You might say in the first half of Leviticus God establishes the precedent for grace before explaining all the ways in which His grace really does change everything!
With this in mind, not only does it make logical sense this first section of Leviticus begins with seven chapters detailing for us a system of sacrifices to be made at the tabernacle of meeting, but it’s worth noting everything in this book initiates after the burnt offering.
In case you weren’t with us in our exposition of Leviticus 1, the key verse to understanding the purpose for this particular burnt offering is found in verse 4. We read the offerer “shall put his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him.” Before anything else could happen between the sinner and God, “atonement” or literally a covering for sin was required!
In a much larger sense the burnt offering presents for us a perfect illustration of a concept central to our comprehension of this book. You see Leviticus (with all of its rites, rituals, laws, instructions, mandates, demands, edicts, and traditions) never intended to work, but only to establish the framework by which God would work!
In fact, in Galatians 3 Paul will describe the “works of the law” as being a “curse” because no one could actually obey them! A sad commentary of the Old Testament history of the Hebrew people is that you’d be hard-pressed to find more than just a few examples of the people actually attempting to take the instructions of Leviticus and implement them accordingly.
Pertaining to the burnt offering specifically, we read in Hebrews 10:4 that it was “not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.” The New Testament authors are clear and consistently so that there has never been a sacrifice any sinful man could offer that would actually make that individual right with a holy God!
To this very point, in Galatians 2:21 Paul will write plainly that “if your righteousness could come through the law” (meaning if your obedience to the mandates laid out in Leviticus could make you right with God), then Jesus Christ died in vain!” Again, Leviticus never intended to work, but only to establish the framework by which God would work!
If you’re tracking with me this idea leaves us with an important and pressing question… If its never been “possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins” then what exactly was God seeking to accomplish by demanding the burnt offering of so many “bulls and goats?” Not only is this an honest question, but your answer ultimately reveals how you view God and in turn perceive the fundamental nature of the Gospel message.
As we noted two Sundays ago every aspect of the rituals associated with you coming to the tabernacle of meeting to make a burnt offering before a righteous God was designed to illustrate three important truths about what the atonement of your sin really required!
For your sin to be covered… For you to experience forgiveness… For you to be right with God — to enter into a relationship with the Creator your sin separated you from… For you to be made whole and experience a re-creation or rebirth… First, God would have to offer a Sacrifice of incredible cost — He would have to offer a “firstborn male from His flock.”
Secondly, because the only effective sacrifice that could permanently satisfy the righteous demands your sin required — human death, the only perfect and blameless man Jesus would have to endure something ghastly. As illustrated in the burnt offering Jesus had to be slaughtered and killed, His body mutilated and His blood spilt for our atonement.
Finally, when it was all said and done, this entire process for “atonement” necessitated only one thing from the sinner… You have to place your faith in the fact God promised to accept the Sacrifice of His Son — for your sin — on your behalf! “He shall put his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him.” The only guarantee you have is the promise of God’s Word that “it will be accepted!”
I reiterate all of this because the burnt offering had nothing to do with you coming before God in order to consecrate yourself or for that matter offering yourself as a “living sacrifice” as so many teach and in the process muddle up the picture! Instead, the process of this burnt offering intended to illustrate the Sacrifice God would willingly offer for you to atone for your sin so that you might find life in Him!
Leviticus is all about God creating a new people. He’s liberated slaves from Egypt and now He’s imparting to them a new identity. Which explains why before God says anything else He begins Leviticus with the burnt offering in order to establish the framework by which Jesus could “make atonement” for our sin as “the Lamb of God!” Leviticus begins with God making a Sacrifice in order to atone for our sin so that we might actually be His people! Our new identity is only made possible because of His sacrifice and never our own!
It’s not an accident that directly following the burnt offering God transitions to the minchah (min·khä’) offering. In the OKJV this is translated as the meat offering. In the NKJV it’s referenced as the grain offering. And in other modern translations you’ll find it presented as the meal offering. The Hebrew word literally means gift, tribute, oblation, or present.
