Today’s Illustration: It doesn’t smell right!

macro shot of the nose of a dog.

 . . . . . . 

  What: The Nature of Smell

  Who:  Dog versus Man

  Where:  There are at least 87 references
to the sense of smell in the Bible . . . .
Add references to “stank” /  “stink” / “odious” / “loathsome”

Quotes From Various Articles:

“Dogs’ sense of smell overpowers our own by orders of magnitude—it’s 10,000 to 100,000 times as acute, scientists say. “Let’s suppose they’re just 10,000 times better,” says James Walker, former director of the Sensory Research Institute at Florida State University, who, with several colleagues, came up with that jaw-dropping estimate during a rigorously designed, oft-cited study. “If you make the analogy to vision, what you and I can see at a third of a mile, a dog could see more than 3,000 miles away and still see as well.”

“Put another way, dogs can detect some odors in parts per trillion. What does that mean in terms we might understand? Well, in her book Inside of a Dog, Alexandra Horowitz, a dog-cognition researcher at Barnard College, writes that while we might notice if our coffee has had a teaspoon of sugar added to it, a dog could detect a teaspoon of sugar in a million gallons of water, or two Olympic-sized pools worth. Another dog scientist likened their ability to catching a whiff of one rotten apple in two million barrels.”

“Experts have reported incredible true stories about the acuteness of dogs’ sense of smell. There’s the drug-sniffing dog that “found” a plastic container packed with 35 pounds of marijuana submerged in gasoline within a gas tank. There’s the black lab stray from the streets of Seattle that can detect floating orca scat from up to a mile away across the choppy waters of Puget Sound. There’s the cancer-sniffing dog that “insisted” on melanoma in a spot on a patient’s skin that doctors had already pronounced cancer-free; a subsequent biopsy confirmed melanoma in a small fraction of the cells. And so on.”

“”We found that when airflow enters the nose it splits into two different flow paths, one for olfaction and one for respiration.”

— from dogs sense of smell

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“The downside is that there are a limited number of dogs that are trained to sniff out explosives or disease and training is extremely expensive; it can cost up to $25,000 to train just one dog. “

“Elephants are considered to have the most acute sense of smell, with the largest number of scent-detecting genes. According to a study done in 2007, elephants can even smell the difference between human tribes in Kenya: one tribe, the Maasai, hunt and kill elephants, the other tribe, the Kamba, do not. That reinforces the idea of smell as a survival skill.”

“Bears also surpass dogs and are thought to have the widest-ranging sense of smell. “

“And in water, the white shark has the largest olfactory center of all sharks and can smell even one drop of blood over a mile away.”

“No other species provides the life-saving services that dogs do, simply by virtue of their remarkable ability to sniff out both sustenance and danger.”

— from “Is there anything like a dog’s nose?”

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“Dogs notice a change in body chemistry when you are sick, but humans cannot isolate a particular odour—although science is trying to do so,” Alexandra continues. “Humans were more familiar with body chemistry before science got advanced and before dogs were used to detect illness. For instance, doctors said a person with TB smelled like brown bread.” (Dogs can identify smell molecules in the range of parts per trillion, right on the limits of what even modern science can detect even if we know what we are looking for.) “All sorts of diseases are detectable by smell but having a doctor smell you isn’t as popular as a dog, so we moved away from that diagnostic method,” says Alexandra, laughing. “I believe that dogs do care what you smell like.”

“Most dogs know (and abhor) that sterilized smell of the vet’s office. Mine can tell when someone has been to the hospital—I believe it reminds them of the veterinarian clinic—and it makes them really stressed out.”

“If you’ve ever thought your dog could tell when you were unwell, you weren’t wrong. “If a person is infected with a virus or bacteria, they will smell different,” says Alexandra. “Dogs are preternaturally sensitive to changes in their people.”

— from what-your-dog-can-tell-smell/127815

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“It’s a new tool helping contain COVID-19 and it could be the ticket to getting back to normal life. Dogs are being trained to sniff out coronavirus.

How does it work? When your body has a virus or a disease, your body makeup changes. COVID-19 produces a unique chemical in your body. So, yes, COVID-19 has an odor. A dog trained for detection can smell it. Similar to how dogs are trained to smell drugs and explosives. Some dogs are even trained to sniff out other diseases like cancer or Parkinson’s disease.”

-from rossen-reports-watch-these-covid-19-sniffing-dogs-in-action/35730234#

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They haven’t got no noses,
The fallen sons of Eve;
Even the smell of roses
Is not what they supposes;
But more than mind discloses
And more than men believe.

