Book of Exodus Chapter Thirty Commentary by
Pastor Ron Beckham
Communication is essential. Helen Keller was blind and deaf, completely isolated, but she became a college graduate, author, political activist and lecturer because a patient teacher named Anne Sullivan found a way to communicate with her. God is communicating continually, but as John 4:24 reports, "God is Spirit" and we are blind and deaf to Him. His Holy Spirit, through our willingness to have faith in the Lord, opens communication with God. In this chapter, Moses is ordered to create a special "altar as a place for burning incense," beginning in Verses 1-3: "Moreover, you shall make an altar as a place for burning incense; you shall make it of acacia wood. 2 Its length shall be a cubit, and its width a cubit, it shall be square, and its height shall be two cubits; its horns shall be of one piece with it. 3 You shall overlay it with pure gold, its top and its sides all around, and its horns; and you shall make a gold molding all around for it." Everything about the Tabernacle, including the altar for incense in this chapter, is real but also symbolic. In Revelation 5:8, we find "four living creatures" (cherubim) and "twenty-four elders." All of them held "golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints." This incense is about prayer. Like Anne Sullivan helped Helen Keller, God's Holy Spirit is helping us learn to pray, as seen in the altar of this chapter.
How do you carry something without touching it? God provided the way, as in Verses 4-5: "You shall make two gold rings for it under its molding; you shall make them on its two side walls—on opposite sides—and they shall be holders for poles with which to carry it. 5 You shall make the poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold." The poles were within permanent rings so this altar of incense could remain untouched by human hands, just like the ark of the covenant and other items of this portable house of worship.
Verses 6-8: "You shall put this altar in front of the veil that is near the ark of the testimony, in front of the mercy seat that is over the ark of the testimony, where I will meet with you. 7 Aaron shall burn fragrant incense on it; he shall burn it every morning when he trims the lamps. 8 When Aaron trims the lamps at twilight, he shall burn incense. There shall be perpetual incense before the Lord throughout your generations." This smaller altar was just outside the Holy Place, reminding all who contemplate the Lord and His Temple of our need to pray. And notice how specific the Lord is about all that is associated with the Lord's house. It had an exact size, the materials were to be acacia wood covered with gold, horns were on the four corners, and it's function was precise. Verse 9: "You shall not offer any strange incense on this altar, or burnt offering or meal offering; and you shall not pour out a drink offering on it." Looking ahead to Leviticus 10:1-2, we find that two of Aaron's sons died suddenly because of presumption in offering something on this altar that was not authorized by the Lord. In ministry we must seek the Lord continually and respond as He directs.
This first high priest, Moses' brother, Aaron, received specific instructions in Verse 10: "Aaron shall make atonement on its horns once a year; he shall make atonement on it with the blood of the sin offering of atonement once a year throughout your generations. It is most holy to the Lord." Our prayers can lack faith and become merely repititious, lacking a true awareness of the holiness, wonder, beauty and love of God. And so we must bring our failures to the Lord, candidly telling Him what He already knows: We have lost sight of our need to communicate with Him in earnest prayer. On the tenth day of the seventh month, the great day of atonement, after sprinkling the blood of a bullock and ram towards the mercy seat, Aaron was to take some of the blood and sprinkle it on the horns of this altar of prayer, as confession for sin.
In Verses 11-16, "The Lord also spoke to Moses, saying, 12 'When you take a census of the sons of Israel to number them, then each one of them shall give a ransom for himself to the Lord, when you number them, so that there will be no plague among them when you number them. 13 This is what everyone who is numbered shall give: half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary (the shekel is twenty gerahs), half a shekel as a contribution to the Lord. 14 Everyone who is numbered, from twenty years old and over, shall give the contribution to the Lord. 15 The rich shall not pay more and the poor shall not pay less than the half shekel, when you give the contribution to the Lord to make atonement for yourselves. 16 You shall take the atonement money from the sons of Israel and shall give it for the service of the tent of meeting, that it may be a memorial for the sons of Israel before the Lord, to make atonement for yourselves.'" Everything you have and are belongs to the Lord. As He said through the prophet in Psalm 50:10, "every beast of the forest is Mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills." Every atom in this world is His, including the ones that form your body, and He reasonably expects You will give back to Him as He directs. Even if the money is misused by the person or organization that receives it, you are to give as led by the Lord. The outcome is His, for purposes higher than our understanding. It was the Law for Israel and it is a Law of love for you and me. "...God loves a cheerful giver" (2 Corinthians 9:7), and the Greek word for "cheerful" in that verse is actually "hilarious." We are to DELIGHT in giving to the Lord out of what He has given to us.
