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In Front of God's Bakery

by Tim O'Hearn

The sense of smell may have the most profound effect on us of all our senses. Who among us that has not lost this sense can pass a bakery, or General Mills factory when they are making chocolate cereal, an not melt at the odors blessing us. Smell, not hearing or sight, has the greatest effect on our memory. I cannot pass a donut shop early in the morning without thinking about Korea. You see, on almost every street corner in Pusan is a vendor with a portable grill, selling fried eggs, griddle cakes, or "monkey meat" (a sailor's term for any unidentified meat). Thus, the smell of hot oil hangs over downtown Pusan and that smell affects me even though I only spent two days there.

Lebanon must have been a sweet smelling place with all its cedars, for scripture blesses that which has the smell of Lebanon (SOS 4:11; Hos 14:6). God associates sacrifice with odor, and even promises not "to smell in your assemblies" when sacrifices are insincerely offered (Amos 5:21). The smells of earth symbolically reach even into heaven, for Rev 5:8 says, "And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints." (Rev. 5:8)

The smells can go both ways, however. It has been said that this world is like a street in front of the world to come. If we put ourselves in the proper place in the street, we will get a smell of that other world, and it will be better than all this life. We can, it seems, choose to walk in front of the bakery of heaven.

We must first understand that we cannot get there on our own. We are like the man Jesus healed by the pool of Bethesda; we have no man to put us in the pool and others get there first. Not only can we not make it to heaven on our own, we cannot even get outside its door. Others can help us there, though, and we in turn can help even others. "How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!" (Rom. 10:14-15) Faith can carry us into that part of the street, and our preaching bring others with us.

Our good works will also get us to the proper part of the street. It is for good works we were created in Christ Jesus (Eph 2:10). It is to provoke others to good works that we assemble together each week (Heb 10:24-25). Paul told Titus to be zealous in doing good works (Tit 2:14). He further said "This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men." (Titus 3:8) Paul even tells Timothy that good works will get us to the right part of the street:

Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life. (1 Tim. 6:17-19)

If faith and good works will put us outside heaven's bakery, where will we be if we don't participate in those things? What will we smell, if not the refreshing odors from heaven? Perhaps we will be outside the forge. But then, some people seem to prefer the stench of overheated metal to the odor of bread.