The Scented Trees
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Open your Bibles, please, to Psalm 45. The Psalmist begins with the words:

Psalm 45:

1 My heart is inditing a good matter: I speak of the things which I have made touching the king: my tongue is the pen of a ready writer.
2 Thou art fairer than the children of men: grace is poured into thy lips: therefore God hath blessed thee for ever.
3 Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, O most mighty, with thy glory and thy majesty.
4 And in thy majesty ride prosperously because of truth and meekness and righteousness; and thy right hand shall teach thee terrible [wonderful, marvelous] things.
5 Thine arrows are sharp in the heart of the king's enemies; whereby the people fall under thee.
6 Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre.
7 Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.
8 All thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia, out of the ivory palaces, whereby they have made thee glad.
9 Kings' daughters were among thy honourable women: upon thy right hand did stand the queen in gold of Ophir.
10 Hearken, O daughter, and consider, and incline thine ear; forget also thine own people, and thy father's house;
11 So shall the king greatly desire thy beauty: for he is thy Lord; and worship thou him.

We recognize that Psalm 45 is speaking of the Lord Jesus Christ because the king about whom the Psalmist is writing is none other than He. If you want proof of that, I would suggest that you read Hebrews, chapter 1, with emphasis upon verses 8-9, wherein you will be told that this Psalm is speaking of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The songwriter recognized the fact that this song was speaking of the Lord Jesus Christ, hence the song that we all sing: “Out of the ivory palaces into a world of woe came the Savior.” This Psalm is speaking primarily not of the first coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, but of the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ—that event which we all look forward to with a great deal of longing.

I have not asked you to turn to Psalm 45 that we might talk to you about the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, but I have asked you to turn here that we might bring you the last in our series of messages on the trees in the book of Psalms. If you recall, we have spoken to you about six different trees which are mentioned in the book of Psalms. Time would forbid our recalling those to your memory today, but we want to think with you about the last three trees which are mentioned in this Psalm, constituting the number which are spoken of in the book of Psalms as representative of Christ, the Christian, or that which is right and good.

Those trees are all mentioned in verse 8:

Psalm 45:

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

The three trees that we are going to speak about are mentioned there: myrrh, aloes, and cassia. We are going to think about them together because they are so very much alike. They are not known primarily for their fruit, nor are they known primarily for their wood, but they are known for their scent, their fragrance, their smell.

We are grouping them together referring to them as the scented trees , which bear testimony to a spiritual lesson for each of us as we look into our own lives. We will not be able to learn the spiritual lesson, however, without noticing some natural facts about these trees, so let me suggest a few things from the realm of nature related to these three trees.

The Myrrh Tree

The first thing you need to recognize about the myrrh tree is that the myrrh is both a tree and a plant. In the New Testament, when you are told that they brought myrrh to the Lord Jesus Christ as a gift at the time of His birth and they brought myrrh at the time of His death for a preparation of His body for burial, it is not speaking about the tree; it is speaking about the plant. It may not make a great deal of difference. We are simply mentioning it from the standpoint of accuracy because whether it be the tree or the plant, the main characteristic of the myrrh is its scent and its fragrance.

The tree itself has a trunk which is large in girth. It carries a number of knotted branches which make it rather unattractive in appearance and the branches themselves have little clusters of leaves on them that make them look something like mold or moss. The gum of the myrrh tree—this is important— is secured by piercing the bark just a little. You don't have to make the cut very deep. Then the gum comes out, first appearing white, but as it is exposed to the elements, it turns red. The gum coming out of the tree has a very fragrant odor. It is gathered, taken to the market and sold either for spice or for medicine.

The Aloes Tree

The aloes tree, on the other hand, is a large tree. It couldn't be considered a bush by any manner or means. It grows into a large, spreading tree sometimes attaining a heighth of 120 feet. The gum that comes from this aloes tree is dark at the very beginning, but it, too, is fragrant as far as its scent is concerned. The aloes tree gets its gum by going into the inner part of the tree—wounding the tree at the very center of it—then the gum is exuded. The center of that tree, the wood, is so valuable that it was considered at certain times in the past as more valuable than gold. It was so soft that it could be molded into almost any shape or form, and it was often used for settings for precious stones and precious gems, but the chief characteristic was the fragrance of the gum that exuded from it.

The Cassia Tree

The last tree of the three is the cassia tree. It is very small, but it was valuable because of its buds and its leaves. The buds were plucked and used similar to cloves in cooking. The leaves were taken and used as a base for a laxative. The Hebrew name for the cassia indicates how the gum was secured from this particular tree because its gum, too, was very, very valuable. It was something like cinnamon, less delicate in taste and in smell, but it was secured by peeling the bark off the trees.

