“For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ…” 2 Corinthians 2:15 NIV
There is a homeless woman that lives deep in my soul and on any given day, I am a feminist’s worst nightmare: the dowdy housewife. Today, my greasy uncombed hair is pulled back into a messy ponytailish loop and my half efforts to remove the eye makeup from the night before are on display in the form of faint raccoon eyes. I haven’t brushed my teeth because I’m still sipping on my morning brew (at 11am) and I’m wearing my husband’s over-sized work hoodie with the company logo and grease stains. My pants are the bottom half of a warm-up suit and are 5 inches too long because I found them at a Goodwill for $7.00. It’s Thursday (laundry day) so my bathing suit is dutifully serving its dual purpose as underwear. And tomorrow I may shower cause it’s Friday and that’s a big deal.
I admit, I have never hesitated to enter any establishment in such garb (last week I did my errands in slippers and fuzzy socks) but I’m usually just perusing the local El Cajon Walmart and this would be overdressed. (If you’ve been living under a rock the past 10 years, you can Google Faces of Walmart to see what I’m talking about.) These are my people, and we like it here.
(You can take the girl out of the trailer park, but you can’t take the trailer…well, you know the rest.)
The reality of my tendencies are only comical because I can change it. I can live in my grime or I can lather on a layer of soap and freshen up; my condition is easily fixed.
But what if I spent hours in the bathroom getting ready only to come out exactly the way I went in? Visualize this is my wedding day and no matter how much effort I put into priming, I can’t shake the just-crawled-out-of-a-dumpster look and cheap coffee breath (cause it is cheap coffee). If I couldn’t change my hygiene habits the scenario would turn from humorous to hopeless and I would despair.
For now, my vagrant leanings will suffice as a modern day analogy for Exodus 28:36-38 NKJV:
“You shall also make a plate of pure gold and engrave on it, like the engraving of a signet: HOLINESS TO THE LORD…So it shall be on Aaron’s (the priest) forehead, that Aaron may bear the iniquity of the holy things which the children of Israel hallow in all their holy gifts; and it shall always be on his forehead, that they may be accepted before the Lord.”
The Israelites couldn’t cleanup. The people would bring their best to God (their “holy gifts”) and they were still a monstrosity, dripping with violation; their excellence was as a filthy rag. We know obvious wickedness is gross, but I was struck that even their finest efforts were molested by the vileness of their sin and there was nothing they could do about it on their own.
To bring the people’s gifts to God, Aaron had to stand as a buffer between the two with a gold plate on his forehead that said, “HOLINESS TO THE LORD,” in order to rectify the offensive present.
What Aaron did for them then, Jesus does for us today. He stands as a shield between my depravity and God’s purity; shouldering the burden of the wickedness that corrupts my offerings and imputes His holiness to it instead. Sin, like BO that won’t wash away, sullies even my first-rate doings and most honorable motives and intentions, and yet Jesus can present that same work before God as stunning and flawless. Give God my best (tainted infected charity), and Jesus’s best (holiness) will make it worthy of the Father’s receiving.
We don’t bring the same gifts the Israelites did (like animal sacrifices), but we do bring gifts. Some are tangible, like money, but sometimes intangible, like time, energy or worship. While our gifts differ from theirs, our commonality with the Israelites is that our gifts are polluted: the soiled hands that offer them reek of criminal activity (1John 3:4) and they fall woefully short of anything a holy God should accept. Our outreach is infected with impatience, our evangelism has to push through laziness, and we worship through lips that spoke repugnant gossip not five minutes ago.
But praise God, through Jesus, He allows defective sinners to bless Him. And like a dog with its newest present (some torn lizard or mauled bird) we offer up our top contributions and He receives them as “Holiness to the Lord”. Paul assures us,
“They are a sweet-smelling sacrifice that is acceptable and pleasing to God.” Philippians 4:18 NLT
Now if you will excuse me, it’s Thursday and laundry is calling. #thisbathingsuitischafing