Short Thoughts: Week 28-Days 190-196


Day 190 Comingof Lord

13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers,_about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as_others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe_  that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus,God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.”  I Thessalonians 4:13-15


Found in I Thessalonians 4:15 is the phrase “the coming of the Lord”. That will be our focus in this devotional.  Throughout the Bible are many direct and indirect statements about future things. Some people estimate that a little more than one-quarter of the Bible was prophetic when it was written. Much of this content has already been fulfilled (e.g., the first coming of Jesus, the rise and fall of various empires), some is partially fulfilled, and much remains to be fulfilled (like Jesus’ second coming and reign, the resurrections of the saved and unsaved, etc.). For a brief statement about this, along with scripture references, see . Jesus Himself announced His upcoming death and resurrection, as well as broader prophecies about end-time events. See “Jesus and the Future” by Andreas Kostenberger and Alexander Stewart, .

Before getting to “the coming of the Lord” in verse 13, the Apostle directs the Thessalonian Christians to keep focused on how to please God (v. 4). In the following verses most of his teaching on pleasing God centres on maintaining sexual purity (verses 3-8). Then, he reminds them to exercise brotherly love (verses 9-10) and to do so especially by living quietly, minding their own business, working with their own hands, and living properly before outsiders

That leads us to verses 13-18. Paul had visited Thessalonica and spent some time teaching essential truths to the new believers there. But, he didn’t have time to round out this teaching. While planning to return and do so, he wanted to answer at least one of their questions. Apparently, his previous teaching had included some reference to the return of Christ, but as a few decades had elapsed since the Lord’s ascension, some people wondered if their friends and loved ones who had since passed away would miss out on Christ’s return. Here is Paul’s reply: “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers…” (4:11). And Paul goes on in verses 13-18 to give them assurance that believers past and present will share in the transforming day of the coming of the Lord.

Note, first, that having this information would be comforting and encouraging: “Therefore encourage one another with these words.” (4:18) Knowing God’s plans for the future is a source of encouragement in an otherwise often hard and discouraging time. It is also a strong source of hope with regard to life after death.

These folk apparently believed that Jesus would return. What some did not grasp was that even though the Lord’s coming might not happen in everyone’s lifetime, there was still genuine hope for believers who had died. Paul had a “word from the Lord” (v. 15) about this matter. That might mean that he had learned from those who had followed Jesus before or after His death and resurrection that He once had explained how things would take place at the time of His coming again, or that God had revealed these details to Paul in a dream or vision. In any event, what he now taught them was God’s truth. He explains that as Jesus had ascended in a cloud (Acts 1:9-11), so He would return in a similar manner. Jesus would descend and there would be the sound of voices and trumpet, then those believers who had died would rise, followed by Christians living at that time. All believers and Jesus the Lord would be together (verses 16-17). “Therefore, encourage one another with these words.” (v. 18)

Just as we believe that Jesus died and rose again, so, too, are we to believe that He will come again and that believers past and resent will be together with the Lord.

Your Turn:

  1. Read I Thessalonians 4.
  2. Scriptural teaching on future things is meant to do much more than satisfy our curiosity. Here, in I Thess. 4, the main message is that such teaching is meant to be an encouragement – we will one day see Jesus and, also, we will see believing loved ones and friends who have preceded us in death. To live without this hope or assurance would be sad indeed.
  3. Do you have this assured hope?

Day 191 – The Day of the Lord

Day 191 Day of Lord

For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.       I Thessalonians 3:9-10

Not only did the believers in Thessalonica, Greece ask the Apostle Paul about the “coming” of the Lord and, in particular about whether deceased believers would miss out on that much desired event, but also they asked about the “day” of the Lord.

The expression “the day of the Lord” (and others like it) are found throughout scripture, both Old and New Testament. For example, here are some Old Testament verses:

Joel 1:15 – Alas for the day! For the day of the Lord is near, and it will come as destruction from the Almighty.

