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Incense: spiritual meaning

Incense in the Bible

The word incense comes from the Latin incendere that means to ignite. Incense is a fragrant substance obtained with the mixture of aromatic resins and spices. In ancient Israel incense was burned three times a day on the altar that was in the holy place of the sanctuary in front of the veil or curtain that separated it from the most holy place (Exodus 30: 1-9 / Luke 1: 8-10).

The altar to burn the incense

And thou shalt make an altar to burn incense; Thou shalt make it of acacia wood. Exodus 30: 1

As the priest's responsibility was to keep the altar fire burning sacrifices permanently removed the coals from the previous day and replaced them with wood. The priest carried the still burning coals from the altar of burnt offering (which had the residue of the blood of the sacrifices) and used them to burn the incense inside the temple.

It was the priest's job to burn this incense and the process was always the same. On the altar to burn incense, which as we said was in the holy place, no offerings or libations were offered.

The altar of incense was right in front of the Most Holy Place where the throne of the Mighty One of Israel resided, which was the ark of the covenant. The act of burning incense prepared the way for the priest to minister in the Holy Place very close to the presence of God who was in the Most Holy Place. The fact that in order to approach the Holy of Holies a properly clothed priest (Revelation 7: 13-15) should first pass through the altar of incense means that to enter the presence of the Lord a servant or his servant is sufficient to do so only through the Prayer and holiness.

Symbolic or spiritual meaning of the use of incense in worship

Scripture shows us that incense represents the prayers of believers:

Raise up my prayer before you as incense, the gift of my hands as the evening offering. Psalm 141: 2
And when he had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb; All had harps, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. Revelation 5: 8
And out of the hand of the angel went up into the presence of God the smoke of incense with the prayers of the saints. Apocalypse 8: 4

Supernatural events at the time of incense

Peter and John went up together to the temple at the ninth hour, that of incense and prayer (Acts 3: 1) and at that hour the Lord performed a prodigious miracle (Acts 3: 7); As a result, the number of converts on that day was about five thousand men (Acts 4: 4).

Another day, but at the same hour, in the locality of Caesarea, Cornelius, a pious centurion and God-fearing, appeared to him an angel with precise instructions from God (Acts 10: 1-8).

It is not in itself that this hour has anything special or supernatural, but in Israel (and in the whole world where there were people of God) it was customary to kneel and worship praying to the temple where the priest in turn offered incense. The hours in which this was done were the third, the sixth and the ninth, this is nine in the morning, twelve at noon and three at noon.

This is how the Word continues to instruct us by saying that at the sixth hour Peter had an ecstasy (Acts 10: 9); And also at the hour of incense and prayer to Hezekiah, the father of John the Baptist, the angel Gabriel appeared to him (Luke 1:10).

And it came to pass that when Zacharias exercised the priesthood before God according to the order of his kind, according to the custom of the priesthood, it was a good thing for him to offer incense, and to go into the sanctuary of the Lord. And all the multitude of the people were out praying at the hour of incense. And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right hand of the altar of incense. And Zacharias was troubled when he saw him, and fear struck him. But the angel said to him, "Do not be afraid; For thy prayer is heard, and thy wife Elizabeth shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name John. Luke 1: 8-13

Since he had been lucky, according to Hebrew thought, it was a Divine design (Leviticus 16: 8 / Numbers 26:55 / 1 Samuel 14:42 / Proverbs 16:33 / Jonah 1: 7 / Acts 1:26) that Zechariah That day he would come to the Temple to offer the incense. God, by lot, had sent Zechariah to his house, for he had a message for him: The Most High had heard his supplications, and now the angel was giving him the news that despite the advanced ages of him and Elizabeth, his wife, The heavenly Father would grant them both a son.