Exodus, Lesson 27: The Daily Sacrifices, Incense, and Tithing

Burning Frankincense (610x352)We still find Moses on Mt. Sinai receiving instructions from God.  Last week, God told Moses how he was to anoint, consecrate, and ordaining priests into the Old-Covenant Priesthood.  God now tells Moses of the Evening and Morning sacrifices that were to be made every day.


The Daily Sacrifices

Read Exodus 29:38-46

–          What does God call this offering? (vs. 41)


–          What was offered on the altar besides the lamb? (vs. 41)


–          What then took with God and His people? (vs. 43)


–          What does “throughout your generations” say about the permanence of this sacrifice.


–          Discuss how they live on in their fulfilled forms within the New Covenant?


A New Covenant Tie-In: In the Old Testament, at twilight each day God’s people brought the evening sacrifice to the Temple.  This consisted of a lamb and grain offering, which linked together with the sunset that another day of service was dedicated to God (or was supposed to be!).  Remember that the Israelites marked the beginning of a new day at sunset.  That’s why the Sabbath Day was from Friday evening at sunset to sunset on Saturday.

Because of the sacrifices and the forgiveness of sins that God gave through them, incense-burning accompanied the sacrifice showing that daily conversation with the Lord could take place.  That was so because the sacrifices, once again, brought peace between God and His people and so they could be on speaking terms.  That was what, in part, the burning of incense testified.

King David commented on this evening time with the Lord by writing: “Let my prayers rise before You as incense, the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice” (Psalm 141:2).  It is from this Psalm that our Evening Prayer services developed.  But instead of animals being sacrificed, as those brought into the New-Covenant Priesthood, we, instead, offer our sacrifices of prayer and praise.

And speaking of incense, we now hear God’s instruction for the Altar of Incense.


The Altar of Incense

Read Exodus 30:1-6

The book of Exodus will later call the Altar of Incense the “golden altar” in 39:38.  It was about 1 ½ feet square and 3 feet high.  Like the Ark of the Covenant and the Table for the Bread of Presence, it was made of acacia wood, overlaid with pure gold, and had rings on each side to transport using poles.

There were to be four horns on each upper corner and a gold molding around the top.  It was in front of the curtain that separated the Holy Place from the Most-Holy Place, the Holy of Holies.


Diagram of Tabernacle and Courtyard (Lesson 23)

–          What do the construction for the Altar of Incense and having “horns” on it all testify?


Read Exodus 30:7-10

–          What is Aaron to do right before he burns the incense?


–          How often did that take place?


–          Discuss possible reasons why God linked burning incense with the lamps.


–          How long was this mandate to burn incense to go on?


–          What was not allowed to be burned on the Altar of Incense?  What are the implications of that?


Excursus: A Glimpse into Heavenly Worship

In both the Old and New Testaments, we learn that the worship of God here on earth is a shadow and copy of what takes place in heaven.  And so we take a short excursus into the book of Revelation to give us a fuller understanding of worship.

Revelation 8:1-4: Then, when the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.  Then I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them.  Another angel, with a golden incense burner, came and stood at the altar.  He was given a large amount of incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the gold altar in front of the throne.  The smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel’s hand.

We read in Revelation about Jesus breaking open the 7th seal.  We might think such an event would immediately follow with much fanfare and the peal of thunder.  But, instead, we get silence, not for a minute, but for 30 minutes!  So, what can these 30 minutes of silence represent?  Most likely, it points back, in part, to the Old-Covenant offering of incense.  Yet, it also must point to what takes place during New-Covenant worship, for, in his vision, the Apostle John saw the resurrected and risen Christ.

–          What did the angel offer up to God?


–          What accompanies the incense?


–          Is this for some of the saints or for all?  Discuss.


–          Discuss.  In the New Covenant, during our worship, we also offer up our prayers to God.  How can our practices better affirm what we see in the book of Revelation when it describes heavenly worship, since our worship is also to be a “copy and shadow of what takes place in heaven” (Hebrews 8:5)?


 Incense Burning as a reflection of heavenly worship (Lesson 27)



Read Exodus 30:11-16

–          What was each Israelite male who was 20 years and older required to pay to the Lord whenever such a census was taken?


–          What was the purpose of this offering? (vs. 16)


–          Following God’s instructions for this census prevented what from happening? (vs. 12)


God called this census “a ransom for his life to the LORD.”  Thus, this offering testified to one’s sinfulness that it needed to be ransomed.  God was reminding the Israelites of their sin and that they could remain as God’s covenant people only by the Lord’s grace.

–          To whom was the “atonement money” given? (vs. 16)  Why?


Remember, in the Old Covenant, the people of God were outwardly rewarded or punished based on their following of the Covenant.  In 2 Samuel 24, King David took an unauthorized census, and because of it, a plague as threatened in these verses came to the people.


Excursus: Tithes and Offerings

We hear God’s instructions on how the Israelites were to give their offerings to God.  Other passages from Exodus also dealt with this topic.

  • Exodus 22:29-30: [God instructed the people of Israel:] “Do not hold back offerings from your vineyards and winepresses.  Give me the firstborn of your sons [to serve as priests, which the Aaronic/Levitical Priesthood would replace].  Do the same with your cattle and your sheep.  They will stay with their mothers seven days, but on the eighth day you are to give them to me.”
  • Exodus 23:19: “Bring the best of the firstfruits of your land to the house of the Lord your God.”
  • In Exodus 29:26-34, when God established the priesthood of Aaron and his sons, He designated part of the sacrificial offerings to support Old-Covenant Priesthood.

These passages, and Exodus 30:11-16, show the purpose for those offerings:

  1. They were to be a confession that the whole land, and all possessions in general, belong to God, and that it was God who blessed them with what they had.
  2. Such offerings were to be a part of their worship to God as a way to support His “church work” on earth.  Included were instructions for tithing (giving 10% of one’s possessions) to support the Old-Covenant priests and the work that took place within the Tabernacle/Temple (Numbers 18:21).

–          Discuss: If and how is any of this applicable today?



The Bronze Basin

Read Exodus 30:17-21

–          What was the purpose of this basin?


–          What happened if a priest didn’t wash before entering into God’s presence?


–          How long was this mandated washing to go on?


–          How then is it lived out and fulfilled in the New Covenant?


The bronze basin contained water with which the priests were to wash before they entered the Tabernacle/Temple to be in God’s presence (Exodus 30:19-21).  The water within the basin was then a way that God purified the Priest to be in His presence.  If the priest was not cleansed in such a way, he would die (Exodus 30:20-21).

As the offering up of a lamb (the lamb being a symbol of Christ) foreshadowed the sacrifice of Christ, so also did these priestly washings foreshadow baptism, the washing of regeneration, through which a person receives the forgiveness of sins and enters the kingdom of God (John 3:5; Hebrews 10:10-14, 22) and the life of worship.


Click here to go to Lesson 28.