Awake, north wind, and come, south wind! Blow on my garden, that its fragrance may spread abroad. (Song of Songs 4: 16)
Some of the spices and plants mentioned in verse 14 of the above chapter are very descriptive and symbolic. The juice of the aloe plant has a bitter taste but is soothing when applied to the skin, so it tells us of the sweetness of bitter things, the bittersweet, having an important application that only those who have used it will understand. Myrrh is symbolic of death, having been used to embalm the dead. It represents the sweetness that comes to the heart after it has died to self-will, pride, and sin.
What inexpressible charm seems to encircle some Christians, simply because they carry upon their pure countenance and gentle spirit the imprint of the cross! It is the holy evidence of having died to something that was once proud and strong but is now forever surrendered at the feet of Jesus. And it is also the heavenly charm of a broken spirit and a contrite heart, the beautiful music that rises from a minor key, and the sweetness brought about by the touch of frost on ripened fruit.
Finally, frankincense was a fragrance that arose only after being touched with fire. The burning incense became clouds of sweetness arising from the heart of the flames. It symbolizes a person’s heart whose sweetness has been brought forth by the flames of affliction until the holy, innermost part of the soul is filled with clouds of praise and prayer.
Beloved, are our lives yielding spices and perfumes— sweet fragrances of the heart?
~from The Love-Life of Our Lord
A Persian fable says:
One day a wanderer found a lump of clay
So savory of sweet perfume
Its odors scented all the room.
“What are you?” was his quick demand,
“Are you some gem from Samarkand,
Or pure nard in this plain disguise,
Or other costly merchandise?”
“No, I am but a lump of clay.”
“Then whence this wondrous perfume— say!”
“Friend, if the secret I disclose,
I have been dwelling with the rose.”
Sweet parable! and will not those
Who love to dwell with Sharon’s rose,
Distill sweet odors all around,
Though low and poor themselves are found?
Dear Lord, abide with us that we
May draw our perfume fresh from Thee.
Cowman, L. B. E.; Reimann, Jim (2008-09-09). Streams in the Desert: 366 Daily Devotional Readings (p. 351). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.