As you read through this passage there is one phrase that is repeated at the start and at the end of the passage, "Where I will meet with you" (V6 & 36). The reminder throughout this description of the tabernacle and the different pieces is that the purpose of the tabernacle is to be a place for people to meet with God.
In passages like this, it is often hard to perceive what this might have looked like. Within the tabernacle, as we heard in Exodus 25, is the ark of the covenant was the place where God will dwell with his people (25:8) and where he will meet with them (25:22). Today’s passage talks about the Altar of Incense which is built outside the Ark of the Covenant with a curtain dividing the two. The person standing at the altar of incense would be facing the Ark of the Covenant but unable to see it due to the curtain in the way.
Aaron is told to burn incense morning and night on the altar of incense. In scripture, incense has been used as a picture of prayer. We see it in both Revelation 5:8 and 8:3-4 and in Psalm 141:2. We also see it in Luke 1:9-10 when Zechariah was chosen to go into the temple to burn incense “all the assembled worshipers were praying outside”.
Pulling the pieces of this passage together we have a picture of God inviting Aaron to meet with him. Even though he won’t be able to see God or know if he is present on the Ark of the Covenant because the curtain covers his view, he is called to burn incense by faith every morning and night. To trust that God will indeed meet with him there.
Today the curtain has been torn down, through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and we can draw nearer to God than ever before. God has come down in human form, in Jesus, to meet with his people. God sends his spirit to be with his people and as a reminder of his presence with them. God promises that when two or three are gathered he is there. The great pinnacle of God’s story is in Revelation 21:1-4 where he will create a perfect place for us to dwell with him. God desires to meet with his people. He always has. Will you trust that he desires to meet with you, even when you can’t see him? Will you draw near and seek to meet with him today?