Posted July 20th, 2013 at 3:52 pmNo Comments Yet
THE FRAGRANT OIL OF WORSHIP
BY TODD BENTLEY
Before we begin, I want to say that in Part 2 of The Fragrant Oil of Worship we will examine several serious topics that need to be taken into our hearts with great care. So let’s pray together for a moment…”Heavenly Father, I ask for your hand of protection to cover us as we learn about your holiness and what it takes to really please you. Thank you, Father, for your mercy and grace toward us as we come into a fuller understanding of your standard of righteousness concerning worship.” “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; mercy and truth go before Your face” (Psalm 89:14).
GOD’S HOLINESS MUST BE ESTEEMED
There are two essential elements that purify and guard our heart against the sin of pride—brokenness and death to self. Remember last week we discussed brokenness and death to self; how the Holy Spirit wants to break our hearts with a purpose so that we’re humbled and broken inside. Then our pride is overthrown and our true fragrant worship is released to God. But if we don’t allow the Holy Spirit to humble our hearts, then pride can arise within us. Now pride always causes us to do what’s right in our own eyes and ruins the fragrance, or we could say, ruins the incense in our worship.
Did you know that incense was very important to God? The Lord gave Moses strict instructions concerning making and using incense. (I’ll speak more about this later.) He warned against offering any strange incense on His altar (Ex. 30:9). In addition, if the priests didn’t follow God’s exact instructions when they made sacrifices to Him, He called their offerings “profane.” [Profane means: showing disrespect or contempt for sacred things, to violate, as anything sacred; irreverence, or contempt; to desecrate; to pollute; as, to profane the name of God; to profane the Scriptures, or the ordinance of God—Webster’s Dictionary.]
In the book of Leviticus, we discover the serious consequences experienced by Aaron’s two sons when they made an offering to the Lord that He did not command. Moses records that they offered “profane fire” before the Lord. So let’s take a look at profane fire and then I’ll speak in more detail about incense.
“Then Nadab and Abihum, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it, put incense on it, and offered profane fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them. So fire went out from the LORD and devoured them, and they died before the LORD. And Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the LORD spoke, saying: “By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; And before all the people I must be glorified.'” So Aaron held his peace” (Lev. 10:1-3).
When I read about Aaron’s sons I asked, “Father, what was the profane fire? What was the incense that they offered unto you and why did it kill them?” And God began to answer my questions by highlighting verse 3: “By those who come near me, I must be regarded as holy.” God showed me that because Aaron’s sons came near to Him when He had not commanded them, without true reverence and love, this revealed a severe lack of regard and respect for His holiness. Their lifestyles reflected lip service and not true priestly service to the Lord flowing from obedient hearts. The fear of the Lord wasn’t there. Because Nadab and Abihum had heart-attitudes that did not regard the holiness of God, they offered profane fire to the Lord, and that cost them their lives. The fire of God’s judgment devoured them!
Some Bible scholars feel that Aaron’s sons weren’t even supposed to come before the Lord at all; they came on their own initiative instead of Aaron. Apparently they made matters even worse by offering common incense and/or common fire. (I’ll speak more about what pure incense is later.) It seems likely that both sons were walking in an arrogant manner because they had just received priestly garments a day earlier and they were beginning to perform more priestly duties than before. You know, they made several deadly blunders: pride; irreverence; misplaced enthusiasm to get in there and offer the sacrifice, and not properly glorifying the Lord in the sight of the people. So they received the righteous judgment of God.
Aaron’s sons were priests of the Lord, anointed and trained in the priestly service. [They both knew that if they entered the tent of meeting not having washed their hands and feet, that they would die (Ex. 30:20,21)]. For our instruction today, in the New Testament the Apostle James cautions his brethren about becoming teachers: “My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment” (James 3:1). There is a godly principle here. Leadership positions receive a stricter judgment.