Isaiah 2:12 – For the Lord of hosts will have a day of reckoning against everyone who is proud and lofty and against everyone who is lifted up, / That he may be abased.

Zephaniah 1:14-18 – Near is the great day of the Lord. Near and coming very quickly; listen, the day of the Lord! In it the warrior cries out bitterly, a day of wrath is that day, a day of trouble and distress, a day of destruction and desolation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness, a day of trumpet and battle cry against the fortified cities and the high corner towers.

You can see by these verses that “the day of the Lord” is characterized by reckoning, wrath, trouble distress, destruction, darkness, gloom, clouds, thick darkness, trumpet, battle cry – in other words, judgment. This is a different kind of “day” than the glorious and welcome “day of the Lord’s coming”.

In our own day we can see indications of the even darker times coming. A December 21, 2022 article by Michael Higgins concludes, (

           ” It doesn’t get much darker than eight young girls allegedly swarming a homeless man and stabbing him to death. One life extinguished, eight destroyed. How can we make sense out of the allegation that three 13-year-olds, three 14-year-olds and two 16-year-olds committing such depravity in downtown Toronto? Things like that don’t happen in Canada, we tell ourselves, that’s not who we are. But then, we also don’t expect a 73-year-old to go on the rampage in a condo north of Toronto and kill five people. Yet it happened. And we certainly don’t expect such evil and wickedness to take place at Christmas, a time of turkey, tinsel and trees. Except, it’s not Christmas, yet. It’s Advent, a time of darkness before the light, a time to examine our fallen nature, a time to consider what we could become if we didn’t have something higher to aspire to. Advent, a time that also coincided with the winter solstice on Wednesday, the darkest day of the year.”

He further reflects on the depravity seen in our day and provides other examples before concluding,

“But Advent is also a time of hope, for it is a season that declares there is light at the end of the darkness; some might say the Light of the World. Virtue, ethics, dare I say, God — if we lose sight of these we won’t just be sitting in the darkness waiting, we’ll be swallowed up by it.”

Jesus had taught about coming times of judgement:

15 “So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), 16 then let those who are in Judea fleeto the mountains. 17 Let the one who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house,18 and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak.19 And alas for women who     are  pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! 20 Pray that your flight may  not be in winter or on a Sabbath. 21 For then there will be great tribulation such as has not been from_the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. 22 And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would_be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut   short.

Dark times today. Darker times yet to come. But the real advent of the Christ Child brought the promise of the end of those dark times. In I Thessalonians 5:5-11tells us that the time of darkness is coming (5:1-3), but this is not a time to fear for any who are aligned with Jesus. For them, it is not dark but light: “But you are not in darkness, brothers, … for you are all children of light, children of the day (5:4-5). As such, we are to “be sober” – meaning, self-controlled (v. 6) – and characterized by faith, love, hand hope (v. 8). People have a choice to make: be a child of darkness or be a child of light. And the way to light is through the One who died for us and rose again to provide our salvation (verses 9-10). And, we are to “encourage” one another with this news and the promise of Christ’s return.

Your Turn:

  1. Read I Thessalonians 5.

  2. Which “day” are you a member of – the dark day or the day of light?

Day 192 – Taste


97  Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day. 98  Your commandment makes me wiser than my_enemies, for it is ever with me. 99  I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation. 100  I understand more than he aged, for I keep your precepts. 101  I hold back my feet from every evil way, in order to keep your word. 102  I do not turn aside from your rules, for you have taught me. 103  How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! 104  Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way.     Psalm 119:97-104

This is one of twenty-two sections in Psalm 119. All of the Psalm is about the word of God and its wonder. In verse 103, we read, “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth.”

