I’m willing to wager a bet that at some point over the last weekend, you or somebody in your household said a variation of It smells gooooood in here to describe the tantalizing scent of a Thanksgiving table.
Just think of all the good things we feasted on: a golden-skinned bird, sweet potatoes with marshmallows, dinner rolls dripping with butter, any combination of fruit and pies and cinnamon. Many things can draw us to the table, but one of the senses that welcomes us most is the aroma wafting through the air.
In Leviticus, when God reveals to Moses the proper rituals for each type of offering, he is careful to repeat himself: within the first four chapters, as God describes the burnt, grain, sin, and fellowship offerings, the phrase “a pleasing aroma to the Lord” appears nine times. What is it about our offerings that are so appealing to God?
Though God doesn’t have a body or senses as we do, think about the way you feel when you smell something inviting: welcomed. When we place our faith in him and obey his statutes, delight in his words and laws, God describes it as a pleasing aroma, something that welcomes him in. How good it is to welcome the Lord of hosts, ushered in with obedience and joy!
When we prepare food for a family meal (small or large), it always requires something from our coffers. The meals we make use something we have stored up. Our offerings to the Lord require similar care and preparation: we give what we have saved up, what we have carefully stored or stewarded. David says at the end of 2 Samuel that he will not offer burnt sacrifices to the Lord that cost him nothing (2 Sam. 24:24). Our offerings ought to require something. Sacrificing something is a pleasing aroma to the Lord, and before we think that this is a one-sided sacrifice, let’s think of Jesus: how much did he himself give up to welcome us into his Father’s house?
Our offerings allow us to prepare our hearts for worship. When we give back to God what is already his, we honor him as the maker of everything, the giver of every good gift. When we give what is significant to us – money, time, energy, and more – we worship him in a tactile way. This is the worshipful equivalent of making your best friend’s favorite meal to enjoy together after you’ve invited them over to your house!
As we consider our offerings to the Lord, beyond considering just what we can offer, giving thought to how we offer it matters as well. Are my sacrifices given freely and joyfully, a pleasing aroma to him, meant to welcome him with gratitude? Or is it yanked from my clenched fists, a gift resentfully given and begrudged? If you were receiving something, how would you want it to be given?
Let’s remember, in this season when we prepare gifts and food and whatever else is in our storehouses, to welcome God himself. Let’s welcome him with a pleasing aroma, a glad offering, and feast.