Now could it be that God is alerting us today, that when we come into His presence we must regard and esteem His holiness? I believe He is cautioning us, even warning us! Let’s remember that we are born-again into the royal priesthood and that if we truly love God, we will obey His commands (1 Pt. 2:9 & Jn. 14:21). God is looking for a true and faithful royal priesthood, filled with godly believers who can offer pure incense in their worship to Him. Remember, the priests had to respect and regard God as holy; their lives depended on this. And we too, need to regard God as holy in all that we say and do. Let’s not offer God profane fire! Let’s not disregard His holiness!
When we really love the Lord and esteem His holiness, then our character will be good and the way that we live will be a fine example to others; we will be holy, too. The Lord is glorified in the sight of those around us when we honor Him by the way that we live each day. Our worship has to go beyond what we just say or do in a worship service; it must be reflected in our God-honoring lifestyles. We don’t want to be like Aaron’s two sons who didn’t follow the commandments of the Lord.
INCENSE THAT PLEASES A HOLY GOD
As I mentioned earlier, Moses received the commandments of the Lord (for the priests, too) concerning the incense. You see, God set down a complete formula that the perfumers had to follow when they made the incense. Woe unto anyone who would dare tamper with His instructions or try to make incense for their own personal use. Any incense that didn’t contain the exact amounts and ingredients that God prescribed, if combined with fire in the censers, would create strange, profane fire to the Lord. Here’s the Lord’s command concerning the amounts, spices and use concerning the incense:
“And the LORD said to Moses: ‘Take sweet spices, stacte and onycha and galbanum, and pure frankincense with these sweet spices; there shall be equal amounts of each. You shall make of these an incense, a compound according to the art of the perfumer, salted, pure, and holy. And you shall beat some of it very fine, and put some of it before the Testimony in the tabernacle of meeting where I will meet with you. It shall be most holy to you. But as for the incense which you shall make, you shall not make any for yourselves, according to its composition. It shall be to you holy for the LORD. Whoever makes any like it, to smell it, he shall be cut off from his people'” (Ex. 30:34-37).
The fact is, the only kind of incense God considered pure and holy was the incense made with the ingredients of the sweet spices according to the prescribed formula; this incense was like perfume. Now… isn’t the Lord God Almighty worthy of sacred incense used exclusively to honor Him? “YES!” Having said that, I want to ask us another question. Bottom line: could it be that the church is offering up profane, strange fire to the Lord in our worship time?
Here’s what I feel. I believe that the church is offering up profane, strange fire to the Lord in much of our worship time because we’ve taken out some of the ‘ingredients’ in our worship. We’ve taken out some of the sweetness and sweet spices such as devotion and first love, and mixed in other ingredients such as carnality and pride. How did this happen?
Well, when we fail to worship God with everything within us (our body soul and spirit) and we only draw close to God with our lips, then we’ve taken the sweet spices out of our incense. When we’ve lost our passion and when we don’t have a burning heart for our first love, Jesus, then the perfume that has potential to linger in heaven well after we’ve touched His heart, is missing! Neglecting to have a high regard for the holiness of God alters the purity of the incense in our worship. God wants a sweet aroma to fill His nostrils and He’s looking for pure incense in our worship, but if it’s not manifesting then how will we catch His eye? (Lev. 2:2)
God doesn’t want to see believers being satisfied with only programmed services and singing the same songs all the time. You know, at church we can sing, sip coffee and talk to a friend all at the same time—mixing in carnality. Also, we’ve taken some of the spices out of our worship because we don’t even push in. And if the entertainment of worship isn’t there for us to grab a hold of, we mix in laziness and apathy.
On the other hand, we enhance the sweet smell of the perfume in our worship when we give the Lord all of ourselves. (I’ve been in some of the driest, what some would call religious worship services, but I purposed in my heart to worship God with everything fully engaged concerning my body, mind, soul, strength and emotions.) Also, every time that we take authority over being worried about those who are around us and we allow the creative bubbling passion of love for God to rise up inside of us, then the sweet smell of the incense is heightened in our worship. When we dance before the presence of the Lord, then the aroma in our worship pleases the Lord. Hey! Even if we can’t dance before the Lord physically, but we dance in our mind, this also delights the Lord and adds to the sweetness in our worship.
