This article first appeared as a Meditation in The Standard Bearer (vol.32, #4 - Nov.15, 1955) and was penned by Rev. Gerrit Vos.
"And the Lord smelled a sweet savor . . . . ." Gen. 8:21
" . . . . an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savor." Eph. 5:2
If, a few days hence, we wend our way to the house of God in order to celebrate Thanksgiving Day, we should be certain that God smells a sweet smelling savor!
He did in the case of Jesus Christ, as recorded in Ephesians 5:2; and therefore he did also in the case of Noah when he offered burnt offerings. That is so, even though chronologically Noah came first with his sacrifice. And Jesus approximately 2,300 years later. Jesus is ideally first. He is both the firstborn of every creature, and the firstborn from the dead. That is so, even though, with regard to the first, many millions of men were born before He appeared on earth, and even though, with regard to the second, others had been raised from the dead before He appeared in Joseph's garden.
Jesus is always first.
Such was the good pleasure of the Lord God.
He should and he will have the preeminence.
And so things will have to stand with regard to your and my celebration of Thanksgiving Day.
Take heed that there be a sweet smelling savor on that day.
So that God may rejoice. He is very particular.
A sweet smelling savor!
That is figurative language.
And the meaning is rather clear.
It means that God looks from heaven upon the worshiper and is pleased with his worship.
Yes, the things that confront us on the day of thanksgiving are the things that pertain to worship, praise, adoration, giving of thanks and giving glory to God.
And that is of the utmost importance.
Important, because the enumerated actions of worship, praise, adoration, etc., are the one and only purpose of all things, be they creation or recreation.
If anything is plain from the Word of God it is this: God willed and determined all things unto one purpose, and that purpose is that the whole of the universe, grouped round about Jesus Christ, should stand before His blessed face in a new heaven and in a new earth, and everlastingly tell Him how inexpressibly wonderful and glorious He is.
And, incidentally, such action of worship of God, etc., it heaven for man.
Knowing this, you will also know that Thanksgiving Day is an anticipation of the day when we shall finally see God's eternal purpose fulfilled. And you will take heed that all your action on that day be a sweet smelling savor unto the Lord.
Our worship of God a sweet smelling savor.
But if we so conceive of Thanksgiving Day we realize that every day ought to be Thanksgiving day!
And so it is. For, as was said before: there is only that one glorious purpose of God: the universe should stand everlastingly before Him, praising and singing and making heaven and earth musical forever.
Our entire life ought to be Thanksgiving Day.
Our whole life ought to be a sweet smelling savor to God.
And in order to tell one another this wonderful truth, it is not amiss to have a special day in the year, the last Thursday in November.
Attend to a text which we find in the midst of the statutes and laws for Israel: "The fire shall ever be burning upon the altar; it shall never go out." Lev. 6:13.
There always must be a sweet smelling savor unto the Lord.
Indeed, the world cannot exist without this Thanksgiving Day, now using the same name of our national institution as I explained it a while ago. I mean the eternal Thanksgiving Day. The fire of adoration of the Godhead may never go out. It must send its sweet smelling fragrance upward, ever upward to God, so that He may haply rejoice on His throne.
We are to send the smoke of such incense in the early morning, at noon and when evening lengthens the shadows. We are to send the smoke of the fire and of the sacrifices upward in the watches of the night. Everywhere, always, under any and every circumstance are we to give thanks to our God. In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. I Thess. 5:18.
And so we will go to the house of God and adore Him whether we are rich or poor, whether we have a plentiful crop or famine, whether it is war or peace, whether we are healthy or sick, whether we live or die. In everything we will give thanks to God.
At all times, from our birth to our death, we will send a sweet smelling savor heavenward to our God and Savior.
You ought, you must write above your whole life: my Thanksgiving Day.
Yes, but who is sufficient unto these things?
I wrote it above this meditation: ". . . and the Lord smelled a sweet smelling savor . . ." I quoted there the instance of Noah who took of the clean beasts and offered burnt offerings upon the altar.
So in, that instance it is plain that he succeeded to worship God.
But in the next chapter I read the sad story of his drunkenness and shame.
But the fire must be a perpetual institution. Moreover, the Lord is not satisfied with half work. Our adoration of Him must be perfect, for He is perfect.
The question arises: How did Noah succeed in worshiping God at all? And why did he not succeed all the time?
