Have you ever wondered why the wise men - the Magi - brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to Jesus? People often express value to others by giving lavish gifts. Some gifts may seem more frivolous than others. A gift of gold is easy to understand, but the frankincense and myrrh, while expensive and lavish in their own ways, were mere aromatic fragrances. What good would they be to a newborn king and his family?
I am quite sure the gold came in handy as a means of support during the first two yeas of the life of Jesus since they were basically on the run from Herod and his decree to kill all the male babies. Since the fragrances were quite valuable as well, perhaps they could have been sold to help with expenses as well. Frankincense and myrrh were both often used in rituals of worship, but they were also used to anoint a body for burial. This intrigues me…especially when I think about the life and death of Jesus…and how He was worshiped by many during His physical life on earth, yet slain by those He came to save. When I learned how myrrh in particular is obtained, it all began to make a but more sense to me…and makes me stand back in awe and wonder and worship anew as I think about why they brought myrrh to Jesus. It even inspired a song many years ago.
That song is called Anoint My Heart for Burial. It was born on May 1, 1991 but the story behind the song is one of my favorites. If you know me, you know I believe God wastes nothing in our lives if we bring whatever it is to Him and ask Him for His point of view. Another way to look at life’s circumstances is this: How would I ever know the sweetness of the rain had I never gone through the desert? How would I ever know the joy of healing had I never been wounded? Life is not always peace and harmony and rainbows and unicorns is it? Sin has seen fit to that. As long as there is sin in this world there will be sorrow and pain and confusion and times of chaos…but the good news is that we have been given the remedy for sin through faith in and relationship with Jesus Christ
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
This song was inspired by the story of how myrrh is harvested. Myrrh is derived from the resin of the small, thorny myrrh tree found mainly in the middle east. For thousands of years the resin of the myrrh tree has been used throughout history as a perfume, incense, and medicine. When Jesus was buried we know that his body was wrapped with a mixture of myrrh and aloes to anoint his body for burial - and to help cover the stench of death.
It seems that life is full of heartache and struggle. Yet, Christ has made a way for us to see Himself glorified even through the worst of circumstances. God brought this to light in my life in the midst of one of those times of hurt and disappointment. It is so true that hurts and wounds become opportunities to let his life flow out of our lives, when we choose to rely on His grace to carry us through difficult times. I have discovered that “birth” comes more quickly and easily when I work with the labor rather than against it. The Holy Spirit will be the most fragrant of aromas when we release Him to work through the brokenness of our lives.
So, what does all that have to do with the song Anoint My Heart for Burial and even more importantly, what does any of that have to do with the fragrance of myrrh? It has everything to do with the way the fragrance is derived or harvested from the tree of myrrh that illustrates what I am trying to express to you about God’s ability to use the harshness of life to bring about the beauty of the fragrance of His presence in the midst of some pretty awful circumstances. If you have ever smelled myrrh, it is a fragrant, aromatic, earthy smell like none other. I love the smell of myrrh...but as with life, I do not like the process by which myrrh is harvested when compared to the circumstances of my life. Let’s think about what the process of harvesting myrrh looks like and compare that process to the lives we lead and to the circumstances we experience.
To obtain the resin that produces the fragrance of myrrh, the tree bark must be cut...must be wounded...must be bruised. In fact, the harvester would say he is making the tree bleed...and guess what those drops of resin are called? The drops of myrrh resin and are called tears.
Ever feel so cut or wounded by circumstances of life that it feels like you’re bleeding to death? Ever been reduced to tears by a harsh episode of just trying to make it through a hard time - or through a difficult loss - or a betrayal - or whatever? When our soul bleeds and when our eyes cry tears, we tend to see only the loss rather than the future fragrance they could potentially bring.
Once the tree has been cut and the resin has begun to bleed out and once those tears have been harvested, you still do not have the fullness of the beauty of the fragrant aroma of myrrh. Those drops of resin - those blood drops - those tears - are allowed to harden. Have you ever been so overwhelmed by a circumstance of life that you grow numb or hardened to the point of trying to stop the pain? When I was a boy, I lost my grandmother - and I vowed I would not let anyone get close to me again because it hurt too much to lose them. I became hard-hearted...and a hardened heart leads to a lot more pain. Trust me. I’d rather feel pain than nothing at all. But life has a way of brining a hardening to our souls. So when does the fragrance - the beauty - the sweet aroma of myrrh actually arise from those hardened tears?
After the cutting...after the wounding...after the bleeding...after the tears...and after those tears are allowed to harden, the full aroma has still not been released. Do you know when that happens? The full aroma of myrrh is released and realized when those tears have been crushed.
Ever feel so crushed by life that you feel as if nothing good could ever come from the pain you experienced? I have. Let me put it this way: who would have ever thought it possible something good could ever come from my deepest pain...from my deepest shame...from my greatest point of failure? Yet, that is exactly what God has done.
Sin left me wounded. Life brings wounds along the journey. My soul has been left bleeding profusely in guilt and shame and tears - many tears - of sorrow have been shed. Pain left me hardened of heart - numb. My hard heart was in need of crushing…so I cried out to God and something amazing happened. The crushing became my favorite part. Why would I say that? because I was crushed - my hard heart was broken wide open - by the love of God, producing the fragrant aroma of God’s presence and purpose and promise and perspective!
We can either be crushed and ruined by life - or - we can be crushed by the love of God and learn to see life and its many twists and turns from His point of view...taking the tears we have poured out and using those very sorrows as points of reference where we see what He sees.
We see an insurmountable mountain. He sees a molehill that can be easily overcome. We see pain. He sees an opportunity for comfort and intimacy borne of His very presence. We see mayhem and destruction. He sees the opportunity to restore and for rebirth. We smell the stench of death left by our own sin and failure. He sees a way to save and deliver and bring the fragrance of life from that very same failure.
Which sounds best to you? Seeing and living life from the perspective of death or seeing and living life from the perspective of God and the fragrance of His presence rising from that same life?
Life is at times harsh...at times painfully unbearable...but that same journey can create a beautiful fragrance when placed in the hands and lived from the presence of the One Who made us in the first place.
I encourage you to listen to the song Anoint My Heart For Burial. As you listen to this song, allow the Holy Spirit to crush your hard places with the deep, deep, perfect love of His presence. Even if experiencing death in a certain area of your life right now, allow His presence to meet you in that place of death and replace that same death with the fragrance of life. Where you are wounded, apply the balm of His love. Where tears flow, apply the balm of His love. Where hardness exists, allow Him to crush it with perfect love that surpasses even our human capacity to understand. Allow the fragrance of life to arise from the deepest wounds and failures. there is no greater fragrance than the fragrance of God’s love and grace applied to the human heart. Smells like freedom…
The mp3 of the song Anoint My Heart For Burial is available for purchase/download at https://dennisjernigan.com/store/product.php?c=24&p=611
Did you know Dennis Jernigan shares his life on a weekly podcast...and that it is FREE?! You can now listen online or via iTunes! To access the free podcast on iTunes, simply go to https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-dennis-jernigan-podcast/id1307264290. To listen online, go to http://podcast.dennisjernigan.com/feed/
Please help me get the word out about this new avenue for ministry and encouragement!