True worship to Jesus happens when we’re so caught up entertaining the presence of the Lord that we forget about everything around us. We push in past any barriers that would try to keep us out of the Holy of Holies. We literally forget about everything, just like David did, and we give all that we are in worship to the Lord (2 Sam. 6:14). Listen! Worshipping God in spirit and in truth will catch His eye (Jn. 4:24).
Also we don’t want to grieve God by neglecting to change the areas in our lives that He’s asking us to deal with. Worship and secret sin stinks. I’m not saying that we don’t stumble. But it’s only because of His grace and mercy that we can be right with God. We must deal with things like forgiving others and the areas that we know God is touching. Pushing our sin under the carpet will result in deception and we sure don’t want to mix that into our worship to God.
We want to be obedient worshippers. Walking in disobedience and trying to worship God never works! Our disobedience robs God from the pleasure He would have received if we’d been obedient to Him. Think of it this way. You’re a parent telling your children to clean their bedrooms. Instead they all disobey and just play together, and in a few minutes they all come to you with a structure they made together from some Lego. It’s a gift for you! But all the pleasure in receiving the gift is robbed because your children disobeyed by not doing what you told them to do first. God delights in obedience over sacrifice (1 Sam. 15:22). Obeying the Lord makes us feel clean and releases a beautiful scent in our worship that’s pleasing to Him. Listen! If we’re willing to allow God to break our hearts with a purpose; if we’re willing to learn how to die to ourselves, we will offer worship to the Lord that’s filled with pure incense—a fragrant, pleasing aroma.
JESUS IS WORTHY OF HONOR
Many believers want to honor Jesus by worshipping Him in a way that will etch a mark or scar on His heart so that He’ll remember forever the day that they touched His heart with their worship. My desire is to have a fragrance, a perfume, and to carry an aroma that lingers in the air even after I’ve finished worshipping. We honor Jesus when we worship Him in spirit and in truth. He is worthy of honor! May Jesus say every time that I worship Him, “Todd, every time that you come to Me there is brokenness and true sacrifice. Each time that you have come to Me, you’ve laid down all that you are and you’ve died to yourself. You have purposed in your heart to want all of Me by putting all that you were and are, all of your mind and strength into each worship service. Thank you for coming to Me because you want Me and not just to try and get what you need. I can smell the sweetness and the spices in the incense of your worship and it is a delight to Me.”
There is another intimate way to worship Jesus that I call “worship without words.” There is a place in the spirit where we can bask in the glory of the Lord, where we just behold the face of Jesus and gaze into his eyes absolutely love sick, not even a whisper coming out of our mouth. Worship doesn’t always have to involve words. We can sit or lie down in the Lord’s presence for an hour and honor Him without even saying anything because of the attitude inside our heart. Not trying to bring His presence down upon us, we can be in the presence of the Lord, filled up with His love and His presence.
Someone was talking to me recently and they asked how it was possible for me to worship the Lord so easily when everybody else worships as if they’re trying to get there. “It’s like you’re already there and everyone else is trying to get God to come down.” There is a place of abiding in the presence of the Lord that I’ve come to that when I think about Jesus, I’m in His presence. I’ve learned that there is a place of worship where I honor Jesus and where I just come and look at His face. (In my emotions there is a whisper, “Jesus…” It’s like the fragrant oil of Mary.) When I look at Jesus, He sees my love for Him. He can see my eyes. (I can look at my wife in a certain way and when my wife looks at me in a certain way I know what she’s saying without words.) There is something powerful about the worship of silence; “be still and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10).
The revelation of knowing who God is and a revelation of the face of God are released into our hearts when we come before Him in stillness and quietness. Without one word, with just one glance of our eyes, we can let Him know that we are love sick and in desperate need of His touch. We can kiss Him! Remember Jesus spoke to Simon because he didn’t even offer Him the common courtesies that their culture freely gave to family and friends (Luke 7:44-45). Jesus said, “Simon. You didn’t even give me a kiss.” A kiss is intimate. The apostle Paul talks about greeting the brethren with a holy kiss four times (in the New Testament). Their culture welcomed a holy kiss! It was important to Jesus to be kissed; he noticed Simon’s neglect.
