Then slaughter the young bull in the Lord’s presence, and Aaron’s sons, the priests, will present the animal’s blood by splattering it against all sides of the altar that stands at the entrance to the Tabernacle. Then skin the animal and cut it into pieces. The sons of Aaron the priest will build a wood fire on the altar. They will arrange the pieces of the offering, including the head and fat, on the wood burning on the altar. But the internal organs and the legs must first be washed with water. Then the priest will burn the entire sacrifice on the altar as a burnt offering. It is a special gift, a pleasing aroma to the Lord. Leviticus 1:5-9 (NLT)
Is it just me? Does anyone else wonder why this would be a pleasing aroma to the Lord? All throughout the first few paragraphs of Leviticus it talks about organs and fat and body parts and how burning them is a pleasing aroma to the Lord. As I listened to that, I thought - there has got to be something I'm missing because that does not sound pleasing.
So, I started looking into it. The sacrificial process in Leviticus was put in place so the people could come to God and say "I'm sorry" and "Thank you." There were other sacrifices but these were two at the beginning of the book. When you come to God wanting to say those two things, your heart has to be in the right place, right?
Of course, you can get side-tracked and just go through the motions of saying "I'm sorry" or "Thank you." I bet we do this more than we'd like to admit. As a matter of fact, the Israelites did. In Isaiah 1 God chastised them for it.
“What makes you think I want all your sacrifices?” says the Lord.
“I am sick of your burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fattened cattle.
I get no pleasure from the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.
When you come to worship me, who asked you to parade through my courts with all your ceremony?
Stop bringing me your meaningless gifts; the incense of your offerings disgusts me!
As for your celebrations of the new moon and the Sabbath and your special days for fasting—
they are all sinful and false.
I want no more of your pious meetings. (v 11-13)
They had gotten so used to the routine that they were making it about them. Not about their heart with God. The pleasing aroma in Leviticus was God's pleasure in hearts that were willing; in hearts that were open to a relationship with him. It wasn't in the actual smell of the burnt offering. And this is still what he wants from us today.
We are not going to go out and slaughter an animal to tell God we're sorry or thank you. But our hearts can tell him. When we say it, we can mean it and I know that this is still a pleasing aroma to the Lord.