Exodus 30:1-10, Psalm 141:2, Revelation 8:3-4
The Significance of the Altar
The Altar Typifies Prayer - It was small, but large enough to serve its purpose. Note that it is not the long prayer that avails much, but the prayer of faith. We are not heard for our vain repetitions, but “the fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”
The Altar is a Type of Christ - Christ is the one through whom our prayers and praises ascend to God. Note His high priestly office (see Hebrews 8:1 and Hebrews 7:25). We have a high priest seated at the right hand of God. He is able to save to the uttermost –saying He ever liveth to make intercession for them.
The Components of the Altar
The altar was made of wood overlaid with gold. It was 1½ ft. by 1½ ft. by 3 ft. high. As previously stated the material speaks of the Lord’s humanity and deity.
There were horns situated at each of the four corners – similar to the brazen altar. The horns on the brazen altar spoke of the “power in the blood,” while these horns speak of the “power of prayer” and Christ Himself. They were sprinkled with blood from the brazen altar once a year on the Day of Atonement. God never forgets the suffering His Son endured for us. “One thousand years as one day […].” We must never forget the efficacy of the blood of Christ. To verify that the horns speak of Christ, see Luke 1:69. Zechariah, John the Baptist’s father, said, “God hath raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David.”
The crown speaks of exaltation. A golden crown was placed around the top of the altar. This gives us a picture of Christ exalted. It is only because Christ was resurrected and exalted to the right hand of God that we can expect to realize the power of answered prayer. See Hebrews 9:24.
The Location of the Altar (Exodus 40:5)
The golden altar was placed before the throne - before the ark of testimony (see Revelation 8:3). In other words, it was placed in God’s presence. This typifies our Great High Priest in the presence of God making intercession on our behalf (see Hebrews 7:25).
The golden altar was placed according to a divine plan. So also our Lord Jesus resides in the presence of God according to this divine plan. There is one notable difference between what we have in the tabernacle and what is in heaven today. In the tabernacle, we have the veil. This separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place. At the crucifixion this veil was rent. We now have access into God’s presence. Under the Law, the high priest could only enter the Holy of Holies once a year and only on the merits of shed blood. How we should praise God for His unspeakable gift - for Him who opened up the way to the throne of grace.
The Incense of the Altar
The altar fire was taken from off of the brazen altar and the incense was sprinkled on it morning and evening. Incense is a symbol of prayer. Psalm 141:2 says, “Let my prayer be set before Thee as incense.” In Revelation 5:8, odors are equivalent to incense, which are “the prayers of the saints.” Aaron, the high priest, offered the incense. Aaron is a figure of the Lord Jesus Christ in heaven, offering up prayer on behalf of those who are His.
There is a danger in thinking that Christ only came to die for our sins. In one sense His work is done, but in another His work still continues today. As our Great High Priest, He intercedes for us before God. “To all our prayers and praises, Christ adds His sweet perfume; and love the censer raises, their odors to consume.”