In the book of Exodus, chapter 29, there are three different occasions when God mentions a sacrifice as being “a sweet savor.” “And thou shalt burn the whole ram upon the altar: it is a burnt offering unto the LORD: it is a sweet savor, an offering made by fire unto the LORD” (v. 18). “And thou shalt receive them of their hands, and burn them upon the altar for a burnt offering, for a sweet savor before the LORD: it is an offering made by fire unto the LORD” (v. 25). “And the other lamb thou shalt offer at even, and shalt do thereto according to the meat offering of the morning, and according to the drink offering thereof, for a sweet savor, an offering made by fire unto the LORD” (v. 41).
As I read Exodus 29, that phrase, “a sweet savor” caught my attention, and the thought kept coming to mind, “Sweet? To whom?” I know the smell of an animal burning is, in no uncertain terms, NOT “a sweet savor” to me, and I cannot think of anyone I know who would disagree with such a statement. But, I believe there is a lesson in this very point (i.e., that something would be a “sweet savor” to God, but not so to us as humans). The point is that God does not necessarily think as man. Isaiah penned these words: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (55:8-9). Some things make absolutely no sense to us as humans, yet, to God, they are “a sweet savor.” This principle can apply to us today in several ways. The following are but a few applications of this principle:
Baptism for remission of sins. Jesus said clearly, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mk. 16:16), and “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter in to the kingdom of God” (Jn. 3:5). Paul tells us that baptism puts us into Christ (Rom. 6:3-4; Gal. 3:27). Yet, so many balk at the idea of baptism for the remission of sins. Are we perhaps forgetting that God’s ways are higher than our ways, and that what is seemingly nonsensical to us may be a “sweet savor” to God Almighty? It is not for us to decide what is pleasing to God, just as it was not for Moses to decide of himself what would be a sweet savor to God. God’s Word teaches us to be baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). Our only decision in the matter is whether to submit to and obey that command or refuse to obey and face the consequences.
A capella singing. “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Eph. 5:19; cf. Col. 3:16). The command is to sing, nothing more or less. Now, to man, it might seem that the singing would be much more beautiful if we were to add instrumental accompaniment, but what does God say He desires? The answer is, simply, “Singing.” Again, Moses or the children of Israel were not allowed to take upon themselves the right to decide what would be “a sweet savor” to God, and we are not allowed to do such today. No matter how we attempt to reason or justify it, God still says, “Sing,” nothing more or less. And, if we want God to accept our singing of praises to him (cf. Heb. 13:15), then we must offer the “sacrifice” of our praise according to the pattern He has given us in His Word.
Preaching. “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season, reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Tim. 4:2). Man has authority to preach only God’s Word. To many, it makes more sense to entertain an audience, make them laugh, and/or just generally make them feel good. But, as we have already noticed, it is not up to us to determine what is pleasing to God, or what is a sweet savor to Him. God has told us what He wants, and that is the preaching of His Word. If what one is preaching is not based on a “thus saith the Lord,” then it is not a sweet savor to God and, thus, is unacceptable to God.
The list could go on of examples where something may make more sense to man, but is not “a sweet savor” to God. Just like with Moses and the children of Israel, if our offerings (i.e., worship and service) are to be acceptable to God, they must be according to His pattern revealed in His Word. Regardless of what might be a sweet savor to us as humans, like Moses, we must “see that thou make all things according to the pattern…” (Heb. 8:5b; cf. Exo. 25:40). If we do everything according to God’s perfect pattern (set forth in the Bible), there can be no doubt that our worship and service to God will be “a sweet savor before the Lord.”
[Article written by Chad Dollahite, taken from Bremen Church of Christ (Bremen, GA) bulletin]