Last week, we looked at the burnt offering, the purpose of which was for a person to be accepted before the Lord, to have atonement - his sin covered. This week, we look at chapter 2, the description of the grain offering.
As with all five of the offerings listed in the first chapters of Leviticus, we are looking at five specific things: The purpose of the offering, the price that it cost the worshipper, the procedure followed, the personal application for us, and the picture or portrait of Christ to be found in the offering.
Here we have the grain offering. If your Bible says "meat offering," you should understand that in King James english, "meat" simply meant "meal or grain." Truth be told, this is the only offering that doesn't include meat (as in the flesh of an animal).
But the words here do not even mean "grain offering." In Hebrew, this is the "min-KHAW koor-BAWN." "Min-KHAW" means "a gift, an offering, a tribute." "Koor-BAWN" means "an offering." The translation of this term would more accurately be "the offering offering," or "the gift offering."
So What was the purpose of this grain offering? Its purpose was as a memorial offering to God. It was an acknowledgement of the Lord as the provider. it was also a dedication of the worshipper to God - a commitment to serve God, an offering of the worshipper's service to Him.
The attitude behind the offering is perfectly illustrated by King David in 1Chronicles 29. Remember that David was not allowed by the Lord to build the temple, but he was able to gather the riches and materials necessary for his son Solomon to build it. When the people offered materials willingly, David blessed God and prayed,
1Chr. 29:14-16 "...All things come from Thee, and from Thy hand we have given Thee. For we are sojourners before Thee, and tenants, as all our fathers were; our days on the earth are like a shadow, and there is no hope. O LORD our God, all this abundance that we have provided to build Thee a house for Thy holy name, it is from Thy hand, and all is Thine.
We see the need to give to God, to serve God, and the acknowledgement that He has first given these things and abilities to us.
The price of the grain offering was fine flour or grain, oil, frankincense or incense, and salt. Notice that there are no amounts listed here. People were to give of what they had, regardless of whether the amount was great or small. Remember that God had made this provision in the burnt offering as well, in that they could offer a bull, a lamb or goat, or turtledoves or pigeons.
The procedure for offering the grain offering varied.
1) You could mix fine flour and oil into dough and put frankincense on it (verse 1).
2) You could also bake it in an oven into cakes or wafers spread with oil (verse 4).
3) If you chose, another option would be to cook it on a flat griddle, then break it into bits and pour oil on them (verses 5-6).
4) You could also fry the flour and oil dough in a frying pan (verse 7).
5) The final option (verses 14-16) was to roast fresh heads of grain in fire, then put oil and incense on it.
However you prepared it, part of it was burned in the altar, and the rest was for the priests. We see that all through the Levitical system, the priests lived on portions of what the people brought in. When Nehemiah was at Jerusalem overseeing the rebuilding of the wall around Jerusalem, he wrote,
Neh. 13:10-12 I also discovered that the portions of the Levites had not been given them, so that the Levites and the singers who performed the service had gone away, each to his own field. So I reprimanded the officials and said, "Why is the house of God forsaken?" Then I gathered them together and restored them to their posts. All Judah then brought the tithe of the grain, wine, and oil into the storehouses.
The people had not been bringing offerings or tithes to support their ministers. To survive, the Levite priests and singers had to work outside the temple in their fields. Nehemiah was angry about this and reprimanded the people.
This same principle of support continues into the church. Remember that Paul writing to the Corinthians said,
1Cor. 9:14 ...the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel.
It is the basic rule of servants. As with every household, those who serve should be supported by those whom they are serving.
Now, how does the grain offering apply to us in 1998? Do I need to go bake bread or make pancakes for God? No. But the ideas behind the offering are just as valid today as they were 3,500 years ago. How do I worship God in thanksgiving for all He has given to me? How can I offer my service to Him? The grain offering instructs us how.
Notice that no matter how it was cooked, the grain offering always included oil. Oil mixed in it, oil poured on it, oil spread across it. Oil in Scripture is a symbol or picture of the Holy Spirit. When we give to God what He was first given to us, it cannot be in or of the flesh. It must be in and by the Spirit of God. Everything that I offer to God must be with the Spirit, just as every version of the grain offering had to be with oil.
In the book of Zechariah, where we see the picture of the Holy Spirit as oil, the word of the Lord is given to Zerubbabel,
Zech. 4:6 ..."'Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,' says the LORD of hosts."
Nothing we truly offer to God can be of the strength of our flesh - it must be by the power and leading of His Holy Spirit.
Before being offered to God, one or both of two things had to happen. The offering either had to have frankincense on it, or it had to be changed in heat - be it the oven, the griddle, the pan, or the roasting.