For our purposes this morning, regardless of how you label the sacrifice, the nature of the offering was to be a response to God of thanksgiving and gratitude. Isn’t that beautiful? Following God’s Sacrifice of grace He proceeds to explain what we can offer in response!
As we did with the burnt offering lets read this entire section before unpacking it… Leviticus 2:1-16, “When anyone offers a grain offering to the LORD, his offering shall be of fine flour. And he shall pour oil on it, and put frankincense on it. He shall bring it to Aaron’s sons, the priests, one of whom shall take from it his handful of fine flour and oil with all the frankincense. And the priest shall burn it as a memorial on the altar, an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the LORD. The rest of the grain offering shall be the priests. It is most holy of the offerings to the LORD made by fire.”
God now explains the three different ways the grain offering could be prepared… Vs. 4, “And if you bring as an offering a grain offering baked in the oven, it shall be unleavened cakes of fine flour mixed with oil, or unleavened wafers anointed with oil.”
Vs. 5, “But if your offering is a grain offering baked in a pan (this would likely be a flat, open-air plate or what we’d call a griddle), it shall be of fine flour, unleavened, mixed with oil. You shall break it in pieces and pour oil on it; it is a grain offering.”
Vs. 7, “If your offering is a grain offering baked in a covered pan (fryer), it shall be made of fine flour with oil. (Depending on how the flour was cooked God gave variances to the preparations.) You shall bring the grain offering that is made of these things to the LORD. And when it is presented to the priest, he shall bring it to the altar.”
Vs. 9, “Then the priest shall take from the grain offering a memorial portion, and burn it on the altar (the whole offering isn’t consumed). It is an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the LORD. And what is left of the grain offering shall be Aaron’s and his sons’. It is most holy of the offerings to the LORD made by fire.”
Vs. 11, “No grain offering which you bring to the LORD shall be made with leaven, for you shall burn no leaven nor any honey in any offering to the LORD made by fire. As for the offering of the firstfruits, you shall offer them to the LORD, but they shall not be burned on the altar for a sweet aroma. (This seems to be a subcategory of the meal offering God — more details about this in a moment.) And every offering of your grain offering you shall season with salt; you shall not allow the salt of the covenant of your God to be lacking from your grain offering. With all your offerings you shall offer salt.”
Vs. 14, “If you offer a grain offering of your firstfruits to the LORD, you shall offer for the grain offering of your firstfruits green heads of grain roasted on the fire, grain beaten from full heads. And you shall put oil on it, and lay frankincense on it. It is a grain offering. Then the priest shall burn the memorial portion: part of its beaten grain and part of its oil, with all the frankincense, as an offering made by fire to the LORD.” (The idea of the firstfruits was to make concessions for how the offering should be prepared when the grain itself was still green and not ready to be made into fine flour.)
Before we get into the specifics and all the interesting details of the text it’s helpful if we first contrast this grain offering with its predecessor — the burnt offering. First, you will notice the word “atonement” is never mentioned and the sacrifice itself is totally void of any blood. Clearly, the purpose of this offering was much different than the burnt offering.
Along that thread, you’ll also notice no animal is included and instead what is offered is directly tied to human efforts and necessitates human involvement. Whether or not the grain manifested from the “firstfruits” of your crop, was harvested from your fields, or purchased it was incumbent upon the individual to prepare the offering themselves.
Aside from this the inclusion of an “oven, pan, or covered pan” meant the offering could be prepared by anyone using whatever means you had at your disposal. As with the variations of the burnt offering God didn’t want anyone to be excluded for economic reasons.
I don’t mean to state the obvious, but it’s also worth pointing out it’s not an accident this meal offering intentionally follows the burnt offering. The ordering suggests God’s Sacrifice to make atonement on our behalf should yield a natural response in our lives back to Him.
That said, like the burnt offering, please notice the grain offering wasn’t mandated. It’s what we call a freewill offering. The amazing thing about the fundamental nature of God’s grace demonstrate by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross to atone for our sin is that it demands nothing in return from the receiver. It’s a gift free of attachment. God’s favor apart from our merit is to be received and enjoyed without the expectation of reciprocation.
