Oil and incense bring joy to the heart, and the sweetness of a friend is better than self-counsel.Proverbs 27:9(HCSB)
In bygone days, the head or the feet of honoured visitors and important guests were often anointed by their host with a beautiful ointment or a sweet-smelling fragrance. This was not only done as a mark of respect to their guests, but it served to refresh their soul and gladden their heart. And in this verse, Solomon compares the pleasant aroma and rejuvenating effect of oil and incense to the wise counsel of a trusted friend, and writes: "Oil and perfume make the heart glad, so a man's counsel is sweet to his friend."
There are other examples in Scripture where the fragrant aroma of ointment or perfume could be likened to the close, loving, and trusted relationships. Solomon no doubt recalled the intimate friendship and trusted counsel that existed between his father, David, and Jonathan, and in the New Testament, perhaps there is no great example of the veracity of this verse than Mary of Bethany who so lovingly anointed the feet of her most trusted friend and Saviour.
The oil with which Mary anointed the head and feet of the Lord Jesus, not only filled the house with the lingering fragrance of sweet perfume but it flooded His heart with joy, for she had become a beloved friend that sat at His feet and bathed in His wonderful words of wisdom. The sweet aroma that pervaded that little house two thousand years ago, has caused the hearts of countless Christians down through the centuries to rejoice and be glad.
What a beautiful picture this presents of the joy and gladness that fills the heart of a man or woman, when a beloved Christian friend or dear brother in Christ combines gracious acts of kindness, wise advice, words of encouragement, gentle chastening, and genial counsel with the glorious gospel of Christ in order to edify and encourage or even to correct.
In the Scriptures, the oil of gladness and incense of joy, are so often seen as the adornment of the man or woman that loves righteousness and hates wickedness, while the perfumer's ointment and sacred anointing incense is frequently seen in Scripture, ascending up to the Lord as a good and acceptable freewill offering, a love offering, a burnt sacrifice and sweet-smelling savour that is so pleasing in the sight of the Lord.
How true that the genuine counsel, caring words, or gentle correction of a good an honest friend, becomes the oil of gladness and a sweet-smelling perfume of costly spikenard.
All too often the counsel that we receive from others, even Christian brethren, can come with a barbed delivery, causing pain and often leaving a bitter taste. This ought not to be - but let us seek never to return evil for evil but to seek to bring the joy that comes from the Lord, to the heart of all our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Let us become that friend that is kind one to another and that sticks closer than a brother. Let us be that friend that brings forth the sweet aroma of Jesus, as He lives in and through us.
Loving Father, thank You that in Christ, I have a friend that sticks closer than a brother. Help me to reflect You in all I do so that I show forth the grace of Jesus to all I meet. May my life be that sweet-smelling savour to others and to You, as I abide in Christ. In Jesus' name I pray, AMEN.