Frankincense in Scripture speaks of intercessory prayer. Remember David in Psalm 141 saying,
Ps. 141:2 May my prayer be counted as incense before Thee...
And in Revelation 5, we read of...
Rev. 5:8 ...golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.
So incense speaks of intercessory prayer. It is when we forget about praying, "God give me this. God bless me with that. God take care of this situation that I'm dealing with." and begin to pray, "Lord, take care of this person." "Lord, please provide for that ministry." "Lord, I ask that you would bring so-and-so to salvation."
The heat of fire speaks of fiery trials. Remember Peter encourages us,
1Pet. 4:12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you;
Many people figure that they're going to serve God when things settle down. When their lives stop being so problematic. But when we present ourselves to God, odds are we will be in the midst of fiery trials.
When we come to God, in praise or offering of service, we will be interceding in prayer, enduring through trials, or both.
All but the last recipe required fine flour. Remember that flour was not something you went to Safeway to buy. it was ground by hand - beating and crushing the grain in a rock bowl. Because of the coarse result, God asking for fine flour meant a lot of extra time involved. This wasn't some (pardon the expression) half-baked offering. He was requiring their best effort.
God expects no less of us today. You can imagine how you'd feel if I just studied for five or ten minutes before teaching the Word to you. You can imagine how you'd feel if your spouse waited until the last minute to buy you a birthday card and got one that said, "Happy Birthday to a Special Co-Worker!" God wants your best effort in what you offer Him.
Salt is a common, yet difficult to understand, theme in the Bible. What does salt symbolize? In Judges 9 we read that...
Judg. 9:45 ...Abimelech fought against the city all that day, and he captured the city and killed the people who were in it; then he razed the city and sowed it with salt.
Abimelech sowed the city with salt so that nothing could be grown there anymore. Scripturally, salt acts as a restrainer.
Then we see something else about salt in 2Kings 2. Elisha comes to the city of Jericho, and the men of the city tell him,
2Kgs. 2:19-21 "...The situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord sees; but the water is bad, and the land is unfruitful." And he said, "Bring me a new jar, and put salt in it." So they brought it to him. And he went out to the spring of water, and threw salt in it and said, "Thus says the LORD, 'I have purified these waters; there shall not be from there death or unfruitfulness any longer.'"
So wee see also that salt is a purifier. To be the salt of the earth then is to be a restrainer of evil and a purifier. In the New Testament, salt speaks of this restraining and purifying relationship to ourselves, one another, and the world. Jesus said,
Matt. 5:13 "You are the salt of the earth..."
He also told the disciples.
Mark 9:50 "...Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another."
We are to keep evil from growing. We are to be purifying ourselves and others. Paul told the Colossians,
Col. 4:6 Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned, as it were, with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person.
So in everything we give to God, we are to have salt.
There was to be no leaven in these offerings. Yeast, as we've talked about so many times before, causes bread to rise by corruption and fermentation. Leaven is always used as a picture of sin in Scripture.
In 1Corinthians 5, Paul said,
1Cor. 5:6-8 Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough? Clean out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
Jesus warned His disciples against the leaven of the Pharisees, which was hypocrisy - outward righteousness and inward wickedness.
So when we acknowledge God as our perfect provider, and offer our lives to Him in service, it must be without leaven - without sin of malice, pride, and hypocrisy.
Notice too that they were not to include any honey in their offering. The land God was leading them to was a land flowing with milk and honey. The manna that fell from heaven every morning tasted like wafers with honey. Honey is obviously naturally sweet and savory. So why did God specifically say not to include it in the grain offering?
Because when we come to God to offer our service to Him, He has no desire for our natural sweetness. Charismatic personalities don't matter. A great sense of humor, a winning smile, none of that matters to God. Remember John the Baptist saying,
John 3:30 "He must increase, but I must decrease."
He wants the work to be less of you, not more.
Now, in this offering, like all the others, we see a picture of Christ. As fine flour, He was "grown" on this earth, then crushed. Crushed for our iniquities.
In the oil, we see that Jesus did things in the power of the Spirit, He was born of the Spirit, He was filled with the Spirit, and He was led by the Spirit. The oil of the Holy Spirit was in and upon everything He did.
In the frankincense, we see that He makes intercession for us.
Hebr. 7:25 ...He is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.
In the lack of leaven, we see His sinlessness.
2Cor. 5:21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf
1Pet. 2:22 WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH
In the lack of honey, we see that He had no natural sweetness or charisma. This might sound terrible to you, but Isaiah prophesied of Him,
Isa. 53:2 ...He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.
And in the grain offering as a whole, we see that we have a variety of ways to serve God, to thank and praise Him, but we must do it through the mediation of our great grain offering, Jesus Christ.