And yet, you should note the passage does begin with the presumption that such an offering would naturally follow the burnt offering. Verse 1 opens, “When (not if) anyone offers a grain offering to the LORD!” While religion demands a response to God’s grace with legalism being all to willing to define what that response should be, the real nature of grace is that it frees you of both the demand and the expectation of doing anything by fostering within that person a sincere desire to respond to God’s incredible goodness freely.
You see God’s amazing grace should manifest within the receiver both a thankfulness as well as a genuine desire to give back to Him in response to everything He’s given for them. A mandate to give is replaced with a desire to give. The command to serve is made null because you want to serve Him. God sees no need to demand a response to His grace because your response should be natural, based in your freewill, and forthcoming.
What’s interesting about all of these specific details associated with the grain offering is that it communicates the fact God deeply cares how you respond to His grace! Again, God will go on the record as to how grace should impact the way you interact with others in later chapters, but in this grain offering God is telling us how we should respond to Him in light of His grace — meaning there is a right and a wrong way to respond!
Because we are examining these ideas through a New Testament lens that is post-Calvary, largely Gentile, within the Church-age, no longer possessing of a tabernacle or temple, and the specific rituals largely irrespective of our cultural context… I want to give four examples as to what this grain offering is illustrative of concerning our Christian experience.
First… One of the most basic ways Christians naturally respond to God for His grace (and again we’re not dealing with how grace affects the way we interact with others) is through our worship. In Hebrews 13:15 we read, “Therefore by Jesus let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.”
Secondly… There is the “giving of thanks” to God through our prayer lives. The Apostle Paul would exhort the believers in Ephesus to “give thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus” (Ephesians 5:20). Prayer is much more than the way to bring our requests before the Lord. Our prayers should ooze a thankfulness for His grace.
Thirdly… Service! While service as a response to grace is undoubtedly applicable to the way we interact with others, according to Ephesians 6 our service is actually “to the Lord and not to men.” Taking it one step further, in Hebrews 13:16 we’re told “doing good and sharing” with others is actually a “sacrifice God is well pleased” with — it’s a grain offering to Him.
Lastly… One of the most basic ways Christians naturally respond to God for His grace is by giving! In 2 Corinthians 9 we read, “He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver!”
While giving to meet the practical needs of others ties directly into this, there is an application specific to giving of our material resources to the church we should address. When you tithe to the church not only are you expressing a thankfulness to God for all that He has provided, but you’re making an offering without any measure of control. In a profound sense when you give to the church you’re giving as God gave to you — with no strings attached.
I don’t want to spend to much time on this point… But there is a family in our church that gives handsomely and faithfully to Calvary316. As their pastor and out of a sincere desire to demonstrate a measure of accountability, a few months ago I asked if they wanted a more detailed accounting as to how the church manages the tithes and offerings. Their response was radical, “Nope! Our job is to give faithfully as a response to all that God has given us. Your job is to be a good steward. We’ll both give an account for our roles in heaven.”
Getting back to the text you will notice — as it pertains to this response to His grace — God really cares about the nature of the offering itself… In verse 1 He says the “offering shall be of fine flour, he shall pour oil on it, and put frankincense on it.” Then in verse 13 God adds that “every offering you shall season with salt; you shall not allow the salt of the covenant of your God to be lacking from your grain offering. With all your offerings you shall offer salt.”
For starters, we read how this “offering should be of fine flour.” The picture being presented here is that the flour itself should be void of any and all impurities. It needed to be sifted and pure before being prepped and cooked. While there are those who present this as God demanding your best when you come to make an offering, I think this perspective is off the mark. Keep in mind flour was a daily staple. It was so common everyone irrespective of class or economic status had access to flour to make bread.
The implications of this response offering being “fine flour” I find to be really incredible. You see God wasn’t asking for anything beyond what you already had at your disposal! Beyond this, you’ll notice the amount of “fine flour” wasn’t even specified. This meant the gift itself was to be proportional to what you had to give. How awesome that an offering to God in response to His grace doesn’t have to be elaborate to bring Him pleasure!
