Saturday, April 26, 2014

Triplets of Fragrance: Gateway to Worship

Photo credit: Apr 12, 2012 wikimedia

Do the scents of spring bring joy or other passionate emotions to your heart and soul? When I was growing up in Pennsylvania, I always associated the intoxicating fragrance of lilacs with the impressionist music of Ravel’s La Valse – melodies that lured me to dance even while my heart was aching.

The first time I visited Princeton University, the sweetness of the weeping cherry trees helped to convince me that I wanted to attend college there. For the next four springs, I learned to associate that scent with rites of passage – final exams, the giddiness yet heartbreak of young romance, existential thoughts and discussions while walking by moonlight reflecting from the Fountain of Freedom, and finally the bittersweet accomplishment of graduation.

Now that I am in Florida, orange blossoms, jasmine and honeysuckle waft in on the morning breeze, reminding me of God’s grace in bringing me here, saving me, and giving me the blessings of my family, a new church home, and of opportunities to serve Him in several ministries. The gateway of smell opens the path to memories of long ago, peace and joy in the present, and hopes for the future.

We are wonderfully made by God (Psalm 139:14) in His own image (Genesis 1:26), designed to worship Him, so it is not surprising that He uses that pathway from nose to brain to remind us of Himself. The Bridegroom in Song of Solomon, a beautiful metaphor for Christ Himself, pours out His Name as a fragrant oil (1:3). He is the Rose of Sharon and the Lily of the Valleys (2:1), perfuming our lives with His truth and grace.

In Old Testament times, God commanded sacrifices to Himself that would be a sweet-smelling savour (Genesis 8:21; Exodus 29:18,25, etc.), echoed later in the incense used in some churches during worship services. Then His Son was the perfect, complete sacrifice for the sins of the whole world (John 1:29), forever conquering sin and death (1 Corinthians 15:54-57), exuding a fragrance like that of incense used in a triumphal procession (2 Corinthians 2:14). Now, all those who place their trust in Him are a sweet savour of Christ (2 Corinthians 2:15-16).

God experiences the prayers of those who love and trust Him as incense, as described in exactly three verses in Scripture (Psalm 141:2; Revelation 8:3, 4).

Psalm 45 describes the royal perfume of Christ the King in triplets of fragrance. He is anointed with the oil of gladness (Hebrews 1:9) composed of myrrh, aloes and cassia (Psalm 45:8). This Psalm prophesies of the coming Messiah, fairer than the children of men, speaking words of grace, and forever blessed by God (v. 4). He is mighty, full of glory and majesty (v. 3), yet He embodies meekness as well as righteousness and truth (v. 4).

Jesus Christ is the High Priest anointed with the oil of the Spirit (v. 7), as well as the Warrior bringing judgment to God’s enemies (v. 5) and the King Who will rule forever in righteousness (v. 6)..How should we respond to Him?

If we forsake all others to be with Him (v. 8), acknowledge Him as Lord of our lives by obeying Him, and worship Him (v. 11), He will see us as honorable (v. 9), beautiful (v. 11). and glorious (v. 8). Then we can enter into the King's palace (v. 15), become His children, and rule with Him as princes in all the earth (v. 16). We shall rejoice (v. 15), remember His name for all generations, and praise Him forever (v. 17).

What an amazing prophesy of Christ the King Who through His death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) saved us by His grace (Ephesians 2:8-9), transforming us from His enemies (Romans 5:10) to His children (Romans 8:16) and joint rulers with Him! (Isaiah 32:1) Truly believers have reason to rejoice! Just as we are clothed in His righteousness (Psalm 132:9; Isaiah 61:10), so will our garments be perfumed with His oil of gladness! 

© 2014 Laurie Collett
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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Hosanna – Save Now!

As we saw last week, God used ordinary things to convey the extraordinary meaning of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, when He rode on a donkey and was hailed by His people. John tells us that the multitude cried Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord (John 12:13).

“Hosanna,” which appears six times in the Gospels referring to the triumphal entry, has similar forms in the Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic. It means "save now,” “rescue," or "savior," and in Hebrew, it is “Jehovah hoshiah-nna” which means “I beseech thee, O Lord, save now.”

Those shouting it on that day most likely did not realize the true significance of their greeting, as they were not looking for salvation from their sins or for eternal life, but for a warrior and king to deliver them from Roman oppression.

