(A) The instructions on the uncooked grain offering: fine flour or firstfruits with oil and frankincense (v1-3, 14-16)
In the instruction for the grain offering, it can come in three forms -- broadly, cooked and uncooked. Let us examine the fine flour grain offering in verses 1-3. We notice a few things about the specifications:
|What is it to be made from? (v.1a)||Firstly, it was to be made of "fine flour" (v.1a). What is so special about it? Firstly, flour is made from grain, a symbol of the harvest. For an agrarian society, the harvest and the grain offerings were a reminder of seasonal changes, and therefore, the God of the harvest who sets the sun, moon and stars in their courses above. Furthermore, like the burnt offerings, God did not accept just any flour. God does not accept accept casual offerings, because God is not a casual God. The people could not come in any way they wanted, and certainly could not come with their second best items.|
|What accompanies it? (v.1b)||The offering was to be acompanied with oil and frankincense. Note that the oil and frankincense accompanied the ones for the memorial portion (v.2) while only oil accompanies the portion for Aaron and sons (v.3).|
|To whom should the offering be presented to? (v.2a)||The people had to present it to Aaron and his sons, i.e. the priests. They needed a priest, and could not offer it up by themselves. It meant that if the priests were not available, they would have to wait for their offering to be presented. They could not approach God in worship on their own, but needed a priest to mediate.|
|What will be done to it? (v.2)||A portion of the fine flour would be burnt, and there was a pleasing aroma because of the frankincense.|
|What is the rest of it used for? (v.3)||The rest of the offering would go to the priests.|
What principles can we learn from the minhah? At a practical level, we see how this is a means of provision for the priests, who belonged to the tribe of Levi. In Num 18:20, we are told that this tribe was not allocated land as part of their inheritance, as God himself was their inheritance. Thus, the portion of the grain offerings was a way of providing for the priests. It also meant that the society was made to see the importance of this sacrificial system. Frankincense was also costly, thus a reminder that worship was not to be taken lightly, and is also costly. The use of oil served not just a practical purpose, but in the Old Testament, oil is used for anointing and is symbolic of the work and presence of the Holy Spirit (c.f. 1 Sam 16:13) and is also a symbol of joy (c.f. Prov 27:9). The Israelites were given a physical picture of a spiritiual reality -- that God's spirit was there to receive this offering.
Verses 14 to 16 show us another type of uncooked grain offering that the Israelites can offer. These are the offerings of firstfruits, and this offering is subject to a similar treatment as the grain offerings above. What does this mean? Prov 3:9-10 reminds us that these offerings are important not because God needs it. He does not actually require the people to provide for Him by bringing these offerings. Rather, He desires that we honor Him (c.f. Prov 3:9). Is this how we think about God and these offerings? Often, we have stripped God down to a caricature that we are comfortable with -- that He is a fussy God who needs our offerings. As a result, so many of us are not actually coming before the God of the Bible in worship, but are essentially worshipping an image of God that we desire. Maybe that's why we don't do our QT, or find trouble praying or have a sluggish walk -- because we are worshipping our own idea of God and not God Himself. We are all guilty of domesticating God, and we need His help to see Him, and take our eyes above the humdrum of our circumstances. Leviticus 2 remind us that the Israelites came with their offering because they saw a real God. Do you?
(B) The instruction on the cooked grain offering: prepared unleavened with oil and without honey (v4-13)
Next, we are told that there are three types of cooked grain offerings that can be prepared. They can be prepared in the oven (v.4), griddle (v.5) and pan (v.7). Like the burnt offerings in chapter 1, there were provisions for different folks who had different circumstances and resources. Yet despite the variety, God insisted on standards to be met and maintained. He still required them to prepare for worship and offering. What can we learn from this? One simple lesson is for us to recognise the diversity in God's family! How do we view others in our community? Do we recognise that there are different people with different circumstances in God's family?
Notice also that these are common everyday items and processes that take place in the kitchen. It reminds us that commonplace actions can be made holy too. Worship is for all of life, and God has designed His own worship in such a way that was not merely a sacrosanct ritual and practice, but also belonged to to daily household routines. It is an important lesson even for us that the heart of the worshipper is not just bound by place, but simply, worship was to take place in all of life. How does this change the way we go to work or school or stay at home? What are our hearts like as we interact with friends, students, colleagues, family members?
Verses 11 to 13 provide additional instructions about how leaven and honey should be omitted, and salt should be added. In Gal 5:7-9, we see how leaven is a picture of sin, and like how a tiny amount is able to affect the whole dough, so it is with sin. Sin is able to corrupt and change through and through, and no such contamination should be present in an offering to a holy God. In verse 13, they were told to season their offerings with salt, and reference was made to the "salt of the covenant". Leaven and honey were agents of decomposition, and this was in contrast to salt, which was a common agent of preservation of that time. Salt was also a symbol in every covenant that is made, and thus the phrase "salt of the covenant" was meant to convey the permanent nature of the covenant with God. We see how God uses these word pictures to communicate these theological truths to them. Their offerings were to be pure, and it was on the basis of his covenantal, never-stopping, unbreakable love and faithfulness to them.
How then, do we come before God? We know that on our own we always come with leaven and honey, an impure offering before a holy God. But dear friends, if you are a Christian, never forget that we we do not come on the basis of our own goodness! We come, and are accepted by God because of what Jesus has done. He has achieved not only our salvation, but has also made our worship before the Father possible, and He is our way to the Father. How are you coming before God today? Do you still come trying to bring an unleavened offering, or do you come before God through Christ?
(C) The meaning of the grain offering: offering costly thanksgiving and worship to God
The minhah is essentially a thanksgiving offering of devotion and wholehearted worship. The Greek equivalent is thysia describing grain offerings, and this idea continues in the New Testament.
In 1 Cor 9:13-14, Paul speaks about giving to the ministry of the gospel, and lays it out clearly, saying, "In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel" (v.14). This is similar to how the priests were provided for through the grain offerings, and this is how God continues to design the livelihood for ministers of the gospel. What does this mean for us? It is a simple command to give regularly in church, whether we are students or working. Our monetary offerings support the work and ministry of the gospel.
In Rom 12:1-2, we read of how the grain offering is not just the physical body of the believer, but also involves the mind. God demands a total transformation,total offering and worship. He care about our hearts. Not only that, in Rom 15:15-16, Paul writes about how the Gentiles are to be the offering! We are not only to present ourselves before God, but we are to minister to those around us by presenting the gospel to them and establishing them in maturity! This is the pleasing aroma!
How are we able to offer our own costly thanksgiving and worship? How can we be motivated to give up our money, time and energy and pour our hearts into the lives of others, and giving our lives to His purposes? The truths of Paul's words in Gal 2:20 ring true for our lives -- "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." We have one who loved us, and offered Himself in our stead, like bread that is broken as an offering (c.f. Lev 2:6). We have been crucified with this Christ, and He lives in us, such that we no longer live for ourselves, but live by faith in Him. What, then, are we offering up to the Lord? Are we offering a fragrant sacrifice, one unleavened and seasoned with salt or are we still holding on to one aspect of your past or future and giving Him only the second best?