Summary: Shows the ways in which our lives can be pleasing to God: repentance; genuine holiness from the heart; and offering our lives as a sacrifice to God.
When I was studying for this sermon, I found it very interesting the emphasis put on the sense of smell in Scripture. When we think of the most important senses, we may think of something like sight or hearing. In fact, if you had to give up one of your five senses, it might just be the sense of smell, or maybe the sense of taste. Try to imagine losing your sight for just a day or becoming temporarily deaf. That would be a hugely traumatic experience. Losing the sense of feeling would probably be a little more common and a little less traumatic, but it is always an indicator that something is seriously wrong.
The sense of smell on the other hand is entirely different. Just about every time we catch a cold or experience some seasonal allergies, it seems that we lose our sense of smell. Unlike all the other senses, when we lose our sense of smell, we don’t panic, worried about what has gone terribly wrong. We may miss the ability to smell our food or some flowers or something, but it is not devastating.
Considering how relatively unimportant we consider smell, it’s surprising how much emphasis the Bible puts on the sense of smell. For example, in speaking about idols, God says, “idols made from wood and stone, gods that neither see nor hear nor eat nor smell” (Deut. 4:28). And all throughout the law and the whole Old Testament we see examples of the sense of smell, often referring to a sacrifice.
Luke7:36-38, 47 7:36 One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to come to his home for a meal, so Jesus accepted the invitation and sat down to eat. 37 A certain immoral woman heard he was there and brought a beautiful jar filled with expensive perfume. 38 then she knelt behind him at his feet, weeping. Her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them off with her hair. Then she kept kissing his feet and putting perfume on them. 47 I tell you, her sins – and they are many – have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love.
Jesus says that because of her great love for him she has performed this great act of worship for him. And in fact, Christ has also forgiven our many sins. Because of this we also have a great love for him, and hopefully we too want to express our love for him. While we can’t fill the house with a physical aroma like this woman did. Often the spiritual state of a person or a group of people in Scripture is referred to with reference to the sense of smell. We can express our love for Christ by offering up a spiritual sweet aroma to Christ. In fact, our entire lives can be a sweet aroma to God.
There are three different ways in which can be either a sweet aroma to God or a stench in his nostrils.
I. The first way we can be a sweet aroma to God is repentance and cleansing from sin..
A. Unholiness is a stench in the nostrils of God.
Genesis 19:13 For we will destroy the city completely. The stench of the place has reached the LORD, and he has sent us to destroy it."
Here the angel is speaking to Lot about the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah. And he speaks of this evil as a stench rising to God. Think about walking into a garbage dump and just taking a big whiff of all the decaying rubbish. That is what moral decay is like to God. It is an offensive, foul odor to him.
B. Genuine Repentance is a sweet fragrance in the nostrils of God.
In his complaint against the Israelites in the days of Isaiah, God contrasts their sin with a fragrant incense. He says that they have burdened him with sin instead of bringing him this fragrant incense.
Isaiah 43:24 You have not brought me fragrant incense or pleased me with the fat from sacrifices. Instead, you have burdened me with your sins and wearied me with your faults.
Obviously, if they are sinning, then what they are lacking is holiness. Specifically, God had put in place a system of cleansing from sin. That system called for the burning of incense and the sacrificing of animals. These were referred to as a sweet fragrance in the nostrils of God.
Exodus 29:41-43, 41 Offer the other lamb in the evening, along with the same offerings of flour and wine as in the morning. It will be a fragrant offering to the LORD, an offering made by fire. 42 "This is to be a daily burnt offering given from generation to generation. Offer it in the LORD’s presence at the Tabernacle entrance, where I will meet you and speak with you. 43 I will meet the people of Israel there, and the Tabernacle will be sanctified by my glorious presence.