ROMANTIC AND RELIGIOUS FRAGRANCE
By Pastor Glenn Pease
In the tale of the Beauty and the Beast the horrible looking creature with 7 horns in his forehead begs the beautiful young maiden he has carried away to kiss him. She, of course, refuses to kiss such ugliness, and the beast goes away. She saw it no more until one day she found it lying dead under a bush in the garden. She wept and cast herself down on the beast and kissed it. Suddenly it returned to life and was transformed into the handsomest prince her eyes had ever beheld. He then explained that he had been bewitched, and could never be delivered unless a maid fell in love with him and kissed him. That kiss she gave him removed the curse, redeemed him from death, and restored him to his original state.
What a fantastic story of the power of a kiss. It is only a fairytale, but the truth it relates is the very truth of the Christian Gospel. The beast represents man under the curse. He became ugly as he fell from his state of perfection. He was restored and transformed by the power of God's kiss, which was the cross. Jesus reconciled God and man by the power of His kiss of peace at Calvary. In this Song of Songs we see the Shulamite girl longing for the kisses of her Shepherd lover, and God answered that longing in the souls of men to be united with the lover of their souls by sending His Son in the flesh.
God reached down and embraced His people in Christ. "He touched me and now I am no longer the same" is the testimony of those who have responded to His love. But there is more to a kiss than touch, and that is our theme for this message. All of the senses are involved in romance and kissing as we see in this song. Many lovers may never think of it, but the ears are important in kissing, for no kiss is complete without sound. Most married people have been in situation where they have tried to be quiet as they kiss, and they have discovered that it is hard to kiss right without noise.
A kiss without sound is like an egg without salt. Most kisses in a marriage ceremony are not up to par because the atmosphere is such that the nervous couple feels conspicuous, and they want to keep the whole thing as quiet as possible. They aim for a silent kiss, and they quickly learn that a silent kiss is a crippled kiss. Shakespeare refers to a groom who took full advantage of his wedding kiss, but he was an exception. In the Taming of the Shrew he writes,
This done, he took the bride about the neck,
And kissed her lips with such a clamorous smack
That at the parting, all the church did echo.
Sound is a part of a good kiss, and this is true in the spiritual realm as well. Faith comes by hearing. It is by means of the ear that we receive the good news, and the sound of that kiss of reconciliation whereby we are united to Christ. This kiss is the means by which we become a part of His bride.
The sense of taste is also involved. The Shulamite girl says, "Your love is better than wine." We will look at love and wine in greater detail in another message, but we just want to point out here that love and kissing like all enjoyable things should taste good. Psa. 34:8 says, "O taste and see that the Lord is good." Psa. 119:103 says, "How sweet are thy words unto my taste." Romantic and religious love is to be sweet to the taste, and be sweeter than wine.
The poet writes,
O lady, there be many things
That seem right fair, below, above;
But sure not one among them all
Is half so sweet as love.
The fact is, if we had more loveaholics in the world there would be fewer alcoholics, for true love is always better than wine. The intoxication of love is delightful rather than disgusting. Dante wrote about the first time that Beatrice spoke to him. "Because it was the first time any words from her reached mine ears, I came into such sweetness that I parted thence as one intoxicated."
The sense we want to focus on in greater detail is one that we seldom think of, but it is a primary factor in both romantic and religious love, and that is the sense of smell. Your nose has much to do with love. Even taste is largely a matter of smell. Some of you may recall that when you first began to kiss the one who is now your mate that there was a distinct smell involved. A kiss, like food, is not as good when you have a cold, and it is because smell is cut off or diminished. Even wine is enjoyed, not just for the taste, but for its smell. In Hos. 14:7 God promises this blessing to His restored people. "...they shall flourish as a garden; they shall blossom as the vine, their fragrance shall be like the wine of Lebonon."
References to the fragrance of love run all through the Song of Songs. Here is verse 3 in the Amplified Version. "The odor of your ointment is fragrant; your name is like perfume poured out; therefore do the maidens love you." Then in verse 12 to 14 we read, "While the king sits at his table, she said my spikenard (my absent lover) sends forth his fragrance over me. My beloved is to me like a scent bag of myrrh that lies in my bosom. My beloved is to me a cluster of henna flowers in the vineyards of Engedi. (Famous for its fragrant shrubs)." The Bible is literally filled with references to perfumes, aromatic gums, oils, and woods. Two of the three gifts the wise men brought to Jesus as the new born king were frankincense and myrrh, which were two of the oldest and most expensive perfumes in history.
We need to remember that the biblical world was a hot world. The climate was one in which perspiration would be a daily problem. The result was that they were even more concerned about perfume and deodorant than we are today. The Shulamite girl said her Shepherd lover smelled so fragrant that he was a real hit with all the girls. If you attract the attention of the nose and nose is given pleasure by what it smells, you have begun the first step in kindling the flame of romantic love. Studies show that a man notices a woman's perfume even is he doesn't notice her dress or hair.
Fisherman are using a type of bait that attracts the fish by odor. Women have been doing this for thousands of years with men, and men likewise with women, for in the ancient world perfume was used as much by men as by women. Never underestimate the role of the nose in love. In many parts of the world lovers actually kiss with their nose. This is not just among the Eskimos, but it is a custom in other parts of the world as well. In these cultures they do not say give me a kiss, but they say, smell me. Their very word for kiss means smell, and they get great pleasure in breathing in the odor of those they love. Visitors to Madagascar laugh at this custom, but there is a very refine idea behind it. They believe that every soul has its own unique perfume, and when they kiss they breathe in the odor of their loved one, and they are mingling their souls. This is to them a very intimate experience by which they achieve a oneness that is more spiritual than that which comes by the mere physical touch of the lips.
In the Philippine Islands the sense of smell is so refined that by sniffing a pocket handkerchief they can tell if it belongs to their lover. When they are separated they send bits of their linen to each other so they can keep each other in mind by inhaling each others scent. This is far more meaningful to them then an x on a piece of paper, for the odor of a lover is a real part of the lover. What appears foolish to us is really not so foolish after all, but a rather refined romantic use of the nose.
The Bible gives evidence to support the idea that each person has a unique odor. In Gen. 27:27 after Jacob put on the clothes of his brother Esau, he went to deceive his father Isaac. Isaac was somewhat skeptical, but finally he called him closer and sniffed him and said, "The smell of my son is the good smell of the earth and fields that Jehovah has blessed." By tricking his nose Jacob got the blessing. Smell plays a greater role in life and love than we realize. Their is even a science of smell called Osmics. Hopefully this brief introduction will make you want to sniff out the deeper message and get a more powerful whiff of the perfume of love.