A “sweet savor” isn’t a common twenty-first century phrase used to describe good smells – but it would appropriately describe the wonderful treat that greets Sharon and me when we go outside these days. The confederate jasmine is in full bloom and super full fragrance. It doesn’t matter which door we exit – the pleasing aroma from the one vine comes over the top of the house or around the corners to reach us.
The phrase is common in the Bible, though, especially in Leviticus. That’s where we get details of the sacrifices required under the Law. The burnt offerings were made “for a sweet savor unto the Lord”. Since God is a spirit (John 4:24), there must be something spiritual about the use of the phrase, rather than an actual physical smell.
We get some insight in Hosea 6:6, when God says: “For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings“. And, again when Jesus refers to that verse in Matthew 9:13: “But, go and learn what this means: I desire mercy and not sacrifice. For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance“.
So, like many things in the Bible, it comes back to the attitude and “heart not just head” perspective (ex: See Sermon on the Mount, and 1 Corinthians 13). God desires we show mercy to others, and know and obey Him rather than just perform the rituals. Jesus didn’t come to call to repentance those who think they’re righteous, but those who know they are sinners.
Our sacrifices to God are not burnt offerings anymore, but our praise, prayer, thanksgiving, obedience and worship are what we offer. And, from reading the verses above, those are what God was looking for all along. However, the burnt offerings were also important back then, or God would not have instituted them. One purpose was to show those making the offerings that they weren’t long lasting – as soon as they finished one, they began preparing for the next. (Perhaps the “sweet savor” was a reminder of that constant need, and God’s “heart” requirements to the people who smelled it).
But, the main purpose was to picture Jesus Christ and the sacrifice He would make (and now has made) for His children. All the many purposes of the different offerings were fulfilled in Jesus. And, there is no more need for any physical sacrifice – He has fulfilled that once and for all.
So, perhaps, we can let the aromas of the jasmines, the roses, the comfort food on the stove, and (add your favorite here)be a sweet savor to remind us to sacrifice our love (from the heart not just the head) to Christ, and remember always what He has done to save us.
“he (Jesus) entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption (for us).” Hebrews 9:12 ESV