If you are a parent, you know the joy of receiving a gift from a small child is not the gift itself but the heart behind it. Your four year old will not be surprising you with a homemade crème brulee, a hand-sculpted replica of Michelangelo’s David, or a Lamborghini. No, the joy is in the heart behind the gift: the trust, love and gratitude of the small heart directed towards you.
Over and over again God directed the Israelites to make various burnt offerings and repeatedly told them that these burnt offerings are “an aroma pleasing to the Lord”. Does God really enjoy the smell of burning livestock, grain or oil? Does God even smell them as we do, since God is spirit? Or is God pleased with something above, beyond and within the sacrifices of his people? The psalmist gives us his answer:
You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. — Psalm 51:16,17
God is the same way with his children as we are with ours. Just as the admittedly small gifts from our children mean so much to us because of what they represent, so too our sacrifices are pleasing to God because of what they represent: humility, repentance, grief over sin, dependence on God and obedience.
So why don’t Christians still make these sacrifices? Because, in addition to that list, all those sacrifices represented and foreshadowed the perfect sacrifice to come in Jesus’ death. And the Apostle Paul says that now we as believers are “living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God” and that “we are to God the aroma of Christ”.
Did you catch that? Not only is Jesus the perfect completion of all the Old Testament sacrifices, but we as his children are living, breathing, walking-all-around pleasing aromas to God of Jesus’ sacrifice. Jesus is the sacrifice, we are His aroma to God. Let that sink in. Let that inform the way you worship next time you sing. Let that change the way you talk to and deal with others. Let that press into you as you talk to your spouse.
Jesus’ obedience, humility, dependence and sacrifice rise up from us to God.
1. What might some of your thoughts have been if you were a Levite living in Old Testament times at offering these sacrifices? Does looking back through the sacrifice of Jesus cause you to look at them differently?
2. If you lived during that time, how do you think you would have handled the animal sacrifices? Does it intrigue you? Repulse you? Do you find it primitive? What do you think God was trying to communicate by instituting such a system?
3. Read the two verses quoted at the end of the devotion, Romans 12:1 and 2 Corinthians 2:15. How does it make you feel knowing that you are the aroma of Christ (and his perfect sacrifice) to God? Does it change the way you relate to God? To others? The way you think about yourself?