How’s your sense of smell?

Ephesians 5:10 “find out what pleases the Lord.”

Have you heard of the “smellicopter”? I hadn’t either.  A “smellicopter” is a recent invention based on the science of biomimetics (  Biomimetics is a field that studies ways to mimic the incredible designs found in nature in ways that are beneficial to us.  In this case, it is the incredibly sensitive sense of smell of the hawkmoth that is being mimicked.  But rather than just mimic the design, the doctoral student who is working on this actually mounted a live antennae of the moth on a drone and used it to navigate towards smells.  The design of the moth’s antenna is such that it can greatly amplify chemical signals.  This invention is designed to detect various smells and navigate upwind toward them.  The goal is “to build an odor-sensing aerial robot to remotely assess danger zones; one able to sniff out gas leaks, explosives, or disaster survivors.”

You see, God has designed this moth to have an incredible ability to detect odors. In the moth, it’s the antennae that serves this function. In other animals, like dogs, deer, and bears, it’s an incredibly sensitive nose that does this.  Think of it as a discernment to odors that humans just don’t possess.

Which brings me to the verse above from Ephesians 5 which talks about discernment, but in a spiritual rather than a physical sense. You see, just as God has designed into nature an incredible ability for some creatures to detect smells – both good and bad, God has also designed a means by which we can detect smells in a spiritual sense.  Throughout the Scriptures we see references to fragrances that pleased the Lord, e.g., the pure nard with which Mary anointed Jesus’ feet, and the frankincense and myrrh with which the magi gifted and worshiped Jesus soon after his birth.  There are also references to smells that displease Him, e.g., hypocritical worship that involved the burning of incense all the while people were living in total rebellion to God (Jeremiah 6:20, Isaiah 1:11-15).

You see, just as we can use our noses to discern if milk is good or spoiled, God has a “sense of smell” to discern that which is good from that which is evil. But unlike us, God’s sensitivity is perfect. Therefore, although men and women can deceive each other and even themselves with what they call good and righteous, God can detect what the spiritual composition of things really is.  And He calls us to, likewise, be able to discern what pleases Him.  It is the things that “smell” good to Him, spiritually, that are, likewise good for us. Conversely, the things that “smell” bad to Him, can bring great harm to us.

So, how’s your ability to perform a spiritual “smell-test”? Are you able to discern the good from the bad?  Do you realize that without the Lord’s help in this area, there are some things we just will not be able to detect.  That’s why there are so many gullible people in this world, being taken in by all kinds of spiritual chicanery. That’s why so many people are focused on “the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life” (1 John 2:16), things that the Bible warns us against, but to which so many people are attracted and that “smell” so pleasurable to them at the risk of their spiritual life.

And so the Bible urges us to “find out what pleases the Lord.” But to do this, we must go to Him for the ability to discern what such things are.  And just like God’s Word is “a lamp to our feet and a light to our path” (Psalm 119:105), it is also a “smellicopter” without equal in discerning the good from the bad.  Thus, over and over God calls us to a life of discernment in this world.  Some examples include the following:

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1)

“But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil” (Hebrews 5:14)

“And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ” (Philippians 1:9-10)

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12)

“Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?” (1 Kings 3:9)

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2)

“The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14)

“But test everything; hold fast what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21)

So, who are you listening to? What are you reading? Are you like the Berean Christians, who, unlike the Thessalonian believers, were commended for their discernment, for “they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11).  You see, it is by the Word of God that we learn how to conduct a spiritual smell test. Without it, we are as gullible as a mouse being led to a trap by the smell of cheese!

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