Sunday, February 18, 2018

The "sweet aroma" of sacrifice

Offering a sacrifice (Image: Pixabay)
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Numbers 28-30; Psalm 49

“Command the children of Israel, and say to them, ‘My offering, My food for My offerings made by fire as a sweet aroma to Me, you shall be careful to offer Me at their appointed time.” Numbers 28:2

Do you have a favorite smell? Have you noticed how smells have the power to jog your memory and trigger your emotions? It’s interesting to note that apparently God too has a sense of smell, and that smells also cause Him pleasure or displeasure. At least ten times in Numbers 28 and 29 following the introduction of the idea in Numbers 28:2 (our focus verse), we read the expression “a sweet aroma to the LORD.”

This “sweet aroma” was not the scent of perfume, flowers, or the seaside, but the smell of burning. Every one of the “sweet aroma”s in our passage came as a result of a burnt sacrifice of an animal alone or offered with flour and oil.

The first time we read of God being moved by the aroma of a sacrifice is in Genesis 8:21, when Noah offered clean animals after leaving the ark. “The idea is that Noah’s sacrifice was a propitiation or satisfaction of God’s righteous requirement,” explains an article on

The same is true of the sacrifices we read of in Leviticus and here in Numbers: “As in the case of Noah’s offering, what pleased the Lord was the commitment to offer worship in His name as He commanded” (above article).

God’s pleasure at the smell of a burning sacrifice was not an automatic reaction, however, but very much in tune with the attitude and actions of the worshiper. For when instituting this sacrifice system, God said to Moses: “And after all this, if you do not obey Me but walk contrary to Me … I will not smell the fragrance of your sweet aromas” - Leviticus 26:27,31.

There are at least two references to that sacrificial aroma in the New Testament that help to connect us today to God’s olfactory reaction to offerings in the Old.

In 2 Corinthians 2:14-15 Paul challenges Christians to be the aroma of Christ to all. We know that Christ was the final sacrifice, the one by which we have life. Since His was a sacrifice of both His death and our life, the aroma of our lives should affect all around us (“…those who are being saved… and those who are perishing”) with reminders of life or death.

I ask, are we so dead to self, alive to Christ that our lives actually remind those being saved of life, those unsaved of death?

In Ephesians 5:2 Christ’s sacrifice to God (“for a sweet-smelling aroma”) is connected with His love. Paul challenges readers of His day and us today to walk in Christ’s sacrificial love.

Do we live with such love?

Dear Father, Your reaction to the smell of sacrifice challenges me to be more complete in offering myself to You in the way Paul describes it, “… present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God …” (Romans 12:1). 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.

Thanks for reading! This year we are using The Bible Project "Timeless Reading Plan" to read through the Bible in 2018. If you'd like to read along in your own Bible, you can download a pdf of the reading plan HERE.

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