—from “The Song of the Quoodle,” G.K. Chesterton

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Key Biblical Concepts:

  • sweet savour
  • myrrh / frankincense
  • noses, but do not smell
  • sacrificial perfume (copyrighted -not to be imitated — Exodus 30:38)
  • incense & prayer
  • anointing
  • the fragrance of the knowledge of Him
  • “smell of my son” — Esau
  • the smell of battle — Job 39:25
  • the smell of death — Isaiah 34
  • decaying frogs (Exodus 8:14)
  • Abraham’s reputation — “Ye have troubled me to make me to stink among the inhabitants of the land.”

Present-day Usage:

  • “Something smells”
  • “A rotten egg”
  • “The sweet smell of success”
  • “The smell of money / I smell money”
  • “It reeks of corruption”
  • “There’s something rotten in Denmark”
  • “Something doesn’t smell right”
  • “He’s a skunk”
  • “I smell trouble”
  • “I smell a rat here.”
  • “The movie stinks.”
  • “The smell of gas”
  • “It smelled to high heaven”
  • “The smell of corruption”
  • “He has a nose for this”
  • “That stinks”
  • “The smell of battle”

. . . . . . 

Sermonic Examples:  Again, there are several ways illustrative material can be used.  Here are two, of the four we have previously delineated . . . .

#1) Introduction To The Theme (one of four ways to use an illustration)

[After including whatever information and details you want regarding a comparison of humans vs. a dog’s incredible ability to detect smell] . . . . .

The day is coming, according to Isaiah, that men will be overcome with the stink of death.  The day is coming when the smell of death will overwhelm the nations.  Turn to Isaiah 34 and let’s read about that day . . . . .



As believers, we come to realize that we are not left to rely on any of our five senses.  While our five senses, and specifically our sense of smell, may not be as acute as other members of God’s creation, we have been given God’s revelation to be able to detect, to spiritually smell trouble.  Jacob smelled trouble when he was told that Esau was on his way to meet him.  Samson didn’t smell trouble, and when there was good reason to smell the rat — Deliah!  David smelled trouble and Jonathan didn’t; David was right!  The young man in Proverbs 7 couldn’t smell the trouble that comes with immorality. . . . .



The Lord told Moses to appoint judges to judge the people.  There were the “judicial sniffers” put in charge of justice, fairness, equity, and impartiality.  They were to be men of integrity, who could not be corrupted by any personal interest, money, or relationships.  They were to be marked by these three characteristics — fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness — because it would be those traits that would sharpen their sense of honesty, morality, and goodness.



The Bible indicates that there were unique individuals and/or groups of people who were able to “sniff out” what was taking place in Israel . . . .

1Ch 12:32 — And of the children of Issachar, which were men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do; the heads of them were two hundred; and all their brethren were at their commandment.



The Old Testament prophets were not only given information directly from God Himself, information / revelation that other men and women were not given, but they were also gifted in their natural senses; they were able to detect and sense what was happening in their national culture.  Their spiritual senses were more acute — by 100 fold — than the ordinary man.  They could not only see into the future by special revelation, but they could spiritually sense where events were headed. . . . .



We are going to examine a biblical passage that illustrates how limited we are in our senses.  It is not that there is not a lot of information being dispersed, but humanly, we lack the ability to sense all that is happening.  Here is how the Scriptures says it . . . .

“Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”

Remarkably, we are told that there may be times we are actually entertaining angels, but we lack the ability to detect that angelic host.  The reference is to Abraham — who did not realize that the guests who paid him a visit outside of Sodom were actually angels.

If you knew, if you had a sixth sense — “angelic awareness” — the ability to sense that what has happening involved an angel, a messenger from God, would that make a difference on your entertainment skills, your serving, your hospitality. . . . .

  • Matthew 18:10
  • Psalm 34:7
  • Hebrews 1:14
  • Psalm 91:11
    . . . . . . . . 

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Use This Illustrative Material Another Way!

#2) Setting Up The Approach (the fourth method) — In using an illustration this way, it is not about the sense of smell that becomes your focus, but about how you are going to approach a passage.

[After including whatever information and details you want regarding a comparison of humans vs. a dog’s incredible ability to detect smell] . . . . .

You see, there is much more sensory information present that we are able to detect as human beings.  We are limited in our abilities to detect all that there is being presented to us — humanly.   That is why a dog can detect and sense far more than we have been created to detect.

It is not that there is a limitation of the sensory information being dispersed, but a limitation of the ability to sense that information!

Likewise, we are going to look at a biblical passage that is packed full of information, visual — sensory information — that is easily missed because we are so familiar with the passage.  It is that familiarity that is limiting what we see and understand.  There are so many truths and principles packed into the account of the “Parable of the Prodigal Son” that we can easily fail to detect . . . . .

Other Information & Links:

The Nose Knows: Is There Anything Like a Dog’s Nose?

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1. A dog’s nose has two functions—smelling and breathing. 