Luke’s Gospel says that as Christ approached the mount of Olives, the disciples rejoiced and praised God for the miracles He had done, shouting Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest (Luke 19:38).

This greeting is prophesied in Psalm 118: 25 Save now, I beseech thee, O Lord: O Lord, I beseech thee, send now prosperity. 26 Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the Lord: we have blessed you out of the house of the Lord.

But Psalm 118 goes on to emphasize what the crowd did not realize: 27 God is the Lord, which hath shewed us light: bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar.

As Jesus, Light of the world (John 1:9; 8:12) entered Jerusalem on this occasion, it was not to conquer Israel’s enemies and to rule over the city, as His followers had hoped (Matthew 20:21). Instead, it was to sacrifice Himself, the perfect, divine God the Son (Isaiah 53:5-12). He would “save now” by laying down His life (John 15:13) to pay for the sins of all mankind (John 1:29), so that all who would repent and trust in His death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6) would have everlasting life (John 3:16). 

Despite their blindness to His true purpose, Jesus’ followers praised Him mightily and loudly on that first Palm Sunday, so much so that the Pharisees demanded that He stop their acclamations (Luke 19:39). The world will always throw a wet blanket on Christian praise, but it is ironic that the chief religious elders of that day were the ones to do it.

But God’s creation cannot be silent in worshipping Him, and Jesus answered “If these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out (v.40).” Genuine Christian praise ultimately can’t be suppressed because even the creation praises the Creator – bird songs, babbling brooks, flowers wafting their scent upward to Heaven all glorify Him.

Sadly, the crowd of about 2,700,000 Jews gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate Passover offered Him genuine praise, but for the wrong reasons. Matthew 21:10 tells us that they were “moved,” with the corresponding Greek word meaning “convulsed” or “stirred” as by an earthquake.

They cried “Hosanna,” recognizing that He was the son of David, as expected for the King Who would deliver them (Jeremiah 22:2; Revelation 22:16). They knew He was of the right lineage to rule over them, but not that He should be called Lord by David himself (Psalm 110:1; Matthew 22:44; Mark 12:36). They realized that Jesus came in the name of the Lord, but not that He Himself was Lord of all (Matthew 21:9-10; John 13:13; Revelation 17:14;19:16).

They asked the question that is the most significant question in all history: “Who is this?” (v. 10). And they answered their own question incorrectly, saying that Jesus was the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee.

“Who is this?” is the trillion-dollar question for all time, which every person must deal with to determine their eternal destiny. Not one of us can ignore the question of who Jesus is to us. We can be hostile and reject Him altogether as a blasphemer (Matthew 26:65, Mark 14:64) like the Pharisees who pridefully placed their trust in their own good works and religiosity to get to Heaven (Luke 18:10-14),. But our destiny will be eternal hell, for we are saved not by works but by His grace through our faith (Ephesians 2:8-9).

We can get our emotions stirred up over praising a popular hero, like many in the crowd who waved branches and shouted praises without knowing or accepting Him. Their feelings were shallow and short-lived (Matthew 13:20-21), as was evident when they cried out for His crucifixion five days later. But God knows the hearts (Luke 16:15; Acts 15:8), and mouthing empty praises will not change our destiny from eternal punishment in hell (Luke 13:23-28).

We can even honor Jesus as a good man, teacher, and prophet, or God’s messenger to tell us God’s will. But if we reject His claim to be God in the flesh (John 1:1-14), our destiny will still be eternal torment in hell (John 3:18).

Only if we call on His Name, accepting Jesus as Lord, God and Savior, will we have eternal life with Him in Heaven (Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13). Only if we ask Him “Save now!” – “Hosanna” – recognizing that we are sinners in need of a Savior, that our good works apart from His salvation are like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6), and that faith in His death, burial and resurrection is the only way to Heaven, do we have the right answer to that crucial question.

Psalm 24 asks that fateful question and gives a paradigm-shifting answer, affirming that Jesus is LORD!

8 Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle.  9 Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in.  10 Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory. Selah.

He is our risen Savior Who conquered sin and death forever more! (Isaiah 25:8; 1 Corinthians 15:54-55) Through Him alone we have eternal life! Trust Jesus today as God, King of glory and Lord of your life!

© 2014 Laurie Collett
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