Morning Sermon: Let Us Come Boldly Before The Throne Of Grace, Exodus 30

Old Testament Reading: Exodus 30

“‘You shall make an altar on which to burn incense; you shall make it of acacia wood. A cubit shall be its length, and a cubit its breadth. It shall be square, and two cubits shall be its height. Its horns shall be of one piece with it. You shall overlay it with pure gold, its top and around its sides and its horns. And you shall make a molding of gold around it. And you shall make two golden rings for it. Under its molding on two opposite sides of it you shall make them, and they shall be holders for poles with which to carry it. You shall make the poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. And you shall put it in front of the veil that is above the ark of the testimony, in front of the mercy seat that is above the testimony, where I will meet with you. And Aaron shall burn fragrant incense on it. Every morning when he dresses the lamps he shall burn it, and when Aaron sets up the lamps at twilight, he shall burn it, a regular incense offering before the LORD throughout your generations. You shall not offer unauthorized incense on it, or a burnt offering, or a grain offering, and you shall not pour a drink offering on it. Aaron shall make atonement on its horns once a year. With the blood of the sin offering of atonement he shall make atonement for it once in the year throughout your generations. It is most holy to the LORD.’ 

The LORD said to Moses, ‘When you take the census of the people of Israel, then each shall give a ransom for his life to the LORD when you number them, that there be no plague among them when you number them. Each one who is numbered in the census shall give this: half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary (the shekel is twenty gerahs), half a shekel as an offering to the LORD. Everyone who is numbered in the census, from twenty years old and upward, shall give the LORD’s offering. The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less, than the half shekel, when you give the LORD’s offering to make atonement for your lives. You shall take the atonement money from the people of Israel and shall give it for the service of the tent of meeting, that it may bring the people of Israel to remembrance before the LORD, so as to make atonement for your lives.’ 

The LORD said to Moses, ‘You shall also make a basin of bronze, with its stand of bronze, for washing. You shall put it between the tent of meeting and the altar, and you shall put water in it, with which Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet. When they go into the tent of meeting, or when they come near the altar to minister, to burn a food offering to the LORD, they shall wash with water, so that they may not die. They shall wash their hands and their feet, so that they may not die. It shall be a statute forever to them, even to him and to his offspring throughout their generations.’ 

The LORD said to Moses, ‘Take the finest spices: of liquid myrrh 500 shekels, and of sweet-smelling cinnamon half as much, that is, 250, and 250 of aromatic cane, and 500 of cassia, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, and a hin of olive oil. And you shall make of these a sacred anointing oil blended as by the perfumer; it shall be a holy anointing oil. With it you shall anoint the tent of meeting and the ark of the testimony, and the table and all its utensils, and the lampstand and its utensils, and the altar of incense, and the altar of burnt offering with all its utensils and the basin and its stand. You shall consecrate them, that they may be most holy. Whatever touches them will become holy. You shall anoint Aaron and his sons, and consecrate them, that they may serve me as priests. And you shall say to the people of Israel, ‘This shall be my holy anointing oil throughout your generations. It shall not be poured on the body of an ordinary person, and you shall make no other like it in composition. It is holy, and it shall be holy to you. Whoever compounds any like it or whoever puts any of it on an outsider shall be cut off from his people.’’ The LORD said to Moses, ‘Take sweet spices, stacte, and onycha, and galbanum, sweet spices with pure frankincense (of each shall there be an equal part), and make an incense blended as by the perfumer, seasoned with salt, pure and holy. You shall beat some of it very small, and put part of it before the testimony in the tent of meeting where I shall meet with you. It shall be most holy for you. And the incense that you shall make according to its composition, you shall not make for yourselves. It shall be for you holy to the LORD. Whoever makes any like it to use as perfume shall be cut off from his people.’” (Exodus 30, ESV)

New Testament Reading: Hebrews 9:1-12

“Now even the first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly place of holiness. For a tent was prepared, the first section, in which were the lampstand and the table and the bread of the Presence. It is called the Holy Place. Behind the second curtain was a second section called the Most Holy Place, having the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron’s staff that budded, and the tablets of the covenant. Above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail. These preparations having thus been made, the priests go regularly into the first section, performing their ritual duties, but into the second only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people. By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still standing (which is symbolic for the present age). According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper, but deal only with food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation. But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.” (Hebrews 9:1–12, ESV)


Please excuse any typos and misspellings within this manuscript. It has been published online for the benefit of the saints of Emmaus Reformed Baptist Church but without the benefit of proofreading.


