Reverend Marcus Blair, Grandview Baptist Church
Matthew 2:1-12 –
Last week we looked at the gift of gold and how it represented the Kingship and Lordship of Christ. How it was meant as a worthy tribute, but we also saw how rich the Kingdom of Heaven really is, and how us offering gold to the infant Jesus was helpful to his family, but was ultimately our poor attempt at approaching the greatness of God.
This week we look at frankincense, which is a type of gum that comes from trees in the middle east. If you’ve ever cut a cedar, and then saw the sap roll down and form little globes on the side of the bark, then you know what frankincense looks like. It’s extremely fragrant. The smell from frankincense has long been a very precious thing, especially to Israel.
Now, when the Israelites would make an incense offering before God, the smoke would drift upward, naturally. And it signified the prayers of the people and the worship of the people rising up to God himself. It was a sign of a worthy sacrifice, that smell and the upward-rising smoke. Notice also that the incense altar was covered in gold – that’s last week’s sermon. It shows us again the Kingship of Christ.
This idea is expressed in Psalm 141:2, where David prays to the Lord, “Let my prayer be set before you as incense.”
This was the smell of worship to the Israelites. In the tabernacle and later in the temple, there was the altar of incense, and as it burned, the house would be filled with fragrant smoke, representing the sweetness of the presence of God. So it was representative of the Holy Spirit filling the place of worship.
So why did the wise men bring a gift of frankincense to the infant Jesus? Well, we saw that the gold signified him being the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and now we can see that an offering of incense showed him to be God in the flesh. The wise men were saying, “This child is worthy of an incense offering. Prayer and worship should be made to him! And he is the manifest presence of Almighty God here on earth.”
Instead of burning the incense and letting it drift upward, the wise men actually handed the incense directly to the living Lord. You, oh Lord, are our incense altar! You are where our prayers are placed, where our hope is, the one worthy of praise, worship and affection!
But it had another powerful connotation. Not only does it show Christ to be worthy of worship and of prayer, but remember that in the tabernacle it was all about the glory and presence of God filling the place like smoke. So it shows Christ to be the one who gives to his people the Holy Spirit. Like the fragrant smoke of incense proceeded from the altar and filled the place with the goodness of Christ, we also need to be filled with his holy presence.
You’re not going to burn incense on a literal altar in a physical temple, though. Where is the temple of God now? The temple is you, your inner person. And the incense altar is there. It’s the Lord Jesus inside your heart. It’s the place where you commune spiritually with God.
If you haven’t been living in the Spirit, it is time you brought your offering of frankincense to Christ. It’s time to let it burn and let it fill the whole house!
You have to be a modern-day Wise Man, and fall on your knees before the God who made the heavens and the earth, and set on fire everything that is in your way and keeping you from being a true worshipper. You’ve got to sacrifice whatever it is that is stopping you from being a sold-out believer.
When we make a sacrifice before God, it makes a sweet smell to him. He will bless it! He will take whatever you’ve burned up, and he will replace it with his presence in your life. Christ puts a tongue of flame inside your heart – the Spirit of Truth, who is our comforter and our counselor. That spirit is your connection, your open line directly into the Holy of Holies.
This is needed to reach the world and serve others as a Christian. Each and every day, we need to be utterly filled with the fire of his Spirit to stand in these evil times and to reach the lost. We have to continually go to our incense altar, the Lord Jesus, and receive from him fresh fire!