Exodus 30:10 (HCSB)
10 “Once a year Aaron is to perform the purification rite on the horns of the altar. Throughout your generations he is to perform the purification rite for it once a year, with the blood of the sin offering for atonement. The altar is especially holy to the Lord.”
This passage is about the incense alter that is placed in the Most Holy Place, along with the lampstand and the ark. The first five verses are concerned with the materials and construction of the altar, while the next five (6-10) are concerned with its function.
Although there is nothing explicit in this passage why incense is important to God, we at least understand that it is. It seems almost certain that the importance is not for any benefit of God’s, but for man. God surely does not benefit from the aroma-filled smoke as man might have.
There could be the practical reason of trying to disguise the smell that likely arose from an area in which sacrifices take place. Certainly an aromatic aroma would be better than the smell of carcasses. We eventually read in Leviticus that the smoke also protects the high priest from being directly exposed to the mercy seat, which keeps him from dying.
But probably just as likely is the symbolism of the altar being between man and God, just behind the veil. The smoke would between them as well. Perhaps the sweet smell is a sort of cleansing for man, for the high priest, a covering of his stench of sin.
No matter what, the altar is holy to God. The rituals must be performed, the altar is not to be used in any way other than it’s intended purpose, and at the intended times. There are times when God ask us to do something, and we don’t get it, it doesn’t make sense. But we do it, because God does not need to justify Himself to us. He has already proven He is perfect and our biggest and greatest champion… so we obey out of love, even when we don’t get it.
Lord, thank You for being our perfect, loving God. I don’t get the incense altar, but I trust and know that it is holy to You, and therefore it is to me also. I pray for the humbleness to not try and “approve” all of Your ways, but to accept and join You in all You do. Amen.