While there was nothing inherently unique about the flour, this process of sifting so that it became “fine” and pure was designed to add weight to its underlying purpose. In a sense God is saying, “A response to My grace doesn’t need to be extravagant, just intentional!”
Relating to your response offerings please know you don’t have to go big to be effective! If you’re compelled to start giving, you don’t have to empty the bank account for God to be blessed. Instead, give in proportion to what you have. If you are moved to serve, you don’t have to sell everything you own and move to Africa. You can start simple and come mow the church weeds — I mean lawn. Never forget God is more than ok with “fine flour!”
Also, God says the offerer “shall pour oil on” the flour. Practically speaking we understand olive oil was necessary in the cooking process. Because no “leaven” was to be added (we’ll get to this in a moment) the “unleavened cakes of fine flour” need oil to interact with the heat. No offering of any worth or value could arise without “fine flour” first being “mixed with oil.”
In Old Testament typology “oil” was symbolic of an anointing. Anointing something with oil separated and sanctified that person or thing for a particular purpose. In fact, the very first mention of “oil” in the Scriptures was back in Genesis 28 when Jacob (who’d become Israel) used oil to anoint the place where He’d just received the promises of God for himself.
From the sanctifying of the tabernacle with all of its utensils and furniture, the ordination of the priests, to later the coronation of the kings olive oil was always used with such an intention. It took what was common and made it distinct and special. While this is the first mention of “oil” in Leviticus we will see it referenced another 42 times in 36 verses.
Relating to this anointing, “oil” is also symbolic of the Holy Spirit. In fact, the presence of the Holy Spirit coming upon a person’s life was illustrated through the anointing of oil. In 1 Samuel 16:13 we read how “Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed David in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the LORD came upon him from that day forward.”
The picture being articulated with the oil is really twofold. On one end, adding oil to flour was a way to take the common, anoint it as being special, before separating it from everything else for God’s specific purposes. Aside from this, we also see pictured the profound truth that any response to God’s grace necessitates the involvement of the Holy Spirit.
You see this blending of “oil” with the “flour” illustrates how our common offering (what we have to give) becomes sanctified as the ordinary is mixed with the divine. Our simple gift becomes infused with a supernatural power — it’s cooking! Oil was such an essential component to our response to God that no offering would be accepted without it.
Have you ever been overwhelmed by God’s grace that in response you give back to Him what you have? It’s not much, but something supernatural happens. God takes what little you gave, infuses it with His Spirit, and it yields more than you ever thought possible!
But that’s not all God wanted included… “Frankincense” must also be added to the flour. Frankincense is a white resin that when crushed emits a wonderful fragrance. The first mention of frankincense is found in Exodus 30:34 when God gave Moses the receipt for the incense that was to be burned in the tabernacle in order to fill it with a heavenly aroma.
The idea behind the inclusion of frankincense in this response offering is that the entire purpose for the offering itself was to bless God. As these flour cakes burned the aroma of frankincense mixing with the smell permeating from the Altar of Incense within the tabernacle created this “sweet aroma to the Lord.” Again, a literal aroma of rest for the Lord!
It’s really tragic, but this ends up being where so much of our worship, prayers, service, and giving fall short of the ideal. So often we bring offerings to God in response to His grace, but deep down our intentions are self-seeking as opposed to being God-pleasing!
We judge the success of a time in worship based upon the experience we had or didn’t have. Our prayers end up being relegated to nothing more than a laundry list of demands. We serve to gain status, power, or influence. We give financially, but if we’re honest there are deeper strings attached. Never forget the purpose of such things is to bring God pleasure!
It’s likely this is why God wanted every offering “seasoned with salt!” Not only does salt serve as a preservative, but it also acted as a purifying agent. In ancient times salt was used in field dressing. Salt would kill any bacteria and keep a wound from getting infected.
