Our senses provide the basis for engaging the world around us. It might be easy to recognize the contributions made by some of the senses. Sight allows us to avoid danger and find food; we use hearing to communicate with others or perceive important sounds such as a baby crying. The sense of smell seems comparatively insignificant. But not only can the sense of smell alert us to potential dangers (such as the smell of smoke) but it also enriches our perceptions, including by enhancing our sense of taste.
The Old Testament often uses the language of sensation when speaking of God, emphasizing just how engaged with creation He is. God’s perception of creation is so rich that it involves seeing and hearing (both mentioned, for instance, in Exodus 3:7) and also smelling. The Old Testament mentions aromas pleasing to God at least forty times, beginning in Genesis 8:21 when God smells the “pleasing aroma” produced by the sacrifice Noah offered following the Flood.
As highlighted in today’s psalm, the God of Israel is profoundly and richly engaged with creation. He stands in marked contrast with the idols so many worshiped in the ancient Middle East. Idols “have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but cannot see. They have ears, but cannot hear, noses, but cannot smell” (vv. 5–6). In other words, they are sense-less, and worshiping them is senseless—those who trust them will become lifeless and senseless like them (v. 8).
Only the God of Israel, who became human in Jesus Christ, is capable of being a true “help and shield” (v. 11). The psalm calls us to place our trust in this God who is so richly engaged with creation and who so deeply loves us.
Psalm 115 condemns worshiping idols crafted of “silver and gold” (v. 4). But idols are not only creations of precious metals—they are anything other than God to whom we assign the highest worth or in whom we place our deepest trust. What things do you value or trust? Which of them might displace God as the focus of your life?