Can we and should we burn incense to the Lord today? If we can/should, what kind and where is it available?
I need to make several points about the burning of incense.
- The burning of incense in the Old Testament under the law was to be done in one place (the tabernacle and later the temple) by one group of people (the priests who descended from Aaron). Not even the king was allowed to burn incense. One king, Uzziah, tried and God gave him leprosy because of his disobedience (2 Chronicles 26:16-21).
- Israel often disobeyed God by burning incense places other than the temple and to other gods. But, by doing so, they made God angry. See 1 Kings 13:1-2; 2 Kings 16:3-4; and many other places. When the kingdom of Israel was taken captive by the Assyrians, one of the reasons God gave was because they burned incense on their own in any place they chose:
2 Kings 17:10-11 "And they set them up images and groves in every high hill, and under every green tree: And there they burnt incense in all the high places, as did the heathen whom the LORD carried away before them; and wrought wicked things to provoke the LORD to anger."
- The burning of incense was never a part of New Testament worship. It was a practice for the temple worship of the Old Testament. But it was never given as part of the church service or to New Testament Christians for any reason.
- The practice of the burning of incense by the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches and by those who follow them was added from false religions. In fact, it did not appear in so-called Christian worship until about 500 years after the time of Christ. It is unscriptural for a church that calls itself Christian to burn incense. God never gave this practice to us.
- In no age has God given individuals the command or even permission to burn incense for religious reasons. This practice is becoming popular because of its connection to non-Christian religions like Hinduism and Buddhism.
In conclusion, it is not honoring to God to burn incense to Him. Even under the law when incense had a particular use, God wanted true love and obedience more than the incense. On one occasion, He states, "Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me" (Isaiah 1:13). He did not want their incense; He wanted their submission to His will.
I do not believe that this keeps us from enjoying scented candles or other spices if we wish. However, we should never put any spiritual or religious significance to them. In doing so, we are leaning towards idolatry. And God hates idolatry.