Nothing humbles like fear.

Exodus 37:25-29 (ESV)

He made the altar of incense of acacia wood. Its length was a cubit, and its breadth was a cubit. It was square, and two cubits was its height. Its horns were of one piece with it. He overlaid it with pure gold, its top and around its sides and its horns. And he made a molding of gold around it, and made two rings of gold on it under its molding, on two opposite sides of it, as holders for the poles with which to carry it. And he made the poles of acacia wood and overlaid them with gold.

He made the holy anointing oil also, and the pure fragrant incense, blended as by the perfumer.

Except for the ark itself, the altar of incense is the most important piece in the tabernacle. Its purpose is directly related to the ark. In fact, this altar is also known as the altar before the LORD.

And he shall take a censer full of coals of fire from the altar before the LORD, and two handfuls of sweet incense beaten small, and he shall bring it inside the veil and put the incense on the fire before the LORD, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that is over the testimony, so that he does not die. – Leviticus 16:12-13

But the striking thing about the altar of incense is its association with death. As the verse above shows, proper use of this altar protects one from death. Improper use has the opposite effect.

Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, which he had not commanded them. And fire came out from before the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the LORD. – Leviticus 10:1-2

People can’t just walk up to God. Exposing our sinful nature to His holiness is fatal. The sacrifice of incense allows the priest, once a year, at the appointed time, to enter the holy of holies. It’s a delicate, dangerous operation.

The point of all this is humility. Nothing humbles like fear.

The expression, “God fearing Christian” can feel like some kind of false doctrine. It sounds incompatible with the fact that God is love. Is it legalism or something?

No. God’s holiness is naturally fearsome. His love, kindness, mercy, and grace are all painted on that background canvas. Unfortunately, Christians often lack the respect and humility that fear produces. Even mature Christians who understand this doctrine could use a refresher.

Ask the LORD to sharpen your sense of fear and awe. This doesn’t require a scary experience, though that’s one surefire method. The goal is merely to throw off that squishy “God is my copilot” mentality.

Thus, just praying about this may give you some fear to begin with. It’s the kind of prayer you might shrink from praying.

This leads to praying “delicately.” I have found that to be powerful and productive.

The weekly study guides, which include all six devotionals plus related questions for discussion or meditation, are available for download here:

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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