The God Who Smells

Psalm 115:3-6 reads: “Our God is in heaven and does whatever He pleases. Their idols are silver and gold, made by human hands. They have mouths but cannot speak, eyes, but cannot see. They have ears but cannot hear, noses, but cannot smell.”

In the psalmist’s context, idols were lifeless miniature statues, but idolatry occurs when anything created grabs the attention of a person’s heart more than the Creator. Idolatry is often taking something good in our life and making it our god. For example, marriage, parenthood, career, and leisure are good gifts from God, but they are terrible gods. They cannot satisfy as God satisfies because they are not God, and they cannot withstand the pressure of being God. Thus, when we make a good thing our god, we saddle that good thing with unrealistic expectations, and everyone loses. Because of our tendency to become impressed with gods more than God, the psalmist compared the attractiveness and power of God to the deficiency and impotence of our gods.

The imagery in the text is incredible. The idols have mouths that cannot speak, but God spoke the world into existence (Ps. 33:9) and still speaks to His children. The gods have carved eyes that cannot see, but God sees and brings strength to His own (2 Chron. 16:9).

The text also says the gods have noses but cannot smell. In the ancient Jewish sacrificial system, the phrase had additional meaning because the Scriptures taught that God smelled the aroma of the sacrifices and was pleased with them (Num. 15:3). Worshiping a god who could not smell would be terrifying for the worshiper. If the god could not smell the sacrifice of the worshiper, consequently the sacrifice would never be enough because the god would never be satisfied. The god would always want and need more from the worshiper.

Still the gods are never satisfied, and they never satisfy. If a career is god, the career will never be quenched, as it demands more time, energy, and sacrifice. If money is god, the bank account will never be fat enough. It will always want more and will never satisfy. If pornography is god, it will demand more focus and passion while never delivering on true satisfaction.

But the one true God smells and is satisfied. God smells and is satisfied with us because of the sacrifice of Jesus. The sacrifices in the Old Testament only foreshadowed the ultimate sacrifice of Christ, which makes us pure before Him. The gods say, “Give me more and more. Your sacrifices will never be finished.” Jesus cried, “It is finished,” as the righteous requirements of our Holy God were perfectly fulfilled in the death of His Son. God’s nose smelled fully the perfect sacrifice of Jesus for us.

He is satisfied and He satisfies.

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Eric Geiger is the Senior Pastor of Mariners Church in Irvine, California. Before moving to Southern California, he served as senior vice-president for LifeWay Christian. Eric received his doctorate in leadership and church ministry from Southern Seminary and has authored or co-authored several books, including the best selling church leadership book, Simple Church. He is married to Kaye, and they have two daughters: Eden and Evie. During his free time, Eric enjoys dating his wife, taking his daughters to the beach, and playing basketball.