S2EP4 Frankincense

Hello and welcome to season 2 episode 4 of The Berean Manifesto brought to you by The Ekklesian House.  This is Pastor Bill and over the next 10 minutes or so we’re going to kick off part one of our holiday trilogy, Frankincense.

 

In Micah 5:2 there is a prophecy that reads, “Bethlehem Ephrathah you are small among the clans of Judah; one will come from you to be ruler over Israel for Me.  His origin is from antiquity, from ancient times.” This is the prophecy that was delivered to King Herod in Matthew 2:6 when he asks the chief priests and scribes where The Messiah was to be born so that he could trick the Magi into finding the future king for him so he could eliminate the threat posed to his reign.  Even the Magi’s arrival was prophesied in Isaiah 60:6 it says,

“Caravans of camels will cover your land —
young camels of Midian and Ephah —
all of them will come from Sheba.
They will carry gold and frankincense
and proclaim the praises of the Lord.”

 

Indeed they did come, not three kings as the tale has become, but caravans of people.  They weren’t at the birth like you see in Nativity scenes, but they did eventually make it to find an about two-year-old toddler Jesus, with Mary and Joseph living in a home.  Matthew 2:11 tells us that they did, in fact, bring “gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” Some have attributed significance to each of the gifts. This isn’t, however, an idea we get from the Bible, but significance that’s been added over the years in hindsight.

 

Given the prophecy in Isaiah 60 only mentioning gold and frankincense, and the prophecy in Micah 2’s statement of, “His origin is from antiquity, from ancient times.”  Which doesn’t really sound like much in English, but the original language casts these cryptic undertones of secrecy, or of something hidden. So I’m inclined to agree that these gifts have some significance.  So, over this three part series we will be looking at, not what these gifts might have meant to the Magi who were presenting them, but what importance, in hindsight, we can attribute to them. This week we’re looking at frankincense, next week will be myrrh, and we’ll wrap up this trilogy on gold.

 

Frankincense is a white resin that comes from a tree.  Incisions are cut in the bark allowing the frankincense to flow out and be collected.  It is really fragrant when burned and is one of the listed ingredients in Exodus 30:34 for making the sacred incense to be used in the tent of meeting where the priests would meet directly with God.  At the time frankincense was not only hard to acquire and therefore costly, but it was reportedly being burned by priests of every religion in every temple in the region. This stuff pretty much only had two uses at this time, being burned by a priest or selling it to a priest.  There is some evidence that some cultures had discovered that frankincense has some health benefits being used for inflammation and arthritis, but I don’t see any evidence of this being a knowledge that the Israelites of the day had, and we don’t know enough about the Maji to know if they knew this either.

 

Now that we have a basic understanding of frankincense we can get to the meat of things.  When we are reminded of the gift of frankincense we can see this as a reminder of the priesthood of Christ.  Not just priesthood, though, 1 Peter 2:9 tells us that all Christians are members of the royal priesthood, but Christ, is our High Priest.  Hebrews 4:14 says, “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens — Jesus the Son of God — let us hold fast to our confession.”  This is an important distinction; priest versus high priest, for only the high priest can offer sacrifice for sin. In order for Christ to offer himself up as the sacrifice for sin, once for all, He had to be the high priest.

 

There’s a bit of interesting precedence in connection with Jesus not only being our high priest as Christians but also being the Jewish high priest when He was alive and therefore able to fulfill the law as He said He was here to do.  And it’s found, strangely enough, at the trial of Jesus in Matthew 26, verse 65 reads, “Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has blasphemed! Why do we still need witnesses? See, now you’ve heard the blasphemy.” If you haven’t spent much time looking into Jewish lore and reading the book of Leviticus then that verse probably wasn’t very telling for you.  Let’s take a look at Leviticus 10, “Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu each took his own firepan, put fire in it, placed incense on it, and presented unauthorized fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them to do. Then fire came from the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord has spoken:
I will demonstrate My holiness
to those who are near Me,
and I will reveal My glory
before all the people.”

And Aaron remained silent”

 

So Aaron is the high priest at the time and two of his sons offer an unapproved incense in the temple and God consumes them with fire.  Moses then delivers a word to Aaron that basically puts him and all the priesthood on notice that this priest stuff is serious business and any priest or high priest that disregards the commands of the Lord concerning their service will die in a very public manner, ie… fire from nowhere consuming them.  Fast forward to Leviticus 21:10 and we find the Lord giving a command concerning the high priest that a high priest should never tear his clothes. Other priests killed by the Lord for not taking their service as priests serious enough include; Phinehas and Hophni in 1 Samuel 2-4, Uzzah in 2 Samuel 6, and Hananiah in Jeremiah 28.  In Matthew 26 when the high priest tore his robes and he didn’t instantly die, it was proof to everyone there, and probably why the detail is included by Matthew, that he wasn’t the legal high priest.

 

To find that high priest we can go back historically to before the high priest in Matthew 26 and his father-in-law were placed in their offices by Rome.  Go back to Zechariah who served as high priest under the division of Abijah and his wife Elizabeth, John the Baptists parents. Zechariah and Elizabeth are historically known as the end of Aaron’s decendants.  The end until the birth of John. John then was the last descendant of the first high priest Aaron, and by birthright the rightful high priest. When John led the people into the wilderness to repent, wear sackcloth, and eat locusts and honey he was replaced in the office of high priest.  Illegally replaced. John goes on to baptize Jesus in the river Jordan, not as a sign of turning from sins like everyone else that he was baptizing. John was baptizing Jesus as a part of the ceramony to pass on the position of high priest to Jesus. And in place of the annointing oil used in the ceramony the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove comes down and lands on Jesus and fills Him.

 

Jesus is our High Priest, a good High Priest that has faced all the temptations we have and understands what we are going through.  So this time of year when you see those wise men with their gifts and you hear of the frankincense being given remember that Jesus is your High Priest who has been where you are and can relate to you and what you’re going through.

 

This is Pastor Bill saying, “Until next time…”

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