In Exodus chapter 30 we find more instructions for the building and the ongoing maintenance of the tabernacle, its furnishings, and its priesthood. Why should the New Covenant people of God care about these instructions given that they were for those who lived under the Old Covenant?

One, the facts matter. It is good to know how people were to worship back then. Knowing the facts will also help you to read and understand the rest of the Old Testament. Indeed, knowing the facts will help you to read the New Testament too, for Jesus and his Apostles were born into the Old Covenant. Jesus lived and died under the Old Covenant. He worshiped at the temple under these laws which we are now considering. The early church had to wrestle with the question, are these laws still binding on us now that the Messiah has come? These facts are important, for much that is written in the scriptures after the time of the making of the Old Mosaic Covenant presupposes that you understand these things. Indeed, the more familiar you are with the facts of the Old Testament the more you will recognize references and allusions to the Old Testament in the New Testament scriptures. Open your Bible sometime and read in the New Testament asking yourself the question, what, if anything, does this text have to do with the Old Testament? I think if you look for it you will be surprised by how often the New Testament builds upon the Old. My point is simply this: one good reason to study the Old Testament is so that we might simply know the facts concerning what God did back then and be better students of scripture. 

Two, these facts matter in a special way because, as we have been learning, the things that Israel was commanded to do in the building of the tabernacle, in the establishment of the priesthood, and in the maintenance of them, all had reference to Christ. Yes, the people did really approach God to worship him, pray to him, and serve him under the Old Covenant. But at the same time, these forms of worship were little pointers or pictures of the Christ who was yet to come and to the work that he would accomplish for the redemption of all who trust in him, both then and now. I think it is safe to say that we, who live now after the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, see him with greater clarity in the Old Testament scriptures and in the worship of the Old Covenant people of God. They saw him dimly. We see him now in the light of the noontime sun. Why do we see Christ in the Old Testament more clearly now? Because he has come to fulfill the law, prophets, and Psalms in his life, death, and resurrection. And we have the New Testament scriptures now which make these connections for us. But that is not to say that the faithful who lived prior to Christ were without the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Christ and his finished were revealed to them, from Adam’s day onward, through promises, prophecies, types, and shadows. And so I say to you that these facts concerning the construction of the tabernacle, the garb of the priesthood, their ordination, and all of these tedious details concerning the maintenance of the worship of God under the Old Covenant matter because they are not just brute facts. No, these things signified Christ. And these symbols of Christ must be considered, for by them we come to a greater understanding of who he is and what he has done for us.   

Three, these facts concerning the worship of God under the Old Covenant matter because they help us to better understand who we are in Christ Jesus, the blessing that come to us through faith in him,  and what it is that he called us to do. I will not elaborate on this right now. I think I can show you what I mean by simply saying, “you are the temple of the Holy Spirit”, and “you are a royal priesthood”. In these little phrases, Paul and Peter pick up these Old Testament images and apply them to the church. The church under the New Covenant is the temple of God. Christ is the cornerstone. The Apostles and Prophets are foundation stones, and we, as living stones are being built upon them. Think of all that implies concerning who we are in Christ and what the Lord has called us to do in him. And it is to all believers that Peter says, “you are a royal priesthood.” So them, the tabernacle of Old, and the Priesthood of Old, was a picture of Christ, and it was also a kind of picture of the church of Christ, of our identity and our mission. 

Maybe another way of saying all of this succinctly is that, studying these long and tedious portions of the book of Exodus is important because the gospel of Jesus Christ is contained here. I am not saying that law=gospel. But I am saying that the gospel of Jesus Christ was contained within even the ceremonial laws which were revealed to Old Covenant Isarel. Isn’t that marvelous to consider? 

I say all of that by way of introduction in the hopes that it will help us to consider the facts of Exodus 30 concerning the altar of incense, the ransom price, the bronze laver, and the anointing oil in a way that is faithful to the whole of scripture, that is to say, in a Christ-centered way. 


