Who doesn’t love the smell of your favorite fragrances wafting in the air? Good smells draw you in and cause you to stay. Fragrances are memory boosters of past good times and experiences! To this day I love the smell of fresh bread, so I make homemade bread. It’s therapeutic! It makes me happy and peaceful in my thoughts. The smell of fresh bread reminds me of my Grandma Lacquement whose bread everyone wanted. I can still see her in my thoughts in a cloud of flour around her huge mixing bowls, hair tied back, in her small kitchen. I remember church bake sales when people asked first for Grandma’s bread. Her bread sold out in a matter of minutes. Only then would people look at the other baked goods on the table. This was a labor of love for Grandma. She loved making people happy.
God created our senses for pleasure and for protection. Our senses of smell, sight and touch help us to distinguish between what is good for us and what is not. Have you ever asked your spouse to “smell this to see if it is bad” when you have already smelled and know for sure it is bad? Our smelling mechanisms are used in a variety of ways, right?
Dear Friends, God loves good fragrances wafting in the air, too. He created them! Now God tells Moses how to mix His created spices and herbs for incense to add to oils to burn. (No, this is not a commercial for essential oils, but I do use them!) God speaks to Moses about what is good and what is not. But most of all, God commands obedience in the way the Israelites are to worship Him in truth.
This is going to be new for God’s People. God wants to come and meet with them. With sweet smelling fragrances, He prepares the environment around the Tent of Meeting. God wants to be their God, their only God, which is the opposite of the Egyptian way of many gods that generations of God’s People have grown accustomed to in slavery to the Pharoah. Now they are free, delivered, redeemed to serve only God whose love is limitless.
Exodus 30, The Message
The Altar of Incense
1-5 “Make an Altar for burning incense. Construct it from acacia wood, one and one-half feet square and three feet high with its horns of one piece with it. Cover it with a veneer of pure gold, its top, sides, and horns, and make a gold molding around it with two rings of gold beneath the molding. Place the rings on the two opposing sides to serve as holders for poles by which it will be carried. Make the poles of acacia wood and cover them with a veneer of gold.
6-10 “Place the Altar in front of the curtain that hides the Chest of The Testimony, in front of the Atonement-Cover that is over The Testimony where I will meet you. Aaron will burn fragrant incense on it every morning when he polishes the lamps, and again in the evening as he prepares the lamps for lighting, so that there will always be incense burning before God, generation after generation. But don’t burn on this Altar any unholy incense or Whole-Burnt-Offering or Grain-Offering. And don’t pour out Drink-Offerings on it. Once a year Aaron is to purify the Altar horns. Using the blood of the Absolution-Offering of atonement, he is to make this atonement every year down through the generations. It is most holy to God.”
11-16 God spoke to Moses: “When you take a head count of the Israelites to keep track of them, all must pay an atonement-tax to God for their life at the time of being registered so that nothing bad will happen because of the registration. Everyone who gets counted is to give a half-shekel (using the standard Sanctuary shekel of a fifth of an ounce to the shekel)—a half-shekel offering to God. Everyone counted, age twenty and up, is to make the offering to God. The rich are not to pay more nor the poor less than the half-shekel offering to God, the atonement-tax for your lives. Take the atonement-tax money from the Israelites and put it to the maintenance of the Tent of Meeting. It will be a memorial fund for the Israelites in honor of God, making atonement for your lives.”
17-21 God spoke to Moses: “Make a bronze Washbasin; make it with a bronze base. Place it between the Tent of Meeting and the Altar. Put water in it. Aaron and his sons will wash their hands and feet in it. When they enter the Tent of Meeting or approach the Altar to serve there or offer gift offerings to God, they are to wash so they will not die. They are to wash their hands and their feet so they will not die. This is the rule forever, for Aaron and his sons down through the generations.”
