Today’s reading includes Numbers 28:16-29:40, Luke 3:23-38, Psalm 62:1-12, Proverbs 11:18-19. As I read through the text I saw a phrase repeated several times. See if you can find it in the following verses.
6 This is the regular burnt offering instituted at Mount Sinai as a pleasing aroma, a food offering presented to the Lord.
2 As an aroma pleasing to the Lord, offer a burnt offering of one young bull, one ram and seven male lambs a year old, all without defect.
Celebrate a festival to the Lord for seven days. 13 Present as an aroma pleasing to the Lord a food offering consisting of a burnt offering of thirteen young bulls, two rams and fourteen male lambs a year old, all without defect.
35 “‘On the eighth day hold a closing special assembly and do no regular work.36 Present as an aroma pleasing to the Lord a food offering consisting of a burnt offering of one bull, one ram and seven male lambs a year old, all without defect.
Over and over in this passage and in many others throughout the Bible we see that the sacrifices were a pleasing aroma to the Lord. To us, it may smell like burning flesh, to God it may smell like the best barbeque, something He savors. But it is not the savoring of the food, it is the savoring of the redemption it brings to the people He adores, His children whom He created. God loves the sinner. And even more than that, God loves the sinner who is working out his salvation, who is in the process of redemption, who is the prodigal son returning home. And in the Old Testament, that was represented by the smell of a burning sin sacrifice. On outward appearance, it was the aroma of death. But to God it was the aroma of life, for through the death of the sacrifice, life comes.
Recently, I saw a video of a sermon by Pastor Jim Cymbala which really touched my heart. He shared a beautiful story of ministering to a homeless man and being ministered to himself. When the man came forward, the smell that surrounded him was almost unbearable. Cymbala tried to give him money but the man pushed the money away, saying, “I don’t want your money, I want this Jesus you are talking about.” And great conviction fell upon the good pastor and he began to weep. He and the homeless man embraced each other and wept. And Cymbala heard the whispering of the Holy Spirit. These were the life changing words: “You see that smell? If you don’t love that smell, I could never use you. Because the whole world smells that way to Me. All the stinking, filthy sin of mankind—I sent my Son to die for that smell. So you’re either gonna embrace it and love people in My Name or I can’t use you, I’ll put you on the shelf.” Pastor Cymbala went on to say, “And with God as my witness, you can believe it or not, suddenly that smell was like the most beautiful ladies perfume you have ever smelled in your life. It was overwhelming.”
William Wiberforce was a leader in the movement to abolish slave trade. One of his tactics was to take influential people on tours of the slave ships. Once they entered the ship, they experienced the smell of death, and the unpleasantness made them want to rid themselves of slavery. My husband, Mont, says we as Christians should appeal to the senses of non-Christians. They should see our good works, they should hear our truth spoken in kindness, they should feel our love, they should “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8) by our friendship, and they should smell the fragrance of Him upon us. This fragrance should be that of life, causing them to want to break free from their own forms of slavery and end their smell of death.
14 But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere.15 For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task?
2 Corinthians 2:14-16