Did you know that your nose remembers things? Our sense of smell is closely linked with memory, probably more so than any of our other senses. The smell of freshly cut grass, for example, always brings back memories of my childhood and my endeavor to become a professional soccer player.

While that career didn’t work out, all these years later the smell of a mowed lawn still stirs up memories of the locker room before the game: the nervousness I felt, the desire to perform well on the field, and the peer pressure among the boys on the team.

I have lived in the USA now for almost 20 years. But I grew up in Germany for the first 20 years of my life. Now, when I go back to Germany to visit my family there, certain smells always bring up memories of my childhood.

Several years ago, after I had left Germany to join YWAM in full-time missions in the USA, I returned home for a visit. After wrestling with jet lag a bit, I got up the next morning to find a basket of freshly baked pretzels on the table in the dining room. As soon as I smelled them, I felt like a 12-year-old boy again, sitting around my mom’s table. It was the strangest yet most comforting sensation.

I always found it interesting that David chose to include the nose in his description of idols in Psalm 115.

Idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have…noses, but do not smell…Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them. - Psalm 115

It always seemed random, until my pretzel encounter that day. Idols don’t care about your memories; they want to destroy your future. The enemy doesn’t care about your past; he wants to rob you of your destiny. The accuser doesn’t spend time remembering the good times you had. He doesn’t care about your pain or the joys you’ve experienced. All he wants to do is to make sure you are stripped of your ability to live as an image bearer of God, fully alive and full of life.

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Idols don’t have a nose; they don’t have the ability to share in your tears and in your laughter. But God does. In fact, He writes it all down. He experiences life with us, and He walks right beside us. He is the parakletos, the one who is called alongside of us, our comforter, the one who consoles and guides-- the one who, above all, longs to be in relationship with us.

Perhaps sometimes it fills us with discomfort to think God writes it all down, all our thoughts and emotions, every word we speak, and every act. Perhaps we do not look forward to the day when we stand in front of Him and He opens that book. But perhaps He really is full of compassion and mercy, and He really does enjoy it when we are fully alive in Him.

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Perhaps He really does forgive the repentant sinner and restores our souls. Perhaps the first thing that He will read from the book when I stand in front of Him could be: “Son, you really enjoyed those pretzels when you were a kid, didn’t you?”

Perhaps He chooses to really forget the sins of our youth and rejoice in the life He gave us. Perhaps those moments really do matter when we choose to fully surrender to Him, to remember Him, and to worship Him as He is, and perhaps they make the deepest and eternal imprint in the ongoing narrative of our lives.

While idolatry distracts us from life and liberty, worship helps our memory. The psalmist in Psalm 22 declares that we need to first remember our great God, and then we can turn to Him.

Idols don’t have a nose, and they can’t remember and don’t care about memories. Why are we so quick, then, to replace the beauty, the intensity, and the splendor of His presence with some man-made idols that can’t even smell?

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When we spend time with God, especially in worship reflecting His image back to Him and to the world around us, we make memories with Him. We experience God, and God experiences us (Galatians 4:8). We grow in empathy toward others and in awareness toward God and His purposes. The Apostle Paul says to believers in 1 Corinthians 10:14, “Flee from idolatry.” He knew that idolatry simply doesn't make sense.

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Josh Langer

Author: Josh Langer

Josh Langer, born in Germany and a missionary with YWAM since 2002, loves Jesus, people, worship, the nations, and Schnitzel! He is married and has three kids and is passionate about inspiring others.