Monday, February 8, 2010

MHCC 22: Prayers as Incense

Incense offered by the priests in the ceremonial worship of the Old Testament typified the spiritual prayers and praises of the all saints everywhere, not only as we see in the New Testament (John 4.24; Rev. 5.8; 8.3), but also in the Old Testament itself, Ps. 141.2 and Mal. 1.1. Matthew Henry writes on Ex. 30.1-10:

2. The devotions of the saints, whose prayers are said to be set forth before God as incense, Ps. cxli.2. As the smoke of the incense ascended, so much our desires towards God rise in prayer, being kindled with the fire of holy love and other pious affections. When the priest was burning incense the people were praying (Luke i.10), to signify that prayer is the true incense. This incense was offered daily, it was a perpetual incense (v. 8); for we must pray always, that is, we must keep up stated times for prayer every day, morning and evening, at least, and never omit it, but thus pray without ceasing. The lamps were dressed or lighted at the same time that the incense was burnt, to teach us that the reading of the scriptures (which are our light and lamp) is a part of our daily work, and should ordinarily accompany our prayers and praises. When we speak to God we must hear what God says to us, and thus the communion is complete. The devotions of sanctified souls are well-pleasing to God, of a sweet-smelling savour; the prayers of saints are compared to sweet odours (Rev. v.8), but it is the incense which Christ adds to them that makes them acceptable (Rev. viii.3), and his blood that atones for the guilt which cleaves to our best services. And, if the heart and life be not holy, even incense is an abomination (Isa. i.13), and he that offers it is as if he blessed an idol, Isa. lvi.3.

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