The Altar Of Incense

In Exodus 30:1-10 we find instructions for the making of the altar of incense. In previous passages, we encountered instructions for the construction of the tabernacle. These included instructions for the making of certain items that would be contained within the tabernacle. In the courtyard, there was to be an altar of bronze upon which burn sacrifices were to be offered up to the Lord. The holy place was to contain the golden lampstand and the table for the bread of presence. A veil was to separate the holy place from the most holy place. And the most holy place was to contain the ark of the covenant with the mercy seat as its lid. Inside that chest, the law of God was to be kept. We have considered each of these items and their significance in previous sermons. Here we learn about the altar of incense. 

This altar was to be made of acacia wood and overlaid with pure gold. It was to be about 18” wide and 18” deep with a height of about 36”. A molding of gold was to be placed around its edges. Horns were to be crafted on its four corners. So then, it resembled the bronze altar in the courtyard upon which animal sacrifices were made, only smaller. No food or drink was to be offered up on this altar, only a certain kind of incense. This altar was to be placed immediately outside of the holy of holies, near the curtain, and inside the holy place. The priest was to burn this special incense in the morning and evening as he tended to the lamp in the holy place which was to burn continuously. Animal blood was to be placed on the horns of the altar once per year. 

In a previous sermon, I mentioned this altar and its significance.  When the priests burnt incense on it in the morning and evening it signified the prayers of God’s people. How do we know this? Well, in a way the symbolism speaks for itself. This altar was set immediately outside the most holy place wherein the throneroom of God in heaven was signified. As the incense burned, the smoke from it would have passed through the curtain and into the very presence of God. This is a beautiful symbol for prayer, don’t you think? Prayer is an invisible thing. We pray (sometimes even in silence) to God, whom we cannot see. And I am saying that this invisible act of prayer was beautifully symbolized in the tabernacle through the burning of this incense.

That the burning of incense on this altar signified prayer is also made clear from other passages of scripture that connect to the two things. 

In Psalm 141:2 David says, “Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!” So David thought of the burning of incense as a symbol for prayer. 

At the beginning of Luke’s Gospel, we encounter the story about the announcement of the birth of John the Baptist who would be the forerunner for the Messiah. John’s father, Zacheriah was ministering at the temple and was selected to burn incense on this altar that we are now considering. And what was he doing while burning incense except praying? And we are told that the people were praying outside too. 

And Revelation 5:8 and 8:3-4 incense and prayer are related. In Revelation 8:3 we read, “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” (Revelation 8:3–4, ESV). Here in Revelation John saw a vision, not of the tabernacle or temple on earth, but of the throneroom of God in heaven. And there he saw the heavenly altar of which the earthly altar in the tabernacle was a copy. Again, when incense was burned upon that heavenly altar in the vision shown to John, it signified the prayers of God’s people on earth even now. 

So now you have the facts about this altar that Israel was instructed to make. You know about its material, design, and dimensions. You know about its placement in the tabernacle. You know about the ingredients contained within the incense that was to be burned, morning and evening. You even know the facts regarding the symbolism. 

But I would ask you to take a moment to consider the spiritual benefit that the altar of incense brought to the faithful who lived under the Old Covenant. Those of faith – those who believed in God and trusted in his promises – would have been greatly encouraged to have the priest burn this incense, to see the smoke of it make its way behind the veil, and to smell the pleasing aroma. It would have reminded the worshipper of God’s love for them, that he had made a way for them to approach him, through blood atonement, through the mediation of the priesthood, and through the washing of water. As Israel sojourned in the wilderness and later settled in the land that the Lord would given to them, the smoke of the incense would have reminded them that YHWH was not distant, but was in their midst and that he had graciously invited them to approach in prayer. Consider the kindness of God, brothers and sisters. Consider how kind he is to make a way for his people and to even condescend to their weakness to them visible signs of spiritual realities.

So why then do we not burn incense today? Well, we are not under the Old Covenant anymore. We are under the New Covenant. And under the New Covenant, we enjoy even greater benefits. The priests who descended from Levi and Aarron do not mediate for us and offer up prayers and our behalf from on earth. No, Jesus the Messiah, the great High Priest in the order of Melchizedek is our mediator. We are invited to come boldly before the throne of grace in his name, and he himself does intercede for us, not from on earth, but in heaven where he is seated at the Father’s right hand. Yes, Christian, you may be encouraged to pray to God and reassured that he hears your prayers as you consider the altar of incense and the smoke that arose from it into the holy of holies through the ministry of the Aaronic priesthood under the Old Covenant. But do forget that we have something even greater now. The Christ has come in fulfillment to these things. He is the Priest and Mediator of a better covenant founded on better promises. Through him the way to God the Father has been opened up. 

