SPIKENARD is mentioned twice in the list of plants, trees, shrubs and spices in the Song of Solomon. Spikenard is referred to in chapter 1, not in relation to Solomon, but rather to the bride’s personal preparation for his presence. “My spikenard sendeth forth the smell thereof.” Is there an odor of a sweet smell going up to heaven as a result of our preparation for His presence? Preparation leads to our hearts bubbling over with thoughts of our heavenly Bridegroom (Psa 45:1). Our hearts are moved and our tongues are loosed to speak well of Him.
The only NT reference to spikenard is in John 12. Mary of Bethany had spent almost a year’s wages (300 pence) on the pure nard used to anoint the feet of Jesus. Two additional features stand out: “The house was filled with the odor of the ointment,” and Jesus’ comment, “against the day of my burying hath she kept this.”
The worship of the assembly should be sacrificial, very costly. It should be effectual – the house was filled; it should be spiritual – against the day of burying. We worship God on account of the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. Our appreciation of His Person should form the basis of our worship.
We thank God for the devotion and daring of Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus concerning Christ’s burial. The weight of spices they brought was usually reserved for royalty. However, Mary of Bethany’s spiritual appreciation of Christ eclipsed even theirs. Many of our sisters have a greater appreciation of Christ than the brethren, and we thank God for their silent yet spiritual contribution to our gatherings.
SAFFRON is one of the crocus family. This is the only reference to saffron in the Bible.
CALAMUS is “sweet myrtle” (JND) This is one of the four chief spices used in the composition of the holy anointing oil (Exo 30:22-26). Cinnamon, calamus, and cassia were its constituents. This holy anointing oil was to be used exclusively by the priests in the Tabernacle. It speaks of priestly activity in the Sanctuary. We offer, “spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” (1Peter 2:5, KJV). Many priestly sacrifices are recounted in the NT, but in relation to the Sanctuary, praise and thanksgivings are expected on a continuous basis, not just at the morning meeting.
CINNAMON is of the laurel family. Part of the holy anointing oil, it was used to anoint the vessels of the Tabernacle, Aaron, and his sons. We have been anointed with the Holy Spirit of God. This has set us apart for the use of God in His service. We have been consecrated, set apart to do His work.
The High Priest, Aaron, was a representative man, representative of the whole nation of Israel. The outpouring of the holy anointing oil symbolized the unity of the tribes as one nation as it flowed from his head to the hem of his garment. This symbolizes the truth, “endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph 4:3, KJV).
Fragrance for the nostrils of God is produced in the assembly by the Spirit of God. However, blessing will only flow from unity. Where the assembly is beset with division, the possibility of blessing is limited. Our prayer, praise, and worship ascending as a sweet savour is much less likely. Where unity prevails, we read, “There the Lord commanded the blessing” (Psa 133:3, KJV).
FRANKINCENSE is a shrubby, multi-branched evergreen tree, bearing spikes of white, five petal flowers. It is reputed to have a bitter taste but its perfume, when burned, is second to none. The word occurs 17 times in the Bible. Frankincense is first mentioned in the composition of the holy incense, which was to be burned by the high priest, morning and evening, upon the golden altar. The three constituents used to produce the holy incense were stacte, onychar, and galbanum. To this confection was added frankincense: “and there was given unto him much incense that he should offer it (mg; add it to) with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne” (Rev 8:3, KJV). The hymnwriter puts it succinctly:
To all our prayers and praises,
He adds His sweet perfume;
And love the censer raises,
Their odors to consume.
When the High Priest left the golden altar, everybody knew where he had been.His garments smelled of the incense he had offered. Do others know when we have been with Jesus?
If the holy anointing oil points to the Holy Spirit, the holy incense speaks of Christ. The taste being bitter yet the fragrance being sweet when burned depicts the bitterness of His suffering at the Cross, yet the sweet fragrance to the Father of the results of His unique work in those hours of darkness. When we contemplate such truths how can we possibly withhold the worship which God deserves? Frankincense was one of the wise men’s gifts to the young child.
MYRRH occurs eight times in the Song of Solomon, yet just 17 times in the whole Bible. It was the first ingredient of the holy anointing oil. It was bitter. It was produced by cutting the bark of the tree, causing the aromatic resin to flow. The principal act of Christ was His suffering at the hand of God upon the tree. It is from this bitter experience that all else flows. The aroma tells us of God’s appreciation of the death of Christ: “wherefore God also hath highly exalted him” (Phil 2:9, KJV). Myrrh is seen at Christ’s birth, at the Cross to alleviate pain, and at His burial.
Aloes occurs four times in the OT but only once in the NT. It is associated with myrrh when Joseph and Nicodemus embalm and inter the body of Jesus in Joseph’s new tomb in the Calvary graveyard. We remind our hearts of the spikenard of Mary of Bethany and its house-filling odor, but let us never forget, the tomb was equally filled with the odor of a sweet smell. No decay or decomposition or smell of death; only the fragrance of the myrrh and aloes. “Thou wilt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption” (Acts 2:27, KJV). We bless God for the borrowed womb by which Christ entered our world and, too, for the borrowed tomb via which He left this world to go to His Father. As we think of these grave clothes and their accompanying spices, we rejoice at His brief and temporary use of them. The napkin that had absorbed the sweat of His forehead was now wrapped together and lying in a place by itself, never to be needed again.
All these fruits and spices speak of Christ. Now, “Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me.”