The character of worship

High Priest Offering Incense on the Altar (illustration from the 1894 Treasures of the Bible)

You shall make an altar to burn incense on; you shall make it of acacia wood. … And you shall overlay its top … with pure gold.

Exodus 30:1.3.

Aaron, the high priest, had to offer sweet-smelling incense on the golden altar every morning and evening. It was “most holy … for the LORD” (vv. 36.37). In all the components of that incense God saw in advance the glories and excellence of Christ.

After the great work of reconciliation through the Lord Jesus had taken place to the glory of God, redeemed sinners have the liberty to appear before Him. They have mutual enjoyment with the Father in beholding the Son, whom He gave as a sacrifice and then glorified in heaven with Himself. We can worship and testify of the perfections and beauties of the Son before the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit. That rejoices His heart and is a sweet-smelling savour for Him.

But the priests’ way into the sanctuary passed by the bronze layer. God had ordained that they should wash their hands and their feet with water before entering the tabernacle or ministering at the altar  (cf. vv. 17-21).

This commandment of God’s for the priests indicates that we must lead our lives in practical righteousness and purity: our walk must be consistent with God’s light. If we become aware of defilement in our lives, we must cleanse it in the light of the Word of God. Otherwise the pre-requisite for priestly service is lacking, and our view of Christ clouded. We are then no longer able to praise Him and worship “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). When we have been cleansed by His Word, however, we can experience untroubled fellowship with Him.

Image: By Illustrator of Henry Davenport Northrop’s ‘Treasures of the Bible’, 1894 –, Public Domain,