"These offerings are given as a special gift to the Lord, a pleasing aroma to him." (Num 29:6 NLT)

If you were to simply read this text out of context, your thoughts might go something like mine did: Wow, that offering must be fresh bread or cinnamon rolls! Definitely something that smells nice!

When you read the text in its entirety, however, you see that this is not the case. Consider the preceding verses: "It will consist of one young bull, one ram, and seven one-year-old male lambs, all with no defects...In addition, you must sacrifice a male goat as a sin offering to purify yourselves and make yourselves right with the Lord. These special sacrifices are in addition to your regular monthly and daily burnt offerings, and they must be given with their prescribed grain offerings and liquid offerings." (Num 29:2b-6a NLT)

The "offering", then, that has such a "pleasing aroma", is nothing more than animal sacrifices...

Now I don't know about you, but having been raised vegetarian, the smell of any meat cooking is not "pleasing" to me. I do understand that the majority of the world would not agree; however, this passage isn't talking about just cooking meat. It's talking about burning it! I believe most of you would agree that the odor of burning flesh does not smell "pleasing"!

Taking this a bit farther, I would have to say that even if the odor of burning meat was a pleasant one for me, what is there about slaughtering bulls and rams and lambs that is "pleasing"?

Yet this phrase, "pleasing aroma", is used multiple times throughout the books of Moses, and the context is always that of slaughtering animals for burnt offerings (See Ex. 29, Lev. 2-4, Num. 29, etc.)...Just what is so pleasing about burnt offering?

I am currently reading the Pentateuch, the first 5 books of the Bible. I have been asking myself this question throughout the books, but it wasn't until I arrived at Numbers 29 that I began to understand...

Let's remember that the Bible teaches us that sin separates us from God: "Listen! The LORD's arm is not too weak to save you, nor is his ear too deaf to hear you call. It's your sins that have cut you off from God. Because of your sins, he has turned away and will not listen anymore." (Is. 59:1-2 NLT)

Let's also remember that: "...without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness." (Heb. 9:22 NLT). Thus the animal served as a substitute. It died in the place of the sinner.

When God said that the animal sacrifices were a "pleasing aroma" to Him, could it be that He desired for their sins to be covered? That He desired for there to be nothing separating Him from His people? That He desired to walk with them? To talk with them? To have a relationship with them? Did the odor of burning sacrificial meat simply signify to God that the sins were covered and the door was open for relationship? Was this why God called the sacrifices, "a pleasing aroma to Him"?

The Truth of the matter is, God wants to be with us!

It is true that the sacrificial system was not adequate as a long-term solution, for: "...it is not possible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins." (Heb. 10:4 NLT). Thus these sacrifices could only "cover up" the sin, so to speak. And since God wanted a permanent fix to this sin problem that caused Him to be separated from the ones He loves, He further proved His love and His desire to be with us by making a better way: "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:19 NLT). God sent His own Son to be the sacrifice that permanently removes our sin. And since, "There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends" (John 15:13 NLT), doesn't this serve to prove His ultimate desire to be with us? To spend time with us? To lavish His love upon us?

The next time you smell burning meat, remember this lesson from the mosaic laws: The reason God considered the stench of burning meat to be "a pleasing aroma" is because it signified that their sins were covered and He could commune with them. Let's all let that stench be a reminder to you that God wants to have that relationship with each of us, too, and in order to ensure that it would be even easier, He sent Jesus...

Hum. Maybe my neighbour's burning barbeque doesn't smell so bad after all...

In His love,
Lyn

Lynona Gordon Chaffart, Speech-Language Pathologist, mother of two, Author -- "Aboard God's Train -- A Journey With God Through the Valley of Cancer", Author and Moderator for The Nugget, a tri-weekly internet newsletter, and Scriptural Nuggets, a website devoted to Christian devotionals and inspirational poems, with Answers2Prayer Ministries. Follow Lyn on Twitter @lynchaffart.