2. Dogs have the ability to breathe in and out at the same time. 

3. Dogs have a special organ that gives them a “second” sense of smell.

4. Dogs smell in 3-D.

5. Dogs can smell the passage of time. 

6. Dogs’ noses have evolved to help them survive.

7. Dogs can smell up to 100,000 times better than humans.

8. Some breeds have a better sense of smell than others.


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Smell the Rain

A cold March wind danced around the dead of night in Dallas as the doctor walked into the small hospital room of Diana Blessing. Still groggy from surgery, her husband David held her hand as they braced themselves for the latest news.

That afternoon of March 10, 1991, complications had forced Diana, only 24-weeks pregnant, to undergo an emergency cesarean to deliver the couple’s new daughter, Danae Lu Blessing. At 12 inches long and weighing only one pound and nine ounces, they already knew she was perilously premature. Still, the doctor’s soft words dropped like bombs.

“I don’t think she’s going to make it,” he said, as kindly as he could. “There’s only a 10-percent chance she will live through the night, and even then, if by some slim chance she does make it, her future could be a very cruel one.”

Numb with disbelief, David and Diana listened as the doctor described the devastating problems Danae would likely face if she survived. She would never walk. She would never talk. She would probably be blind. She would certainly be prone to other catastrophic conditions from cerebral palsy to complete mental retardation. And on and on.

“No! No!” was all Diana could say. She and David, with their 5-year-old son Dustin, had long dreamed of the day they would have a daughter to become a family of four. Now, within a matter of hours, that dream was slipping away.

Through the dark hours of morning as Danae held onto life by the thinnest thread, Diana slipped in and out of drugged sleep, growing more and more determined that their tiny daughter would live and live to be a healthy, happy young girl. But David, fully awake and listening to additional dire details of their daughter’s chances of ever leaving the hospital alive, much less healthy, knew he must confront his wife with the inevitable.

“David walked in and said that we needed to talk about making funeral arrangements,” Diana remembers “I felt so bad for him because he was doing everything, trying to include me in what was going on, but I just wouldn’t listen, I couldn’t listen. I said, “No, that is not going to happen, no way! I don’t care what the doctors say Danae is not going to die! One day she will be just fine, and she will be coming home with us!”

As if willed to live by Diana’s determination, Danae clung to life hour after hour, with the help of every medical machine and marvel her miniature body could endure, But as those first days passed, a new agony set in for David and Diana. Because Danae’s underdeveloped nervous system was essentially “raw,” every lightest kiss or caress only intensified her discomfort-so they couldn’t even cradle their tiny baby girl against their chests to offer the strength of their love. All they could do, as Danae struggled alone beneath the ultra-violet light in the tangle of tubes and wires, was to pray that God would stay close to their precious little girl.

There was never a moment when Danae suddenly grew stronger. But as weeks went by, she did slowly gain an ounce of weight here and an ounce of strength there. At last, when Danae turned two months old, her parents were able to hold her in their arms for the very first time. And two months later-though doctors continued to gently but grimly warn that her chances of surviving, much less living any kind of normal life, were next to zero-and went home from the hospital, just as her mother had predicted.

Today, five years later, Danae is a petite but feisty young girl with glittering gray eyes and an unquenchable zest for life. She shows no signs, whatsoever, of any mental or physical impairments. Simply, she is everything a little girl can be and more-but that happy ending is far from the end of her story.

One blistering afternoon in the summer of 1996 near her home in Irving, Texas, Danae was sitting in her mother’s lap in the bleachers of a local ball park where her brother Dustin’s baseball team was practicing. As always, Danae was chattering non-stop with her mother and several other adults sitting nearby when she suddenly fell silent.

Hugging her arms across her chest, Danae asked, “Do you smell that?” Smelling the air and detecting the approach of a thunderstorm, Diana replied, “Yes, it smells like rain.” Danae closed her eyes and again asked, “Do you smell that?”

Once again, her mother replied, “Yes, I think we’re about to get wet. It smells like rain.”

Still caught in the moment, Danae shook her head, patted her thin shoulders with her small hands and loudly announced, “No, it smells like Him. It smells like God when you lay your head on His chest.”

Tears blurred Diana’s eyes as Danae then happily hopped down to play with the other children before the rains came her daughter’s words confirmed what Diana and all the members of the extended Blessing family had known, at least in their hearts, all along. During those long days and nights of her first two months of her life when her nerves were too sensitive for them to touch her, God was holding Danae on His chest, and it is His loving scent that she remembers so well.

By Nancy Miller, Columbia Homecare Group, Dallas, Texas.

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“What are some of the things we experience as we walk through a cow pasture? Usually we see cows, hay, and cow patties. The cow pasture is a place full of sights, sounds and smells.

What is that smell? Some would say that the cow pasture really stinks

While others would say, no that’s the smell of money. Whether it’s cows or chickens or goats to the one who looks to those things as income, those horrible smells smell like money.”

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