When I was a kid, my mom used to use the phrase “stink pretty” and thus it became a common saying for me, as well. This meant that something–or more likely someone–smelled nice. Sometimes even now, in a dubious effort to be witty, I’ll repeat this expression.
While we traveled recently, we listened to a podcast by Charles Price. We enjoy listening to messages as we drive. (see here and here). It makes the time pass quickly and we learn some wonderful new things, gain fresh perspectives and insights. It’s especially nice for my Love, as more often than not, he is the one speaking and it’s a nice change for him to be ministered to, to hear what God is saying through others. Apologies; I digress. In this message, Mr. Price was speaking on various aspects of the tabernacle and the relevance for us today. One thing stood out to me in particular: the sacrifices were a pleasing aroma to the Lord and our lives are to be a pleasing aroma–the fragrance of Christ.
Throughout the Old Testament books of the Bible (Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers primarily) we are told that the burnt offerings were a pleasing aroma to the Lord. Was it the acrid smell that God enjoyed? I don’t believe so. I believe it was what the sacrifice represented: the devotion of His children–their surrender, obedience, adoration, love, and faith–that delighted the Lord and His knowledge that there was One who would fulfil this sacrifice once, for all, for always.
Was there magic power in the sacrifice? No. It was a lesson to the children of Israel. The Law taught them that they were sinners. The continual sacrifices covered their sin for a specific period, but required repetition. This taught the Israelites that they had no power of their own to be free from sin, to meet the demands of the law. The idea of the sacrifice pointed to the Lamb of God and the cross: the ultimate sacrifice Jesus would make to remove our sin–not just cover it.
For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshipers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins. Therefore, when He came into the world, He said: “SACRIFICE AND OFFERING YOU DID NOT DESIRE, BUT A BODY YOU HAVE PREPARED FOR ME. IN BURNT OFFERINGS AND SACRIFICES FOR SIN YOU HAD NO PLEASURE. THEN I SAID, ‘BEHOLD, I HAVE COME—IN THE VOLUME OF THE BOOK IT IS WRITTEN OF ME—TO DO YOUR WILL, O GOD.’ “ [this is Jesus] Previously saying, “SACRIFICE AND OFFERING, BURNT OFFERINGS, AND OFFERINGS FOR SIN YOU DID NOT DESIRE, NOR HAD PLEASURE IN THEM” (which are offered according to the law), then He said, “BEHOLD, I HAVE COME TO DO YOUR WILL, O GOD.” [again, Jesus] He takes away the first that He may establish the second. By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified. But the Holy Spirit also witnesses to us; for after He had said before, “THIS IS THE COVENANT THAT I WILL MAKE WITH THEM AFTER THOSE DAYS, SAYS THE LORD: I WILL PUT MY LAWS INTO THEIR HEARTS, AND IN THEIR MINDS I WILL WRITE THEM,” then He adds, “THEIR SINS AND THEIR LAWLESS DEEDS I WILL REMEMBER NO MORE.” Now where there is remission of these, there is no longer an offering for sin. ~Hebrews 10:1-18
In the meantime, the Israelites’ faith was in obedience in offering these sacrifices. Again it was their faith, their recognition of their guilt before God and their repentant hearts that God desired, not the rituals. That was just the expression of their trust. David understood this. When he was confronted with his wrong-doing with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11, 12 and 1 Kings 1, 2), he wrote:
Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, The God of my salvation, And my tongue shall sing aloud of Your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, And my mouth shall show forth Your praise. For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart—These, O God, You will not despise. ~ Psalm 51:14-17
The key words in this passage?
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart.
This is a pleasing aroma to the Lord. In Philippians 4:18, Paul shares this:
Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God.
The Philippians’ loving, sacrificial giving of this gift to Paul is noted as well-pleasing to God.
Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did itto one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ ~Matthew 25:34-40
The Believer’s Bible Commentary shares this quote from Jowett:
How vast, then, is the range of an apparently local kindness! We thought we were ministering to a pauper, and in reality we were conversing with the King. We imagined that the fragrance would be shut up in a petty neighborhood, and lo, the sweet aroma steals through the universe. We thought we were dealing only with Paul, and we find that we were ministering to Paul’s Savior and Lord.
We are given this task in 2 Corinthians 2:14-17:
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. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, as so many, peddling the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God in Christ. Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. 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.
We are to be the fragrance of Christ. How? By imitating Him. By walking in love.
Wow. That’s challenging. God is not looking for my half-hearted rituals. My very life is an offering and sacrifice to Him. He is looking for my full devotion, my heart turned wholly to Him and the actions that will flow from my love for Him. Here’s a quick recap of my challenges:
:: I need a tender, repentant heart; one willing to surrender my will to His
:: My heart should be so full of love for Him that I walk in love, expressing His love
by loving others
:: Christ in my heart will enable to be more Christ-like in my attitudes and actions
Do I ‘stink pretty’? Is my life a pleasing aroma to Him? Am I the fragrance of Christ to others?
How about you, friend? Are you feeling challenged today? Do you ‘stink pretty’?