6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; 8 in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.
Rumor has it that this was the last letter of Paul before he was martyred. It intrigues me that Paul describes his impending doom as a drink offering. This relates to one of the offerings described many times in the Old Testament that the Jews would offer to God. I tried to find a specific purpose for the drink offering but had some trouble deciphering if it was for something specific or just a way to give an offering. Either way, offerings were always described as a pleasant aroma to the Lord.
Paul uses this terminology many times throughout his letters. Especially in the Middle East, aromas are very significant. They annotate wealth, value, and honor both for those creating it and those receiving it. At weddings, parties, and special events, the host will take much consideration for which incense they will use, usually the best they can afford, as it signifies what they think of the guests of honor as well as those who were invited.
One of our teachers in missions school who served many years in Afghanistan told us of stores that would burn incense by their door to attract customers and how men would walk up and try to infuse the scents with their clothes as a type of perfume to signify importance. In America, we can see this as our culture pushes scents and perfumes for us to wear that are made with unusual products or are very costly (even though many don’t smell very good), the scent, if recognized, signifies how much someone spends on such a little thing as cologne. So why is Paul so confident that his death will make God happy? Why is he so sure of his crown of righteousness? Because he knows how obedient he has been to the Lord.
Let’s look back to when Jesus confronted Paul (then Saul) in a vision on the road to Damascus. Instead of copy/pasting the whole chapter, I made it a hyperlink for you to follow and read. From that day, Paul was determined to be dedicated to the Lord. Actually, if we think about it, he was dedicated to serving God prior to this event, because he thought that his persecution of those “of the Way” was God’s work. God, however, confronted him and let him know that he was in fact doing the opposite. Paul’s obedience and desire to serve the Lord was evident because when the Lord told him what to do, he did it.
You see, even though Paul was the “Pharisee of Pharisees,” his dedication was obedience to God, not action for self-righteousness. If Paul merely enjoyed persecuting the first Christians, he would not have changed his direction when Jesus confronted him, he would have continued persecuting disciples of Christ. This is why he is so sure of what is to come, despite his previous sins. God tells us constantly throughout the bible, “if you do this, that will happen. If you do that, this will happen.” Well, Paul followed the formula and he knows that God is faithful to His Word, so Paul knows exactly what his future holds.
Yes, it’s that easy…and that hard! Obedience is not always easy, especially when we think it isn’t for our own good. But let’s think about it: does your mom tell you not to play in the street so she can have control over your life or because it is for your own good? Surely, the immediate gratification of doing so might seem worth it, but your mom knows that if you get hit by a car, you will realize it wasn’t worth the short time you had to play and many will suffer because of it. Our society’s mindset continues to grow as one of instant gratification and entitlement; we are entitled to so much more and gratification beyond our wildest dreams if we will just stop and listen! Our obedience is not necessary for God to feel good about Himself, it is necessary for our enjoyment of life, realization of purpose, and eternal satisfaction. This is why God tells us these things, so we can finally realize the wonderful life He created us to live. Paul’s impending death is a pleasant aroma because it is a result of his obedience. Paul takes pleasure in obedience of God because he knows how wonderful it is! Despite his trials, despite being locked up during a good portion of his ministry, despite being shipwrecked, stoned, and persecuted, Paul maintains joy because he knows he is taken care of.
How do we live our lives? Are we a pleasant aroma to the Lord? Does He take pleasure whenever He sees your actions, your thoughts, your speech? Do we take pleasure in obedience or must we learn the hard way that there is a reason why God says what He says?