to be saved.

On the basic level we can ask God to guide them to his truth. For only knowledge of the truth brings about salvation. This applies to both believers and unbelievers, for there are many who thinks they know the truth, but they in fact understand it partially only. They may be right in some aspect but wrong in many.

The Holy Spirit is here to do an important work, he is here to guide people into the truth.  We need to know his will and to pray for others to receive the truth. That is what the church need, let us not just pray for ourselves.  let us follow the word of Jesus. Let us seek his kingdom and righteousness. The kingdom of God is the church, let us pray for her development. For righteousness will only come when man obey the word of God.

We may not be able to expound scriptures, quote it to exhort and encourage people, but we can at least pray for the people and pray for our truth seekers. For God will heed our prayers and do his will. For he desire all men to be saved.

Frankincense : Holy And Fragrant Prayer

Frankincense is a famous tree sap that would give off fragrance when burnt. It remind us that prayers ought to be holy and fragrant. Sometimes our prayers can become either holy or fragrant. But God is only please with prayers that are both holy and fragrant.

That is why Paul tell us not to give in to wrath but instead lift up holy hands in Prayer (1 Tim 2:8 ) . Likewise James remind us to draw near to God and he will draw near to us.

But what does it mean to draw near to God?

"Draw near to God and He
  will draw near to you. Cleanse
  your hands, you sinners; and
  purify your hearts, you
  double-minded. “ – James (Jas 4:8 )

This is a good definition of Drawing near to God. For if we want our prayers  to be holy and fragrant we need to keep our hands clean and our hearts purified. We must not be double minded. If we could do this, will God not accept our prayers?

But if our hands and heart are not clean. why should God listen to us?

Salt : To be added to the mixture of Incense

We had just taken a look at the 4 component of prayers. Let us pay attention to another detail

“You shall make of these an incense,
  a compound according to the art of
  the perfumer, salted, pure, and holy” – YHWH (Ex 30:35)

God had instructed the children of Israel to add salt to their incense. Salt is a form of preservative, that is why adding salt into our relationship with God holds a significance. It is a reminder that our relationship with God and our prayer must not change. That is very important

For many Christians today change after following God for  awhile. They start their Christian journey with zeal for they understand the truth and they came to church regularly. They may have receive the Holy Spirit and had personal experience with God.  They may start their journey zealous and will serve God in various ministry.

But sadly, their faith is not added with salt, after a while, it starts to change. At the same time, his prayer starts to change as well. They may even doubt if they have receive the Holy Spirit. At the beginning of their faith, they were happy and faithful. But over time his testimony changes, and we can all see it.

Did the truth of God change? Or had the Christian changed? Is his initial faith wrong? Or is his current state of unbelief correct? Christians who come to church for a long time will see many who had come and left the church. Sometimes they leave not because the truth of God is no good.  But the fact is, they have changed and no longer follow the word of God. Worst still when they turn their unbelief into testimonies against the church.

That is why we need to add salt into our covenant with God. Even more so we need to add salt to our prayer. Is our prayer as zealous as before? Do we continue to believe in God as we pray? Or have we subtlety started to doubt within us? We need to add salt into our prayer, we need our prayers to be unchanging and steadfast.

A Faith That Is Unchanging Is  Not Built On Emotion and Rationale

A Christian love, emotion and thinking may not be bad all the time. But if we rely on our emotion and rationale as basis for faith one day it will change eventually. The fact is that we learn of God not through our emotion, thinking or feeling. It was the truth of God and the gospel of salvation that move us.  It is the almighty power of God that saves us, that is why we believe in the gospel and we are saved because of faith.

The truth of God never change, that is why we need to prevent ourselves from changing. If our faith is built only on human emotion, one day the emotion will fade.  At that point of time, are we still able to believe in him?

There are many Christians who were in church for many years, but now they no longer have the same feeling towards God. Perhaps in the past they are convince through examining the scriptures, their research convinced them for a while. But as time past, they feel that their research were incorrect.

The human mind is never absolute, it is ever changing, that is why we need to use the bible to examine our thoughts.  We need to compare our thinking against it and see if we are right or wrong. We need to examine our train of thoughts to see if they are aligned to the scriptures or not. If our direction is wrong, let us correct ourselves and adjust our thinking to the scriptures.

Today there are many Christians who read the scriptures choosing to like certain portion of it. They choose only to believe in the verses they like and they disregard everything that they did not like. But our scriptures is meant to be the word of God that saves. It is the light to our path and it guides us to the right path.

We need to allow the scriptures to be our light to guide us instead of judging the light. We need to renew and readjust our hearts to follow the word of God. Instead of correcting the word of God, let us correct our wrong thinking. By doing so we will have added salt into our covenant. 

Only then can our faith be unchanging and steadfast. It is a pity that many in the word today build their faith upon their own thinking and emotion that is why their faith is every changing just like their thinking and emotion.  Only by building faith on the truth can we have a faith that is unchanging, only then can we have true faith.

Concluding Thoughts For Now

Let our prayers be one that had the 4 components in equal amount. Let our prayers be season with salt. Most importantly, let us not season it with vinegar. For many murmur and whine against God and accuse God of doing nothing to help them.

They question God for being unfair and bias worst still they doubt the love of God. WE know that God wanted his priest to burn incense daily, both in the morning and at night. Let our prayer be filled with the 4 materials prescribe by God. Let us learn to season our prayers with salt.

Let us go to Jesus and allow him to teach us about prayer

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