If ever you see a “priest” today burning incense before an altar to signify the prayers of God’s people or the presence of God in the midst of them, you know that this “priest” has, in one way or another, denied that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh to accomplish our redemption. This “priest”, even if he bears the name “Christian”, or ministers in what is called a “church”, is denying the full accomplishment of our redemption by Jesus, and his perfect mediation for us in heaven now, by claiming to be a priestly mediator on earth as Arraon and his sons were under the Old Covenant. 

The veil in the temple was torn in two, brothers and sisters (Luke 23:45). The temple was declared to be desolate by Christ himself (Matthew 23:38). The Old Covenant order was made obsolete when the New Covenant was made in Christ’s blood and with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Hebrews 8:13). It vanished away entirely when the temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D. with not one stone remaining on top of another (Matthew 24:1-28). Never should we in any way return to that Old Covenant order, for Christ has come in fulfillment to the Old. In him, and through the covenant he mediates, we have something far superior (Hebrews 7-8). 

So has the LORD given the New Covenant people any visible signs to encourage us to pray, to reassure us of his presence with us, and that our prayers are heard by him? Yes, indeed he has. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are visible signs to us. In water baptism, we are reassured that our sins have been washed away through faith in Christ and that we have been united to Christ by the Spirit in his death and resurrection. We are seated with him now in the heavenly places where he lives to make intercession for us. And in the Lord’s Supper were are reminded of the same things Lord’s Day by Lord’s Day. Both baptism and the Lord’s Supper signify Christ’s finished work and the benefits that come to us through faith in him as partakers of the Covenant of Grace. One of those benefits is access to the throne of grace made possible through Christ’s priestly mediation. So if you wish to have a visible sign to encourage you to pray, to reassure you that God hears yours prayers, and is with you now, you may consider the smoke from the incense burned upon the altar before the Lord in the tabernacle by the Aaronic priests. But as a Christian, you must see these things as fulfilled in Christ. And more than this, you must partake of the means of grace that God has given to us under the New Covenant which signify Christ, the accomplishment of our redemption by his death and resurrection, and all of the benefits that come to us now through his ascension to the Father and by his sending of the Holy Spirit. 


A Ransom Paid

Let us move on now to consider briefly the ransom price that the people of Israel were to pay for their own lives at the tabernacle. I will not speak of this in detail. In brief, here we learn that whenever a census was taken within Isarel in preparation for war at the Lord’s command, this ransom price was to be paid. Stated differently, Israel was never to go to war except at the Lord’s command, and when the Lord commanded them to go to war, a census was to be taken and this ransom price was to be paid (Exod 38:26; Num 1:3, 18, 20, 22; 26:4; 32:11; 1 Chr 27:23; 2 Chr 25:5). All of the males 20 years and older – that is to say, of fighting age – were to give “half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary… as an offering to the LORD” (Exodus 30:13, ESV). This was ⅕ of an ounce of silver. This is was the amount that all were to give no matter if they were rich or poor. This money is in verse 16 called “atonement” or “reconciliation” money. It would be used to support the “service of the tent of meeting, that it [world] bring the people of Israel to remembrance before the LORD, so as to make atonement for [their] lives” (Exodus 30:16, ESV). If this tax were not taken, or if the people were numbered for war apart from the Lord’s command, a plague would befall the people, as was the case when David was king as recorded in 2 Samuel 24. 

What did this ransom price signify?  It reminded all of Israel that they belonged to the Lord under the Old Covenant, that he was their God and King, that their lives belonged to him, and that they were bound to obey his voice.  

Certainly, this ransom price prefigured Christ who would give his life as a ransom for his people and as an atonement for their sins. If Christ has paid the ransom price for you, then you are his. You are bound to serve him. He is your Lord and King. And under his kingship, he has numbered you to engage in holy war – a war fought, not with carnal weapons, but spiritual. 

It seems to be that Peter had this passage in Exodus 30 concerning the war census and the requirement of a ransom price in mind when he wrote to New Covenant Christians, saying, “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” (1 Peter 1:13–19, ESV)

And in the book of Revelation chapter 5 verse 9 we hear the song the four living creatures and the 24 elders. “They sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth” (Revelation 5:9–10, ESV). Interestingly, this song is sung by the four living creatures and the 24 elders right after we are told that they “fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints” (Revelation 5:8, ESV).