Yes, I find it in me to sometimes worship Him. But it is very faulty at best. And I am persuaded that Noah in that one instance worshiped God only in principle, just as you and I.
But most of the time I do not worship Him.
And when I do worship Him, such wonderful work is disfigured by gross imperfection.
How could God smell a sweet smelling savor even on the part, of Noah?
How could Jehovah be satisfied with that partial worship of Noah?
We, preachers, often rail at the world for their atrocious Thanksgiving on the Day that is set apart yearly, and has become a day of eating and drinking. I have done it myself.
And it is true: it ought to be condemned.
They think at best of the things of this earth, and thank Him for all the money and possessions and peace, and a thousand other things, all positive and of this earth only.
And, at their worst manifestation, they make of the day a day of rioting and drunkenness.
But how about ourselves?
How do you feel about your adoration? On the Thanksgiving Day, and on all the other days of the years of your lives?
And then we admit: it was only a small principle of the new obedience.
Sometimes we pray God for forgiveness of our good works.
It always ought to be a perfect sweet smelling savor.
For God is God.
God cannot accept a faulty work. He condemns a faulty work as well as a completely wicked work. God is never satisfied with anything less than perfection. His own divine life of infinite perfections postulates that.
You may be assured of this: when God smiles at something or someone, such a thing or person is perfect.
And that brings me to the second text which I wrote above this meditation: ". . . . an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savor."
The priest there is Jesus.
You see, there was no man left anymore.
All of us, rather than answer to that one and only purpose of God, have turned everyone to his own way. That last clause, my dear reader, is in one word horrible. That is you and I and every son and daughter of Adam and Eve.
And "turning to his own way" means that we are a race of evil-doers. Worshiping devils and the things of the earth. Setting up the things that are mere creature, and calling them God, prostrating ourselves before them and committing abominations.
That is true of the elect and of the reprobate. That is simply human, that's the human thing to do. And we do it wantonly, by nature.
No, when God saw if there were a man, a worshiper, He found none at all. "They are all gone aside, they are altogether become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one." Psalm 14:3 and Psalm 53:3.
Just live as you came forth from your mother and father, and you commit abomination.
And you never do worship.
But when there was no man left, God called Himself a man, the man Christ Jesus. He is the only perfect man there is. And He proved it.
He came, and suffered, and died. And rose again, and is now seated at the right hand of God.
And throughout His life and death He worshiped.
You see, God bad ordained Him from everlasting to be the worshiper who would come in the stead of God's elect people.
And there He stands in the fullness of time and there He stands unto everlasting, with hands upraised to the heavens (that is why His name is Judah, from yad(?), hand, raised in praise and adoration), adoring the Godhead in our stead. He did so even in hell, standing under the burning rays of the wrath of God.
Yes, Jesus gave Himself an offering and a sacrifice unto God for a sweet smelling savor . . . .
He does that now and will do that everlastingly as the perfect man. The purpose of God of which I spoke earlier is fulfilled in Him.
And He does that through all His people.
Through regeneration and conversion, through faith and sanctification.
And so you see Noah standing before God and worshiping. And so you see the multitude that keeps the holy day.
And when we see our sin and guilt, we whisper Jesus' name, and offer unto God our offering of a broken heart.
Yes, sometimes we weep hot tears of repentance to God on our Thanksgiving Day. And He hears, for Jesus' sake.
Rev. Gerrit Vos was born in Sassenheim, the Netherlands on November 1, 1894. He died in Hudsonville, Michigan on July 23, 1968.
Rev. G. Vos received instruction in the PR Seminary and was ordained into the ministry in September 1927. He served churches in Sioux Center, Iowa (1927-1929); Hudsonville, Michigan (1929-1932) and again in 1948-1966. He was pastor at Redlands, California (1932-1943) and in Edgerton, Minnesota (1943-1948). He retired in 1966.
The Rev. G. Vos was very eloquent in preaching and extremely descriptive in his writings. One sermon remembered well at Hudsonville Protestant Reformed Church was that preached the Sunday after a devastating tornado roared through the city in 1956. That sermon was later presented in the Standard Bearer as a meditation.
Three books of his meditations have been printed by the Men's Society of the Hudsonville Protestant Reformed Church and later reprinted by the Reformed Book Outlet of Hudsonville, Michigan.