I would like for you to get those facts fixed in your minds. I don't know that it is so important to remember the tree to which they are related unless you were asked some questions about it, but remember, one of the trees produced its gum simply by piercing the bark just a little bit. Another produced its gum by peeling the bark off all the way around, and another tree produced its gum by going right down to the center of the tree, the very heart of it. There was no gum without that extent of wounding. Keep that in mind. That is important in relation to the presentation of these natural facts.

In our study of trees, we have not only looked at the natural facts related to them, but we have looked at the scriptural facts as well because the Spirit of God has been pleased to use these very trees as a basis for teaching spiritual truths related to ordinary, everyday Christian living.

The Stand of the Trees

Turn in your Bibles, please, to the book of Numbers, and notice chapter 24. I have asked you to turn to this chapter because I want you to notice, first, the stand of those trees. I am using that word for the sake of alliteration so that you will have some mental pegs on which you can hang some of the thoughts that I want to leave with you today.

You know what I am talking about when I talk about a stand of trees. We have a stand of corn, a stand of wheat. It simply is where the trees are growing. That is all it means. The place where the trees grow is so very important. In Numbers, chapter 24, we have a prophecy Balaam made concerning the children of Israel. In verse 6, he said:

Numbers 24:

6 As the valleys are they spread forth, as gardens by the river's side, as the trees of lign aloes [these are our aloes trees, and notice what he said about them] which the LORD hath planted, and as cedar trees beside the waters.

Fix that firmly in your mind. These trees are growing beside the waters. Turn with me to Song of Solomon, chapter 4, and notice another point in the Word of God concerning the stand of these trees. We have noticed this passage of Scripture before because in verse 12 we find that the Christian is compared to a garden. More accurately, it would be an orchard because this is an orchard enclosed in the midst of which there is a spring. Then the trees are described for you in verses 13-14. In the last part of verse 14, these three trees are mentioned—two of them by name and one of them under the general phrase, chief spices . There is the myrrh, the aloes and cassia is included under the chief spices.

The thing that we notice about this orchard of trees in relation to the stand is not only the water which is mentioned twice in relation to the orchard, but down in verse 16, the wind, where we read:

Song of Solomon 4:

16 Awake, O north wind; and come, thou south; blow upon my garden, [my orchard] [notice now]that the spices [the fragrance, the scent] thereof may flow out…

If you are thinking, you realize that the stand of these three trees is vitally related to two things: wind and water. From a natural fact, that is a necessity, but keep in mind, from a spiritual standpoint in relation to our study of the trees, it is an absolute necessity because the water represents the Word, and the wind represents the Holy Spirit, and unless the believer has his roots in the Word, unless the Holy Spirit as the wind has a definite relationship to the believer's life, the fruit will not be produced, and so we reemphasize the truth that we have held before you in relation to all of these trees—the planting of the trees is tremendously important.

Let me ask you, where is the place you are planted? Are you planted by the water like the tree in Psalm 1? Are you planted like the tree in the Song of Solomon, where the wind will have access to you, where the Holy Spirit of God will be able to deal with you and produce the fruit that is necessary in your life?

The Scent of the Tree

Let me give you another word, scent , because as far as these trees are concerned, we are not interested in edible fruit like we might be from the apple tree or the peach tree or the pear tree; we are interested in the fragrance which these trees are able to produce. Remember what we read in Song of Solomon, chapter 4, verse 16:

Song of Solomon 4:

16 Awake, O north wind; and come, thou south; blow upon my garden, that the spices [that is the scent, the smell, the fragrance] thereof may flow out…

The scent of the tree represents a distinct part of personality, and that is no more evident than it was in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ. Certainly today there should be a desire on the part of every believer to be like Him. I have already referred to the fact that at His birth, myrrh was brought to Him. At His death, myrrh and aloes were brought to Him, and aside from the natural reason for which they were brought, I think they speak to our hearts of the fact that from birth to death, His whole personality was permeated with the scent of these trees which have a very definite meaning in that they were meant, as we are going to see before we are through, to make each individual more attractive.

For example, when the writer of the Song of Solomon was talking about the Lord Jesus Christ, he said, “The Lord Jesus Christ is a bundle of myrrh,” and surely he must have meant by that that His whole personality was fragrant with that which attracts. Then he said one time that His hands dripped with myrrh because Solomon tells how the Lord Jesus Christ made a visit to a person one time and they didn't care to have him, so He put his hand on what we would call the door knob and looked in. He could tell that He wasn't wanted, so He closed the door and went back out. Then when this person got stirred up enough to realize that Christ had come and gone, the person went to the door and what do you think was on her fingertips? That's right. The smell of myrrh. She said, “Jesus has been here and I missed Him. I didn't even know that He was here and He is gone, and I have missed the blessing.”

