I have been reading lately in the latter part of Exodus. The details of these descriptions can be tedious at times, during which I have on occasion asked God to give me some fresh interest. On one particular day this past week, I read about the altar of incense. It has rich imagery regarding the prayers of God’s people and the coming Messiah’s continual intercession on our behalf. As the horns of the altar are sprinkled with the blood of the sacrifice, the power of His blood in prayer as we confess our sins and ask for His forgiveness, is pictured (I Jn 1:9). About the compound that was to be burnt there on the altar, I read,
“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.” Ex. 30:37, 38 ESV
We think of scents mostly having the role of covering up something unpleasant…we have scented room sprays, laundry soaps, deodorants, baby wipes, trash can liners and those little pine tree things that dangle from our rear view mirrors. Scents mean different things to us–lemon says “clean”, fresh-baked bread says “home”, cut grass says “summer”…but scent as a part of worship?
Many women enjoy having a “signature fragrance” that wafts after them, allowing their presence to linger as they sashay from place to place. But other women can purchase that very same fragrance at the cosmetic counter, and before you know it, the multiplied perfumy trails are wafting hither and thither in lobbies, up and down sidewalks, and in the aisles of stores and churches indiscriminately (especially on college campuses, I have found)! The signature fragrance no longer possesses individuality.
Now, if God were to formulate a fragrance to accompany His holy presence (and He did), do you not think He has every right to sole possession of the “patent” as it were? This would be a peculiar mixture of perfumes, that, with one sniff, would call to mind all that was marvelous and glorious in the tabernacle, as well as in its Designer. A “Designer fragrance” in the fullest and truest sense. I wonder what it smelled like, don’t you? We’ll never know this side of heaven…several of the spices used are no longer identifiable from the text. Our God is a great lover of beauty, so I am certain there has been no other fragrance more gloriously or deliciously blended together in human history.
Why should it be so surprising that God would employ all the senses in the act of worship? Any teacher knows that the more senses you stimulate, the more lasting will be the impression of the lesson you are trying to teach. I am sure He came up with that idea first, and not some touted educational expert. And we all know what it is like to smell a certain smell, and all of a sudden a flood of memories connected with that specific stimulation overtakes us. This happens to me whenever I catch a whiff of salt sea breeze. Instantly, I am transported back in time about thirty years or so, and all the sights and sounds of the boardwalk at Wildwood Crest, New Jersey, come to life in my mind’s eye.
The Bible also says that we are a fragrance of Christ to God among others (2 Cor. 2:14,15). So, my question is this: What kind of wafting trail are you (and I) leaving behind us? What scent follows us around our home? What perfume can be found surrounding us at work? Is it a lovely and “sweet savour” to God? Is it a pleasant, delightful fragrance to others? Next time you dab that cologne behind your ears as the finishing touch to your ensemble, ask yourself, “Does my presence and my life ‘adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things’ (Titus 2:10)?”
O God, let us not allow sin to create a stench in our lives and testimonies…please help us to be a sweet smelling savor to you in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity, we pray.