In this reflection we are going to think about “taste”. There are five senses given to us. They are vitally important to us, contributing to our mobility, enabling day-to-day activities and mental and overall health, thus providing for longevity and enhancing the quality of our life. They enable us to experience and understand the world.                                                                                                                                                [ ]      

With the eyes we SEE – sensing depths of colour. It is said that sight provides us with 80% of our learning. With the nose, we SMELL. Humans possess four hundred smelling receptors and these enable us to smell more than one million odours. With skin, we TOUCH. Our skin is the largest of the sensory organs, allowing us to sense pressure, vibration, pain, texture, temperature change, etc. With our ears, we HEAR and are able to maintain balance. That leaves the sense of TASTE. The 2000 to 4000 buds in our tongue gives us the ability to distinguish among sweet, sour, salty, sour, and savoury tastes.

What does the Bible say about taste? We sometimes use the word “taste” to mean “experience”. For example, a team “tastes” victory, meaning it experiences and knows what it is to win the game. Hebrews 6:4 speaks of tasting the heavenly gift. The gift from heaven is no doubt Jesus and the salvation He brought to us. Romans 6:3 says the gift of God is eternal life. Ephesians 2:8 says salvation is the gift of God. We can taste this gift by receiving and believing in Jesus Christ and what He accomplished and now offers us – the heavenly gift of salvation!

Other passages state that we can “taste” the Lord God. Psalm 34:8 if we taste Him we find out how worthy He is and we find Him to be a safe refuge. Then, there are the verses that speak of tasting the Word of God. Psalm 119:103 says God’s words taste sweeter than honey. Hebrews 6:5 adds that the Word of God is goodness and power. I Peter 2:2-3 also describe God’s words as pure milk that contributes to our growth, leading to salvation. That passage then concludes that God’s Words are good.

Our Lord also identified Himself as the “Bread of life” and invited us to partake of Him.        

35 Jesus said to them,_“I am the bread of life;_whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever_believes in me shall never thirst… 51 I am the living bread that         came_down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will_live forever. And     the bread that I will give for the life of_the world is my flesh.  John 6:35, 51.

Here, to “eat of this bread” (or we might say, “tastes”) is used in parallel to “whoever believes in Me”.

So, the invitation of the scriptures is to taste or experience God, taste or experience through reading and study the Word of God, and eat or believe in Jesus Christ as the giver of eternal life.

Your Turn:

  1. Read Psalm 119 in its entirety. Notice the strong emphasis on the desirability of taking in the Word of God.

  2. Tasting God, his Word, and His Son delivers a “good”, “sweet”, and lifegiving result.

Day 193            See

Day 139 Eyes

So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.” Genesis 3:30

The World Health Organization reports that at least 2.2 billion people have near or distance vision impairment and in at least half these cases the impairment could have been prevented or is not yet addressed. This impairment costs the world – in loss of productivity – about $US 411 billion. More importantly, blindness delays the physical and psychological development of young children, causes depression and anxiety in adults, and higher risks of falls as well as social isolation for older adults. Humans need their sight.

Unlike animals and birds, humans see bright, crisp colours. Dogs and cats see mostly blue and green. We can see clearly at 75 feet while dogs see clearly objects at 20 feet. But in other ways creatures see better than us. In the dark, a cat sees eight times better than us, and also has better peripheral vision than we do. An eagle sees ultra-violet light, including traces left by prey, thus making it possible to spot a mouse up to three kilometers away.

These bits of information suggest that there are different aspects to vision.

In this reflection we will learn what the Bible says about spiritual blindness and spiritual vision.

