Soothing Aroma

The world was flooded and every living creature had perished from living on the land (Genesis 7:23a). The judgement of God was fierce and just against the wickedness of man whose “every intent of the thought of his heart was only evil continually” (6:5). Noah, his family, and the animals who were on the ark were the sole survivors of this great judgement of God. It was by God’s grace that they had been brought safely through the waters of the flood, and upon their exiting the ark were commanded by God to “be fruitful and multiply on the earth” (8:17b). Life was again thriving and flourishing throughout God’s creation, but then oddly Noah built an altar, “took of every clean animal and every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar” (8:20). How did God receive Noah’s burnt offering?

The author of Genesis, Moses recorded –

21 The Lord smelled the soothing aroma; and the Lord said to Himself, “I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth; and I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done (8:21; emphasis mine, bcj).

The Lord was satisfied with the burnt offering; He accepted it and was pleased with His people and their worship. A burnt offering required the entire animal to be placed onto the altar and given to the Lord. The life of Noah can be represented by this burnt offering, who is given entirely to the Lord. Noah built the ark and “did according to all that the Lord had commanded him” (6:22; 7:5). The sacrifice of Noah was received by God as a “soothing aroma” in the senses of God.

The nation of Israel had exited Egypt through the Red Sea and were brought safely by God to Mount Sinai, where God made a covenant with His chosen people (Exodus 19). This covenant relationship between God and Israel was established by the giving of His law. The system of law ensured that Israel would be obedient and faithful to their God. The Law of Moses governed every facet of daily life for the Israelites. If the Israelites failed to obey the Lord’s commands, then a system of sacrifices/offerings was given to appease God for their sin and to allow them to return in His good sight. These sacrifices were received by God as a “soothing aroma,” a phrase repeated thirty-eight times in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers. Israel, despite their sin, could be found pleasing in the sight of God by abiding in His law and sacrifices.

The commandments of the Law became too much for Israel to faithfully obey, and God was prepared to send them His only Son. God had been preparing mankind for the reception of His Son from the very beginning of our existence (cf. Genesis 3:15). Then at the right time, “God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law” (Galatians 4:4). Jesus came to the earth not to destroy/abolish the Law, but rather to fulfill every one of its commands (Matthew 5:17). Jesus lived perfectly under the Law of Moses and became the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29)! It was by His precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, that our redemption was made possible (1 Peter 1:19; Ephesians 1:7). Jesus came to this earth to die, even death on a cross (cf. Philippians 2:6-8)!

At the moment of Jesus’ death, the world was in darkness, the veil of the Temple was torn from top to bottom, the earth quaked and rocks were split, and dead were raised, but how was His death received by the Father? The prophet Isaiah wrote – “But the Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief…” (Isaiah 53:10a). Why would the death of His Son be pleasing to the Father? The apostle Paul gives us the answer in his epistle to the Ephesians – “2 and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma” (5:2; emphasis mine, bcj). Jesus’ death was pleasing to the Father, because He laid down His life completely for the salvation of mankind. The same phrase used in regard to Noah’s offering and Israel’s sacrifices found its ultimate fulfillment in the sacrifice of our Savior Jesus Christ. Praise God for the cross and Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf!

How can we properly respond to such a tremendous sacrifice made on our behalf? What can we offer to our Savior and our God that would be pleasing in His sight? The Christian is called by God through the gospel to be saved from his sins, and to live a new life by faith and obedience to His will. Our lives are no longer to be considered our own, but rather completely given to His work and will. The apostle Paul admonished the saints in Rome - “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship” (12:1; emphasis mine, bcj). The Hebrew writer further encourages the Christian reader –

15 Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. 16 And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased” (13:15-16; emphasis mine, bcj).

The sacrifice of our lives, our lips, and our hearts are pleasing to God because of the sacrifice of Jesus. We can confidently approach the holy of holies by the blood of Jesus. May God receive our adoration, praise, and sacrifices as a soothing aroma in His senses!