The priests began their morning duties, with the help of the Levites, by removing the ashes that had accumulated from the burnt offering of the previous evening sacrifice. They took them to the place that had already been appointed outside the camp and dumped them out. Then they supplied the fire with fresh fuel.
After this job was done, they washed at the laver and put on their official robes – the garments for glory and for beauty – and then began their work of daily atonement. The altar fire would by now be blazing and the smoke curling ascending towards heaven.
Then there would be Aaron standing there regally in his golden vestments, with the jewels on his breast sparkling in the morning sun. Beside him also would have been his sons attired in raiment pure and white. Then the representatives, or elders, would now start entering the court.
At length, a lamb would be led to the door of the tabernacle, where it would be carefully examined by the priests. It must be a male in its first year, and be without spot or any kind of defect before it could be declared a proper victim. It would then be led to the north side of the altar and slain. Then its body would be burned in the same manner as the private offerings already described in the last text. A meat offering of flour mingled with oil, and a drink offering of wine would accompany the burnt offering. (Exodus 29: 38-46)
The other principal part of the morning service was the offering of incense. The high priest, or other priest that might be appointed for this duty, would enter the holy place in the morning. His first business would be that of taking care of the golden candlestick. He trimmed the lamps one by one and removed any dust or other defilement that might have gathered on it during the night. It was to stand pure and spotless and not be defiled in any way. Then each of the individual lamps were furnished with fresh oil. They burned brilliantly, and gave ample light so that the priests could officiate in the sanctuary.
After the priest had filled all the lamps with oil in the candlestick, he filled a censer with fire from off the brazen altar, then re-entered the Holy Place and put it on the golden altar. At the same time he dropped a handful of incense on the fire. Immediately this would make clouds that were filled with sweet odors that penetrated the veil and were carried all the way to God’s throne.
There is no mention made of sacred song in connection with the tabernacle worship in the wilderness, but after the Israelites settled in the land of Canaan, they had no fewer than 4,000 Levites that were specifically set apart by David for conducting the praises of God’s House.
The service in the evening was very similar to that of the morning. The respective sins of the past night and day were atoned for. This secured the remission of punishment from God on a temporary basis, and insured his presence with them while they stayed in the wilderness.
The devotion of the whole animal, as a sacrifice, was representative of the people anew dedicating themselves wholly to God. The meat offering accompanying the sacrifice of the morning and evening lamb was an acknowledgment that God daily bestowed His great mercy upon them. They also acknowledged that He was their total source for everything they had while in the wilderness. How appropriate for them to begin and end each day with these very appropriate services.
By the offering of incense, the priest symbolically interceded with God for the people, with the ascending perfumed cloud going up to God and obtaining his favor with the people. Since the people knew the time of the incense and knew what it meant, many of them used it as a personal time of prayer to God. It was such a wonderful thing that at the same time all over the camp, hundreds and thousands were offering their prayers to God. It must have been a sweet incense to God Himself.
The two chief parts of the morning and evening service were typical of the two great parts of what Jesus did on the cross for us. The lamb sacrificed symbolized His atonement for our sins, and the offering of incense His intercession for us continually. With Jesus’ own blood, He passed through the veil into the true Holy of Holies, and now He lives and continually pleads our case before the Father. He presents our prayers, and He is the incense that flows from us to the Father to give us favor before God.
In the more corrupt ages of Jewish history, the offering of sacrifices and incense became just a daily thing they did – not the meaningful thing that it had been. When the people engaged in the services of the sanctuary with impure and unrepentant hearts, they let their sacrifices and incense become an “abomination to the Father”. They had let rote sacrifice take the place of a pure and loving relationship with their Heavenly Father. God had promised that if they came to the Sanctuary seeking Him, that He would meet with them there. In the worst of times, though, when they were deprived of the privilege of worshiping, they greatly longed for a renewal of the old ways.
Even in the most corrupt of times, there was still a remnant of people who truly worshipped God in spirit and in truth. There was David, Isaiah, Zacharias, Father of John the Baptist, and Simeon, who had prayed for the Messiah to come. Just as of ancient times, there are still many people today who worship only as a formality and do not have an intimate relationship with their Heavenly Father. But in every time, God will have a remnant of believers who are truly seeking to worship Him and wait upon Him to show them what to do. They delight in going to God’s House and praying and receiving answers from Him.
Just as we have learned, our first look every morning, and our last one every night, should be to the atoning Lamb of God. Our first notes of praise when we awake, and our last ones before we fall asleep, should be songs of praise to our adorable Redeemer. At the beginning of each day, we should give ourselves anew to Him who gave Himself for us. If we live in daily communion with God, we will go on unto perfection, and every day we will exhibit more and more the beauty of holiness. If we live in this way, life will never be dull, unexciting, or just plain boring.