Sweet Aroma of Love
By: The John Ankerberg Show
|By: Nancy Missler; ©2003|
|What is it that causes a “sweet aroma” to rise from us to God? Nancy Missler explains.|
When sin and self no longer form a barrier preventing our approach to God, then a sweet aroma will come up before Him. We will have been wholly burnt and, thus, His Life can come forth as a sweet savor.
Sacrificing ourselves as a wholly burnt offering on the Brazen Altar, carrying that hot piece of coal as a symbol of our burnt and crucified life, placing it on the Incense Altar, and watching as the perfume and the fire become one, is a graphic picture of how we become “exponentially” one with God. In other words, this is what it means to truly love Him.
The verb agapao (to love) in Scripture means “what we totally give ourselves over to”; what we put first in our lives; or what we become “one” with. As we offer God the incense of our wholly burnt lives, the cloud of our human fragrance mingles with the cloud of His divine glory and we do become “one” just like the fire and the log. It means that He has accepted our love offering (our lives) and we have become enveloped in Him. Remember the pillar of cloud and fire in the Old Testament? The cloud and fire were intertwined and intermingled and always stood as a symbol of God’s presence. That same pillar of cloud and fire (the Shekinah Glory) dwelt in the Holy of Holies over the Ark of the Covenant, and when the incense was offered, the perfume cloud intermingled with the Shekinah Glory and became a pleasing aroma unto God.
This is the reason, I believe, the Incense Altar represents our “union with” or our “experiential oneness with” God.
Incense is also always associated with our prayers. Throughout Scripture our prayers are said to ascent to God like a sweet incense. Listen to Revelation 8:3, “And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given to him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the Golden Altar that was before the throne.”
When we become experientially one with God’s Spirit, He will hear our prayers, because they are now in accordance with His will. We can ask anything we want, because we will be asking in His Name and in His Character. Thus, we can be assured that He not only will hear us, but that He will also answer us in His timing and in His way.
Fragrance of Christ
Incense in the Bible symbolizes the fragrance of a life. A bad savor means an unholy or impure life; a good savor means a holy and pure life.
In 2 Corinthians 2:14-16, Paul tells us that God manifests the savor of His knowledge by us in every place. In other words, when we are loving God and others as He desires, we will manifest His Life and His fragrance wherever we go. Now, to some people, this will be the “savor of Life” and they will be drawn towards Christ as they fellowship with us. To others, however, the fragrance of our life will be the “savor of death,” because those people are offended at Christ in us, and often they will flee from our presence.
I knew a man who loved Jesus so much that he was a continual offense to his non-believing family. He never really did anything outwardly to insult them or offend them, and yet the aroma of Christ’s Life through him made him offensive to them. It’s helpful if we can understand this, so if others find us offensive, it’s not necessarily us they are objecting to, but Christ in us.
Incense stood for a life that was pure and holy and good. As Exodus 30:36 tells us, “It [the incense] shall be unto you most holy.” When we love God (and become “one” with Him), then we not only radiate the fragrance of His Life, but also the “beauty of His holiness.”
“Give unto the Lord the glory due unto His Name; bring an [incense] offering, and come before Him [His presence]: worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.” (1 Chronicles 16:29)Something very important to note here is that it’s Jesus’ holiness and not our own. He is the One who is holy, not us. But, because we are now cleansed, He can shine that Light through us and we can simply become “partakers of His holiness.” (Hebrews 12:10) A true worshiper is one who draws near to God at the Incense Altar of their hearts. True worship can occur only in our spirit and only if we are holy. This is what is meant by “worshiping God in spirit and truth.”
It’s interesting because all of Israel had access to the Outer Courts of Solomon’s Temple, but only the sanctified priests had access to the Incense Altar in the Holy Place. And it’s the same with us. The whole redeemed Church of God has access to the Outer Courts and the Brazen Altar, but only the sanctified and consecrated believers have access to the Incense Altar of their hearts where God now dwells.
It’s interesting to note that the Old Testament also talks about offering “strange incense” to God. (Exodus 30:9) Strange incense, according to the Bible, is a perfume which people made for themselves, in order to satisfy their own desires and their own requirements.
Leviticus 10:1 tells us about the sons of Aaron who offered “strange incense” before the Lord. And in verse 2, it says that God was so displeased that fire went out from Him and devoured them. In Numbers 16, Korah and 250 “renowned” men from Israel confronted Moses for “taking too much upon himself.” The truth was that the Lord had sent Moses to do all the things that he did. He did not do them of his own mind.
Nevertheless, these men did not believe Moses, nor did they trust God. Therefore, God directed these men to take their own censors, put fire and incense in them, and bring them before Him. The Lord then graphically showed them who was “holy” and who was not! The ground literally opened up and swallowed Korah, his cohorts and even their families and houses. Then fire came down from the Lord and consumed the 250 men who offered the “strange” incense.
God wrote the way He wanted things in His “instruction manual”—the Bible. God makes the rules. Our only responsibility is only to follow them—not make up our own!
Experiential Oneness with God
Our soul’s natural strength is broken and dealt with on the Brazen Altar, but it’s not until we reach the Incense Altar that God can truly rule and reign in our lives. The Incense Altar symbolizes or represents our experiential union with God, the complete union of our spirit with His. It represents our oneness, our communion and our intercourse with Him, even if it’s just for a moment. Complete union of spirit means that our spirit has been sanctified and strengthened, so that it is now able to freely direct our soul in all things.
This deeper experiential merging of our spirit with God’s is what God desires with each of us. This is why it’s crucial to allow Him to burn up all that He needs to in our souls, so this complete union can take place. Two “containers, or two wills, in one body do not work! God wants us “one,” not only in fact, but also in experience.
This union becomes the climax of our relationship with Him. We have finally not only positionally but experientially become one. (Even if it’s just for a moment.) This is the completion, the perfection and the fullness of God that He has designed for every one of us. Everything on the inside and on the outside has finally become Christ’s.
Now, please don’t misunderstand me. We never become God or even “little gods” because of this union. Just like the perfume retained its own unique properties, but was simply united with, mingled with, fused with or joined with the cloud of fire, so we retain our individuality and our humanness when we are united with God.
As John 17 expresses it, “…That they all may be one, as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in us.… Father, I will that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory, which Thou hast given Me…” (verses 21, 24).