Found many times in the book of Leviticus (and others) is the phrase “a soothing aroma to the Lord.” Sometimes translated as “a sweet savor,” it is mentioned in the context of the Levitical system of sacrifice. 39 times we are presented with this phrase, and the picture is clear: the sweet smell or fragrance of the animal on the altar is wafting into the heavenlies.
“Then Aaron’s sons shall offer it up in smoke on the altar on the burnt offering, which is on the wood that is on the fire; it is an offering by fire of a soothing aroma to the LORD” (Leviticus 3:5).
Our temptation is perhaps to anthropomorphize God into thinking He had a nose with which enjoyed these olfactory sensations. But, I would suggest that this is something much more than a divine B-B-Q; it is deep pleasure to the Divine.
God pursues those whom He has called. In return, He desires to be pursued by those chosen. He provides the measures, the standards of obedience…. In the sacrificial system, the offerings were carefully selected, those without defect. They were brought to the Eastern gate of the Tabernacle where they were slain upon the altar, and then burned. But, more so than this being a divine treat to the nostrils, these oblations were a sign of obedience to God’s command.
As the details of sacrifice were observed the hearts of the people were exhibiting a desire to approach God on His level, which is what He wanted all along. The sweet part, the soothing part was simply an expression by the people of submissiveness to the will of their God.
Today, animal sacrifices are in slim demand, in fact, to offer any further sacrifices would be insulting to the Lord; now that the Divine sacrifice has shed His blood. We do die to self (Romans 12:1), and we do continue to bring a sacrifice of praise (Hebrews 13:15), the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name, unto God. And those acts of worship are also soothing aromas to the Lord.
But, the sweetest aroma unto the Lord is approaching God through the means of His beloved Son, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world–seeking redemption through the afforded measures of God’s grace. The Lord is pleased as we come to Him, washed in the blood of Christ.
Each day given has altar fires burning. Altars of praise and obedience. And the privilege to follow Christ. The choice is open wide before us.
Make no mistake, as your walk of submission is pleasing to the Lord, the Sovereign God of all Creation takes notice–He savors it. In that, you touch the heart of God.