Saturday, January 14, 2017

ALOE: Bible Plants Series

 In biblical times, aloe was used for the purifying of the bodies of the dead (embalming) and for medicinal purposes.

In Psalm 45:8, Matthew Henry’s commentary suggests that this messianic psalm says that the robes of the Messiah king are not necessarily praised for their looks, but they are praised for the fragrance they are soaked in and anointed with. How fascinating!

“All thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia, out of the ivory palaces, whereby they have made thee glad.” Ps. 45:8

There should come from this particular formula of perfume several striking points.

First, some of this particular combo is found in the designer fragrance and anointing oil from God, Himself, that we find in Exodus 30. The specific recipe was only known to the priests, but it included myrrh, cinnamon, cassia, sweet smelling cane and olive oil. God describes how this anointing is to be used for consecration in verse 25.

“And you shall make from these a holy anointing oil, an ointment compounded according to the art of the perfumer. It shall be a holy anointing oil.” Ex. 30:25

So, hold up a second! Lets break it down. The anointing oil God custom designed for His place of meeting with the Children of Israel is what the robes of the Messiah will be soaked in.

I’d like to pause here to insert the scientific study of olifactory memory. Scientists have done extensive research into how certain smells can trigger responses in us of which we may have no longer have conscious memories. You probably have smells that you can think of that remind you of certain places or people. That’s how powerful smell is.

Let’s keep going!

One of the other places in Scripture where we find aloe is a very solemn moment:

 After this, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took the body of Jesus. 39 And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds. 40 Then they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury. 41 Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. 42 So there they laid Jesus, John 19:38-42

Joseph and Nicodemus soaked the strips of linen in myrrh and aloe and then bound the body of Jesus with them. Remember Psalm 45:8!

“All thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes…”

…. ….. Whoa!

(Side note: Of course, the Messiah’s robes in Psalm 45:8 also smell of cassia, which is the oil of gladness. Thank God for resurrection!)

What does all of this mean?

To me it means, God has woven throughout the Scripture a very specific love letter/ treasure hunt. I think of those cartoons where the character is lifted off the ground. They close their eyes and float along moving only toward the source of the incredible smell. So basically, God said, “This perfume, it’s Me in a bottle. Anytime you smell it, you’ll know it’s from Me, and whatever it is on is Mine.”

The psalm says the Messiah will be doused in it, but also with aloe. Why aloe? We see in John 19 when aloe was added to the scene by Joseph and Nicodemus. It is because of the ultimate act of love from Jesus laying down His life. It will never be forgotten. He will carry the fragrance of sacrifice with Him always. We will always remember His great love for us when we smell aloe and myrrh upon His robes.

“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” John 15:13

We will sing to Him as the Shulamite did:

“Because of the fragrance of your good ointments,
Your name is ointment poured forth;
Therefore the virgins love you.
Draw me away!” Songs 1:3-4

I wonder when He returns, will we smell Him before we see Him?