God's Remedy for the Unbearable 6/13/2021
I am going to spend a large portion of my message today laying down a foundation for the point of my sermon, I don’t want to bore you with too many details, but there are some things in Tabernacle worship of the Old Testament that must be clear for my message to have a benefit to you. First let’s pray together and then we will begin.
Psalm 140 and Psalm 141 are closely related Psalms. In the first David has become aware of men spreading lies about him, possibly in the court of Saul to stir up action against David. His prayer is for deliverance. Psalm 141 the tone shifts from a prayer of deliverance to keeping David’s self from sin.
This season of David’s life is a very trying, tiring and unbearable season only surpassed by events later in David’s life. We often think of Psalms as being positive songs written about the greatness of God. However, nearly one third are very desperate prayers from people in desperate, unbearable situations.
The point of my message today, I want it to be very clear, there is a unique quality within prayer that makes the unbearable tolerable.
I would like for us to give particular attention to David’s prayer in Psalm 141.
A Psalm of David. 1 Lord, I cry out to You; Make haste to me! Give ear to my voice when I cry out to You. 2 Let my prayer be set before You as incense, The lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice. 3 Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips. 4 Do not incline my heart to any evil thing, To practice wicked works With men who work iniquity; And do not let me eat of their delicacies. 5 Let the righteous strike me; It shall be a kindness. And let him rebuke me; It shall be as excellent oil; Let my head not refuse it. For still my prayer is against the deeds of the wicked. 6 Their judges are overthrown by the sides of the cliff, And they hear my words, for they are sweet. 7 Our bones are scattered at the mouth of the grave, As when one plows and breaks up the earth. 8 But my eyes are upon You, O God the Lord; In You I take refuge; Do not leave my soul destitute. 9 Keep me from the snares they have laid for me, And from the traps of the workers of iniquity. 10 Let the wicked fall into their own nets, While I escape safely.
In the previous Psalm as I mentioned David prays for deliverance. But now seeing that deliverance is not part of God’s plan, David prays “if I must endure, let me endure it without falling into sin.”
He said “let my prayer be set before you as incense.” The incense is agreed upon by all theologians to represent prayer. So we need to understand the practice of offering incense to the Lord.
Altar of Incense measured one cubit wide, one cubit deep, and two cubits in height. A cubit is roughly between 18 inches and 20 inches. So the altar was small, 18 inches wide and deep, square, and 36 inches tall.
Every morning and evening the priest was to enter into the holy place of the tabernacle place hot coals on the altar then the incense was placed on those coals. The incense was made of equal parts of sweet spices, onycha, galbanum, stacte, and pure frankincense. When burned the incense released its strong perfume into the air, a sweet smell that would overwhelm the senses.
Every morning and evening the priest would replenish the coals and the incense. It was supposed to be a perpetual sacrifice of sweet perfume before the Lord.
In addition to being offered daily, on the day of atonement the high priest was to take a shovel full of coals from off the altar, cover it with two handfuls of incense and take it into the holy of holies. The sweet perfume and smoke would cover the mercy seat, above which dwelt the presence of God, the smoke and smell becoming a protective screen between the priest and God’s holiness.
The only people allowed to work with the incense was the apothecary who made it, and the priests. Any other person who was found to have made this incense would be put to death according to verse 38 of Exodus chapter 30.
The incense was a special thing that no one, not even David would have access to. So how is that David could say “let my prayer be set before you as incense”? He had never been in the presence of the altar burning incense, David had never been into the holy place with the mercy seat to see how the incense filled that room.
Was David just inspired by the imagery and ritual of the incense? Oh No! David knew what he was saying.
We often think of tabernacle worship as this pretty ritual. Silent observance of the worship of a holy God.
Let me tell you the truth, and I don’t intend to be crude or gross. It was a bunch of bawling and bellowing animals who were getting slaughtered. They were fighting for their life. Kicking, butting, bawling, and bleeding.
It was seeing and hearing animals in their death struggle. Have you ever seen an animal slaughtered? I have seen chickens, hogs and a cow slaughtered for food. There is nothing romantic about it. It’s a mess.
Daily sacrifices, weekly, monthly, yearly, festivals, and then the offerings of individuals. The sacrifices were non stop. At the dedication of Solomon’s temple 144,000 animals were sacrificed.
Josephus in “Wars of the Jews” writes that there were 256,500 sacrifices were made in Jerusalem in one day.
These sacrifices were efficiently and expediently carried out. If you left here today and walked onto a scene of like that it would turn your stomach. All the blood on the altar, blood on the priest, blood on his hands, clothes. The priest didn’t wear a suit, he wore blood. The priest was bloody, the altar was bloody, the ground was soaked with blood.