Holy Anointing Oil
22-25 God spoke to Moses: “Take the best spices: twelve and a half pounds of liquid myrrh; half that much, six and a quarter pounds, of fragrant cinnamon; six and a quarter pounds of fragrant cane; twelve and a half pounds of cassia—using the standard Sanctuary weight for all of them—and a gallon of olive oil. Make these into a holy anointing oil, a perfumer’s skillful blend.
26-29 “Use it to anoint the Tent of Meeting, the Chest of The Testimony, the Table and all its utensils, the Lampstand and its utensils, the Altar of Incense, the Altar of Whole-Burnt-Offerings and all its utensils, and the Washbasin and its base. Dedicate them so they’ll be soaked in holiness, so that anyone who so much as touches them will become holy.
30-33 “Then anoint Aaron and his sons. Consecrate them as priests to me. Tell the Israelites, ‘This will be my holy anointing oil throughout your generations.’ Don’t pour it on ordinary men. Don’t copy this mixture to use for yourselves. It’s holy; keep it holy. Whoever mixes up anything like it, or puts it on an ordinary person, will be exiled.”
34-38 God spoke to Moses: “Take fragrant spices—gum resin, onycha, galbanum—and add pure frankincense. Mix the spices in equal proportions to make an aromatic incense, the art of a perfumer, salted and pure—holy. Now crush some of it into powder and place some of it before The Testimony in the Tent of Meeting where I will meet with you; it will be for you the holiest of holy places. When you make this incense, you are not to copy the mixture for your own use. It’s holy to God; keep it that way. Whoever copies it for personal use will be excommunicated.”
WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?
After a long day of working in the yard on a hot day, the smell that emanates from my body is pretty disgusting. Is this the time to go to dinner with friends? No! I am not fit for seeing anyone until I clean up. I bathe and put on fresh smelling fragrances before being with anyone. Isn’t that pretty much what God is telling His Chosen? Clean up your thinking and behaving, keep the lamplights burning, and add fragrance to your lives by focusing on Me so I can come near you and meet with you—teaching you with help every day in ways that no other gods or humans can.
I’m reminded of Paul teaching believers what it means to smell good to God with our lives! Jesus, was the “incense” of our redemption. He is the One and Only who set us free from the bondage of our sins. Our sins stink. Jesus’ cleaned and bathed us in the blood of his sacrifice for us.
“Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.” Ephesians 5:1
Want to smell good to God—Love like Jesus loves us!
What is the best example of the way He loves? The death of Christ on the cross, which became an offering and a sacrifice to God for us. Oh friends, the way that God loves is so different from what we normally see that the Scriptures even use an entirely different word to describe it—”agape”.
As you have heard perhaps many times before, the Greek language included at least four different words which might be translated “love.” Each of them describes love in different forms and to different degrees. For now, center on this agape love. When Paul tells us in verse two that “Christ loved us” he used the word agape which refers to a giving, sacrificial love, a love that gives without asking for anything in return, an unconditional love that loves no matter what. This is a love that depends entirely on the one who loves and not on the merit or response of the one loved.
A great example is found in Romans 5:8—“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” This love is a love that represents “a self-emptying self-sacrifice”, not thinking of self at all but of others. That’s the kind of love Paul is talking about when he thought about Jesus dying on the cross. On the cross, Jesus freely gave of Himself for our sakes. On the cross, Jesus sought our good rather than His own good. On the cross, Jesus made sacrifices on our behalf. On the cross, Jesus gave without asking or seeking anything in return.
Jesus told his believing followers to take up their cross and follow Him and love like He loves them. Living in this way is what smells good to God and makes Him smile.
I want to make God smile, don’t you?
I want my thinking and my behavior to smell good to you. I cannot do this on my own, only by your power working in me. I know that the only way to transform my life is to give you my life—all of it. I’m yours, Lord. Make me into what you created me to be and do from the very beginning. Help me to love like you love me. I want to smell good to you, dear Father. May even this prayer of humility from my heart be a pleasing aroma to you this morning.
In Jesus Name, For Your Glory, Amen