Summary: Mesage on the sense of smell in the Bible. there are some things that are a stench to God and others that are a sweet savor.

“What’s That Smell?”


Steak sizzling on the barbecue grill.

Limburger cheese melting on the manifold.

Fresh bread baking in the oven.

Lost Easter egg breaking in the house a year later.

Freshly perked coffee creating a fragrant morning atmosphere.

Freshly filled diaper distributing a foul morning atmosphere.

Smell is produced when a particular object emits particles in the form of gases and vapors in the air. Those particles spread rapidly in the air and can travel long distance.

High in each nasal cavity is a small tract of mucous membranes containing olfactory cells. Hair like fibers in these nerve cells, responding to various odors, send impulses along the olfactory nerve to the brain and thus produce the sense of smell.

Although our sense of smell is our most primal, it is also very complex. To identify the smell of a rose, the brain analyzes over 300 odor molecules. The average person can discriminate between 4,000 to 10,000 different odor molecules. Much is unknown about exactly how we detect and discriminate between various odors. But researchers have discovered that an odor can only be detected in liquid form. We breathe in airborne molecules that travel to and combine with receptors in nasal cells. The cilia, hairlike receptors that extend from cells inside the nose, are covered with a thin, clear mucus that dissolves odor molecules not already in vapor form.

Scent, fragrance, or aroma have a powerful effect on our emotions that help transform the way we feel. Specific aromas have been found to suppress appetite, reduce stress, revitalize and energize, even promote physical attractiveness. Aromas have been found to do the opposite as well.

Companies spend millions to capture just the right fragrance.


There is some research being done that connects the sense of smell as more a trigger to emotions than thoughts.

Some feel that smells trigger memories of how we felt about an event even more than what we thought about the event.

Sweet, pleasant smells draw us to receive and relish the emitter.

Sour, putrid smells drive us to refuse and reject the emitter.

There are some things that do not emit their particular vapor until heated, stirred, crushed, or scratched.

Our sense of smell plays an important role in our life.

It enables us to identify and evaluate any number of things.

It can help us determine when something has been hiding in the refer too long.

It can help us determine that the cat was in the house too long.

It can let you know when you are passing by the treatment plant in Bremerton or driving through Tacoma.

Jacob confused his aging father Isaac by making himself smell like Esau.

“See, the smell of my son is like the smell of a field which the Lord blessed.”

When these vapors reach the fibers in the nose, they signal the brain that processes the data and determines an appropriate action.

“linger” something pleasant is in the vicinity.

“leave” something putrid is here.

Smells also affect memory and trigger emotions.

People, places, events.

These smells trigger emotions and memories both good and bad.

Interaction – What smells trigger memories for you?

It is also true that exposure to particular vapors over a long period of time desensitizes the receptors in the nose to those particular vapors which no longer warns us of danger or draws us to delight.

Scripture uses the physical sense of smell to illustrate spiritual reality.

There is definitely a spiritual sense of smell.

God has a spiritual sense of smell.

People have a spiritual sense of smell.

The spiritual sense of smell works in a similar way as the physical one.

Attitudes and actions produce “vapors” which are picked up by the spiritual nose and send data to the soul that makes a determination about the character or condition of the person emitting the odor.

On the basis of the data, a particular response is signaled.

Receive, relish and remain

Reject, resist and run

Sometimes the soul does not release it vapors until agitated, crushed or heated.

God often allows circumstances to bring our certain odors that best demonstrates the beauty of his life in us or that discloses problems needing attention (something rotten in River City)

However, like the organs in the lining of the nose, over-exposure to a particular odious odor over a long period of can cause us to become insensitive to our own odor and even the odor of others.

Ephesians 5:2 admonishes us to walk in love just as Christ also loved us, and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for an odor of fragrance, or as a fragrant aroma to God.

Smell is referred to in a spiritual sense in several places in the Bible.

In our time together I want to reflect a bit more regarding this idea of smell in the Bible.

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