My wife and I have come to our favorite Florida beach for a few days and reaching the edge of the waves, I am struck by that distinctive waft of the ocean.
How does one describe it? Salty? Briny? Those are tastes. Odors are much harder to put into words. Where are the sommeliers of smells?
And yet, fragrances are as ubiquitous as tastes and sounds. I inhale the sea air deeply through my nose and try to give words to it. Ahhhh. It is a piquant blend of aerated organic matter and salt, with a slight hint of fish and a subtle undertone of my own sunscreen.
Here’s today’s question: What if God designated one aroma as his? For that scent alone, he would say, “This one is holy… so holy, in fact, it can only be smelled in my presence.” Which one would it be?
The sea breeze, for its powerful connection to timelessness?
The bouquet of a flower for its loveliness?
A certain food?
In Exodus 30:34-38, I discovered that God, indeed, had a particular aromatic blend that was to be wholly his:
The LORD said to Moses, “Take sweet spices, stacte, and onycha, and galbanum, sweet spices with pure frankincense (of each shall there be an equal part) and make an incense blended as by the perfumer, seasoned with salt, pure and holy. You shall beat some of it very small and put part of it before the testimony in the tent of meeting where I shall meet with you. It shall be most holy for you. 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.” (ESV)
Individually, these ingredients were fine for common use (though not easy to get). Together, though, they were a unique mixture, only for God. Holy. Hands off!
Tonight, Alison and I have our own combination at dinner. Pizza and sea breeze. Very common. And decidedly hands-on.
It amazes me how much God wants to engage his people. He fashioned us to be multi-sensory beings, so he involves all our senses in his interactions with us.
I learned, years ago (in the fiction-writing part of my career), that a writer’s trick for pulling a reader fully into a scene is to connect to at least three senses in the description. God does that here. As the people came to worship at the tabernacle, they would see the structure and implements. They’d hear the animals, ready for sacrifice. And they’d inhale the incense that was wafting all around them, unique to the experience and place.
We know from Revelations 5:8 that incense continues to rise before the throne of God, and it remains a unique blend. It is the aroma of all of the “prayers of the saints.” Our individual prayers may not feel profound or powerful but mingled together with millions of other burning embers – each, a valuable ingredient – the scent is one-of-a kind, holy and pleasing to God.
We, his praying children, produce God’s favorite scent.
Lord, we are honored to have our prayers rise to you like fragrant smoke. Forgive us for the times we question whether they have any purpose or significance before you. By your Spirit, draw us to pray so that we might be the aroma that pleases you.
Reader: What is a scent that has emotional significance to you? Tell me about it.