Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Nose Knows

One of my best friends and I recently planned a visit. For weeks, workmen had been working on the road just a few feet beyond her front door, and she needed to escape the noise and putrid smells of asphalt that had been permeating her house. Since I knew she was coming, I decided it would be nice for her to enter a house that smelled wonderfully of fall. And since I needed to bake bread for an ill man from our church anyway, Wyatt and I began mixing everything together.

Cinnamon. Cloves. Ginger. A trinity of spices sure to waft a sweet-smelling aroma throughout every room. But rushed by the noise of unhappy twins crying, I mistakenly overfilled the pans. As the heat caused the loaves to rise, the batter overflowed the sides, dripping into the bottom of the oven. And for the duration of my friend’s visit, my house was filled with the stench of burning bread…probably no better than the asphalt she had left behind.

God crafted our noses to be sensitive to smell. We all delight in some smells and curl up our noses in disgust at others. Some smells are so powerful that they connect us to long-forgotten memories lodged deep in our mind.

Scripture tells us that God has a well-developed sense of smell, too. To His nose, each person emits an aroma that reaches all the way up into heaven.

The question is, what do we smell like? Is it a stench in his nostrils or a pleasing aroma?

In the Old Testament, God ordained sacrifices as a way of atonement for the Israelites’ sin. The scent of these burnt offerings was a pleasing aroma to God.

But the sacrifice itself as an act of worship wasn’t what smelled so good. It was the heart behind the sacrifice.

A humble heart repentant over sin and obedient to God caused the sacrifice to emit a pleasing aroma. But, a rebellious heart not repentant over sin was an offensive stench in God’s nostrils. The prophet Isaiah said to Israel:

’What are your multiplied sacrifices to Me?’ Says the LORD. ‘I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams And the fat of fed cattle; And I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls, lambs or goats.…Bring your worthless offerings no longer …. So when you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you; Yes, even though you multiply prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are covered with blood. Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Remove the evil of your deeds from My sight. Cease to do evil, Learn to do good; Seek justice, Reprove the ruthless, Defend the orphan, Plead for the widow’” (Isaiah 1:11, 13a, 15-17).

Later, God used even stronger words about the sacrifices of those with unrepentant hearts: “These people gag me. I can't stand their stench” and “Your burnt offerings are not acceptable And your sacrifices are not pleasing to Me” (Is. 65:5, The Message; Jer. 6:20).

In essence, an unsaved person reeks of his or her sin, permeating God’s nostrils with a stench as no garbage dump can equal. If a person’s heart does not belong to God, his/her acts of worship or good works are not acceptable, not pleasing, and are, instead, a stench.

Two thousand years ago, though, Jesus came to earth and offered His body as a living sacrifice to God. Paul tells us: “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma” (Eph. 5:1-2).

Christ’s perfect heart and perfect sacrifice offered the most pleasing, fragrant aroma to God the Father. When we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we cover our repentant hearts with the blood of the only pure and spotless Lamb of Jesus. And at that moment, the stench of our sin is covered with the fragrant aroma of Jesus’ blood. We then smell pleasing to our Father in Heaven.

What’s interesting is that others can smell the blood of Christ on us, too, as we share the gospel: “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life” (2 Cor. 2:14-16, NIV).

One way or another, God can smell us. The only question is, does He smell your sin or does He smell the blood of Jesus?

1 comment:

  1. Excellent comments. I have been preparing to teach Sunday School next week and was stumped on the aroma we give off to God. Your site really helped me get past a hump. Thank you.