Say to the Israelites, ‘This is to be my sacred anointing oil for the generations to come. Do not pour it on men’s bodies and do not make any oil with the same formula. It is sacred, and you are to consider it sacred. (Exodus 30:31-32, NIV)
Do not make any incense with this formula for yourselves; consider it holy to the LORD. (Exodus 30:37, NIV)
It is surprising to read “Do not make any for yourselves,” in the middle of these instructions. If we like it, why would God restrict us from using it? The scent of perfume and incense we use seems like a small matter that should be unimportant to God. We can be tempted to interpret these — and other commands from God — as controlling, mean, or selfish. But He did not restrict them to limit us, rather He did it to give them importance. He has declared those particular scents as sacred or holy. Set apart. Special. Separate to God. They have a specific purpose.
When I was a young wife, decorative towels were popular. The young husbands in our circle of friends did not understand why their wives hung up “no touch towels”. From the men’s perspective, all towels served the same purpose: a tool for drying something. But to the women, the embellished towels were set apart as special and should be admired but not used. The goal was to protect them from being soiled with use or faded with repeated washings. We did not want to prevent our husbands from drying their hands, we wanted to give some towels a different, decorative, purpose.
Many people have some items they consider “everyday” and others they consider “good”. Clothing and dishes come to mind immediately. We wear good clothes to weddings and funerals but have everyday clothes for mowing the lawn or jobs that will be hot and sweaty. We may have dishes that are only used for holidays or when serving guests. Like God, we have set some things apart as special.
Why would God set apart perfume and incense? Science tells us that scents are powerful. They evoke memories. They allow us to recall details otherwise forgotten. They can also set a mood. So it may not be surprising that God wanted the scent of one particular oil and incense to be associated exclusively with His house. Perhaps He wanted that scent to build a connection between His people and Himself. A reminder of His holiness. An invitation to offer Him praise and worship. A prompt to remember His provision, protection, and promises. A signal to lay all else aside and focus on Him.
But oil and incense are not all that God considers holy and sacred. There are several Bible verses reminding us that people fall into that category as well!
For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. (Ephesians 1:4, NIV)
Know that the Lord has set apart his faithful servant for himself…(Psalm 4:3, NIV)
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession… (I Peter 2:9, NIV)
If you have accepted Christ as your Savior, God looks at you differently from people who have not. He sees you as holy and blameless. He has set you apart. He considers you His special possession. He also has given you some specific instructions for life, including these:
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. (Romans 12:2, NIV)
Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness… (Matthew 6:33, NIV)
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil… (James 4:7, NIV)
Honor God with your bodies. (I Corinthians 6:20, NIV)
Fill your mind and thoughts with God’s wisdom. Seek righteousness and what will expand God’s kingdom. Submit to God and resist the temptation to sin. Use your body to honor God. God did not give these commands because He is mean or controlling. Instead he gave them so we could experience far more life! They restrict us in order to set us apart. His purpose for us goes beyond existing or surviving on this earth. He wants His children to be special. To be noticed. To be a reminder of His holiness, power, and grace.
While Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross ended the need for us to burn a particular oil or incense to honor God, the book of Revelation describes a scene in Heaven where something we do produces a scent that is special to Him:
Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. (Revelation 5:8, NIV)
This is hard to imagine, but the prayers of God’s children are a pleasant fragrance to Him! When we talk to God, share our thoughts with Him, give our adoration, seek His guidance, unload our burdens, declare His praise, or cry out for His mercy and grace, it is a sacred act. Praying to God is a sacred privilege. Those prayers are set apart for Him alone. They are valuable to Him. They connect us to Him. They are special.
You, your life, and your prayers are set apart. You can make them a sacred fragrance to God.
Do you have a scent or fragrance that has special meaning? Of what does it remind you?
Where in your life do you make distinctions between the “everyday” and the “good”? Do you feel differently about them?
Do you think God’s commands restrict you or set you apart? Why?
How do you feel about being sacred to God?
Fill heaven with a sacred fragrance as you thank God for far more life!
Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso