Lord, I long to rest in you and hope in you. Teach me today what it means to live in you.
Read EXODUS 30:1–21
The Altar of Incense
30 “Make an altar of acacia wood for burning incense. 2 It is to be square, a cubit long and a cubit wide, and two cubits high[a]—its horns of one piece with it. 3 Overlay the top and all the sides and the horns with pure gold, and make a gold molding around it. 4 Make two gold rings for the altar below the molding—two on each of the opposite sides—to hold the poles used to carry it. 5 Make the poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. 6 Put the altar in front of the curtain that shields the ark of the covenant law—before the atonement cover that is over the tablets of the covenant law—where I will meet with you.
7 “Aaron must burn fragrant incense on the altar every morning when he tends the lamps. 8 He must burn incense again when he lights the lamps at twilight so incense will burn regularly before the Lord for the generations to come. 9 Do not offer on this altar any other incense or any burnt offering or grain offering, and do not pour a drink offering on it. 10 Once a year Aaron shall make atonement on its horns. This annual atonement must be made with the blood of the atoning sin offering[b] for the generations to come. It is most holy to the Lord.”
11 Then the Lord said to Moses, 12 “When you take a census of the Israelites to count them, each one must pay the Lord a ransom for his life at the time he is counted. Then no plague will come on them when you number them. 13 Each one who crosses over to those already counted is to give a half shekel,[c] according to the sanctuary shekel, which weighs twenty gerahs. This half shekel is an offering to the Lord. 14 All who cross over, those twenty years old or more, are to give an offering to the Lord. 15 The rich are not to give more than a half shekel and the poor are not to give less when you make the offering to the Lord to atone for your lives. 16 Receive the atonement money from the Israelites and use it for the service of the tent of meeting. It will be a memorial for the Israelites before the Lord, making atonement for your lives.”
Basin for Washing
17 Then the Lord said to Moses, 18 “Make a bronze basin, with its bronze stand, for washing. Place it between the tent of meeting and the altar, and put water in it. 19 Aaron and his sons are to wash their hands and feet with water from it. 20 Whenever they enter the tent of meeting, they shall wash with water so that they will not die. Also, when they approach the altar to minister by presenting a food offering to the Lord, 21 they shall wash their hands and feet so that they will not die. This is to be a lasting ordinance for Aaron and his descendants for the generations to come.”
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘Worship the Lord with gladness … It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.’1
Over the past few decades, ‘multi-sensory worship’ has become increasingly popular in some sectors of the church. Instead of sticking to Bible-thumping basics, this alternative worship form attempts to engage all the senses, through things like video, art, and creative experiences that help the congregation participate. Our reading today reminds us that multi-sensory worship wasn’t invented by the Emergent Church movement of the twentieth century. God had it mind thousands of years ago.
The altar of incense is a perfect example. For one thing, it was different from the earthen altar of sacrifice,2 in being a work of art, made of acacia wood and pure gold, adorned with special molding and horns. In your mind’s eye, re-examine the artistic symbols in your church. How do they point you to God? Second, the smell of burning incense, morning and evening, would have been a pervasive part of the worship, communicating without words that this was a holy activity (v 10). What non-verbal clues in your worship remind you of God’s holiness? Then there was the participatory experience of giving. The half shekel was an amount so small everyone could give it. Not only did it cover the expenses of the tent of meeting but more importantly it reminded the worshippers of a bigger truth: they needed atonement for sin. What bigger truths does your giving to church symbolize for you?
The heartbeat of multi-sensory worship both then and now is the same: God wants it to be an experience ‘where I will meet with you’ (v 6). If you are a regular churchgoer you may be so familiar with your worship service that nothing stands out week to week; it’s all a sleepy blur. Maybe God wants you to try something new in worship so you can meet with him more personally.
When have you met God in your worship service? What happened? How could you prepare to do so prior to your next service?
Gracious Father, you are my refuge when I am distressed, you are my hope when I am depressed. Remind me that, in the struggles of life, you’ll always be working for my good.
1 Ps 100:2,3 2 Exod 20:24
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