The Grain Offering – Leviticus 2

The grain offering comes after the burnt offering. This should be rather obvious, but just in case… I’m putting it out there. We saw in the burnt offering that the whole point is drawing near to God. If we desire fellowship with God, here is the prescribed way of doing it. Now, the Hebrew word for offering, or sacrifice, is qorban. Here, this offering is bloodless. The Hebrew word translated “grain” is minchah. So we have a qorbin minchah, an offering of grain… Or is it?

In Genesis 4:4, Abel brings an offering before the Lord. Abel’s offering was of the firstborn of the flock – specifically fat portions are mentioned – and the Hebrew word used is minchah. The minchah is thought to specifically be a bloodless sacrifice. Now, how exactly Abel could offer fat portions and it was a bloodless sacrifice, I don’t know. It might be that the word isn’t signifying so much of what kind of offering it is, at least whether there is blood or not, but rather the intention of the offering. This word is used in other places, such as Judges 3:15, Genesis 32:14, or 1 Samuel 10:27, as a gift or a tribute. Is it possible that the grain offering is actually about donation?

When we begin Leviticus 2:1, the reading says grain offering, or meal offering, but maybe God is simply saying, “If you desire to donate a gift because you’ve now been made clean before me, here is how…” The idea of the grain offering comes from the next statement. God prescribes that you bring finely ground flour, and mix it with oil, and you present it upon the altar next to the burnt offering.

This kind of mentality of offering a tribute seems to have an immediate application. The notion has been made that this is supposed to be a bloodless sacrifice. One of the stories that I think of is found in 2 Samuel 16-19. It revolves around King David and a man named Shimei. David’s son Absalom steals the throne. David runs across the river for safety. As David is fleeing, Shimei curses David and throws rocks at him and the men with him. After Absalom dies, David returns as king. Now Shimei has a repentant heart. David’s men ask if they should kill this man who cursed him. David’s response, to paraphrase, is, “I’m now king. Today is a day for celebrating, not for killing. We will shed no blood.” So it is here that we find the idea behind the qorban minchah, that no blood is shed. This is a celebration. We offer tribute to the Lord for our glorious salvation.

What is it that the Lord requires? “His offering should be of fine flour… The priest should take a handful of the fine flour and oil, together with the incense, and burn it as a memorial portion on the altar, an offering made by fire, an aroma pleasing to the Lord.”

Let us compare this with 2 Corinthians 2:15, “For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.” Ephesians 5:2 reads, “Live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” It is most likely that we can interpret Romans 12:1 in this manner: “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercy of God, to lay down your life as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, for this is your spiritual act of worship.” We are to be a minchah.

This fragrant offering consists of fine flour, oil, and incense. In case you hadn’t already come to this conclusion, these are costly things. Even if the person doesn’t buy the flour and oil, the process to make fine flour and the process to make oil are tedious and meticulous. It takes time. It takes devotion. You have to do it just right. These were the days before machinery. In order to grind the flour you actually had to grind it by hand. Typically, you would grind it until it was fine enough, but if there were still clumps and chunks small enough to ignore, good enough. God says that he wants even the small clumps and chunks to be finely ground.

What implications does this have on our lives? If we are to live as fragrant offerings, what might the flour be allegory for? I think the flour represents our daily lives. It represents the way in which we live, our lifestyle. Do we live our lives casually – good enough? Are we inconsistent with our claims? If we claim to be of the Kingdom of God, are we still living in the same manner that we used to live? Are the mindsets and habits and general life principles that we follow learned more from the world, or are they explicitly stemming from the character of the Kingdom of Heaven?

What about the oil? Oil in the Scripture is almost always a symbol of the Holy Spirit. It is anointing. It is about adding moisture, but at the same time this kind of moisture doesn’t get cooked out. When you cook with oil, it helps to keep the food from becoming dry. At the same time, after you’ve cooked the food, the oil will leave a residue. When you eat fried foods with your hands, you have to wipe them off on a napkin… or your pants…

The incense is a symbol of worship and prayer. For example, in Revelation 8:3, we find an angel being given much incense to offer along with the prayers of all the saints before the throne of God.

In Leviticus 2:4, we find that the Lord requires it to be made without yeast. Yeast is a symbol of our sins, our carnality, our soul, and anything else that has not been subjected to the authority of Christ. We do come into the kingdom with baggage, and we know that there is no condemnation in Christ, however we also walk by the Spirit and not by the flesh. To they who are walking according to the Spirit there is no condemnation. 1 John 2:1 says it this way: “I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if you sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense – Jesus Christ the Righteous One.”

We continue through Leviticus 2 and we find that in verse 11 every offering must be made without yeast, and without honey. Honey is a sweetener. God doesn’t desire that we would “doll” ourselves up, and try to become all dignified before entering His presence. We simply come in honesty and sobriety of who we are. Why is this necessary? Well, for some, we could leave it simply at God accepts us as we are. And this is true; for they who need to hear that, please don’t pass this by. But there is indeed another reason to add to that. What happens when you cook with sugars? If you cook them for too long at too high of a heat, they burn. What happens when the sugars burn? They become bitter. If we live out our lives behind a mask, trying to look dignified and happier than we truly are, we find that as life continues and the flames of difficulty surround us, that sweetness only lasts so long. It eventually becomes bitter and full of resentment.

We find in verse 13, “Season all your grain offerings with salt. Do not leave the salt of the covenant of your God out of your grain offerings; add salt to all of your offerings.” Why salt? I instantly think of Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5: “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled on by men.” What is the significance of salt? God calls it “the salt of the covenant”. This particular phrase is used two other times in the Old Testament. In Numbers 18:19, it is also used in context of sacrifices, but in 2 Chronicles 13:5, it is used in context of David’s kingship being established.

First, we need to note that salt is a preservative. Some have considered that the salt is used at the end of an agreement or pact to seal it. Salt doesn’t decay, and so the idea is that as long as this salt is still salt (forever), so this covenant will stand. This preservative, this everlasting ordinance, brings us directly into the eternal covenant. God has established a covenant for all generations. This eternal covenant progresses and gains detail as we continue to read the Scripture, but the inception is found in Genesis 3:15. This one to come out of the womb of the woman, and who shall crush the head of the serpent, is the deliverer, the one who takes us back into Eden – back into the proper relationship between creation and God. We find that this eternal covenant forms into that this one messiah shall be a son of David.

The covenant of salt is about an eternal hope and promise that God will provide a messiah, someone who will rescue us from our sins and will bring us into the presence of God eternally. That messiah is Jesus. Indeed, the word “christ” is the Greek translation of “messiah”. So, to be seasoned with salt is simply to abide in Christ. If we shall lose our saltiness, or, if we shall disconnect from the vine and do our own thing, then how can we be made salty again? The point is about finding our eternal hope in Christ Jesus, and staking everything upon that hope. For, “suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame.” Shame is the result of the fall (Genesis 2:25, 3:10). But in Christ we are clothed; we shall not be put to shame.

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