  1. Spiritual Blindness

In II Kings 6, the King of Syria sends his army to go and find the prophet Elisha. The Syrians arrive at Elisha’s home and the prophet’s servant is afraid. We read,

And the servant said,“Alas, my master! What shall we do?” 16 He said, “Do not_be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those_who are with them.” 17 Then Elisha       prayed and said, “O_LORD, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the LORD_opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and_behold, the mountain was full of horses     and chariots_of_fire all around Elisha. 18 And when the Syrians came_down against him, Elisha prayed to the LORD and said,“Please strike this people with blindness.”  So he   struck_them with blindness in accordance with the prayer of Elisha. II Kings 6:15-18

Elisha then lead the blinded soldiers to Samaria, where the King of Israel was. Elisha instructed the King to provide food for the enemy soldiers and send them home. This act inspired the King of Samaria to withdraw his threat of invasion. Two occasions of blindness are spoken of in this passage. First, Elisha’s servant was blind to God’s presence and help. Elisha asked God to open his servant’s eyes so he could see the angelic hosts all around them – just as he had said, “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Sometimes we fail to see that God is with us. Secondly, God blinded the enemy soldiers’ eyes so that Elisha could guide them to the Israeli King. This was another way of demonstrating to Elisha’s servant and many others that God was in control of the situation. God has His ways of protecting us.

God also sometimes blinds unbelievers when they reach a point of settled disbelief. In John 12:37 it says that many people failed to believe in Jesus despite the miracles He had done in their presence. Verse 40 (a quote from Isaiah 6:10) follows that statement with these words,

“He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and would heal them.” John 12:40

In another place, we also read this: “Jesus answered him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ “ John 3:3

It is a risky thing to continually reject Jesus Christ.

  1. Spiritual Sightednes

Sometimes believers are shown to have dim eyesight. Paul observed this,

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” (I Corinthians 13:12). The cure for dim eyesight, in this case, is simply a matter of maturing as a Christian and waiting for God’s timing. We look forward to seeing everything more clearly when Jesus returns.

No one has seen God, but there are things about God we can be enabled to see.

  • “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, He has made Him known.” John 1:18
  • “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but when we know that when He appears we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is.” I John 3:2

How we can see:

 “Open my eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” Psalm 119:18

  • Being pure in heart: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Matthew 6:5:8

  • Prayer: “Moses said, “Please show me your glory.’ And He said, ‘I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you My name, “the Lord”…’” Exodus 33:18ff.

  • Being full of the Spirit: “But he [Stephen], full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus, standing at the right hand of God. And he said, ‘Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’” Acts 7:55-56

  • Being born again: “Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.’” John 3:3

  • Getting to know Jesus: “Jesus said to him, have I been with you so long and you still do not know Me, Philip? Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father.” John 14:9

It will be wonderful to see Jesus face to face one day! But we can also grow in our vision of Him through seeking Him as He is revealed in scripture.

Your Turn:

  1. Read I John 1.

  2. This quotation from C.S. Lewis directs us to Jesus Christ as the source of true spiritual vision: “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”

  3. Are you wanting to see God more clearly? Is it your desire to increasingly see and know Jesus?

Day 195            HEARING

Day 194Hear

Faith comes by hearing and hearing through the word of Christ.  Romans 10:17

The third sense is hearing. We hear by means of our ears. The ear has three parts: external ear, middle ear, inner ear. Commonly, most of us lose some of our sense of hearing as we age, which may be treated with a simple hearing aid – though other, more serious issues may need surgery (like our son experienced as a young child – he’s the one in the photo above).

Another word we use is related to hearing, and that is “listening”. Sometimes we use these words interchangeably, but at other times we may want to emphasize the value of not just noticing sound but also of taking into our understanding what is being said. Daniel Barenboim, famous composer and conductor, said, “And in English you have this wonderful difference between listening and hearing, and that you can hear without listening, and you can listen and not hear.” And British writer and philosopher, G. K. Chesterton observed, “There’s a lot of difference between listening and hearing.” Furthermore, Nobel Prize winner, Ernest Hemingway, said, “I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.”

In this study, we will seek to learn what the Bible says about both hearing and listening. We want to know what God says not just about auditory sound, but about absorbing meaning from sound.

