holy smoke

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Exodus 30:1-10

1 “You should make an altar on which to burn incense; from the wood of acacia trees you should make it 2 Its length should be one cubit, and its breadth one cubit. It should be square, and its height should be two cubits. Its horns should be of one piece with it. 3 You should overlay it with pure gold, its top and around its sides and its horns. You should also make a molding of gold around it. 4 And you should make two golden rings for it. You should place them under its molding on two opposite sides of it, and they should serve as holders for poles with which to carry it. 5 You should make the poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. 6 And you should put it in front of the veil that is above the ark of the testimony, in front of the mercy seat that is above the testimony, where I will meet with you. 7 And Aaron should burn fragrant incense on it. Every morning when he dresses the lamps he should burn it, 8 and when Aaron sets up the lamps at twilight, he should burn it, a regular incense offering before the LORD throughout your generations. 9 You should not offer unauthorized incense on it, or a burnt offering, or a grain offering, and you should not pour a drink offering on it. 10 Aaron should make atonement on its horns once a year. With the blood of the sin offering of atonement he should make atonement for it once in the year throughout your generations. It is most holy to the LORD.”

holy smoke

The incense provided a pleasant scent, but it was also evidence of destruction. Smoke that emitted from the incense was the proof that it had been consumed. The worshipper’s prayer is counted as incense before the LORD.[1] As the smoke rises upward into the face of God, the prayers of his saints rise with it.[2] Here is where the twin truths of grace and prayer meet. The atonement is a gift from the grace of the LORD. The regular prayers before the altar of incense cannot replace that grace, and they do not earn it. But we should pray. It is an appropriate means of celebrating that grace by which we are saved.

Christians often struggle with feelings of inadequacy about their prayer lives. We feel we do not pray often enough, or stay at it long enough when we do. But that is the problem. There is no “enough” when it comes to prayer. It is a response to a permanent gift, a celebration of an everlasting grace. Of course we do not pray enough! The answer is not that we should pray more, but that we should recognize prayer as a response to a God whose grace is enough. Pray regularly, but not to gain a standing with God. His gift of grace on the cross took care of that. Pray regularly as a testimony of faith in this God of grace.

LORD, accept our prayer this day. May it be a pleasing offering of praise – a testimony that your grace is enough for us.


[1] Psalm 141:2.

[2] Revelation 8:4.

About Jefferson Vann

Jefferson Vann is a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ. You can contact him at marmsky@gmail.com -- !
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