I take solace in this picture because I find it can be so very hard to completely remove the ill-intent of self from any offering I make! It’s as though God makes a concession for this. “God, I’m coming before you with the sincerest desire to make this offering. I want you to be pleased. And since I don’t trust my own heart I’m smothering this gift in salt to purify it of me!”
Beyond this, the flavor of salt served as a reminder “of the covenant” God had made with His people. In Leviticus 2:13 we read, “You shall not allow the salt of the covenant of your God to be lacking from your grain offering.” I love this… In cover the offering in salt you were intentionally reminding God of something important. “God don’t forget our relationship is based upon Your promises to me and not my ability to actually live up to them! In responding to Your grace I’m wanting to remind You that I’m in desperate need of more of Your grace!”
Aside from what should be included God is also specific as to what should never be apart of a response offering. In verse 11 He says, “No grain offering which you bring to the Lord shall be made with leaven, for you shall burn no leaven nor any honey in any offering to the Lord made by fire.” Within Scripture “leaven” tends to be a picture of sin. Adding yeast to the flour causes it to rise and puff itself up. Leaven is an additive symbolic of corruption, sin and pride.
Though the application of keeping our offering void of these things is rather straightforward, God also excludes “honey” from being added. You see honey was prohibited because it was an artificial sweetener. Additionally, though honey begins sweet it breaks down and sours when heated. Please know God wants your response to His grace to be real. You don’t have to fake it by adding artificial sweetener. Instead, be genuine and authentic.
While the idea of this response offering benefiting the priests is significant (verses 9-10, “The priest shall take from the grain offering a memorial portion, and burn it on the altar… And what is left of the grain offering shall be Aaron's and his sons’), because we’ll address the reasons for this in future studies I want to take a different rout as we close.
On three separate occasions in Leviticus 2 God will instruct the lion-share of this response offering to be given to “Aaron and his sons” after “a memorial portion” was offered to the LORD. Don’t miss this… The grain offering was given to God in response to the grace demonstrated in the burnt offering; and yet, the majority of the offering ends up blessing the high priest and his family. “Uh oh! Zach’s about to justify a shake-down!” No, not at all!
Again… We are the church and not Israel. We don’t meet with God at a tabernacle. Instead, we are living temples filled with His presence. It’s true our response offerings to God look much different than what’s articulated in Leviticus 2. But there is another major difference…
Unlike the Nation of Israel we no longer have or need priests, because we are priests with Jesus acting as our “High Priest” (Hebrews 4:14)! In 1 Peter 2:9 the Apostle writes, “You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people.”
Let me again repeat an important concept… Leviticus never intended to work, but only to establish the framework by which God would work! Leviticus 2 is an incredible passage not only for the practical lessons we’ve already addressed pertaining to the way we respond to God’s grace, but within this chapter (under the surface) we discover a spiritual principle — a law of sorts that dictates the way in which God has ordered things to operate.
According to Leviticus 2 when you respond to God’s grace and make an offering to bless Him, what happens? First, God takes a “memorial portion” and savors it, but the rest of your offering goes where? It goes to bless “Aaron and his sons” — in our case the High Priest (Jesus) and His family of priests (you and I)! This law is why our offerings to the Lord in response to His grace end up boomerang into being a greater blessing for us?
You come before the throne in worship, seasoning your praise in salt, sincerely desiring to bless the Lord, but in the process something else happens… An experience meant to bless God comes all the way back around to bless you! You decide to serve as a response to God’s grace by teaching those little rug-rats in the Kidzone. You’re not doing it to get anything in return, but each Sunday you leave feeling like you received more than you gave!
You choose to make tithing a priority in your life… You know you don’t have to give, but you can’t figure out a good reason you shouldn’t. So you decide as a response to His grace to start offering from your “firstfruits.” What happens? It doesn’t take long for you to discover what Jesus said is actually true… “It really is more blessed to give than to receive.”
Understand… This principle we see in the way our Christian lives operate… This underlying reality that we end up receiving a greater blessing from the offerings we make to bless God exists because of the law of the grain offering established here in Leviticus 2. Amazing!
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