Do you have a pleasant memory related to a certain fragrance, like a particular kind of food or perfume, a wood shop, or a flowering bush? Allow your memory to wander back to that moment. Now hold that thought.
What was so pleasing to God about the sacrifices of the Old Testament? “An offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the LORD…” is repeated a number of times in the Old Testament. He was pleased not just in their meaning, but in how they smelled. Is he some kind of masochist, a monster who enjoys suffering? Do you ever feel like He is enjoying your own discipline or burning flesh a little too much?
To be sure, He is pleased with us.
But not by our pain.
He smiles because our suffering produces a fragrance that reminds Him of His Son.
He knows that we get it, that we are willing to be associated with Jesus. He identified with us, we can identify with Him.
Are there any other ways we can identify with Him outside of suffering?
I am sure you can think of some, but personally, my mind is blank. I cannot relate to His holiness, although I understand what it is. I cannot relate to His justice, although I pray for it to be visited upon corrupt world structures. I do not share in His omnipotence, His omniscience or His omnipresence. However, I do understand what pain feels like.
When we suffer with a right spirit and a content heart, leaving the timing of relief to the Father, He sits up and takes notice. “That is exactly what My Son would do!” He says. And we all know how proud He is of His Son.
When I bake rolls, I think of my grandmother, and how much I loved her baking. When I go hiking in the spring, I think of growing up in Arkansas, and the fresh air that had a life of its own. When our lives are burning on the altar of suffering, it is a remembrance to the Father of the eternal sacrifice. He is pleased to think that before creation strayed, the Godhead already had this figured out, forever. He is thinking of the end of the story. He does not get stuck in the unanswerable suffering questions like “why” or “how.” Instead He remembers His Son’s words “It is finished.”
I believe it comforts His heart to be reminded that the hope for eternal communication with us did not end in the Garden. Maybe it is a relief for Him to know that every time animals were sacrificed or every time we suffer righteously, that His Son, the Lamb who was “slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8) already made a way for all this suffering to end.
The New Testament gives us an opportunity to participate in remembering. As if Jesus knew that we would forget, he left us the special meal of communion to remind us of His suffering; “Do this in remembrance of me”(Luke 22:19). We too can take part in remembering, and join this fellowship should we choose to accept that road.
“Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling aroma.” Eph 5:1,2