Time and space, among other things, separate the reality of man from the existence of God.
The Almighty Creator is above and outside of all that confines. Only the material world and the spiritual formed realities, like angels, have bodies and exist with a beginning and with a sense of past, present and future.
That makes God impossible to identify or recognize beyond the evidences he allows to represent him. Burning bushes, clouds, and voices all are given to help created beings recognize what cannot be known through created senses.
For mankind, sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell are all senses that allow us to scientifically and ascetically identify, label, and form preferences for other parts of this amazing universe. Those are our God given senses. However, not a single one, nor the thoughts they inform within our cranial palace, are capable on their own of knowing God. We need help.
Perhaps more than any other reference, Scripture presents the revelation of God that targets one primary sense, that of hearing. The Lord declares that he came to reveal the Father and he did so from day one of Creation through the spoken word. God used language as the initial method, not only of forming the world as we know it, but also in giving evidence of himself to materially bound observers: you and me.
The first and most trustworthy display of God is through the Word. It is our sense of hearing that begins our recognition of God and his interest in each of us. That is why we have the Bible. Scripture is the tangible form that sustains our ability, day by day and generation after generation, to hear God. Those who wish to know God must begin by listening to him. This is why Adam heard the voice of God walking. But that is not where it ends.
God fully intends to satisfying every sense we have in coming to know him.
Humanly, the most dominate sense, the one most of us use and trust more than anything else, is our sense of sight. We often hear the claim: I need to see it to believe it. God is fully aware that we are wired this way. Into the theater of man enters clouds, bushes, visions, manifestations, and supernatural alterations of the natural world. God is making himself known to those with the eyes to see.
This is why Job concluded after the thunderous display from God at the end of his sore trial: “I have heard of you by the hearing of the ear: but now my eye sees you”. In God’s economy, faith is never a blind act. He always makes his intentions known ahead of time to his prophets. One sense or another will always be convicted with evidence that cannot be dismissed as natural or just the blowing of the wind.
The most dramatic evidence of God, bar none, is the incarnation of Jesus. God became flesh and dwelt, not just visibly (like some ghost), but in tangible reality. No longer just a vision or the manipulation of the created order, this was a living, personal, individual life of God that could be touched.
Notice how the Apostle John sums up his sensory recognition of God: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and our hands have handled, of the Word of life.” And it doesn’t stop there.
What shocked the followers of Jesus and ended up turning many away from God was the announcement that in order to know God, all believers would have to truly eat and drink of the Lord. Not even the sense of taste would be skipped. That is what we commemorate today with the ceremony of communion–we eat the bread as symbolic of Jesus’ broken body that hung on the cross for our sins, and we willingly drink the cup of his blood as acceptance of an entirely new covenantal agreement with God built upon the death of Jesus in our place.
To this the writers of Scripture celebrate when they encourage: “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that you may grow thereby; If so be you have tasted that the Lord is gracious”. It is to Christians that the Bible speaks when it addresses those who: “have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come”.
To be Christian is to ingest God, not just in symbolic communion, but through regular hunger-driven pursuit of knowing him as we follow him, act like him, and obey him.
And so we are left with smell. And, this is where it takes what we have eaten of the Lord and begins to display the evidence of God through the incarnated presence of God in each believer. In the amazing plan of God, his revelation to every sense of man, culminates in how his word smells through the lives of his believers.
“But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere”. Perhaps that is why he is so intent on spiritual cleanliness. God wants others to smell him when they get near you!
Language, visual observation, kinetic feeling of something material and real, tantalizing taste, and even through the aromatic smoke of fragrance, God is sense-by-sense making himself known to those who remain functionally alive and observant. Those prevented from sensing the Living Word are left with non-sense, for that is all they can recognize.
The five senses are the gateways to three more advanced senses that cannot be tapped into any other way. (I speak here of concepts, not of physical abilities, such that those who are blind, or deaf, or otherwise limited in their use of some human sense, have every ability to still reach the full recognition of what God is revealing about himself, for his Spirit is never dependent upon our limits).
When all our senses are sensitive and rightly connecting with the Word, the sense of knowing comes full circle. It began with hearing, and it was real; but it was limited and somewhat immature. As each part of us registers and grasps God, we grow and are drawn nearer to him. By design, he fully intends for us to become consumed and delightedly overwhelmed by intimately knowing him. But the brain is not the end, either.
It is by hearing, seeing, holding what is real, tasting within, and projecting his aroma out to the world, that we ultimately develop the amazing sense of being loved by the Word of God. Knowing God, is to know and accept his love for you. When you sense that, there is no greater sense of existence or value. For this life, the sense of love is likely the height of human sensory capability, and it is only available to those who belong to Jesus.
Who can know of what is beyond this life? God does. And, he reveals his intent to his servants before it happens. There is one more sense, one more human ability to recognize God that is only ever spoken of with hopeful anticipation. It is the sense of glory.
To those who sense God rightly now, and fill themselves in every conceivable way with sensory overload in Christ, will be granted the right to witness and share in the experience of the risen and glorified Jesus in all his majesty. It is what Scripture calls “the hope of Glory”, and it will only be available to the faithful saints who filled their senses with him in this life.
There will be no experience greater than being fully immersed in the radiating glory of the Word of God.
It is all about sensing the word.