Rise Up, My Love (241): How to Have Fresh Breath

Song of Solomon 7:8 Second, the king refers to the smell of her nose as being like apples, or, if my understanding is correct, he likens the smell of the breath coming from her nose to the subtle spiciness of apples. That was a curiosity to me, since I have always felt self-conscious about my breath…and frankly have never noticed especially liking the smell of anyone else’s breath either (unless they were chewing flavored gum or breath mints).

I guess in some cultures, body odors are very attractive, but most Americans are taught to minimize their natural human scents and often go to great pains to mask them with toothpaste, mouth wash, fragranced soaps, deodorant, flavored chap sticks and lipsticks, hand creams, face creams, perfumes…and even make ups and powders. I mean, we even scent facial tissues and toilet paper. Among all this armament of aromatic accouterments, I have yet to smell the sweetness of apples…have you?

“How would someone’s breath smell like apples?” I asked my husband, who as a physician daily experiences dozens of people’s breath. (…“Say ‘Ah!’ please.”)

“The only way I know of would be if the person had just finished eating an apple.” That made perfect sense to me, so I researched the word “apple” in the Scripture to see if I could discover its spiritual significance. First, the word “apple” or “apples” is only used eleven times in the Scripture, four of which are in the Song of Solomon! Of the seven uses outside the Song, five are the expression “apple of the eye,” such as in Psalm 17:8, “Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of thy wings.”

So, nearly half of the uses of apple in Scripture refer to the center of the eye, or that which is central to one’s heart, affections, and attentions. Of the two remaining uses of apple, believe it or not, do not include the fruit that Eve picked in the Garden of Eden! That fruit is not mentioned by name and has probably long since disappeared, or at least it hasn’t been an option for snacking in the last 6,000 years!

However, Proverbs 25:11 teaches that “a word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver,” and so perhaps given the context, apples could be associated with wisdom and discretion. Finally, the apple tree is mentioned with a list of the most important fruit trees that were withered during a time of judgment “because joy is withered away from the sons of men” (Joel 1:12). So, the apple is associated with wisdom, abundance and joy.

Within the Song of Solomon, the three other references to “apple” are 2:3, where the groom is likened to an apple tree: “As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons. I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.” Here we see the apple as the greatest of its type, providing delightful protection and sweet sustenance. Shortly thereafter (v. 5), the bride cries out, “Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples: for I am sick of love.” Here, the apple seems associated with that which stabilizes and comforts. The final reference is 8:5, where the bridegroom says, “I raised thee up under the apple tree: there thy mother brought thee forth…”

Obviously, this is all symbolic, since the bride certainly had not lived her entire life from birth through the early years of marriage under the shade of a singular apple tree. What did this apple tree symbolize? A composite of all the other occurrences used in Scripture depict the apple as symbolic of that which was central to one’s heart, attention, and affection, full of wisdom and discretion, joy and abundance…that which was the greatest of its type, providing delightful protection and sweet sustenance, stabilization, and comfort.

Could that be anything but a picture of Christ himself? He was the apple tree under which she was brought forth by her mother, and where she was raised up. Why did her breath smell like apples? Because she had just “eaten an apple.” Spiritually, she was feeding off the One who proclaimed, “I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever…For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed” (John 6: 51,55).

In a spiritual mystery that has baffled and revolted unbelievers ever since Christ propounded this doctrine, we are taught to so take in Christ spiritually that he becomes bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh, even as we become bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. Why did the bride have fragrant breath? Because she had the breath of Eternal Life! She had eaten the apple of Christ. She had been abiding in the Vine until her spiritual breasts had become like voluptuous clusters of grapes. She had been feeding on the Living Bread until the “smell of her nose”—the smell of her face and the very air coming out from her inmost being—had a subtle spiciness…the unmistakable fragrance of Christ…the invisible aroma of his eternally fresh and vibrant Holy Spirit being exhaled from her life. Oh, beloved, if you don’t get anything else out of this devotional commentary, understand the secret of spiritual fresh breath: Feed on the living Christ!

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