What Does God Smell?
“…through us He spreads the beautiful fragrance of His knowledge to every corner of the earth. In a turbulent world where people are either dying or being rescued, we are the sweet smell of the Anointed to God our Father.”
2 Corinthians 2:14-15 (The Voice)
As physical human beings we are led by our physical senses, of which there are many, but most people would agree the major ones are taste, touch, sight, hearing, and smell. Our senses convey physical data to our mind via our bodies, to translate into perceptions.
Did you know of these five senses, smell sends information to your brain the quickest? That’s because your olfactory system is connected to the limbic area of your brain via nerve fibres. Why do I find this a fascinating fact? Aside from us being made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27; James 3:9), I find the Old Testament inferences to God appreciating smell rather curious, as we know that God is spirit. There was once an ‘altar of incense’ that you can read about in Exodus, with a bespoke recipe for God alone (Exodus 30:34-38). Aaron had to burn incense on it every single day. Some scholars believe these references to aromas are purely figurative…but is there more to it?
Smell affects us—our moods, our memories, emotions, feelings, and actions, good or bad. God can also be affected by smell. Read in Genesis 8:20-21 (MSG) “Noah built an altar to God. He selected clean animals and birds from every species and offered them as burnt-offerings on the altar. God smelled the sweet fragrance and thought to himself, ‘I’ll never again curse the ground because of people. I know they have this bent toward evil from an early age, but I’ll never again kill off everything living as I’ve just done.’” In this instance God was moved by the fragrance of Noah’s offering to make a colossal promise to mankind.
In Hebrews 9:11-26 we read the Old Testament physical offerings/sacrifices and the scents they gave off were but a forerunner of Jesus’ ultimate New Testament sacrifice, leading to the ultimate fragrance to God that we read of in Ephesians 5:1-2 (ESV), “And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” As an aside, note Christ’s feet were anointed by a costly aromatic or perfumed oil (Luke 7:46 (MSG) “…she has soothed my feet with perfume. Impressive isn’t it?”) AND we know for fact that He appreciated it when His head was anointed by a woman using expensive perfume in Mark 14:3-9 (MSG) saying it was pre-anointing for burial. His body was later prepared with not just burial spices, but perfumes too (Luke 23:56 MSG).
Paul urges us in Romans 12:1 to offer ourselves as living sacrifices which are holy and pleasing to God, which is our spiritual worship. A way of being a living sacrifice is helping others, e.g. Paul thanks the Philippian church for their generosity, calling it “a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.” (Philippians 4:18 ESV).
In Revelation 8:3-4, incense is mixed with the prayers of God’s people to rise before God’s throne, and in Revelation 5:8 we read of “golden bowls filled with incense (the prayers of God’s holy people).” Why? Aside from the actual interpretation here, clearly God is consistently interested in smell/fragrance.
Let’s read again the title scripture in the Easy to Read Bible, “God uses us to spread his knowledge everywhere like a sweet-smelling perfume. Our offering to God is to be the perfume of Christ that goes out to those who are being saved and to those who are being lost.” To reiterate, we are to become Christ’s vessels to permeate that perfume to the rest of the world whether they know they are saved already, or have yet to learn this.
Father, through your spirit, let Christ live a life of love through us that is a pleasing fragrance to you, and everyone around us.
Study by Irene Tibbenham
Worldwide Church of God Norwich
New Hope Christian Centre
NORWICH NR1 2HX
Local Congregational Contact:
Phone: 01508 498165
Mobile: 07931 580409