“You shall make an altar on which to burn incense; you shall make it of acacia wood… You shall overlay it with pure gold, its top and around its sides and its horns… And you shall put it in front of the veil that is above the ark of the testimony, in front of the mercy seat that is above the testimony, where I will meet with you. And Aaron shall burn fragrant incense on it. Every morning when he dresses the lamps he shall burn it, and when Aaron sets up the lamps at twilight, he shall burn it, a regular incense offering before the LORD throughout your generations… It is most holy to the LORD.”
The LORD said to Moses, “When you take the census of the people of Israel, then each shall give a ransom for his life to the LORD when you number them, that there be no plague among them when you number them. Each one who is numbered in the census shall give this: half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary… The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less… You shall take the atonement money from the people of Israel and shall give it for the service of the tent of meeting, that it may bring the people of Israel to remembrance before the LORD, so as to make atonement for your lives.”
The LORD said to Moses, “You shall also make a basin of bronze, with its stand of bronze, for washing. You shall put it between the tent of meeting and the altar, and you shall put water in it, with which Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet. When they go into the tent of meeting, or when they come near the altar to minister, to burn a food offering to the LORD, they shall wash with water, so that they may not die…”
The LORD said to Moses, “Take the finest spices… and a hin of olive oil. And you shall make of these a sacred anointing oil blended as by the perfumer; it shall be a holy anointing oil. With it you shall anoint the tent of meeting and the ark of the testimony, and the table and all its utensils, and the lampstand and its utensils, and the altar of incense, and the altar of burnt offering with all its utensils and the basin and its stand…’”
The LORD said to Moses, “Take sweet spices…with pure frankincense…and make an incense blended as by the perfumer, seasoned with salt, pure and holy… And the incense that you shall make according to its composition, you shall not make for yourselves. It shall be for you holy to the LORD. Whoever makes any like it to use as perfume shall be cut off from his people.” (Exodus 30, ESV)
The small table that becomes an altar for burning incense is covered in gold because it is in the Holy Place, right before the veil that leads into the Most Holy Place, and cannot be used for any kind of offering or sacrifice. It itself is atoned for by the blood of the sacrifice on the Day of Atonement, once a year. It would have provided a very sweet fragrance in the tent, a reminder of God’s holy presence. We are to think of our prayers as the incense that wafts into heaven (Revelation 5:8), a delight to God.
A tax for support of the Tabernacle, presumably taken once a year, makes sure that the Tabernacle is always provided for and its personnel provided for. No one pays more or less than the prescribed amount, but everyone 20 or older must pay or Yahweh will send a plague. The seriousness of maintaining the Tabernacle is thus assured. We must have that same seriousness about maintaining our relationship to God.
The bronze basin (laver in the King James translation) is for the priests to wash with right before they enter the Tabernacle. Purity is expected in our relationship to Yahweh. And the anointing oil with a unique aroma that is not to be duplicated for any other purpose than anointing the Tabernacle, is also a reminder of the uniqueness of this avenue of approach to Yahweh and how special He is. The priests would have a sensory experience with these aromas and visions of beauty every day, offsetting, we may suppose, the unwelcome aromas of slaughtered animals and blood. This strange tension was a powerful symbol of how difficult yet rewarding it was to enter into covenant with God. To enter in to covenant with Him required death that led to forgiveness. The deplorableness of our rebellion is matched by the greatness of God’s grace.