“‘These are the regulations for the grain offering: Aaron’s sons are to bring it before the Lord, in front of the altar. The priest is to take a handful of the finest flour and some olive oil, together with all the incense on the grain offering, and burn the memorial portion on the altar as an aroma pleasing to the Lord.
– Leviticus 6:14-15
Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all God’s people, on the golden altar in front of the throne. The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of God’s people, went up before God from the angel’s hand. Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it on the earth; and there came peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake.
– Revelation 8:3-5
“What is your favorite scent? Perhaps it’s a warm loaf of bread, a special cologne, a crisp fall day, or a freshly-bathed baby. The Lord also has a favorite scent. It is the sweet fragrance of your prayers!
“In biblical days, incense was often burned as a sacrificial offering on the Tabernacle altar to serve as an aid in prayer. So the Bible describes prayers as incense that floats up to God like those offerings. Prayer is more than just a welcome aroma for Him; it gives the Lord great pleasure. Proverbs 15:29 says, ‘He hears the prayer of the righteous.’ Yet not only is the sound of your voice something He awaits and treasures; the words from your heart are sweet to Him.
“Spend some time each day just quietly listening to the Lord. Then allow the fragrance of your prayers to waft through to His throne room.”
– Presidential Prayer Team Devotion
The devotion starts with an interesting question. What do I find to be a pleasing aroma? I agree with their suggestion of freshly baked bread. They missed the scent of impending rain. That has always been a good scent for me. Chocolate would have to be high on the list of pleasing aromas. There are a lot of chocolatiers in Pennsylvania, many producing high quality chocolates. Going near the factory / store, you cannot escape the aroma. Of course, in Hershey, PA the aroma is everywhere. It is heavenly and torture at the same time.
While the devotion quote mentions incense, as well as the Revelation Scripture that is quoted, Leviticus has several burnt offerings that are an aroma pleasing to the Lord. The phrase ‘pleasing aroma’ is found 17 times in Leviticus and 18 times in Numbers (NIV). Yet, there is only one reference to ‘pleasing aroma’ in the New Testament, in 2 Corinthians 2:14-15, “But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.”
So, in the Old Testament, the focus for the people of Israel was to sacrifice things, burning them on the altar to cover their sins and to create an aroma that is pleasing to God. What is really pleasing to God is the fact that these rule-following Israelites are worshipping God.
In the New Testament, Jesus had paid the price for sin, making the sacrifices no longer necessary. The focus is spreading the Word of God to others so that more can be saved. While God has freed us from the Law as the Apostle Paul discusses in Romans, Jesus gave us the Great Commission upon His ascension into Heaven (Matthew 28:18-20). God, then, finds it pleasing that we are carrying out that Commission. In both cases, the aroma that is pleasing to God is doing what God commands of us, but more importantly, worshipping God.
Yet, in Revelation, the prayers of all believers are raised along with the smoke of the incense.
Is this aroma pleasing to God? Of course, it is. Two weeks ago, I mentioned that we all have one thing in common, at least one. We stink, and not a pleasing aroma either.
A few days ago, I wrote about the speed of prayer, and how God desires to have a relationship with us. That cannot happen unless we talk to Him. When we pray, we are talking to God. In Revelation 8:4, we get the idea that God finds our prayers pleasing as they are lifted with the smoke of burning incense.
And what prayers are pleasing to Him? Talking to God reverently, regardless of the subject is pleasing to Him. I think the prayers that are most pleasing are the ones where we simply have a conversation. No special agenda. No gift list to be sent to our celestial Santa Claus. Nope. Just talking.
When I just talk, God points my thoughts in a variety of directions: unconfessed sin (that quickly gets confessed), wrong thinking, right thinking, different ways of interpreting a piece of Scripture. But the feelings during those conversations are important too: calmness, joy, sadness, peace, even a bit of laughter at times. But what about that feeling of strength and, at times, healing?
You see, when you have one of those ‘no agenda’ prayers, God opens the doors to things that you had not thought to ask for. When those prayers go back to Him, it is a pleasing aroma to the Lord, indeed, but you gain from the experience more than you could ever imagine.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.