I hope that you are able to make the connections, brothers, and sisters. Exodus 30 is clearly in the background of Revelation 5. Under the Old Covenant, prayers were offered up to God through the mediation of Aaron who ministered on earth. Under the New Covenant, our prayers are offered up to God through the mediation of the risen and ascended Christ who ministers in heaven. Under the Old Covenant, the people were to pay a ransom of silver for their own lives. And this did prefigure what Christ would do. He would ransom people for himself, rich and poor, powerful and weak (1 Tim 2:1-6), “not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with [his] precious blood of Christ…” (1 Peter 1:19).

Under the Old Covenant, when then men, rich and poor, 20 years old and upward, were counted for war, at the command of God, they were reminded that they belonged to the Lord. They were not their own, but God was supreme over them. It was a reminder that “(1) God owns the lives of his people, and (2) although he would have the right to require his people to lose their lives in battle, he generously gave them back their lives so they could enjoy the abundant life he had for them within his covenant protection…” (Douglas K. Stuart, Exodus, vol. 2). This ransom payment was to be used for the maintenance of the tabernacle. 

Listen to what Paul says to you, New Covenant Christian: “do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20, ESV).

Brothers and sisters, I ask you, how do you live? Do you live as if you were your own – as if you were the supreme Lord over yourself? Or do you live as if Christ has purchased you?

This ransom price functioned like a tangible memorial to Old Covenant Israel to remind them that they belonged to the Lord. And now I ask you, has the Lord given the New Covenant people of God a memorial to signify this truth that we belong to him through the price of redemption paid by Christ? Yes, indeed. In water baptism, the Lord puts his name on us as we say, Jesus is Lord. In the Lord’s Supper, God the Father invites his people to commune with him at his table, for Christ and reconciled us to the Father through his broken body and shed blood. In this way, we are reminded that we belong to the Lord each and every Lord’s Day. 


The Bronze Laver

I have not left much time to talk about the bronze laver and the anointing oil for the priests. I believe I can get to the point quickly. 

The bronze laver was a large basin that held water for cleansing. It was placed in the courtyard of the tabernacle just outside of the entrance to the holy place. The priests were to use this water for ceremonial washing. 

Back in Exodus 29 we learned that the priests were to be washed in this water as a part of their ordination ceremony before being clothed with the special garments that were made for them. This suggests that they were to be washed from head to toe when they were consecrated.  

On a daily basis, they were to wash their hands and feet before entering the holy place. This signified their need to be cleaned from the filth of sin before approaching the presence of the Lord. This water cleansed the flesh only and made the priest’s ceremonial clean. Only faith in the promised Messiah could cleanse the conscience to make one right before God.

But the symbolism was powerful, wouldn’t you agree? What was communicated? If you wish to approach the God of heaven, you must be cleansed. And of course, having dirt and filth washed from the body accomplished nothing. No, that bodily washing signified the need for the cleaning of the soul – the cleansing of the conscience before God? And what can wash away are sins? Not water. Not the blood of bulls and goats. Nothing but the blood of Jesus.  

So then, the priests were ceremonially ordained to their priestly office in this water, and they were also to wash their hands and feet before ministering the in the holy place day after day. 

I would like you to make a few connections. 

One, consider that Jesus was washed in water at his baptism before entering his public ministry as our great high priest. He was washed in water by John the Baptist, not to wash away the filth of sin, for he had none, but to fulfill all righteousness. As the Messiah, he came to fulfill the offices of prophet, priest, and king. And as our great high priest, he was ceremonially washed in the waters of baptism. 

 Two, all of the disciples of Jesus are also to be washed with water because all who have Jesus as Lord under the New Covenant are priests to God. 1 Peter 2:9 has already been referenced. Peter wrote to all New Covenant Christians when he said, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9, ESV).

