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And there appeared to him an angel

of the LORD standing by

the altar of incense,

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on its right side.

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While in that setting there appeared to him a messenger from the SUPREME RULER; the messenger was standing by the place where God’s followers showed they were giving God every aspect of their lives and he positioned himself beside it so as to show honor and respect to the offering of their lives to God, to validate that offering as being accepted and having great value, and to remind this priest that God can do anything He wants to do for He is great and deserves all glory.


1: “the altar of incense"

From the “recipe” for the oil of incense given in the Old Testament it appears that the incense was intended to represent every aspect of our lives, the good and the bad, the natural and the divine, the ordinary and the extraordinary. The reason the book of Revelation tells us that the incense is symbolic for our prayers is that, in that case, it was being used in a way that was not the normal meaning, it was more specific, pointing to one very important aspect of the giving of our lives to God. Whenever Revelation, and other passages in the Bible, explain the meaning of the imagery used you can be sure there is something unique going on; normally they did not explain their use of symbolism for it would have ruined it—like having to explain a joke.


The “right side” was the side of honor, strength, and value. Therefore, the angel’s choice can be seen as a way to validate (give honor to) the incense offering being made. This also meant that the angel was standing between the altar of incense and the golden lampstand. The golden lampstand represented God’s glory which is based, in part, on how far beyond us He is. This should have been another indication to Zachariah that God can do whatever He says He will do, for He is far beyond what we can understand or imagine. As you can see from the paraphrase column, symbolism can pack a great deal of meaning into a small package.