What is pleasing to God?

Every native Israelite shall do these things in this way, in presenting an offering by fire, a pleasing odor to the Lord. -Numbers 15:5 

Dear members and friends,

One thing that forever stirs curiosity in human hearts is how to please God or the Divine Creator. In the Bible, we find a phrase like “pleasing odor” to God in many places. The Hebrew word, nuach, is translated as “pleasing” in New Revised Standard Version, as “soothing” in New American Standard, and as “sweet” in King James Version. Interestingly, there seems to be a big difference between “soothing” and “sweet” in English. Soothing is defined: 1. Reduce pain or discomfort; 2. Relieve or ease (pain). In a way, there seems to be a theological interpretation applied in translating nuach as soothing: either God is in pain and thus in need of soothing, or God is angry and so humans should sooth God with offerings. However, when we translate nuach as sweet, the theological interpretation is that God is a personable being who could be pleased by our intentional acts. The translation of this one word makes a big difference in why and how we should bring our offerings to God. Further, it could make a big difference in the essential image and nature of God. 

An enlightenment Buddhist monk in ancient Korea once said, “You only see what is already in your heart.” In light of this Buddhist monk’s teaching, we may acknowledge that the troublesome theology of an angry God and eternal condemnation toward humanity originated from humans whose hearts were full of anger, resentment, and fear. Thus, Jesus teaches and challenges us with this teaching, “What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (John 3:6) Our task as Christians is not to create an image and will of God that align with what makes sense to our hearts, but to make our hearts and our will align with what makes sense to God.  

My brothers and sisters in God, let us open our hearts and minds widely, and welcome the inflow from God. May the will of God preside in our hearts, and enable us to see the world that is filled with the Divine Presence. 

Blessings, Rev. Junchol Lee