by Deanne Baum
Humans in general experience the benefits of having five senses. These abilities involve sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. To a large degree, we make sense of the world by using them. We use them to enhance safety, pleasure, memory recall, learning, attraction, repulsion, and all sorts of decision-making processes based on our experiences. My focus will be on one of these senses, which involves the Olfactory system – the part of the brain which allows us to interpret smells. We sniff with our nose and then a message is transmitted to the relevant section of the brain to process what the smell. We then receive information which confirms that we either like or dislike the odor. The brain then decides the degree of intensity, enjoyment, or disgust we experience.
For example, when I smell lavender I am instantly transported to my dear Granny’s house with pleasant memories of her garden and the time we spent together. The ability to smell is a very important one for me and I cannot imagine life without this sense. Some of my favorite smells consist of roast lamb, BBQ’s, hot bread, pine forests, selected perfumes, horses, leather, rainfall on the dusty earth, various flowers, cinnamon, and the fresh morning dew. As I was thinking about all the things I enjoyed smelling, I wondered what sorts of aromas pleased our Father, and those that did not.
Emission of Sweet Soothing Aromatic Scent
There is much to say about aromas in the Bible. God refers to burnt animal sacrifices and offerings made by fire as a sweet aroma many times throughout the book of Leviticus (1:9, 2:2, 3:5, 4:31, 6:15, 8:21, 23:13). In Ephesians 5:2 we read “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”. Then in 2 Corinthians 2:14-15, “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”. (Modern English Version)
In the Old Testament, God enjoyed the aromatic scent of roasted meat when animal sacrifices were made. It was a sweet, pleasing smell to Him. In New Testament, He enjoyed the sweet-smelling aroma of our fragrance as we diffuse the same sweet fragrance of Christ wherever we go, as we spread the good news of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. (2 Corinthians 2:14-15)
As God’s children we also give off a pleasing fragrance when we pray as it says in Revelation 5:8, so much so, that God has stored His saint’s prayers as golden bowls full of incense. King David said, “Let my prayer be set before you as incense, the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice”. (Psalm 141:2) Our prayers represent the daily sacrifice of our time to be with our Creator morning and night, and in the time in-between, like David in Psalm 55:16-17 and Daniel in Daniel 6:10. This is pleasing to our Father who desires this intimate relationship with us. David was a man after God’s own heart and Daniel was greatly esteemed and greatly beloved by God – both wonderful examples of their prayer life. (Acts 13:22 and Daniel 10:11 respectively). Their prayers were heartfelt and intensely meaningful and pleasing to God.
We are given “the model prayer” in Matthew 6:5-13 as a template for our prayers. Prayers that give off a sweet smelling aroma are those which are genuine, sincerely delivered, from a humble and contrite heart. Full of dedication in seeking out our Father as a loving, obedient child.
The Foul Stench of Unrepentant Sin
We can read “Dead flies putrefy the perfumer’s ointment, and cause it to give off a foul odor; so does a little folly to one respected for wisdom and honor”. (Ecclesiastes 10:1) God’s people give off a foul odor when engaging in foolish behavior which leads to sin. Human nature tends to want to disguise sin, hide it, pretend it is not there, or cover it over. By not going straight to God in humble, heartfelt, repentant prayer, we leave ourselves wide open to the accuser – the devil, the author of sin. He is only too eager to accuse us day and night before God. (Revelation 12:10)
The last thing we should do is try to cover up our transgressions. The longer we delay in going before God, the longer we are emitting a foul stench to God. The stench of sin is abhorrent and vile to God. (2 Corinthians 2:16) Instead we want to be acceptable as fragrant incense. (Ezekiel 20:41)
God cautions us in James 1:21-25 to watch ourselves. We are to be doers of His word. Doers are active. They seek out God daily, keeping the lines of communication open. They praise, honor and give thanks for everything He does for us. We can show our love by praying and letting Him know that we recognize just how blessed and grateful we are for the opportunity to serve Him.
It is important to note, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”. (1 John 1:8-9) What we all need to ask ourselves is, what type of odor do our prayers emit to God?