With golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints… Revelation 5:8
Incense is a sought after commodity in today’s market place. Some buy the fragrance sticks to enhance the imagined perks of their Eastern mysticism. Some are into aroma therapy and add the incense to their scented candle repertoire. The harried husband who gets it for his wife has zero romance on his mind. She is at home dying of colon cancer and he burns the incense to help fight the offensive smell of her exposed colostomy bag. He is not seeking to perfume the sickroom, but to fumigate it. Exactly! When Christ offered Himself up as the only fragrant offering that would find ultimate favor with a holy God, He did not perfume the stench of sin, but fumigated it.
Unrighteous to the core apart from His righteousness, we would not have that proverbial “leg to stand on” were it not for the most critical part of John’s revelation. “I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns....” To Him the prayerful saints sang the new song we can join in even now, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Part 2 of 2)
Comment: Tabernacle literally means “place of dwelling,” and God commanded that it be set up in the precise center of the camp, symbolizing that He was to be the center of His peoples’ lives. No one was to blunder into His presence without taking His holiness into account. Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu “took their respective firepans, and after putting fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them. And fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the Lord…Then Moses said to Aaron, ‘It is what the LORD spoke, saying, By those who come near Me, I will be treated as holy, and before all the people I will be honored’” (Leviticus 10:1-3). “Strange fire” meant Aaron’s sons had not taken the coals from the brazen altar as prescribed in chapter 6:12-13. The prohibition against alcohol in context with their shocking demise implies they were inebriated and thus careless. Only a foolish tongue would say “holy cow” or “holy crap” after this. (What about arriving for worship with coffee and donut in hand?) The prayers of God’s sanctified people are precious, as the “golden bowls” of our text imply. In Revelation 8:3-5 we get a glimpse of how prayer really works in the context of relationship, not religious effort. “And another angel came and stood at the altar, holding a golden censer; and much incense was given to him, that he might add it to the prayers of all the saints before the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up before God out of the angel’s hand. And the angel took the censer; and he filled it with the fire on the altar and threw it to the earth, and there followed peals of thunder and sounds and flashes of lightning and an earthquake.” Thus, divinely ordained prayer “works” its way back to earth to achieve God’s sovereignly decreed purposes. In the process, He may “shake the comfortable and comfort the shaken,” as an old saying goes. Revelation 5