In Verses 17-21, ""The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 18 'You shall also make a laver of bronze, with its base of bronze, for washing; and you shall put it between the tent of meeting and the altar, and you shall put water in it. 19 Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet from it; 20 when they enter the tent of meeting, they shall wash with water, so that they will not die; or when they approach the altar to minister, by offering up in smoke a fire sacrifice to the Lord. 21 So they shall wash their hands and their feet, so that they will not die; and it shall be a perpetual statute for them, for Aaron and his descendants throughout their generations.'" We need to be clean and simply to bathe all the time is not enough. To "wash" as in these verses is to be open to the Lord, to "come clean," hiding nothing from Him. As in 1 John 1:7, "if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin." Be open in His sight—your human relationships will improve and the Son of God will make you clean. Come to Him in prayer and let Him heal your aching heart.
In Verses 22-25, "Moreover, the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 23 'Take also for yourself the finest of spices: of flowing myrrh five hundred shekels, and of fragrant cinnamon half as much, two hundred and fifty, and of fragrant cane two hundred and fifty, 24 and of cassia five hundred, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, and of olive oil a hin. 25 You shall make of these a holy anointing oil, a perfume mixture, the work of a perfumer; it shall be a holy anointing oil.'" God knows the future precisely, without any possibility of error, and just as He perfectly measured these substances, He can see in advance precisely how many prayers you will offer today, tomorrow and forever, and how fervent they will be. This "holy anointing oil" is a request for the Intervention of the Holy Spirit, who hears our prayers and presents them to the Father. As seen in Romans 8:26, "the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us."
Everything about you needs the touch of God. Your body, your relationships or lack of them, your income, possessions, worship, desires, reputation, needs and hopes—you and I need God's Holy Spirit in everything. And so, with this oil representing the Spirit in Verses 26-28, "With it you shall anoint the tent of meeting and the ark of the testimony, 27 and the table and all its utensils, and the lampstand and its utensils, and the altar of incense, 28 and the altar of burnt offering and all its utensils, and the laver and its stand." Everything about Aaron needed the Lord, just as you hunger for Him, deep inside. And each of us especially needs Him in a personal way, as reflected in Verses 29-30: "You shall also consecrate them, that they may be most holy; whatever touches them shall be holy. 30 You shall anoint Aaron and his sons, and consecrate them, that they may minister as priests to Me." Whether you are in formal ministry or not, you cannot be what is needed and are unable to do what must be done—you need the Spirit of God.
If you are called to ministry, prayerfully look at that call often. "Listen" to the word God has implanted into your heart, directing you to "go" in whatever life direction it may be, and don't deviate from it. That's the message of Verses 31-38: "You shall speak to the sons of Israel, saying, 'This shall be a holy anointing oil to Me throughout your generations. 32 It shall not be poured on anyone’s body, nor shall you make any like it in the same proportions; it is holy, and it shall be holy to you. 33 Whoever shall mix any like it or whoever puts any of it on a layman shall be cut off from his people. 34 Then the Lord said to Moses, 'Take for yourself spices, stacte and onycha and galbanum, spices with pure frankincense; there shall be an equal part of each. 35 With it you shall make incense, a perfume, the work of a perfumer, salted, pure, and holy. 36 You shall beat some of it very fine, and put part of it before the testimony in the tent of meeting where I will meet with you; it shall be most holy to you. 37 The incense which you shall make, you shall not make in the same proportions for yourselves; it shall be holy to you for the Lord. 38 Whoever shall make any like it, to use as perfume, shall be cut off from his people."
If you are to be ordained into God's service, He will make it happen. You don't need to arrange the circumstances. He will direct you in your ordination and the ministry that derives from it. Just follow Him and don't add to what He intends. You are His child, His priest, His chosen one for the assignment, and He will bring it to pass. Become willing to give up your intentions for life, for He has something infinitely better. Trust Him who has resources beyond our wildest imagination, and He really loves you and me. Just like this "holy anointing oil" was to be precisely made for one function only, He has a purpose for each one who says "yes" to Him. You are unique. There never has been nor will there ever be anyone just like you. Each one of us is essential to a work now and in eternity that would literally amaze us if we knew about His intention. Trust Him. You'll be glad you did.
Lord, I am Yours. I will follow You, wherever You send me. I will be what You want me to be. Help me, Lord, for I cannot do this in my own strength. I need You. And thank You that You are here—with me—right now. In Jesus Name. Amen.