The Aroma of the Spirit; or, How does God Smell?

by Lester Young

Yes, yes, I know: a strange title… and, I suppose, an even stranger question. But I didn’t just pluck it out of the air. God Himself alludes to this very subject in the book of Exodus. There, He gives Moses a specific recipe for making the holy oil that would be used to anoint the Ark of the Covenant, the Tabernacle of the Congregation and everything in it – including the priests who worked there – basically, anything that had to do with God (Exodus 30:22-30).

The ingredients God’s recipe called for leave absolutely no doubt in one’s mind that this was a wonderfully aromatic mixture. Only the best spices were used; absolutely no imitations or knock-offs. And no corners were cut during the preparation: they were instructed to make the compound using all the skill and artistry of a professional perfumer (verses 23-25). And incidentally, for those of you in the Western world who see the word ‘spices’ and (like me) your mind immediately jumps to paprika, garlic and parsley, I took a moment to look up its definition in the original Hebrew. The word besem that’s rendered ‘spices’ actually means “fragrance,” and can also be translated as ‘smell’ or ‘sweet odor,’ which I found rather interesting. From this I think it’s safe to conclude that God chose those spices for His anointing oil – if not solely, at least in predominant measure – simply because they were fragrant. In other words, just because they smelled reeeeally good.

Now let’s think about this for a moment. That fragrance must have been so rich and luxurious that… have you ever all of a sudden gotten a whiff of something that smelled soooo good it stopped you right in your tracks? You might’ve been squarely in the middle of cursing somebody out but then that scent hit you: perhaps the bouquet of an exotic and expensive perfume that just made you… well, never mind. Or maybe an enticing, succulent aroma that in remarkably short order left you salivating like Pavlov’s dog.

Undoubtedly, it’s happened to you. It’s happened to me, too. It’s happened to all of us. Regardless of what we’re embroiled in at that moment our nostrils are invaded, we stop what we’re saying, doing and even thinking. Suddenly our nose commands full attention as it takes on a mind of its own and immediately begins searching the surrounding air currents for the source of that magnificent odor! It enraptures us, mesmerizing our entire being. We start experiencing it from a distance, even before we enter the same room with it (or it with us). And because of its sumptuousness, it lingers after it (or we) leaves – perhaps on our clothes or skin, but certainly in our mind.

Now right here’s a good spot to remember what God firmly told Moses when he was building the Tabernacle: “See to it that you make it all [exactly] according to the copy (the model) which was shown to you on the mountain” (Exodus 25:40; Hebrews 8:5 Amplified). Why? Because everything Moses was commanded to make that had anything to do with the Tabernacle was to be an exact representation (though earthly) of that which was in God’s true House in Heaven. And we’ve already concluded that God most certainly must’ve wanted His anointing oil to smell reeeeally good.

No one else was allowed to use God’s recipe to make the same kind of oil for himself. It was God’s own personal formula to be used for His own personal purposes – in other words, it consecrated, or separated, things to Him – and possessed a Scent that would uniquely identify and reveal Him (Exodus 30:31-33). And just between you and me, I’m fully convinced that the world has never, ever smelled a fragrance like it before or since.

How could it have? God chose that Scent to represent Himself. That fragrant holy anointing oil Moses made was, of course, symbolic of God’s Holy Spirit, the Anointing that anoints us today through the Anointed One, Christ Jesus (Luke 4:18; John 14:16-18, 17:20-23; 2 Corinthians 2:14). And how fragrant Jesus is; how sweet-smelling is our Lord (2 Corinthians 2:15). Sweet to the nose, yes; but not just there: He’s sweet to our eyes, our ears, our touch and our taste, too (Luke 9:46, 54). The Scriptures invite us to “taste and see that the LORD is good” (Psalm 34:8), and to “hearken diligently to [Him], and eat that which is good and let [our] souls delight themselves in fatness [that is, abundance]” (Isaiah 55:2).

Jesus went around doing good and delivering folks from the oppression of the oppressor (Acts 10:38). It’s what He did. It’s all He did. He did nothing other than good. That’s why huge crowds gathered wherever He was or was known to be going (Mark 6:33, 10:1). People smelled that sweet savour of Good, and they were drawn to it.

Think about Jesus for a moment: you can sense He just gave off the aroma of… Life! Scripture even says as much: “The letter (of the Law) kills, but the Spirit gives Life” (2 Corinthians 3:6). People were being hounded by ‘death’ of every kind, but this Man came on the scene with a different Scent about Him: one of healing, deliverance and freedom – the scent of ‘Good’ (as opposed to the condition of ‘bad’). Yet Jesus taught that it wasn’t Him they were really smelling; because He said, “No one is ‘good’ except God alone (Mark 10:18; Luke 18:19)”; and, “[It’s] the Father that dwells in Me [Who actually] does the works” (John 14:10). So the Scent emanating from Him that they were picking up on was actually the Goodness of God.

Here’s one more interesting little tidbit: the Hebrew word towb that means “good” can also be rendered ‘best,’ ‘favor,’ ‘pleasant,’ ‘prosperity’ and, oddly enough, ‘sweet’. The goodness of God is sweet, and it draws people to Him through His Example Son, Jesus Christ (Romans 2:4; Hebrews 1:3). Now considering that God mentioned His ‘goodness’ before anything else when Moses asked to see His glory (Exodus 33:18-19), just how good do you think that holy anointing oil must have smelled? And even more so, with God sitting there all the time just reeking of Good, how fragrant must Heaven be?


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