Do you know that you were chosen by God to burn incense to worship God? That kind of service was performed by the priests in the Old Testament, but it is also a task for you. God has chosen us and gave us the aim in our lives: to stand in front of the Lord and serve Him. To be in the Lord’s presence, to look at Him deeply, to burn incense, that is our task.
“My sons, do not know be negligent, for the Lord has chosen you to stand in His presence, to serve Him, to be His ministers, and to burn incense to Him.” 2 Chronicles 29,11
God told Moses to build the Temple based on the pattern that was shown on top of Mount Sinai, because He wanted to live among His people. The Tent of Meeting was surrounded with a fence. It could be entered through the gate in the outer court, where there was an altar for making burnt offerings and a basin of bronze for washing. Inside the tabernacle there was a Holy Place and the Holy of Holies separated by the veil. Only priests could enter the Holy Place, offspring of Aaron, the high priest. In the Holy Place except for the gold light and the table with the bread of the presence, there was a gold altar of incense, where the priest burnt sweet incense twice a day.
“And Aaron shall burn on it incense of sweet spices; every morning when he trims and fills the lamps, he shall burn it. And when Aaron lights the lamps in the evening, he shall burn it, a perpetual incense before the Lord throughout your generations.” (Exodus 30, 7-8).
Behind the veil there was the Holy of Holies, where only the high priest could enter once a year on the Reconcile Day to meet God. On the gold altar only sweet incense was burnt and the pleasant incense was arising to God.
The incense was prepared according to God’s recipe, made of the smelly resin, herbs, shells, sweet spices, onycha, pure frankincense and galbanum (Exodus 30, 34-38). It was done this way to show the purest worship to God. Burning incense could be performed only by priests, who ministered in the Holy Place praising and worshipping God. They thanked the Lord for bringing the people out of Egypt, showing His mighty power and leading the people to the promised land. The priests represented the people of Israel, they were praying and bringing requests to the Lord, who was answering with the help of Urim and Thummim.
The Old Testament has its covering in the New Testament. The Lord also invited us to the Holy Place, to be in His presence, to stand in front of Him, to serve Him:
“Come and like living stones, be yourselves built into a spiritual house, for a holy priesthood, to the offer up those spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable and pleasing to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2,5).
The moment when Christ died, the veil of the temple was torn in two. It means that now the way to God is open. We can come closer to the Father because of Jesus Christ and we can give Him glory for His love to us:
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a dedicated nation, God’s own purchased, special people, that you may set forth the wonderful deeds and display the virtues and perfections of Him Who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light”. (1 Peter 2,9)
Why? So that you may proclaim the excellence of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. In the Jewish New Testament Commentary D.H. Stern explains that a Jew means in Hebrew “praise” and “thanks”. Being a Jew means being someone who worships God and gives Him thanks. Hence the very name explains why God chose them. We, the non-Jewish tribe, grafted in Israel through the Messiah, were chosen for that same purpose.
What does it mean to burn incense today?
Incense is a symbol of prayer: “Let my prayer be set forth as incense before You, the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice”. (Psalm 141,2).
Prayer is a place of meeting with the Lord, to glorify, worship, and exalt Him.
“Through Him, therefore, let us constantly and at all times offer up to God a sacrifice of praise, which is the fruit of lips that thankfully acknowledge and confess and glorify”. (Hebrews 13,15).
„We think about His might, His wonderful love, and many other awesome things… We can bring this to the Father, we can tell Him what we see and admire in His Son. We can delight together with the Holy Father about who His Son is, His beauty, His love, all His personal wealth. That is fragrant incense for the Holy Father.” (Upon the book: “House of Gold”, Paul F. Kiene and Jan Rouw).
Thanks to Jesus’ blood we can come to the Holy Father, anointed by His Holy Spirit. We are a pleasant fragrance to the Lord when we are grateful for what He did for us. We are a sweet incense for the Lord when we devote Him the best of our life – our time, our thoughts, when we pray for other people of our whole heart:
“And another angel came and stood over the altar. He had a golden censer, and he was given very much incense, that he might mingle it with the prayers of all the people of God (the saints), upon the golden altar before the throne”. (Revelation 8,3)
The best incense we can burn to God is prayer, when you pray loudly and beg for grace, not for yourself, but for other people. God likes this kind of prayer a lot, when you ask for blessing for your brother or sister. Prayer that is fulfilled with love, smells good whereas it stinks when it is egoistic. It is offering a fragrant incense prepared of the finest ingredient – love, which God wants to relish.
The same way Abel’s and Abraham’s offering was a sweet smell to God. The Lord is willing to answer such prayers, then He shows His power and might.
What is your prayer like? Is it a sweet smell of praise to Jesus? Is it filled with egoism or blessing to your brother or sister?
Do not neglect your service in front of the Lord, let your prayer be a sweet smell.