Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Biblical Oils - Frankincense

Ah, Frankincense. The other oil brought to Jesus by the three wise men. So precious and sweet it was part of a special perfume God directed Moses to make for the temple. This perfume was to be considered holy for God alone. Not for man to use. (Exodus 30)

According to Connie and Alan Higley in their book Reference Guide to Essential Oils it is mentioned over 52 times in the Bible because they include the word incense which was sometimes translated from the word frankincense. By name, Frankincense is mentioned several times in the Bible, especially in Leviticus. You see, it was part of meat and bread offerings, but definitely not to be part of any sin offering. It was associated with perfuming the king or groom in Song of Solomon. It is listed among the items that will be lost when the great city of Babylon is destroyed in Revelations 18.

But what makes Frankincense stand out as an important gift to give a king?

It's rare because it's found in only two places in the world, Somalia and Oman. This made it very valuable -- even more than gold. For many centuries it was considered the holy anointing oil and thought to give healing. Life Science Publishing's book Essential Oils pocket reference notes that only those with abundant wealth, such as royalty and nobility, possessed it. So, of course, the wise men would want to ensure the new king would have the appropriate oils in his possession.

So what is Frankincense known to heal?

Let's see, Essential Oils pocket reference and Reference Guide for Essential Oils give quite a long list of this sesquiterpenes containing oil's uses. There's tumors, allergies, headaches, depression, respiratory issues, cancer, orthopedic problems, skin health, stomach disorders, blood pressure, nerve pain, dental diseases, mental disorders, insect bites, arthritis and osteoporosis. It's also known to stimulate the immune system, relax muscles, uplift attitudes and promote calming and relaxing. Is there anything it doesn't do?

Again, keeping in mind that Jesus was a healer he didn't need to have this oil to stay healthy. But as mentioned before, possession of this oil had been limited to only the wealthy and royal. Giving this oil to a baby in a small insignificant town was a statement of acceptance into the ranks of royalty. The wise men knew he was the king they had been seeking, and without having to speak a word they told all who saw their gifts that Jesus was royal and worthy of such treasures.

I have one other thought to share before I close. Joseph and Mary may have used the Frankincense and Myrrh for their own ailments until such time as Jesus could help them. But more importantly, when they arrived in Egypt they came with wealth and a way to support the baby Jesus. In a sense, they had the financial backing to get a home and establish a carpentry shop. By selling the oils, albeit perhaps a little at a time, they could support themselves until the time came when God called them to return to Israel. God is a provider for all, even when you've been sent packing away from family and friends to a foreign country.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Biblical Oils - Myrrh

As I mentioned last time essential oils today and back in the Bible were not cheap. Which gives us great insight when we read about the three magi visiting Jesus. They were wise to search the sky for a sign that the promised Messiah was born, and wise to seek out the baby Jesus, and they were wise with their money for they had to be wealthy. The fact that they brought two expensive oils and a precious metal with them tells us this. And because of their gifts they would have traveled with ample security for themselves and their treasures. They wouldn't have taken any chances of having their gifts stolen out from underneath them.

As we all know the two oils they brought to the baby Jesus were Frankincense and Myrrh. But why those? Why not Cedarwood or Hyssop? Why not oils of spices, like Cinnamon? Let's start with Myrrh.

Myrrh, although mentioned several times in the Bible, is first seen in Genesis 37 where tradesmen were carrying it to Egypt. We overlook that detail because the story is about Joseph's first step into slavery.

In Exodus 30 it was part of the sacred anointing oil that God instructed Moses to make.

Another fascinating reference is in Esther 2 where we read that Esther must go through a twelve month cleansing process before she can see the king. Six months of the process was spent having myrrh applied to her body. Hmm, interesting.

Later, in Psalms and Proverbs it is considered a perfume. Which may be why it was combined with frankincense to create a perfumed smoke at the arrival of the groom in Song of Solomon. But then in Mark 15:23 it was mixed with wine to help deaden pain as seen at the crucifixion scene.

Even in these Biblical references we see that it is multifaceted in its uses. So what do we know about it today? What's so fabulous about myrrh?

It's chemical make-up contains sesquiterpenes which help the body to rebuild itself. According to Life Science Publishing's Essential Oils pocket reference book, it's an antioxidant, anti-tumor, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-parasitic, and analgesic. And, it has been used for such things as diabetes, cancer, liver ailments, fungus on the skin, mouth and dental issues, chapped skin, wrinkles, and stretch marks. When you smell it, it is thought to influence the brain's center for emotions and memory.