He was slitting throats while the other levites held the animal down. Catching blood and sprinkling it on the mercy seat, sprinkling it over here and over there. Catching blood, sprinkling blood, catching blood, sprinkling blood. Burning the carcasses.
Have you smelled burning flesh and fur? Oh, it’s terrible.
Pig slaughter house near the apartment in Alabama. The squealing and smell on Thursday morning.
When the wind blew your way you would smell the smell of death, dried blood and burning carcasses. If we were to witness it we would wretch at the sight and smell. It was unbearable.
The only reprieve from the terrible smell came in the form of the incense.
Inside the holy place when the priest stepped inside, the sweet spices aroma filling that tabernacle covered up the unbearable smell.
The priest would take a censor, a little pot similar to a lamp on a chain and scoop some of the burning coals and incense inside. He could take that burning incense out to the people so they could enjoy the sweet smell.
Imagine with me:
Here comes the priest, a burning lamp of sweet powerful incense in his hand. As he walks past the other priests and levites who are in the middle of slaughtering and burning animals. They say come over here, let me get a whiff of that… Smelling the sweet smell.
Walking among the people. Maybe someone follows him for a minute. Hmmm that smells good! Thank God for that incense.
Power of Prayer
Power of Prayer
The power of God is that He can work a miracle.
The power of prayer is that it can take the unbearable and make it tolerable.
You might not be able to remove the grief from your heart. I can’t bring your baby back, restore a deceased loved one. But the sweet aroma of prayer can make the pain tolerable.
The memory of your trauma may never fade. But the sweet aroma of prayer in the presence of God can help you make it another day.
You may have the same testimony as Paul who had a thorn in the flesh. He prayed three times and God’s answer was my grace is sufficient, My strength is made perfect in weakness.
9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
God didn’t leave you with nothing… grace, strength, and the power of prayer to make tolerable the unbearable things of life.
Life stinks sometimes, it hurts at times, tragedy is suffered, it’s bloody and unbearable some days, but the remedy is found in prayer. Like the sweet smell of incense changing the atmosphere. You can get up from a place of prayer and say I can go another day.
There is a sweetness in prayer, there is deliverance in prayer, there is salvation in prayer. When you have stood just as much as you can stand, when you have gone as far as you can go, and you are just so sick you can’t hardly stand it any longer… Thank God for that sweet aroma of prayer. You can get on your face and start to call on God. It might not solve the problem but it sweetens up your life!
All of us are in the same fight. I am just as vulnerable as you are. Life can be difficult. We all walk thru difficult days, dark seasons, each of us bearing a burden. Every person is touched by trouble in life. No one escapes unscathed. We get tested to the limit.
We see all the fighting, hurting, blood and guts, and dying that comes with life until we get sick of it. But there is a way out for us, and that avenue is in calling out on the name of the Lord God.
The further they were from the burning incense, the worse things stunk.
The less you pray the more things stink. The less you pray the harder it is to stand it.
Prayer does not always get rid of everything. Incense didn’t get rid of anything.
Carcasses remained, burning flesh, blood, guts, stench of death and animals. But it made it a whole lot more bearable.
Prayer doesn’t eliminate everything in your life. But it does make it a whole lot more bearable.
I used to have the goofy thought that if I prayed enough and got spiritual enough that all the junk of life would go away and I would never be discouraged again. You know what happened… I prayed and prayed and just kept getting more discouraged cause all the junk wasn’t going away.
Prayer is a powerful thing....but.
Prayer does not eliminate every situation from your life, don’t get the mistaken idea that if I pray it’s going to take away everything that is bothering me. It doesn’t take away every hurt from your life, but it makes it able to be born, able to be stood, and able to be lived with because there is a remedy, and a refuge, and a God that you can go to!
Jesus prayed in the garden...
42 saying, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” 43 Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him.
The prayer that was never answered for Jesus. You talk about bitter, crushing, anguish, and pain. You talk about death. It was there. But He said nevertheless not My will...
The cup was never removed from Him. But an angel came and strengthened Him.
The cup may not be gone, but there will be something to strengthen you. If you will pray and touch God, if you will walk with God, if you will use the power of prayer it may not solve every problem in your life… it may not reverse the damage done… it may not take away the suffering.... it may not change every situation. But it will sweeten up your life, it will bring joy to your soul, it will bring strength to your life and you can get up and say I can stand it another day, I can walk another day, I can shout the victory another day because of the power of prayer and talking to God!
If you have failed God… Do what David did, sweeten up the air with prayer unto God. Talk to God and get it straightened up today!
There is a remedy for the unbearable… Prayer!