As I reflect on my time in Orlando for The Gospel Coalition women’s conference, I realize that I am coming home full. My soul feels refreshed. My mouth has tasted, my eyes have seen, my ears have heard, and my nose has smelled the very glory of God. It has made me rethink the purpose for which God gave senses to his people. Like many others, I tend to think my five senses are really about me—-so that I can navigate the world.
However, after our time together in Orlando, I recognize that God has given them (like all things) to point back to himself and bring him glory. Experiencing the smells, tastes, sounds, sights, and textures of this world are simply the backdrop for a finite being (me) to begin to comprehend infinite Glory. As I heard the various talks and was drawn into the biblical story, I was struck by the variety of senses used to describe God’s interactions with his people. Let me share some of them with you.
As I spoke to other women at the retreat, the continual refrain was, “I feel like I’ve enjoyed a feast.” Even the speakers commented on the experience of enjoying a Thanksgiving feast, savoring dish after dish. We left full of careful exposition, Scripture-laden wisdom, and teaching centered on the glory of God. Our souls delighted in the richest of fare. It was just a taste of glory, and it left me hungry for more.
Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him (Psalm 34:8).
Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare (Isaiah 55:2).
My eyes were filled with glimpses of God’s glory from the various biblical accounts. The cloud descending on the temple. The train of the robe filling the temple. The face of Jesus shining like the sun. The Lion. The Lamb. The costly jewels. Just as the different facets of a diamond reflect the light, these images fill my mind with the complexity of his glory. Words alone cannot express all that he is, so he gave us mental images. As I focus on the greatness of who he is, all else becomes increasingly insignificant. Even the blessings God provides are humbled in light of his greatness. They are blessings only in that they reflect the beauty of is glory.
When the priests withdrew from the Holy Place, the cloud filled the temple of the LORD. And the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled his temple (1 Kings 8:10-11).
I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple (Isaiah 6:1).
There [Jesus] was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light (Matthew 17:2).
And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian. A rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircled the throne (Revelation 4:3)
Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders (Revelation 5:6).
From the Scriptures we heard the voices of the Seraphs as they cried, “Holy, holy, holy” in trifold witness to the glory of the Lord. We journeyed to the mountain of transfiguration and heard with Peter, James, and John the thunderous declaration, “This is my Son, whom I love, with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” We had front-row seats to hear what our own refrain will be one day in heaven when we join in singing of his praise, honor, glory, and power.
In each story, hearing from these heavenly beings brought the listener to a new understanding of his own unworthiness. Isaiah cried of his ruin. Peter, James, and John fell on their knees. Even the heavenly beings had to shield their eyes from Glory. I was struck by the realization that hearing the truth of who God is reveals the truth of who I am. I do not need to seek self-understanding or self-awareness. I need to seek God. Revelation from him reveals an understanding of all things—-even the darkness of my own heart.
Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke (Isaiah 6:2-4).
Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under his wings. Day and night they never stop saying: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come (Revelation 4:8).
Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped (Revelation 5:13-14).
After the hearing that brought repentance, Isaiah, Peter, James, and John were all touched by glory. Tongs from the very altar of heaven acted as a sign of the removal of Isaiah’s guilt. Jesus, his glory veiled, reached out to touch his disciples, encouraging them to get up and fear no longer. In touching them, I know he touches me. My failures, my imperfections, my brokenness, are all shielded by the cross, which acts like a sponge that soaks up the entire wrath that I deserve. Nails touched him, so that he could touch me.
Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for (Isaiah 6:6-7).
When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid” (Matthew 17:6-7).
The aroma of Christ permeated our time together at the conference. The speakers spread to each of us the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ. When I think of nearly 4,000 ladies from all over the globe, gathering for a weekend and now being led out, my prayer is, “Oh, Lord, make us smelly!” May the knowledge of Christ go out in each and every of one us and collectively bear his fragrance. For some, it will make us odious to those around us. For others, it will be the smell of life.
But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? (2 Corinthians 2:14-16)
We had some of the best teachers we could hope for at this conference. Yet I realize all the more that each of them simply echoes a greater Voice that will continue to speak throughout all ages. I come home thankful for their teaching but all the more aware that I am invited to such a feast each and every day. His word still speaks. I must daily listen if I want to delight in the richest of fare. It is a continual feast that engages each and every one of my senses. Why should I settle for the crumbs of the world when he offers a seat at his table?
Thankfully, there is only one requirement: thirst. So I come, hungry for more.
Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare (Isaiah 55:1-2).
And somewhere I hear an echo of Paige Benton Brown reminding us all:
After the best, comes the better.