The Bible speaks about hearing and listening to God and about hearing and listening to people. The key verse above connects hearing and faith. “Faith comes from hearing and hearing through the word of Christ.” The apostle Paul is saying that if you are concerned about faith, if you are seeking to be a person of faith, if you want to know who and how to believe, then, you must listen to what God is saying. God speaks to us in His Word. The direction this works is this: God speaks in the Bible  we sincerely listen or hear and think about it  we develop trust or faith in the message and in the person of Christ. Actually hearing (or listening) is the opposite of hardening: “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts…” (Hebrews 3:15). Listening to God’s truth leads to doing something about it. “But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22). So, listening to God involves going to the Word of God, then doing what it says. That shows that we have been attentive and sincere.

“Therefore, we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift from it.” (Hebrews 2:1)

“If you will diligently listen to the voice of the Lord your God, and do that which is right in His eyes, and give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of these diseases on you that I put on the Egyptians [i.e., the plagues that were placed on the Pharaoh and his people] , for I am the Lord, your healer.” (Exodus 15:26)  

“But those who were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit… And He [Jesus] said to them, ‘Pay attention to what you hear…’ ” (Mark 4:24)

“For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.” (Romans 2:13)

Additionally, listening to God brings learning and guidance: “Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance.” (Proverbs 1:5). It was Jesus who said, “Hear and understand.” (Matt. 15:10)

So, really hearing / listening to God and following through on what He tells us is absolutely essential. Doing so brings benefits such as faith, spiritual fruit, steadfast loyalty to Him, learning, understanding, and guidance in life’s choices. See Prov. 1:33, “And whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.”

And, also, it is beneficial to listen to others. In Matthew 18:15 Jesus addresses the situation where two people have a disagreement that has arisen from one faulting the other in some way. He tells us to have a frank discussion about the matter. Do this “between him and you alone” – no gossiping – and “if he listens to you, you have gained your brother.” To heal a broken relationship is a wonderful thing! And it happens when you actually listen to one another. Another benefit is found in Proverbs 21:13, “Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered.” Thus, hearing the distress of another person (in the sense, no doubt, of actually doing something to help out) will benefit ourselves when we have a need some day. Being a good listener also betters your reputation: “Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.” (Prov. 17:28)

Keeping silent is a part of listening. Notice these verses on the value of silence:

“Know this, my beloved brothers, let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” (James 1:9).

“If one gives an answer before he hears, it is folly and shame.”  (Proverbs 18:13).

“[There is] a time to tear and a time to sew; a time to keep silence and a time to speak.” (Ecclesiastes 3:7)

In light of this, we are to pray, “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!” (Psalm 141:3)

Your Turn:

  1. Read Proverbs 1:20-33.

  2. In scripture, we see that God is a listener: “This is the confidence that we have toward Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” (I John 5:14)

  3. A straightforward command from God the Father, given to Peter, James, and John, was this: “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased, listen to Him.” (Matthew 17:5) Imagine God saying that directly to you.

  4. A friend of mine has reminded me that a huge part of listening is not only keeping my silence; it is also my body language, facial expressions, and, when I do speak, my tone of voice. Concentrating on paying attention is welcomed by the speaker – and is communicated in these various ways.



Day 195           Touch

Day 195 Touch

He touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she rose and began to serve him. Matthew 8:15

While the other senses are usually associated with only one part of the body, our sense of touch is active all over our body. Some areas are super-sensitive (like fingers, lips, face) and others much less so (the back, thighs). Like the other senses, we lose some of our sense of touch with age. Touch not only affects us physically, but also psychologically and emotionally. Babies who are seldomly touched are more likely to develop both physical and psychological illnesses. Touch communicates pain and pleasure. Stubbing my toe is painful; petting my cat feels good (apparently to the cat as well, seeing it begins to purr as I touch it).

(See for more facts on touch.)

In several places, the Bible speaks about our sense of touch. It speaks about touch in terms of prohibition and punished, as well as with respect to power and protection.

