Sweet Odors In Worship
God designed chemical compounds that have odors, for the benefit of the plant which produces them and for mankind who uses them.1 Many examples of how man used them in ordinary life and in worship are found in the Scriptures.
Scripture says, “Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart” (Prov. 27:9 NIV). Also, the Song of Songs 3:6 indicates, according to Hamilton Smith that “the path of the bride … is perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, and with all the powders of the merchant,” 2 indicating that she is prepared for the coming of the bridegroom. We can apply this Scripture as teaching us to be prepared for the coming of Christ, our bridegroom. We do this when we walk in a way that shows unmistakably that we are prepared for His coming. The sweet odor of such a walk is worship!
Some odoriferous compounds found in spices have an antimicrobial action that makes them useful in preserving foods – and dead bodies! Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, unaware that Jesus would not “see decay” (Ps. 16:10; Acts 2:27), showed their love for the Lord by binding His body “with the spices, in strips of linen … in accordance with Jewish burial customs” (Jn. 19:38-40). And the Lord Himself said, Mary “poured perfume on My body beforehand to prepare for My burial,” and then commended her for it saying that “throughout the world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her” (Mk. 14:8-9). Whatever we do out of love for the Lord is worship – and He appreciates it!
Part of the Old Testament worship was the continual offering of “fragrant incense” made from “fragrant spices” (Ex. 30:7-8,34-35). We too can offer “golden bowls of incense, which are the prayers of the saints” (Rev. 5:8). Furthermore, when we use our material resources to meet the needs of others, it is “a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God” (Heb. 13:16; Phil. 4:18). Thus our worship, our offering of incense, is deeds as well as words and it is not a Sunday only thing!
Noteworthy is the fact that God has designed many plants so that injury produces odoriferous resins1 and that the recipe for making “a fragrant blend” for worship calls for their use (Ex. 30: 22-34). These resins thus symbolize the results of the injuries inflicted on Christ’s body at the time of His crucifixion. Then, whenever we offer thoughts to God about Christ’s wounds, we are, as it were, burning prescribed incense to Him in worship!
AS ANOINTING OIL
All the furniture used in worship was to be anointed with “a sacred anointing oil, a fragrant blend, the work of a perfumer” (Ex. 30:22-28). Its pleasant odor was for the Lord only – other uses brought a severe penalty. Whenever people smelled its particular odor they were reminded of the holiness of the Lord and of what He had done for them!
A similar function is symbolically present with the bread and wine that we are instructed to use “in remembrance” of our Lord (Lk. 22:19). To think on Christ’s holiness and on what His death and resurrection have accomplished for us is true worship! And when we praise the Father for giving His Son for us, we do “through Jesus, therefore, … offer to God a sacrifice of praise” (Heb. 13:15).
1. Pichersky, Eran, “Plant Scents,” American Scientist, 92, 2004, p. 514.
2. Smith, Hamilton, The Song of Songs: A Brief Exposition Of The Song Of Solomon, Believer’s Bookshelf, Sunbury, PA, p. 50.
By Alan Crosby
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org