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The sense of smell

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Psalm 115:5-7 describes some characteristics of idols, contrasting them with God.


They have mouths, but do not speak;

eyes, but do not see.

They have ears, but do not hear;

noses, but do not smell.

They have hands, but do not feel;

feet, but do not walk;

and they do not make a sound in their throat.


We all know that God sees and hears everything that happens and he has the ability to speak and act, but he has a sense of smell too. The first mention of it is found in Genesis 8:20-22.


Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And when the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, the Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.”


Burnt offerings gave him the same kind of pleasure we get from smelling flowers or perfume. Leviticus and Numbers contain instruction of a variety of sacrifices the Israelites were commanded to make and some of them were for the purpose of making a pleasing aroma for God. (The King James Bible describes these as “sweet savour” sacrifices.)


We no longer sacrifice animals. These sacrifices were symbols of the sacrifice that Christ would make when he was crucified.


And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:2 ESV)


But there are still sacrifices we can make that please God.


Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. (Hebrews 13:15-16 ESV)


I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. (Philippians 4:18 ESV)


Not only does God smell the things we do but other people do too, and for some it isn’t a pleasing aroma.


But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? (2 Corinthians 2:14-16 ESV)

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