Have you ever noticed how many times the Bible references the sense of “smell”? And how many times, in discussing smell, that God emphasizes that sacrifices were a “sweet smell” to God?
In Genesis 8:21 when Noah offered the sacrifices after getting off of the ark, the Bible says, “Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And the Lord smelled a soothing aroma. Then the Lord said in His heart, “I will never again curse the ground for man’s sake, although the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; nor will I again destroy every living thing as I have done. I am made to wonder what exactly is meant by a soothing aroma; others translate this as a sweet aroma or sweet scent.
Again, in Exodus 29:18, 25, And you shall burn the whole ram on the altar. It is a burnt offering to the Lord; it is a sweet aroma, an offering made by fire to the Lord. . . v 25 You shall receive them back from their hands and burn them on the altar as a burnt offering, as a sweet aroma before the Lord. It is an offering made by fire to the Lord. This was done at the time of the dedication of Aaron and his sons to the priesthood. Again, the Lord emphasized that it was a sweet aroma, before the Lord. The pattern thus far suggests that when sacrifices were made in obedience to his will, and in an effort for man to see that innocent blood had to be shed for man’s sin, and for dedication purposes; when these were made with the right heart, God was pleased.
It was a sweet aroma because man was obedient to God and it showed their faith in God. When man was obedient to God, he considered it a wonderful offering.
These sacrifices on the part of man showed that men cared enough to worship God; yet, as with worship throughout the Bible, there would be those who would worship with the right spirit and heart, and those who would go through the motions. When God knew their heart was where it needed to be, and the worshipper showed his love to God by offering what God desired, then he was pleased.
Consider for a few moments the time, effort and work involved when the sacrifices were made. The animal may have been chosen at birth- it had to have no blemish of any kind. It had to be protected and cared for so it would not be injured and thus unsuitable for the sacrifice. Then, before the sacrifice the (as with the lamb killed in commemoration of the Passover) they had to feed to animal nothing but water to clean it out. Then they would kill the lamb. The blood would be caught in a vessel (and if anyone has ever had a part in slaughtering an animal, imagine for a moment the smell of blood when that took place). It was dirty work, and then if the animal would be gutted. . . I hope you get the picture.
We use the term sacrifice to denote something we give up that we treasure. Sometimes we talk about sacrificial giving (with monetary gifts or means); but those who would sacrifice under the Jewish system would understand so much more. The time, effort and energy involved in offering God something , was truly a “sacrifice.”
In Ezekiel 20:41 God pictures the day when he would restore Israel and bring them back from being scattered, and “I will accept you as a sweet aroma when I bring you out from the peoples and gather you out of the countries where you have been scattered; and I will be hallowed in you before the Gentiles.” Here God emphasizes that the people would themselves be a sweet aroma as he brings them back and they worship and hallow the Lord.
Perhaps this is why Paul would use this phraseology in the following passages:
2 Corinthians 2:14-16 Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of his knowledge in every place. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things. For we are not, as so many, peddling the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God in Christ.” As they spread the gospel to the world it was either a fragrance of life (because some would accept the gospel and be saved) or death (for those who rejected the gospel).
Ephesians 5:1-2 Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. Jesus sacrifice on the cross was considered a sweet-smelling aroma for our salvation.
Then in Philippians 4:18, “Indeed, I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet -smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God.” The sacrifices they made to send aid to Paul was considered an acceptable, well pleasing sacrifice to God.
All these passages will emphasize that as we sacrifice for the Lord we are offering a “sweet-smelling” aroma or savor to him. And we realize from Romans 12:1-2 that this involves a living, daily sacrifice of ourselves to him and his will.
The title of this brief article is used to provoke some thought on your behalf – are you offering God a sweet-smelling savor, or do you stink? What about your offering’s; your sacrifices (and I’m not talking pecuniary funds) – what are you offering the Lord daily. Do you smell sweet or do you stink?