Leaders are people who are involved in the lives of other people. Before leadership can be functional, it must be relational. It is out of relationship that we lead, not merely gifting or function. We are not part of organizational Christian business. We are in the business of being intimately involved with others in the testimony of the living body of Christ on earth. When involved in the lives of other people, there are always going to be misconnections, misunderstandings, and various turns in the dynamic of relationships. This is part of the process of being involved in the lives of people. The enemy seeks to destroy the human heart and thus dissolve the connection of human relationships. In this a leader must guard their heart, because it is from the heart that a leader must lead.
What does it mean to guard the heart and how is this done? The way of the world is to draw back from people and relationships when people hurt them. Their first interest is the safety and protection of themselves. This is not the way of the kingdom of God. We are to live for the wellbeing of others. When we are wounded in our hearts we must know how to keep our hearts alive. We must know how to keep our hearts as fountains of life for the sake of others.
Proverbs 4:23 Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.
King Solomon said the keeping the heart was to make sure that it is constantly free flowing. God loves the fragrance of the honest heart of someone who loves Him. It is with the heart that we hear Him and it is with the heart that we love Him. It is also from our hearts that we love others. In the Old Covenant it was required for the Priest to offer incense before God. The incense was offered in the morning and at night, signifying the beginning and the end of every day. The Priest of the Old Covenant would also take the prepared incense from the holy place and bring it into the holy of holies at the appropriate time of the manifest presence of God. I believe that the incense was a testimony of what must come from our hearts in order to experience the full life of God. That life is not merely for us, but it is a testimony of life to others. Just as the ingredients of the incense burned to release a fragrance before God, out hearts must release the fragrance of life in our love for God and others.
Exodus 30:34, 35 And the LORD said to Moses: “Take sweet spices, stacte and onycha and galbanum, and pure frankincense with these sweet spices; there shall be equal amounts of each. “You shall make of these an incense, a compound according to the art of the perfumer, salted, pure, and holy.”
God considered all of the ingredients of the incense to be sweet spices. The aroma was pleasing to those who smelled it. Some of the ingredients were not so sweet by themselves, but when compounded with the other ingredients they became a sweet aroma in the offering. Our hearts must create an atmosphere in, around, and from our lives that others like to be around. This is essential for us as leaders as we set an example to those we lead in how to live in our love for God and as an offering of love for the sake of others. The sweet spices in the incense where those of stacte, onycha, galbanum, and pure frankincense; I believe that these ingredients represent issues of our hearts.
The ingredient of stacte is believed by many to have come from the storax tree. The storax tree was a tree that grew in the dry and arid region of Gilead. The root of the tree was as deep as its top. This tree was able to find water deep in the ground and thus if flourished in the dry region of Gilead. The root meaning of the name of the tree was “to distil”. If you cut the tree it would release a substance spontaneously that would heal the cut in the tree. This gum substance was also used for bringing healing to wounds in human flesh and was even believed to provide relief to asthma and other respiratory disorders. The aroma was pleasing and it was believed to carry healing properties. I believe that the stacte represents the spontaneity of the heart. We must keep our hearts spontaneous in the life of God. When we are wounded the life within us releases a spontaneous flow that brings healing to the wound. As leaders we must keep our hearts spontaneous and lead others in the spontaneous life of God’s forgiveness and love.
The second ingredient in the incense was that of onycha. Onycha was a shellfish that lived in the depths of the Red Sea. When these shellfish were ground and burned they released a very strong odor. I believe that it is significant that these shell mollusks came from the depths of the Red Sea. The Red Sea is a symbol of the death of the past and the path that leads to the inheritance of the future. It speaks of a baptism into the body of Christ that leads us to the promises of God and all of His inheritances. I believe that this ingredient speaks of having a deep heart for God and a heart that is for the things of God and one that forsakes all of the things of the past. When our hearts are deep for God and ground fine, not surface and unchanged, we release and inspire a fruitfulness that leads to all the inheritances of God. When our hearts are deep it becomes obvious to those around us, like the strong fragrance of the ground onycha.
The next ingredient was galbanum. Galbanum is a plant that is bitter tasting and releases an earthly smelling resin. It is a plant that is difficult to break, but when broken it releases a gum resin that when burned it was believed to repel snakes, lizards, and other desert creatures. The resin is released through the branches as well, thus the bitter substance is throughout the plant. I believe that the resin drawn from the galbanum plant speaks of a broken heart. It is the willingness to yield our own wills to the will of God that bears the fruit of righteousness and the testimony of peace. When we don’t allow our hearts to be broken we end up with bitter roots that defile others. When we allow our hearts to be broken, our hearts release a substance that repels earthly wisdom and demonic influences that are bound to the dry places of the earth (James 3:13-18). As believers in Christ we must allow our hearts to be broken before God and we must never harbor a bitter root of any kind.
The final ingredient in the incense was pure frankincense. Frankincense is harvested from the frankincense tree by cutting its bark. When the bark is cut the tree releases a resin that bleeds out from the tree and then hardens. It produced a very flammable material. I believe that the frankincense represents a pure, holy, passionate, and fervent heart. Our hearts must remain pure and passionate before God.
We must keep our hearts with all diligence. Our hearts must be spontaneous before God and spontaneous with the life of God to others. They must be deep with a focus towards the things of God and a forsaking and forgetting of the things of the past. They must be broken with a willingness to yield to the will of God and let go of the things that would create bitter roots and strongholds that produce dry places that harbor earthly, sensual, and even demonic influence. Our hearts must be fervent. We must be pure and passionate in our love for God and others. These are the ingredients of a heart that releases the flow of God’s life to the world. This is the testimony of the heart of a leader.
Food For Thought,
Ted J. Hanson