Prohibition and Punishment

In Luke 18:15-17, parents were bringing their children to Jesus, for Him to touch them. No doubt they believed His touch would be a type of blessing. However, the disciples saw this act as an intrusion on Jesus’ busy day and rebuked these parents. The Lord saw it differently and told the disciples to permit the children to come: “for to such belongs the kingdom of_God. 17 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child_shall not enter it.” Simple, child-like trust is what Jesus wanted from all ages and these children illustrated that need. The attempted intervention by the twelve was not the type of prohibition God wanted.

There were attempts of touching in the Bible that were not allowed. For example:

  • Injurious touch by those who tried to harm God’s own (Psalm 105:15)

  • Touching or eating of the fruit of the forbidden tree in the Garden of Eden -it would result in death (Genesis 3:3)

  • Prohibitions related to touching ceremonially “unclean” things, like eating animal flesh that had been used for religious sacrifices (Leviticus 7:21)

Power and Protection

There is positive touching which is also shown in scripture. Several instances of this are associated with the healing work of Jesus Christ. In Mark 1:41-42, we read that Jesus was “moved with pity” and reached out to touch a man with leprosy, healing him. This was the normal practice of Jesus when healing people with whatever illness they had.  Examples include the healing of fever (Matthew 8:15), eyes (Matthew 9:29; 20:34), and ears (Mark 7:33). The touches showed the Lord’s love for the suffering and also revealed His power to heal. That power was such that even an ill person touching Jesus’ clothing made the difference (Luke 8:44;16:9; Mark 6:56 – “[they] touch[ed] the fringe of His garment; and as many as touched it were made well”). His touch could also raise the dead – Luke 7:14, “Then He came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And He said, ‘Young man, I say to you, arise.”

God also touched the prophet Isaiah’s mouth and declared his sin taken away (Isaiah 6:7). And God gave His prophets power to speak His words (Daniel 10:16; Jeremiah 1:9). He also gave protection to His children, protection from unwanted and hurtful touch (Psalm 105:15; Genesis 20:6).

We see that touch can be for evil or for good. God protects us from evil and provides for our needs through His touch. We ought to be careful of performing unholy touch of various kinds, while seeking the loving touch of our Lord.

Your Turn:

  1. Read Genesis 32:22-32.

  2. In the passage you have just read, Jacob wrestles with God, Who then touches Jacob’s hip to weaken him. Jacob walks with a limp from then on, but he does obtain God’s blessing – and a new name: “Israel”, which means “God strives”. There is power in God’s touch, including in times when we must learn that what we need is in Him and comes with reliance upon Him.

  3. Can you recall a time when God displayed His power in your life or circumstance?

  4. Touch is often an indication of closeness and affection. When you sense the presence of God in your life, He is touching you.


Day 196                Smell

Day 196

And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:2

What do the following words have in common:

      Fragrance       Scent   Odour   Bouquet      Whiff     Reek   

      Incense           Essence          Stink   Perfume         Stench

All of these terms are descriptive variations of the word “smell”. We often use an adjective with “smell”. For example, we say that an “offensive smell” or a “sweet smell”. We use these words as synonyms for “smell” – a term that can describe things delightful to our sense of smell as well as things offensive.

Receptors in our nose and upper throat detect odours and send a message to the brain which identifies that smell, telling us whether it is attractive or offensive, safe or threatening. I lost my sense of smell many years ago. I miss the aroma of the Thanksgiving turkey cooking in the oven, of a rose, of my wife’s perfume, and more. I also cannot detect the smell of a skunk or some foods that are tainted, or the pollution emanating from a factory. Some of these smells may be dangerous -e.g., natural gas is treated with a rotten egg smell to alert us to the danger of a leak.

Just as there are good smells and bad smells, so, too, the Bible gives us lessons on pleasing fragrances and foul odours. Let’s start with the foul.

