“The incense which you shall make, you shall not make in the same proportions for yourselves; it shall be holy to you for the Lord. Whoever shall make any like it, to use as perfume, shall be cut off from his people.” (Exodus 30:37-38)
Before leaving Exodus 30, let us consider two words of warning contained within this chapter about worship. First, verse 9 tells us that no strange incense is to ever be offered upon the Altar of Incense. What is strange incense? It is incense which does not belong there. It is called strange because it is foreign and out-of-place.
Strange incense refers to worship which is methodical, formal, and pretentious. It is worship offered up, not for the benefit and glory of God, but in order to draw attention to the worshipper. It is a parody of the kind of worship that delights the Lord and is the product of hypocrisy and pride. We see strange incense offered up in our churches in many different forms. It can be seen in the woman who makes sure that her singing is louder than anyone else’s during the song service, or the man who shouts amen to every sentence the preacher says. It is seen in the person who makes sure that their hands are raised higher than everyone else’s during praise and worship, not because of their gratefulness to the Lord, but so that others in the church will be impressed by their great devotion.
I do not suggest that everyone who is enthusiastic in church is offering false worship, only God knows the heart, but I am suggesting that there is a great deal of strange incense being offered every Sunday in many church services. And I can say from personal experience that many of the loudest, most boisterous individuals in the churches I’ve attended are very often those who demonstrate the least amount of fruit in their lives and whose walks are often the farthest from the model the Bible gives us. There is nothing wrong with offering up heartfelt and genuine worship and praise, but when the behavior becomes ostentatious and self-serving, then it is an insult to the Lord and has no place in the church.
Secondly, we read in verses 37-38 that the incense which God gives the formula for is to be used only for the Altar of Incense. The blend of incense described in verses 34-36 is a unique mixture which is holy and set apart for a singular purpose. To take that which is holy and defile it by using it in a common way (such as using the incense as a common air freshener in the home) is an abomination.
The worship of God should permeate our entire lives, in the church and out, but we risk watering down the holiness of that which has been set apart for God’s use by misusing it in other ways. One example is some of the secular events which are carried out in many of our churches. Is it right to use a sanctuary dedicated to the worship of the Lord and the preaching of the Word for other things? Is it okay to have bake sales, bazaars, bingo games, and fundraisers in the same space reserved for Sunday services? I’m not prepared to say definitely one way or the other, but I do think we need to be cautious about how we allow our church sanctuaries to be used. We should bear in mind that they are first and foremost a house of prayer and any events taking place in them should be in keeping with this.
To God goes all glory. In service to Him,
**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.
[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?”]