Now this is what you shall offer on the altar: two lambs a year old day by day regularly. One lamb you shall offer in the morning, and the other lamb you shall offer at twilight . . . with it a grain offering and its drink offering, as in the morning, for a pleasing aroma, a food offering to the LORD. . (Exodus 29:38-39, 41)
“Something sure smells good!” We all know the pleasant aroma of savory food in the oven. God spoke to Moses about sacrifices that emitted “a pleasing aroma” to Him. In the Tabernacle in the wilderness, Aaron and his sons were to offer burnt offerings of two one-year-old lambs, one in the morning and one in the evening. Each lamb was to be offered with what amounted to two cups of fine flour mixed with one quart of olive oil and a quart of wine poured over the whole sacrifice. The combination of these ingredients would certainly produce a distinctive aroma that spread throughout the camp of the Israelites. Whether that would be a pleasant aroma to any particular individual would be a matter of taste. But it certainly became a characteristic aroma in the camps of Israel. Most importantly, the aroma of those sacrifices was pleasing to God because of what they represented.
The pleasantness of the aroma to God was, without a doubt, the symbolic representation of the sacrifice of His Son, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29) The whole burnt offering pictures Christ’s complete surrender to the Father’s will, his total dedication, expressed in His prayer in the garden of Gethsemane, “. . . not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39)
Another pleasant aroma that permeated the Tabernacle and undoubtedly seeped through the curtains to the surrounding camps was the daily incense that was to be offered on the golden altar in the holy place, just outside the Holy of Holies where the Ark of Testimony (or Covenant) was housed. That incense was a special formula to be used only in the Tabernacle. Israelites were forbidden to use that formula for common use, and the priests were forbidden to offer any “strange incense” on that altar. The incense represents the sacrifice of intercessory prayer. (Revelation 5:8; 8:3, 4). The prayers of God’s people, those cleansed by the blood of the Lamb and surrendered to Him in humble service are also a pleasant aroma to God.
So how does all this apply to our churches? As we have noted, the aroma of the sacrifices and the incense spread to the surrounding area. Those living in the vicinity of the Tabernacle could not miss it. The faithful would find it pleasant, as God did. The aroma of sacrifice would be a reminder every morning and evening of their covenant relationship with God. It was their spiritual atmosphere. But, from the history of Israel we know that there were others who despised the law and the worship of the Lord God. They wanted to run their own lives and they resented any restrictions. These individuals most likely hated the “smell” of those sacrifices and wished they could get away from it. Some probably did.
The Apostle Paul wrote of his ministry and that of his associates in terms of those Old Testament sacrifices:
But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God's word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ. (2 Corinthians 2:14-17 ESV Emphasis added)
Notice that Paul says the offering of his ministry was to God, not to people. Yet the fragrance of that ministry spreads all around! To some, those whose heart is yearning for salvation, it is a “fragrance of life,” but to those who are obstinate and rebellious, it is a “fragrance of death.” In either case, the aroma of a church should be pleasing to God. When it is, that church will attract those who love that aroma.
Does your church emit the savor of Christ’s sacrifice? Is it a pleasing aroma the God?