Foul Odours

  1. Smell = Deception: In Genesis 27 we have the story of Jacob stealing his father’s blessing that was intended for his brother Esau. Their mother, Rebekah, arranged for Jacob to wear Esau’s clothing and put goat skins on his hands and neck, in order to make Isaac think Jacob was Esau. Isaac gave his blessing to Jacob. Verse 27 says, “And Isaac smelled the smell of his garments and blessed him.” In this case, the sense of smell proved deceptive.

  2. Inability to Smell: Psalm 115 describes the false gods of many nations, saying that they are unable to speak, see, hear, feel, walk, or smell. False gods don’t have the five senses and are unworthy of our trust (verses4-8).

  3. Refusal to smell: God refuses to smell the pleasing aromas of an offering which is presented as part of some false worship or act of disobedience (Leviticus 26:31).

  4. Smell = Rottenness: In Isaiah 3 the Lord identifies self-indulgent display as a sin which is only rottenness to His sense of smell: “Instead of perfume there will be rottenness.” (Isaiah 3:24)

  5. Smell = folly. Ecclesiastes 10:1, “Dead flies make the perfumer’s ointment give off a stench; so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honour.” The writer is offering everyday advice and reminds us that foolishness robs us of a reputation for wisdom and honour; foolishness leaves a stench in the nose of others. Similarly, at thenational level, nations at odds with one  another are like a bad smell to each other (Jeremiah 48:11; Joel2:20).

Pleasant Fragrances

  1. Fragrance = Christ Himself. The Lord Jesus Christ is Himself in His offering on the Cross is a sweet fragrance – Ephesians 51, “…Christ loved us and gave Himself upfor us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” He also “spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere.”  (II Corinthians 2:14) This is stated of God in the Psalms – “Your robes are all fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia.” (Psalm 45:8)

  2. Fragrance = Prayer and Offerings to God. Most of the references in the Bible to fragrance relate to prayer and offerings. Offerings made to God on the altar in Old Testament times are often spoken of as “pleasing aromas” (Gen. 8:21; Exod. 29:18, 41; Lev. 1:9, 17; 2:2; 4:31; Num. 15:3). The same is said of prayer that individuals made to God (Psalm 141:2, “Let my prayer be counted as incense before you…”). Likewise in the New Testament it is said that the prayers of the saints are like bowls of incense (Rev. 5:8).

  3. Fragrance = Gifts from a church to Paul: Philippians4:18, “I received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.” It is interesting that gifts from one group of believers to another are understood by the Apostle as gifts to God.

  4. Fragrance = Believers taking the message of Christ to the unsaved. “For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing” (Philippians 4:18).

  5. Fragrance = God’s protective care. When Daniel’s three friends survived the fiery furnace (Daniel 3:27), it was observed that the hair of their heads was not singed, their cloaks not harmed, and “no smell of fire had come upon them”. In this case, the absence of any negative odour was a clear sign of God’s protection of His servants.

  6. Fragrance = Human Love. The love of a man and a woman for one another is a fragrant aroma, as well. “When the king was on his couch, my nard gave forth its fragrance” (Song of Solomon 1:12); also, “Your lips drink nectar, my bride; … the fragrance of your garments is like the fragrance of Lebanon” (Song of Solomon 4:11); and “Your anointing oils are fragrant; your name is oil poured out; therefore virgins love you” (Song of Solomon 1:3).

So, we have the sense of smell used throughout scripture to indicate offensive behaviour towards God and also a pleasing behaviour toward Him.

Your Turn

  1. Read Ephesians 5.

  2. The five physical senses of taste, sight, hearing, touch, and smell have their spiritual equivalents. God uses the senses to speak to our need to avoid what offends Him and to draw us, instead, to those things which please Him. The senses teach us how to respect and respond to God.

  3. You may have suffered loss of one or more sense; are you living without some part or the whole of one or more of your spiritual senses? Which spiritual sense needs most work in your life?