Three, I wonder if those episodes we see in the New Testament regarding Jesus having his feet washed with the tears of the women in Luke 7, or the debate that took place between Jesus and Peter in John 13, does not have Exodus 30 and the requirements for the priesthood as their backdrop. Jesus bathed at the beginning of his ministry in water by John. His feet were washed by the tears of the women, and then she anointed him with oil. I think she knew that Jesus was the Messiah, the priest in the order of Melchizedek. And Jesus’ disciples were water baptized. And Christ did also wash their feet. “Peter said to him, ‘You shall never wash my feet.’ Jesus answered him, ‘If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.’ Simon Peter said to him, ‘Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!’ Jesus said to him, ‘The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.’ For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, ‘Not all of you are clean’” (John 13:8–11, ESV). It is interesting to consider the words, “bathed”, “wash”, and “clean” in the Greek and to compare them to the Greek translation of Exodus 28-30. It seems to me that this episode in John 13 has Exodus 28-30 in the background.  

The point is this: Under the Old Covenant, the priests had to undergo ceremonial washing. Do we have anything like this under the New Covenant? Yes. Baptism. Christ was baptized to signify that he is the great and true priest of God who would offer himself up as a sacrifice for sins, who would cleanse his people, and intercede for them forever and ever. And all who follow him are to be baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, for all who have Jesus as Lord, Jew and Gentile, are consecrated to God as a “chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that [they] may proclaim the excellencies of him who called [them] out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9, ESV).


The Anointing Oil

Finally, we come to the anointing oil. The priests under the Old Covenant, along with the tabernacle itself, its furnishing, and utensils were to be anointed with a special kind of oil prepared by a skilled perfumer. So then, the priests would have been marked off not only by their dress but also by their smell. Kings were anointed with oil under the Old Covenant, but oly the priests were anointed with his special oil. The anointing with oil signified God’s blessing and the presence of the Holy Spirit. 

The word Christ, or Messiah, means anointed one. Jesus Christ was God’s anointed. He was anointed with the Holy Spirit. As Acts 10:38 says: “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power.” (Acts 10:38, ESV)

Earlier I mentioned the account from Luke 7 where the woman washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and hair. She also “kissed his feet and anointed them with… ointment”, that is to say, costly perfume (Luke 7:38). Again I said, she knew that Jesus was the Messiah, the great priest of God come in the line of Melchizedek. 

And Jesus, as God’s anointed with one, does also anoint his people. He anoints them, not with oil, but with the One the oil signifies – the Holy Spirit of God. He spoke to his disciples after his resurrection saying, “for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now” (Acts 1:5, ESV). And a little later he said, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8, ESV). And Paul, writing years after this said, “And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee” (2 Corinthians 1:21–22, ESV). John speaks to Christians in this way in 1 John 2:20: “But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge.” (1 John 2:20, ESV).

The priests under the Old Covenant and all who came into contact with them would have been reminded of the Holy Spirit as they smelled the pleasing aroma of the anointing oil.  Indeed, that aroma would have filled the entire tabernacle as the tent itself, its furnishing, and utensils were all to be anointed with this oil. Under the New Covenant, God people are not anointed with perfumed oil, symbolizing the presence of the Spirit. No, all who are united to Christ by faith who are partakers of the New Covenant, do in fact have the Holy Spirit of promise. They are sealed with the Spirit. And this is why Paul could speak to individual believers in this way, saying, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20, ESV). And in another place he speak of the whole church, saying, “What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (2 Corinthians 6:16, ESV)

So, is there any physical reminder for us now under the New Covenant that we have been anointed with the Holy Spirit? Yes, again I say, baptism and the Lord’s Supper. In baptism, the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit of God is signified. As the one baptized is taken under the water their union with Christ in death is signified. As they are brought up again, their new life in Christ is signified. And who is it that makes us alive? It is God the Father working through the Son and by the Spirit. The one who has faith and is baptized came to faith by the Spirit working. Indeed, it is the Spirit who anoints them and seals them. And the Lord’s Supper does also signify the Holy Spirit’s presence with us and in us. When we see the bread and the cup we are reminded of Christ’s broken body and shed blood. We are also reminded that he is risen and ascended. Then comes to mind  his promise to be with us always and to send  “the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name…” Is Christ present in the bread and wine? Not in a fleshly way. But yes, he is present with us in his divinity and by the Holy Spirit that has been poured out from on high.



Now how can I possibly tie all of this together and bring this sermon to a conclusion? I couldn’t think of a better way than to read from Hebrews 4:14-16 where the Apostle applies the same truths that we have been considering. He says, ​​“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:14–16, ESV)

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