There is a longing inside many Christians to be free to express their devotion to God, but instead they feel, “Lord, I want to kiss you. I want to give you a most intimate kiss, but my friends are here now. This isn’t the proper time. I’ll kiss you when nobody’s watching.” Sometimes believers are so inhibited because they’re worried about what everyone else will think if they really let go and get passionate, expressing all the emotion that is really inside them for God. So they do this: offer God their cheek because all their friends are watching. You know, I often see different men feel the brokenness and the weeping of the Lord, but they hold back the tears.
Listen! When we love people and all the other things (that may even be permissible, but not necessarily beneficial because they take us out of the presence of the Lord), and we kiss those things and spend more time with others than we do with Him, then we’ve not kissed God. And that’s why Jesus rebuked Simon. He said, “You are kissing everybody else, but not me. Anyone else you would have greeted with a kiss and so because you didn’t kiss me, this woman has kissed me. In fact, not only did she kiss me, but she has not ceased kissing my feet since the moment she came.”
The second thing Jesus said to Simon was, “You haven’t even washed my feet. You didn’t appreciate my coming. You didn’t appreciate my visitation. You didn’t respect or honor me. You didn’t have a revelation of who was in your home.” One of the common courtesies in Israel especially among the Pharisees and the religious people was to honor their guest by washing and anointing their feet with oil. As well as cleaning the dust from their feet, this was a sign of appreciation and respect because their guest accepted an invitation to come over to their home. So Simon was a “respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34). And we become a ‘respecter of persons’ like Simon, if we wash everyone else’s feet and yet we don’t wash God’s feet and honor Him in front of our friends when He visits us. Sometimes when Jesus comes to our house, when there are other people around we treat Him differently than if we were alone with Him. Simon showed respect for everybody else, but Jesus.
You might be asking how we actually neglect to wash Jesus’ feet. Did you know that when God moves in renewal and we don’t want Him to touch us with manifestations because of who might be around us, and might see us, that it’s like we didn’t wash God’s feet? [“God, I can’t worship you the way that I worship you when nobody is looking.” “God can I have my healing, but can I get healed in a conservative way?” “God, can I have revival, but do I have to roll on the floor like that?” “God, I appreciate that you have come, but I am not washing your feet today.”] Sometimes we say, “God, I want revival, but I don’t want it to be messy.” Revival is messy! People get offended. Hey! I’d rather have a messy revival rather than a clean trough, thank you! I’d rather have all the headaches of revival, than the hype that something is happening when it really isn’t.
The Lord is pleased with us when even an ’empty trough’ doesn’t stop our love for Him! When we worship Jesus with our kisses and when we anoint Him with costly fragrant oil, He loves it. He deserves it! He is worthy! Let’s fall in love with Him all over again! But maybe some of you are wondering how to kiss Jesus and how to anoint Him. After all, He’s at the right hand of the Father in heaven! Well, here’s how to begin being intimate with Jesus—just spend some time soaking in His presence sitting at His feet and gazing into His face. So find a position that’s comfortable; maybe some will want to lie down in His presence. It’s our love and devotion for the Lord, like incense poured out in true worship that releases the fragrant oil of anointing on Jesus’ head and His feet. Let’s spend some time kissing His face and kissing His feet; honoring the One who is worthy. I’d like to invite you to join with me in prayer…
When we remember the pit of darkness that Jesus pulled us out of, passion for Him is awakened in our hearts. We want to fall in love with Jesus all over again, filled with extravagant love and gratitude to Him, the One who is worthy of everything that is within us. Father, we want to so honor and adore your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, that the fragrance or our worship would so enrapture His heart, that the heavenly annals of history would record our worship time as a sacred memorial, never to be forgotten. God, please break our alabaster box, our heart, so that the treasure inside, soaked in the exquisite fragrance of the sweet smelling spices would come pouring out to delight the Godhead. We want to be like Mary of Bethany, who was your love-slave.… Amen.