Let the lesson that the Holy Spirit can minister speak to your heart. Oh, how many blessings we miss because we are not conscious of the presence of our Lord in our lives. This same person, Solomon, when he is speaking about the Lord, said, “His lips dripped with myrrh.” If that means anything at all, it must mean that His speech was that which was fragrant and attractive and appealing; and this you need to be if you want to be like the Lord Jesus Christ. Let me suggest to you that you be a very bundle of myrrh, your whole life permeated with the fragrance of Christ, as even His clothes were as is mentioned in Psalm 45. Let your hands drip with myrrh. Let that which you say and that which you do be that which is well-pleasing to the Lord.

The Separated and Sanctified Life

What good is the scent? It may make things attractive as we have mentioned to you, but what good is this scent? What kind of real value does it have in the believer's life? When you have time, read Exodus, chapter 30, verse 23, and you will find that when Moses was given instructions from God for the holy anointing oil, God said, “I want you to take 500 shekels of myrrh, and I want you to take 500 shekels of aloes, and I want you to put them together. I want you to make this holy anointing oil.” Do you remember what they did with that holy anointing oil? The priest took it and he sprinkled it on all the furniture of the tabernacle.

Why did you suppose he did that? He was saying by that very action, “This very furniture that anybody could have in their house, as far as the material is concerned, is different. It's separated unto God. It is wholly dedicated. It is wholly yielded to the service of God.”

You get the point. The thing that is needed for your life and for mine is that contact with the myrrh and the aloes that the fragrance of a separated life might be manifested to others. Notice what I am saying to you today—the fragrance of a separated life.

Have you ever stopped to think much about separation? There is nothing very attractive about it. To most people a separated life is a series of negation. It is related to what they cannot do, and the only way they can manifest a separated life is to say, “I don't do this, and I don't do that, and I won't do this, and I won't do that.” A person who looks at a life like that says, “I don't want that. Maybe when I get old and feeble, but not now.”

Beloved, the attractiveness of a separated life is as attractive as the fragrance of these trees. The separated life is as unto the Lord, and not away from things. You see, so often when we talk about a separated life, we are cutting ourselves away from , and our life is an empty thing; but if we separate ourselves unto , we don't even know these things are in existence. We just don't have time to even give them consideration.

Some time when you have time, turn to the book of Esther, and read the story of how Esther was fitted for the king. Before any woman could become the bride of the king, it was necessary for her to go through a purifying process. The chief ingredient of that which carried on the purifying process was these three trees: myrrh, aloes, and cassia. As I suggest that to you, I suggest that when we come in contact with these trees, we not only have a separated life, we have a sanctified life.

You say, “Aren't we talking about the same thing?” Not altogether. A sanctified life is a life that is made holy, and if you are familiar with your Bibles, you know that you are made holy in the Lord Jesus Christ. It isn't that you are made holy because somebody paints a halo around your head. It isn't that you are made holy because somebody puts a special kind of garb on you as far as clothing is concerned, but you are made holy and acceptable in the Beloved, and you ought to bear the fragrance of a holy life before the world.

To Magnify Christ

I mentioned to you, in connection with the natural facts of these trees, that the inner wood of the cassia was used as a setting for precious stones, and that speaks to my own heart. What is the purpose, what is the privilege, that rests upon every born-again believer? Is it the magnifying of self or the magnifying of Christ? The way that most of us live, the way most of us act, it is the magnifying of self. It is the big I. We want all of the attention drawn to self, but what should be in the secret recesses of our heart is a deep desire to be no more than a setting for the stone, no more than a background for the chief jewel that the world has ever seen or will see, the Lord Jesus Christ.

If you have had any experience with jewelry, if you have had any experience with jewelers, you know that the setting can make all the difference in the appearance of the stone. You can take a setting that isn't fitted for the stone and the beauty of the stone will be completely swallowed up, or you can take a setting that fits the stone and the stone bursts forth in all of its glory.

I wonder if all of the glory and the beauty of our Lord Jesus Christ is not hidden by the poor settings we make for Him. I wonder what a difference there would be in the attractiveness of the Lord Jesus Christ if we would be content to be the setting and not the stone. It might be good for us to search our hearts and see whether or not we are more interested in being the stone than the setting.

