2 Samuel 22:7-16    


God does not have a nose. At least, there is no mention of one in the Bible. But the Bible does speak of God’s nostrils and God’s smelling.

If anyone wonders how God can have nostrils without a nose (try picturing that!), it is helpful to keep in mind that God’s “body parts” mentioned in the Bible are not physical. The Bible writers often used figurative language to try to picture God, because is actually “indescribable.”

As recorded in the book of Exodus, God divided the Red Sea and then closed it up, drowning the entire Egyptian army that pursued the escaping Israelites (14:21-31). Moses and his sister Miriam sang a song of praise to God for this miracle. Here is part of that song.

By the blast of your nostrils
the waters piled up.
The surging waters stood up
like a wall….
The enemy boasted,
“I will pursue, I will overtake
But you blew with your breath,
and the sea covered them

The only time you and I blow from our nostrils is to clean them for better breathing. But at the Red Sea, God used a “blast from [his] nostrils” to part the waters (also in Psalm 18:15). It may be that one reason the Bible writer uses “nostrils” here instead of “mouth” is to show how effortlessly God delivered his people.

The most we can move by blowing air from our nostrils—unless we block one side—is perhaps a thin piece of paper or a feather. We can move more by blowing from our mouth. But for God, his nostrils are all that he needed to divide the impassible waters. As human beings, the “mighty things” we accomplish are due to the strength of our arms, shoulders and legs. God blew the Red Sea apart with his nostrils!

The Bible also refers to smoke in relation to God’s nostrils. Sometimes smoke goes into his nostrils. Concerning his own chosen people who engaged in pagan rituals, God said, “Such people are smoke in my nostrils, a fire that keeps burning all day” (Isa. 65:5).

Sometimes smoke comes out of God’s nostrils. At times, when God chooses to rescue his chosen people, he goes after their enemies like an angry, raging bull.

Smoke rose from his nostrils;
consuming fire came from his
burning coals blazed out of it….
The valleys of the sea were exposed
and the foundations of the earth
laid bare
at the rebuke of the LORD,
at the blast of breath from his
nostrils (2 Sam. 22:9, 16).


Foul-smelling smoke goes into God’s nostrils when his people persist in rebellion against him. Angry smoke comes from God’s nostrils when he pursues our enemies.

Sometimes, however, pleasant-smelling smoke goes into his nostrils, as when Noah, after the great flood, sacrificed burnt offerings to God. “The LORD smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart” that he would never again curse the ground nor destroy all living things with a flood (Gen. 8:21; 9:11; 15-16).

Every time we see a rainbow we do well to remember that it is God’s verification of this promise—a promise he made just after the pleasant aroma entered his nostrils.

Smells other than those from burning sacrifices may give pleasure to God. Concerning certain material gifts the Philippian church sent to Paul, the apostle wrote, “They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:18-19). Have you ever thought that, at the moment you give your offerings to God’s work and God’s servants, a pleasant fragrance may be entering his nostrils?

One glorious truth remains: as devoted followers (captives) of Jesus Christ, we ourselves—in our very being—are a pleasing aroma to God! “We are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ” and this pleasing aroma is also—remarkably—“among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life” (2 Cor. 2:14-16). God actually, and always, “ leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere” (v. 14).

Simply by being who we are as captives of Christ—walking, talking, working, worshipping, serving—we are spreading an aroma. This is the “pleasing aroma of Christ” to fellow believers and even to those who are perishing and smelling this “pleasing aroma” as “an aroma that brings death!”

If we are faithful Christians, even many nonbelievers will notice something “pleasing” about our presence. Our employers will often value us for our work ethic and our ability to work smoothly with others. Our neighbors—often but not always—will detect this pleasing aroma of Christ.

If “those who are perishing” respond to the grace of God calling them to himself through us, they will become “those who are being saved.” We who were formerly “an aroma that brings death” to certain people (because of their rejection of the Lord of life and death within us) will then be—to such ones who come to believe—“an aroma that brings life.”

If we are faithful followers of Christ we do not have to “try hard” to leave a pleasing aroma of Christ. We are “the pleasing aroma of Christ”—to God and to others. And we do not have to “try hard” to ensure that God will protect us from our enemies: God will use a blast from his nostrils to do that!

We are privileged as captives of Jesus Christ to be living sacrifices and faithful givers to his work. In these ways you and I will radiate a pleasing fragrance to God and to the thousands of people we will encounter during the course of our lives here on earth.