God’s Sense of Smell

Did Jesus smell the fish grilling on the shore of Galilee? Did He notice the fragrance of blossoms when He walked through the hills of Judea? Was He aware of the stench from the unwashed bodies He touched? Jesus was fully man so, yes, He had the sense of smell.
He is also fully God, which leads me to the question, what does God smell? I suggest three answers which I don’t believe are complete but they keenly relate to us.
1. God smells our prayers. We begin to speak from the fulness of our hearts and the fragrance of our prayers wafts into God’s presence with a satisfying aroma. Priests of old burned incense on altars to please Him and we do the same when we pray. In Revelation John records what he saw in heaven.
Angels “holding golden bowls, full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints” (5:8). “Another angel…was given a great quantity of incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints” (8:3).
2. God smells our sacrifices—the humility of our hearts in repentance, the giving of our time and goods, the relinquishment of selfishness. The cost of our sacrifice rises as a pleasing fragrance to Him. Read Numbers 15:3:
“Offer to the Lord… a sacrifice, to fulfill a vow or as a freewill offering or at your appointed feasts, to make a pleasing aroma to the Lord.”
3. God smells our lives—the way we live emits a scent that pleases Him and reveals God to those around us. The apostle Paul says that Christians spread the fragrance of Jesus everywhere.
“For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.” 2 Corinthians 2:14–16
Friends, let us walk in love and exude the fragrance of a life that belongs to God to a world that needs Him.

    God Hears Us

    Last night a sound alerted my senses. Was it a child, or an animal? A neighbor, or a radio? I strained, but I couldn’t distinguish the source. I love closed captioning for my Brit shows, but it wasn’t an option for these night noises. How different for God! When he hears a sound He knows both the source and the cause—He never needs closed captions.

    The sounds we delight in most were created by Him and give Him pleasure too. I imagine He loves the roar of the waves, the crash of thunder, the crescendo of a waterfall, the gurgle of a stream, the purr of a kitten, the hum of a hymn. How much more does God savor the sound of His children’s voices!

    I remember holding my baby, listening to her breathe. Ever on mom-alert, I could hear her yawn, stretch, and move. I was familiar with her every sound, but not as attuned as God is to us. He hears our sighs, our whispers, our gasps, our shouts, and even our unspoken words.

    He revels in our words of praise and listens for them. God loves us to hear us initiate conversation with Him. He listens for our calls for help and directs us. He’s attentive to our complaints and refocuses us. He hears our sobs and comforts us. Every cry of pain, plea for intervention, and call for wisdom is heard. He overhears our conversations when we speak about Him with friends—and He records our words (Malachi 3:16)!

    God hears our words and He hears our hearts. He is attuned to the pulse of our souls.

    You have searched me, Lord, and you know me.
    You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.
    You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.
    Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.
    You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.
    Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.

    Psalm 139:1-6

    God Sees Us

    As a child I was taught that God saw me. I actually found it quite unsettling because I regarded Him as a judge. As I began to realize His love, my self-condemnation faded, and it became a comfort to know He saw me. I am not invisible, but seen by the God of the Universe.

    He sees us laugh and cry. He sees us wring our hands and lift them in worship. He sees us when we help others and when we help ourselves. The most extraordinary aspect of His vision is that He sees the depths of our heart—its desires and disappointments, its good intentions and frustrated dreams, its gratitude too full to articulate, its wonder too deep to explore, and its yearning too profound to express.

    I can see people, but not inside them, not their deepest hopes and greatest longings. Even those I love best are not fully known to me. I recently learned the word sawubona. It is a Zulu greeting that means, “I see you.” More than a polite expression, it recognizes the worth and dignity of a person. It says, “I see the whole of you—your experiences, your passions, your pain, your strengths and weaknesses, and your future. You are valuable to me.”1 As much as I want to fully embrace sawubona, I am limited by my humanity. But God has no limitations and even a word like sawubona cannot begin to describe how thoroughly God sees us.

    The One who created us in secret sees us when we rest and when we rise. He knows our thoughts before they are formed and our words before we speak them. He is before us, behind us, and over us. He knows our moments and days, and the struggles and joys they hold. He sees the whole of us and completely loves us.2

    Sawubona is a thrilling concept, but it is inadequate when describing how God sees us.

    For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.

    2 Chronicles 16:9


    2see Psalm 139

    An Invitation to Look Higher

    This is the last of three sample meditations from my forthcoming book. I must say, it is intimidating to put myself out there like this. But then I reason, I can’t I publish the book if I don’t trust my friends. This is Day 49.

    Lord, I Need to Change my Focus

    God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.

    Ephesians 2:6-7

    The most debilitating aspect of my brokenness was the way it hijacked my thoughts. There were days I could not lift my eyes above my pain—it screamed, throbbed, and stomped its feet. Its tantrums riveted my attention. I felt panicky and wondered if I would survive. How was I still functioning with this much pain? Could I live another day in this hurting body, on this precarious planet, among these flawed people?

    I was groveling, not confidently living in heavenly places. This verse encouraged me to lift my head while walking the streets of this sick and painful world. It reminded me I have a home beyond my zip code where healing and hope abound. Dual citizenship meant I am a resident of Heaven and have treasures in another realm.

    We were made for more than this earth. When we awaken the awareness of our eternal future, our eyes will look beyond our suffering. The promise of healing, peace, and dried tears will revive our hope. Restoration, justice, and wholeness await us.

    Dear one, you are not alone but part of a family of sufferers and hopers. Know that Jesus secures your inheritance—one you can already glimpse if you will look up. Don’t let earth’s sorrows eclipse the joy that is yours, but focus your heart and mind on the life God offers. Live in the heavenly realms now.