|Photo by Raul654 On May 1, 2005.|
Saturday, May 3, 2014
Oil of Gladness: Triplets of Royal Perfume
As we saw last week, fragrance is a gateway to worship, as the sweet scents evoke memories of God’s faithfulness (Lamentations 3:23) and emotions of thankfulness (1 Thessalonians 5:18), love for God and one another (Luke 10:27), and joy in the Lord (Psalm.32:11; Isaiah 61:10; Matthew 25:21,23; Philippians 4:4).
Jesus, the Messiah, King of Israel is not only described in terms of beautiful flowers, valued spices and majestic plants, but He even has His own royal perfume made of three botanicals. Jesus Christ is the only righteous or holy One Who hates evil. God the Father therefore gave Him a special royal perfume, similar to the anointing oil used only for the King or High Priest (Exodus 30:23-24), but described as the oil of gladness (Psalm 45:7).
That perfume contains the triple fragrance of myrrh, aloes and cassia (Psalm 45:7-8), all rich in symbolism reflecting His divinity (John 17:5), His sacrifice, and His substitution (I John 2:2) to save us by wrapping Himself in human flesh, living a completely holy and sinless life, and suffering to pay our sin debt in full (Philippians 2:6-9)
Cassia refers to dried flowers or inner bark from a tree resembling the cinnamon tree, with a similar warm, sweet-spicy aroma, but more pungent. The Hebrew word for cassia is “ketzi'oth” or ”kiddah,” which means "split," just as His body was broken on the cross for us (1 Corinthians 11:24). It also means to contract or bend the body or neck in a position of submission and reverence, as we should bow our heads to Him and as the Lamb of God meekly submitted to His captors (Romans 14:11; Philippians. 2:10; Isaiah. 53:7). When confronted with His final ordeal, Jesus did not talk back (Isaiah. 53:7; Matthew 26:62-63), resist arrest or punishment, or call on angels to deliver Him (Matthew 26:53).
The strips of bark may also represent humility, as in being stripped of pride, just as the Son of God had the royal robe removed from Him, was stripped naked (Matthew 27:28,31), and whipped until His flesh became ragged, bleeding strips (John 19:1; Isaiah 53:5).
There are exactly three references to cassia in Scripture, including Psalm 45. It was one of three spices contained in the holy anointing oil, along with myrrh and calamus (and cinnamon, related to cassia; Exodus 30:23-24). It is also one of three valuable commodities used in trade, along with bright iron and calamus (Ezekiel 27:19).
Another ingredient in the oil of gladness is myrrh, which at first seems contradictory given its association with death. Myrrh is a gum extracted from a shrub, used in Bible times to anoint a dead body in preparation for burial (John 19:39), as well as being a component of the holy anointing oil (Exodus 30:23-24) and an oil of purification for women (Esther 2:12). Like cassia and other precious spices, myrrh was a valuable commodity, used in trade (Genesis 37:25), as a peace offering (Genesis 43:11), and even as an enticement by a woman of ill repute (Proverbs 7:17).
Myrrh was one of the three gifts the wise men gave Jesus (Matthew 2:11), along with gold and frankincense, with myrrh representing the fact that Jesus was born to die. Despite the physical agony, humiliation, and spiritual suffering of His death on the cross, Jesus endured it with joy (Hebrews 12:2), Only through the cross would He have victory over sin, conquering death, and salvation for all who placed their trust in His death, burial and resurrection as the only way to Heaven (1 Corinthians 15:1-4; John 14:6). Therefore, the Bridegroom in Song of Solomon is fragrant with myrrh (1:13; 3:6; 4:6,13, 5:1,5,13) as well as with rose and lily (2:1), for the joy we have in Him is possible only through His sacrifice in death.
Despite the sweet fragrance of myrrh, it has a bitter taste, and in Hebrew, the word means “bitter.” The same Hebrew root word is in “Mara,” the name Naomi asked her friends to call her when she felt that God had dealt very bitterly with her by taking her two sons.(Ruth 1:20). Myrrh was a pain killer, offered dissolved in wine to Jesus on the cross, yet He refused it (Mark 15:23). In so doing, He would be fully aware of His suffering and its significance, not diminishing it one iota.
Aloe, the remaining component of the oil of gladness, is a succulent desert plant, like cactus, storing water in its fleshy leaves. It is referenced in Song of Solomon (4:14) as one of three valued plants, along with frankincense and myrrh. Like myrrh, it is used to anoint a body for burial (John 19:39), and the resin and oil are used as a base for perfume. Medicinal uses include laxative, relief of digestive discomfort, and healing of skin conditions.
I think of aloe as the balm in Gilead (Jeremiah.8:22), for I have used this cure-all many times to soothe burns, poison ivy, sunburn, and even joint pain! The healing properties of aloe remind us that Jesus is the Great Physician, healing us not only physically but spiritually (Matthew 4:23). Only Jesus can cure us of our worst disease – our spiritual condition of sin, which deserves eternal punishment in hell (Romans 6:23; John 3:18. He alone is the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world ( John 1:29).
Aloe leaves are arranged in an endless spiral reflecting the perfect Fibonacci sequence and its relationship to the Golden Ratio, examples of God’s perfection in the nature He created. When viewed from above, the aloe plant appears as a rosette or starburst, reminding me of Christ as the Rose of Sharon (Song of Solomon 2:1) , as the bright Morning Star (Revelation 22:16), and as a many-faceted precious Jewel shining in rainbow brilliance from His throne, described as jasper, sardinius and emerald (Revelation 4:3).
If you have an aloe plant, you know that even if you have two black thumbs, you just can’t kill it! You can neglect it, hide it from the sun, let it dry up, and yet it flourishes with new life! So to me, it is fitting that the aloe is contained in the Saviour’s perfume, reminding me of His triumph over death, His resurrection, and the eternal life we have through faith in Him as the only Way to Heaven! (John 3:16; 14:6; 11:25).
© 2014 Laurie Collett