TO CHEW ON: “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.” Ephesians 5:2
Paul's description of Christ’s sacrifice as a “sweet smelling aroma” only makes sense when we put it into the context of the Old Testament.
The first instance we have of the connection between God and the smell of a sacrifice is when Noah left the ark and made a burnt offering. Then “… the LORD smelled a soothing aroma…” and determined to never again curse the ground or wipe out humanity - Genesis 8:20,21.
The Old Testament sacrifice system was full of smells;
- The aroma of sacrificed (burning) animals, animal parts (like fat), and grain (Leviticus 1:9, 8:21).
- The aroma of a specially concocted anointing oil to be used exclusively for setting aside people and things as holy (it contained the fragrances of myrrh, cinnamon, sweet-smelling cane, and cassia) - Exodus 30:22-33.
- The aroma of incense, burned on a special altar—the Altar of Incense in the Tabernacle and in censers which only authorized people were to offer in the prescribed way (Leviticus 10:1,2).
Here, in Ephesians, when Paul speaks of Christ in His death as being a “sweet-smelling aroma,” keeping all the above in mind, we get it. Jesus’ death was the appeasing smell of sacrifice to God like the smell of the OT animal, grain, and incense offerings had been. (Of course we realize this is metaphorical because Jesus wasn’t burned; there was no literal smell of smoke involved in His death.)
- Paul also speaks of aroma as it applies to our witness in 2 Corinthians 2:15,16.
- In Hebrews 13:15, 16 the writer speaks of us bringing a “sacrifice of praise” (though no smell is actually mentioned).
- And in Revelation 5:8, the prayers of the saints are described as “golden bowls full of incense.”
What strikes me about the connection of fragrance with worship is what it signifies of being set apart (in the case of the anointing oil) and destruction (sacrifice, burning) of the thing being sacrificed (animals, grain, incense).
Romans 12:1 comes to mind:
“I beseech you therefore brethren by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.”
I ask myself, I ask you: are we that “sweet-smelling aroma” to God in death to self, holiness, witness, worship, and prayer?
PRAYER: Dear Father, I pray that my life will be a “sweet-smelling aroma” to You today. Amen.
Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.