A man is blessed if he has friends who offer him godly counsel. When you have this you have something that both makes life sweet as well as fulfilling. To better understand this proverb we need to look at the oriental purposes for oil and perfume.
The word oil here is the Hebrew "shemen" which means fat - and it was the equivalent of middle eastern butter in its usage. Shemen would be what a Hebrew Paula Dean would use in all her dishes to make them taste great. Seeing that I am a southerner - I now fully understand that "butter" makes the heart glad. I love how butter makes things taste. To the Hebrew at the time, they knew that this oil mentioned here was what made their food have its distinctive taste. When used properly - it took bland food and helped make it taste wonderful. In the same way, the counsel of a true friend is sweet to us. It makes life "taste" better. When we have the sweet counsel of a good friend - things that may seem bland and boring to do are changed. Having a good friend who counsels me to do the right thing - even though I've done it a thousand times and am bored with it - will help me do it another thousand times. They remind me that doing the godly thing will bring blessing in the end.
Oil was also used for medicinal purposes. It was used to promote healing. There are numerous passages in the Scritpures that speak of pouring oil into a wound to soften and to heal it. These oils would have additives in them to help promote healing. How often has the kind and gracious counsel of a friend helped heal a hurt we have had in our lives. This counsel is sweet to us - just like oil is. Finally, Oil is also offered as a cosmetic. For a Hebrew oil was needed because they were in such a dry climate. The oil helped their bodies not become dry, hard, and brittle. I've had godly friends who have helped me be prevented from becoming dry, hard, and brittle in my personal and spiritual life as well.
The second thing mentioned here is incense. This refers to the aromatic use of crushed materials which were burned to provide a smoke that perfumed the air. The non-religious use of incense was simply to help the aroma of a tent or other area. The counsel of a friend is like that to us. It just makes things better. To have someone to whom you can talk, bounce ideas and problems off of, and hear sound advice - is to have a life that is easier to live. These people can make "stinky" times in life be much better. There was also a religious use for incense. It was used in the temple on the approach to God. It is compared to the sweet savor of prayer offered in a godly way to Him. Here is where the counsel of a friend is very sweet to a friend. When that counsel is offered in light of prayer (your friend is praying for you) and it is offered with a view to having you in a right relationship with God - that, dear brothers and sisters, is very sweet counsel indeed!
The counsel of a godly friend is something we should not be without as we walk in this world. What I find fascinating is a passage in 2 Corinthians 2:13. Paul was experiencing a time of blessed ministry in Troas - an open door for the gospel - yet he wanted to see Titus. There was something about the blessing of this brother - that made Paul leave that fruitful field and look for this brother. Now I know that Paul was discipling several younger brothers like him - but I also think that Paul was missing the blessing of the "oil and incense" ministry of a godly friend and co-worker. That is why a wise man will not take these kind of godly relationships for granted. He will cherish them and thank God for the sweet counsel of a godly man or woman in his life. If you have one of these relationships - praise God for it. If you do not have one - cry out to God and do what is necessary to cultivate it. The blessing it will bring to your live will be of greater value than you know.