There's one other application of myrrh I haven't mentioned yet. It was one of the oils used to anoint a dead body thus helping to lessen the smell death brings. (John 19:38-40) Years ago I was instructed that this was the main reason Jesus was given this oil - as a foreshadowing of his death. But as you can see there were many reasons myrrh would have been used by the holy family. It was the three king's way of insuring Jesus had the best medical care available. Never mind he could heal anyone of anything; they gave him what they felt he would need throughout his life.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Biblical Oils (Part 1)

How many of you use essential oils?  In case you are unaware, essential oils are growing in popularity. And while some are discovering them for the first time, they are not new. There are several references to oils being used in the Bible, mainly for food, offering and anointing. But there are other references that may go undetected, for instance Psalms 133 and Numbers 16.

For many years I wondered what happened to the Biblical oils used for incense and anointing. Why did people stop using them? I often questioned if there was anything worthy in the knowledge of using oils or did it become archaic and obsolete as medicine fine tuned itself. As far as I was concerned oils weren't around anymore. In fact, when my brother started to use an oil called Thieves I was impressed that he had researched oils enough to have found this information. Turns out, I just didn't know where to look.

As I began to read and hear about oils a part of me still felt it was a bunch of fru-fru archaic stuff, even if it was brought back into usage by physicians during WWI. Recently, my brother showed me two other easily overlooked passages in the Bible. Ezekiel 47 talks about the wonderful water flowing from the temple, nourishing the land and eventually producing fruit trees. At the tail end of the chapter is the description stating the leaves are to be used for healing. Helloooo...oils! And when the tribulation is done and over with (Revelation 22), there will be a healing brought to the nations, believe it or not, through the leaves of the tree of life.

So what have I done with this knowledge of oils? I've begun using them for freshening a room and for a variety of ailments from bug bites to muscle tension to nasal congestion.

Now, before I go any further I do want to say that visiting a physician to find out what's ailing you is most important. Self diagnosing can be a dangerous thing to do. I also found a couple of resources that indicate that some oils may worsen a condition rather than help it. The same thing happens with homeopathic medication. You could be doubling up a dosage if you take something without first consulting your doctor.

Do these oils work? When used properly and if your body accepts it the right way, yes. For example, recently I burned myself with overly hot water at a restaurant. One of the workers brought me a packet of burn ointment they use in the kitchen. Guess what the active ingredient was? An essential oil. Within minutes the burn was gone.

Another thing I've learned is that the oils are not cheap. Nor were they cheap in the days of the Bible. Some of the oils come only from one place or one type of vegetation on the earth. They are made from the leaves, roots, and flowers of all kinds of trees, shrubs and bushes. And it takes lots of that ingredient to make a liter of oil. Which is why in Biblical days the oils were treasured and of equal value with gold when given as a gift.

Over the next few weeks I'd like to fill you in on some of these Biblical treasures. We'll start with Frankincense and Myrrh that the wise men brought to the baby Jesus. There was a reason beyond displaying wealth that these expensive oils were given to Jesus as a gift.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Passion vs Passionate

What do you think of when you hear passion or passionate? Do you first think of a love scene in a movie? Maybe you think of someone who's so crazy about their work or hobby that when the subject is brought up that's all they talk about.

When I was a preteen my dad was stationed in Germany and we went to see the famous production called the Passion Play. It happens every ten years for a set season in the town of Oberammergau, a beautiful town in the Bavarian Alps. The play is based on the life and death of Jesus and takes two days to watch. It was all in German, but I could figure out what was happening by watching. It's quite something. The whole town shuts down to perform the play.

Now that's being passionate about a play. Why do they put so much effort into a story that most churches tell in an hour program once a year? I'll tell you why.

In the 1600's when whole villages were dying off due to an epidemic of the plague, the village people got together and prayed for God's protection. They promised God if He would spare them they would present the story of Jesus in their village every ten years. The village was spared. And, except for a few wars they have kept to this time frame and continue the tradition of the Passion Play.

I never questioned why it was called the Passion Play, but thought it odd. What is passion? Why name a story about Jesus Passion?  It's a strange word actually. Merriam-Webster's definitions for passion include strong feelings that might lead in a dangerous direction, a strong romantic feeling, the sufferings of Jesus, emotional reactions and just plain suffering. Some of these are older definitions but are still listed.

I like what Jewish Jewels said in their newsletter for November. The love God has for us is so great that it is a passion. He is passionate about having us with Him for eternity. Jesus has so much love for us that He suffered for us - first he put himself under the law by being born to a woman, then ended his hard work on earth by being put through an unjust trial, then humiliated by having his clothes stripped off, then publicly beaten during his humiliation, then killed in the most horrible public way.

Are you passionate enough about anyone that you would do these things? Especially, when at anytime in that process you can stop what was being done to you? It's like a grown man allowing his toddler children to beat him up when at anytime he could swing his arm and knock all of them down then place them in time out or send them to their rooms. You get the idea.

I for one am glad that Jesus had that much love and desire for man that he came to live among us. As we near the celebration of his birth let's all remember just how much he endured for us because of his passion for us.