Monday, December 17, 2012

Incense on the Altar

One Year Bible
New Testament passage for Monday, December 17, 2012: Revelation 8:1-13

And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel. Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth, and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake.  Revelation 8:3-4 (ESV)

If we could SEE our prayers, what would we see?  If we could see the direct one-two affects of our prayers, what would we see?  One thing that most people agree on is that we would probably pray more!  Prayer invades the invisible realm of the Spirit.  It is conversation with God that changes our world.  But, it procedes nearly always by faith and faith alone.  We walk and pray "by faith and not by sight." 

Imagine for a moment that we were able to accurately see our prayers and what they are accomplishing?  The Book of Revelation is filled with images of the spiritual realm.  John was able to see heavenly things and write them down for us.  There is always a mixture of symbolism and reality. 

Incense is an interesting and important symbolic element in worship and intercessory prayer.  Revelation 5:8 states that in heaven there were "golden bowls of incense, which are the prayers of the saints."  Then, here in chapter 8, we find incense being MIXED with the prayers of God's people.  There are denominational traditions today that take this literally and still use incense in their regular worship services -- most notably the Roman Catholic Church. 

Insence is a substance, usually extracted from plants, that is activated by fire.  When burned to produces two things: smell and smoke.  It rises from the altar or censer and fills the atmosphere with a sweet aroma along with a shifting haze.  As such, it is indicative of spiritually inspired and Spirit-empowered prayer and worship.

An angel does two things with these prayers.  First, he pours fire on them. They are heightened in their intensity and heat.  God takes those things that you offer Him in prayer and He fills them with fire.  Second, the angel throws the incense-filled censer into the earth.  The results are dramatic -- thunder, lightning, earthquake!

If we could see our prayers at work we would see this: God takes what we pray and pours His fire, His power on them.  Then, He releases them back to earth.  The results are over-whelming.

God waits on us to pray.  His desire is for us to cooperate with Him in bringing His will about on earth.  Our prayers are like incense laid on the altar.  As these prayers rise to God, He amplifies them and enlarges them.  Then the moment comes that He takes those prayers and casts them back into the earth to be fulfilled.  HE WILL MOVE HEAVEN AND EARTH IN YOUR BEHALF!!  Your job is not to ANSWER these prayers.  That's His job.  Your job is to OFFER them.

Today, may there be incense on the altar of your heart.  May the sweet aroma rise continually to God.  We look forward to powerful fulfillment.  What we offer will be multiplied!  Our God is a consuming fire and His fire will fall again in days to come!

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