Near the graduate housing where I lived while in Carbondale, Illinois, there were these bushes planted along a sidewalk that I took when I needed to head towards the part of campus that housed the administrative buildings. While the picture is beautiful and it captures the appearance of the flowers quite well, unfortunately, it did not capture the sweet fragrance produced by the flowers. For nearly fifteen minutes of an almost thirty minute walk, the smell of the flowers was everywhere; all I can do is describe it as a pleasant, sweet, and fruity smell that really made the walk enjoyable!
Within the Bible, there are numerous verses in the Old Testament there are references to various sacrifices that had a sweet savour to the Lord. The very first sacrifice mentioned that was identified as having a sweet savour was immediately after the ending of the great flood: And Noah builded an altar unto the LORD; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And the LORD smelled a sweet savour; and the LORD said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done (Genesis 8:21-22). There is a reason that this sacrifice had a sweet savour to God – it had been done with a pure heart with the only purpose of praising God for mercy and deliverance.
Of the forty-four times in the Bible that the words “sweet savour” are found, only one is in the New Testament and it is in the writings of the apostle Paul to the early church at Corinth: Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place. For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish (II Corinthians 2:14-15). I had never made the connection as taught here by the apostle Paul – by us just doing the things that God wants us to do that bear witness of Him, our “sacrifice” has that same sweet savour to God. In other words, our obedience to God is considered just as valid as the sacrifices of the Old Testament. When we tell others of the Lord Jesus Christ, when we freely give to missions, when we take the time to help out a brother or sister in need – if we sacrifice our time with a joyful heart to serve others with the desire to demonstrate the love of Christ in our lives, then that time is considered as a sweet savour.
It should not surprise us that our obedience to God pleases him. For this, all we have to do is to look briefly into our own lives. How many times have we praised one of our children that listened and obeyed the first time? When we were children ourselves, how many times were we warmly received by our parents when we obeyed their instruction? God wants us to experience the joy that our willing obedience to his will and the blessings that it brings into our lives.
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