Of course, I am talking now about vital Christian living. I am not talking about just going to church every now and then. I am talking about a vital, spiritual experience with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Scent Produced through Suffering

I want to give you one last word and it is the word suffering , for there is no way for the scent to be produced without the suffering. Do you realize that? There is no way for the scent to be made manifest without the suffering. If you will recall when I was giving you the natural facts about these trees, the gum from which the fragrance came was never produced without a wound. Do you remember that? If you will recall when we were talking about those trees, the wounding was not always the same. I want to emphasize that because I want to remind you that the fragrance of a Christian life, the scent of a life that is lived close to God does not come without suffering. The scent will go no further than a little area around you unless you know something about the ministry of suffering.

I want to say something. I hope you will understand the spirit in which I say it, because I don't want to direct attention to myself, but it makes a point, and the Spirit of God brings it to my mind at this moment. I have learned not to refuse to mention things that He brings to my mind. When I was in a conference in San Antonio, three people came to me three different times and they said this: “We have heard the Word before, but our hearts have been so blessed this week because the Word you present sounds like it comes from the heart instead of the head.”

I thanked them for what they said, and I don't know that they are right, but it makes the point, Beloved. You can get it in your head, but the fragrance of it will never get out until you get it down in your heart, and the only way you can get things in your heart is to go deep.

Did you remember these trees and the manner in which the gum was produced? Let me remind you. The first tree that we mentioned was pierced just a little bit, and God has created some of us so that He can use us and use us abundantly with a minimum of suffering. All He needs to do is pierce the outer bark, so don't you go around saying, “Why does so-and-so suffer so much, and I don't? Maybe my life just isn't worth anything. I haven't suffered.” You may not need to. You may be the kind of tree that can produce all the fragrance that is necessary by just piercing the bark. I suspect that most of us are that way, because most of us have been just barely pierced with suffering. Most of us haven't suffered a great deal.

Then, you remember one of these other trees. The gum was produced by peeling the bark all the way off, just like you would peel the skin off something. You have felt peeled sometime, haven't you? You have been put through a trial, you have been called upon to go through a particular time of testing and tribulation, and you felt like all the skin was knocked off. Spiritually speaking, Beloved, before God can produce the fragrance that is needed in some of our lives, He has to peel the skin off. That is not very pleasant.

You have all had brush burns, haven't you? At least, if you can think back far enough to your childhood, you can remember when you were running, and you would slip and slide into some cinders and peel all of the skin off. You would call it a brush burn , and it hurt. I think if you compared it, you would say that it hurt worse than if you cut yourself. It hurt worse than if you had had an open wound. The skin was peeled off and it hurt. But sometimes the fragrance of which I am speaking can only be produced when the bark is peeled off, so the next time you are called upon to go through a period of suffering, the next time that you are called upon to go through a time of trail, before you become bitter and say, “Why did this have to happen to me? I don't see why this had to happen to me,” why don't you say, “Lord, if some fragrance of Christ can be wafted by the wind into the home or the heart of somebody that really needs it, then peel the bark off.” You see, there is some measure of comfort in knowing that it hasn't been done uselessly.

You already know what I am going to mention last. In one of these trees, the gum was produced only when they bore clear down to the very heart of the tree. Piercing the bark wasn't enough; peeling the bark off wasn't enough. They had to go down to the very heart of the tree. That is the only place the fragrance came.

If you are wondering why you have had to suffer so much more than someone else has, you just think of yourself as one of these trees from whom the fragrance can come only when you get down to the heart of the tree. If you are wondering, as I have, for you have seen folk who have been called upon to suffer and there has been this, and this, and this, and this, and you wonder how much more, and you say, “God, why?” Just remember, God is getting to the heart of the tree, and the fragrance is going to come forth.

Don't misunderstand me. Don't jump to conclusions. Don't think that I am saying to you that the reason God has to get to the heart of some tree is that there is something wrong with those trees. That is not it at all. You see, God has in His garden many different kinds of trees, and in compliance with His foreknowledge, He has planted you and He has planted me as the tree He wishes in His garden. You see, it isn't the fault of the cassia tree that they had to go clear to the heart of the matter. It wasn't the fault of the tree; God made it that way. When you think about this matter of suffering, will you remember that the purpose of it is that the north wind, the south wind, might come and take the fragrance and blow it into whatever area is needed.

Conclusion

I covenant with God to be willing, if necessary, to be a scented tree. He can pierce the bark if He has to. He can peel the bark if He has to. He can bore right down to the center if He needs to, but if I know my heart, more than anything else, I want my life to tell for the Lord Jesus Christ. I want my garment, I want my clothes, I want my lips, I want my hands, I want my whole personality to smell as aloes, cassia and myrrh.


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