Summary: Message exploring the concept of smell in the Bible. What smells good and bad to God?

Chico Alliance Church

“What’s That Smell?”


High in each nasal cavity it a small tract of mucous membrane containing olfactory cells. Hairlike 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. Our sense of smell plays an important role in our life. It enables us to identify and evaluate any number of things.

Jacob confused 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 which processes the data and determines any appropriate action --

• Linger! something pleasant is in the vicinity.

• Leave! something putrid is here.

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. 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, scratched. Companies spend millions to capture just the right fragrance. Exposure to particular vapors over a long period of time desensitizes the receptors in the nose to those particular vapors.

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

Reject, run

Often these vapors of the soul are not released until agitated, crushed, heated. God often allows circumstances to bring our certain odors that we may correct the problems causing them. However, like the organs in the lining of the nose, over-exposure to a particular 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, and offering and a sacrifice to God for an odor of fragrance, or as a fragrant aroma to God.

What smells good to God?

What smells gross to God’s nose?

I. The Principle of Smell

Smell in Scripture most often indicates a state of acceptance and favor, attraction or rejection and disfavor, repulsion. It is applied to both God and people.

Ex 5:21 The people complain to Moses and Aaron that his actions have caused the Israelites to “stink” before Pharaoh.

Song of Solomon speaks of the smells of romance.

Israel stunk to the Philistines.

Absalom stunk to David.

Levitical offerings were a sweet smelling savor to God.

Not the actual smell but the attitudes and actions behind the smell.

II. The Particulars

The sweet savor of obedient, selfless sacrifice.

The sour stench of proud, selfishness.

A. Sour stench of proud selfishness

Generally the things that smell gross to God are the attitudes and actions born out of proud rebellion and selfishness.

Prov 13:5 Eccles. 10:1 Jeremiah 48:11 Joel 2:20 Leviticus 26:21-36 Isaiah 1:10-15 Amos 5:21-27

Our self-centered rebellion stinks to God. Foolishness stinks to God. “Ignore truth without consequences.” Our attitudes and actions centered in selfishness stink to God. Our attempts to make God share glory and honor with our other gods stink. No matter how we try to cover it up with sweet smelling things, the basic distasteful odor is still there.

B. Sweet Savor of Obedient Selfless Sacrifice

So what smells good to God? We encounter God’s sense of smell early in Genesis.

Noah built an altar to the Lord and offered burnt offerings on the altar.

Genesis 8:21 And the LORD smelled the soothing aroma; and the LORD said to Himself, "I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man's heart is evil from his youth; and I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done.

The offering is the act of one who recognizes offense toward God and restores relationship through sacrifice. Through the OT God required sacrifice. The sacrifices indicated repentance, obedience and restoration of fellowship, it was a sweet smell to God. How much more the smell of the sacrifice of His very own beloved Son was sweet to God. Through the mercy of God, we can change our smell.

Promised in the OT to Israel.

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