Incense is the sweet substance that the priests burned in the temple (Godís house) in Jerusalem. Its beautiful smell filled the room as its smoke rose towards God in heaven.
As Psalm 141:2 shows, the incense had a special meaning. It meant the prayers of Godís people. It was those prayers that really were rising to God in heaven. God considered the sincere prayers of his loyal people to be beautiful.
John saw that the prayers of Godís people really do reach God in heaven. There, the prayers looked the same as the gold bowls of incense that the priests used at the temple. They were beautiful gifts that the 24 rulers placed in front of God.
Of course, it is not every kind of prayer that pleases God. Some people pray in a proud manner; they try to please God by their own efforts. Some people try to impress other people by their prayers (Matthew 6:5). Some people ask God to forgive them when they themselves refuse to forgive other people (Matthew 6:14-15). Some people repeat prayers that have no real meaning (Matthew 6:7).
God wants people to pray sincere prayers in a humble manner. People should put their trust in him when they pray. They should pray for the things that he wants them to have. Their prayers should respect God and they should give him honour. They should believe that God will hear and answer their prayer. Such are the prayers that please God. These prayers show genuine love for God and a sincere desire to obey him.
As the 24 rulers offered the prayers of other people to God, they themselves wanted to give something beautiful to him. So, they sang a new song to praise Christ. They played the music on harps. The harp is the musical instrument with strings, that David played. Its sound is quiet. So, the song that they sung was, originally, a very personal expression of praise.
Next part: A new song (Revelation 5:9-10)
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© 2016, Keith Simons.