Breathe Deep

Ok . . . so this morning I enter into Leviticus again . . . and it doesn’t take long, as I read the first four chapters, for me to notice the recurring phrase, “a pleasing aroma to the LORD.” Nine times in these first four chapters is this phrase found after the instructions concerning one of the sacrifices. The word has the idea of being soothing or quieting . . . and, apparently, can indicate delight. In the NKJV it’s “a sweet aroma” . . . in the NIV it’s “an aroma pleasing to the Lord” . . . in the NASB its “a soothing aroma” . . . and in Peterson’s Message it’s “a pleasing fragrance.” And so I ask myself, “What makes the burning of some animal or the burning of a grain offering a pleasing aroma to the Lord?”

You gotta know its more than just the odor of burning flesh . . . it has to be wrapped up in the smoke ascending toward heaven being a symbol or reminder of what’s behind the offering. First, the fire’s purpose is not judgment — that’s done outside the camp. Rather, the purpose of this fire before the tent of meeting is atonement. It’s not about destroying, it’s about restoring . . . about providing a way for continuing access to the presence of God . . . for providing the means by which sin is dealt with such that presence of God might continue to dwell in their midst. And so, it seems, there’s something pleasing or soothing to God about having communion with His people restored. A Holy and Just God must separate that which is tainted by sin from His presence — but the offering covers the sin, pays the price and opens again the way for man to draw near to God. And so this odor from the fire consuming the offering is a pleasing fragrance for the Lord as it indicates atonement.

But how much of the sweetness of that smell is also wrapped up in what it foreshadows? This Levitical sacrifice system consumed a lot of animals . . . providing only temporary atonement until the next transgression. But it anticipated a once-for-all offering that would forever cover people’s transgressions, deliver them from the bondage of sin, and make open the way into the Holy of Holies. How much was the soothing nature of that smoke wrapped up in “reminding” God that a day was coming when the Lamb of God would be offered as the final sacrifice . . . that a permanent way would be made to restore communion between the Creator and His creation . . . that an eternal provision would be made allowing His people to be received into His holy presence? Now that’s sweet!

And finally the pleasing nature of that aroma was intricately wrapped up in the very nature of that once-for-all sacrifice Himself — Jesus, the Son of God. I also read in Matthew 17 this morning of the transfiguration of Jesus on the mount. And the “pleasing aroma” of Leviticus immediately came to mind as I read these words . . .

And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If You wish, I will make three tents here, one for You and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with Whom I am well pleased; listen to Him.”   (Matthew 17:4-5 ESV)

I wonder if every time the pleasing aroma of those Old Testament sacrifices ascended to heaven, the Father wasn’t reminded of the Son, “with Whom I am well pleased.” Christ . . . the love of God personified. Jesus . . . purity and holiness in flesh. Without blemish . . . absolutely perfect . . . altogether lovely. To take in the fragrance of Jesus is to absorb more than just the eternal sacrifice for atonement, it’s more than just a way into the presence of God, but it is the aroma of the absolute beauty of the sacrifice, Himself — in who He is and in what He has accomplished on mankind’s behalf.

. . . Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.   (Ephesians 5:2 ESV)

Breathe deep! Breathe deep, o my soul, of the beauty of Jesus! He is a pleasing aroma to those of faith. Amen?

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