One of the most famous (and most important) verses in the Bible are found in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work." We look to this verse to understand the inspiration of the Scriptures. All that we hold in our hands has been "breathed out by God." All that we hold in our hands is helpful and profitable to train us all in godliness. What we hold in our lap is the very word of God. We can trust it. We can be trained by it. We can live by it.
Now, if you would go back into the context of 2 Timothy 2 and read, you would find that Paul wasn't talking about our Bibles. Or, more correctly, Paul wasn't talking about the entirety of our Bibles. Rather, he was talking about the Old Testament. He was talking about the sacred writings that Timothy learned from his mother and grandmother in his youth. Now, certainly, by extension, certainly, it applies to both Old and New Testaments. But here, Paul was talking about the Old Testament. And one of the books in the Old Testament that is included in this statement is the book of Leviticus, that we have been studying in recent weeks. "[Leviticus] is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work."
My hope and prayer in preaching through Leviticus is that it would teach us; that it would correct us; that it would train us in godliness and in righteousness. Our text this morning covers Leviticus chapter 2, "the grain offering." Now, unlike most of the offerings in the book of Leviticus, the grain offering is a bloodless offering. It's an offering of grain, not meat.
If you have a King James Version of the Bible in your lap, you will see that this is called, "the meat offering" throughout the chapter. This is a case of the archaic language of 400 years ago. The translators used "meat" in terms of "eating" as in "food." This is the "food" offering. It's clear as you read this chapter, that the offering is of grain. The particular type of grain is not mentioned. That's because it doesn't matter. The grain offering came from whatever crops they were growing. Corn or wheat or barley or rye. So, let's read about this offering.
"When anyone brings a grain offering as an offering to the Lord, his offering shall be of fine flour. He shall pour oil on it and put frankincense on it and bring it to Aaron's sons the priests. And he shall take from it a handful of the fine flour and oil, with all of its frankincense, and the priest shall burn this as its memorial portion on the altar, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the Lord. But the rest of the grain offering shall be for Aaron and his sons; it is a most holy part of the Lord's food offerings.
"When you bring a grain offering baked in the oven as an offering, it shall be unleavened loaves of fine flour mixed with oil or unleavened wafers smeared with oil. And if your offering is a grain offering baked on 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. And if your offering is a grain offering cooked in a pan, it shall be made of fine flour with oil. 8 And 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. And the priest shall take from the grain offering its memorial portion and burn this on the altar, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the Lord. But the rest of the grain offering shall be for Aaron and his sons; it is a most holy part of the Lord's food offerings.
"No grain offering that you bring to the Lord shall be made with leaven, for you shall burn no leaven nor any honey as a food offering to the Lord. As an offering of firstfruits you may bring them to the Lord, but they shall not be offered on the altar for a pleasing aroma. You shall season all your grain offerings with salt. You shall not let the salt of the covenant with your God be missing from your grain offering; with all your offerings you shall offer salt.
"If you offer a grain offering of firstfruits to the Lord, you shall offer for the grain offering of your firstfruits fresh ears, roasted with fire, crushed new grain. And you shall put oil on it and lay frankincense on it; it is a grain offering. And the priest shall burn as its memorial portion some of the crushed grain and some of the oil with all of its frankincense; it is a food offering to the Lord.
Let's begin by looking at my first point:
This chapter breaks nicely into four sections. The first section is found in verses 1-3. It describes the uncooked offering--fine flour, oil, and frankincense.
The second section is found in verses 4-10. It describes the cooked offering. The cooked offering may be baked in the oven (verse 4). It may be baked on a griddle (verse 5). It may be cooked in a pan (verse 7). Like the uncooked offering, its recipe is similar: fine flour and oil. But this time, no frankincense is added.
The third section is found in verses 11-13. This section gives some more explicit directions upon the ingredients of the grain offering. It must have no leaven (verse 11). It must have no honey (verse 11). It must have salt (verse 13).
The final section speaks of the offering of firstfruits, verses 14-16. The firstfruits offering comes from fresh ears and from the new grain (verse 14).
The protocol for this sacrifice was much the same as for the burnt offering. The worshiper would bring his offering to the priest, who would, in turn, offer it up in smoke before the LORD. Like the burnt offering (that we looked at last week), the grain offering is burned up on the same altar on the east side of the courtyard, just as you enter through the curtain. However, unlike the burnt offering, only a portion of the grain offering is burned on the altar.
In fact, only a small portion of the grain offering is burned on the altar. Look there at verse 2, "... and he shall take from it a handful of the fine flour and oil, with all of its frankincense, and the priest shall burn this as its memorial portion on the altar." You see only a handful burned up as a "memorial portion" -- that is, a representative portion of the grain offering with which the worshiper and priest would be reminded that the grain being brought is the LORD's. The rest of the offering is to be food for the priests. Look at verse 3, "But the rest of the grain offering shall be for Aaron and his sons."
This is the way that God determined to take care of the priests. They weren't farmers. They weren't hand crafters. They weren't engaged in business. They didn't raise animals. They had no means whereby they could earn money to sustain themselves and their families. Because, they were busy taking care of the tabernacle and the sacrifices that were offered upon the altar. The matters of the tabernacle was the job of the Levites. And God determined that one way that they would be supported would be through taking a portion of the offerings to use for themselves.
It wasn't only the grain offerings that would work this way. The peace offerings would work this way (Leviticus 7:15). A portion would be burned and a portion would be eaten. The sin offerings would work this way (Leviticus 6:26). A portion would be burned and a portion would be eaten. The guilt offerings would work this way (Leviticus 7:7). A portion would be burned and a portion would be eaten.
Now, there is a parallel between these sacrifices and the way that the church of Christ works. Turn over to 1 Corinthians, chapter 9. Let's look at verses 13-14, ...
1 Corinthians 9:13-14
Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.
Do you see the parallel? It's right there in verse 14, "in the same way." Just as the Levites devoted themselves completely to the work of the Lord and were supported by the Lord's people, so also are there ministers of the gospel who devote themselves completely to the work of the Lord and are supported by the Lord's people.
Now, obviously, the mechanisms are different. Because Christ has come and has become our perfect sacrifice, we no longer need to bring our bulls and goats and grain to the Lord, some of which is burned and the rest is eaten. No, instead the offering to the Lord usually comes by way of financial gifts.
This is what we do at Rock Valley Bible Church. My life is completely devoted to being a minister of the gospel. And you all support me and my family in the work. We have an offering box in the back, in which are placed cash and checks. Our family lives off of the money that you all place in that box. We purchase groceries from the money that comes from that box. We purchase clothes from the money that comes from that box. We purchase gas from the money that comes from that box. We pay for our electric bill and telephone bill from money that comes from that box. We are able to enjoy vacation from money that comes from that box. We pay for blankets and books and pens and paper and toothpaste and tuition and school supplies and furnace filters and coca-cola. It all comes from that box in the back of our auditorium.
And we are so thankful to all of you who have given so graciously to meet our needs. At Rock Valley Bible Church, we have never lacked. God has been faithful. We are thankful to God for all of you.
The principle comes in 1 Corinthians 9:11: "If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you." Galatians 6:6 has a similar idea: "Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches." I have sought to sow spiritual things among you. You have allowed us to reap material things from you. We are grateful to God.
But, your gifts to the church don't only go to the Brandon family. No, they go to support the entire operation of our church. They go to Tina, who faithfully administrates many things for the church. On a weekly basis, she serves us all by chugging out administrative detail work. On occasion, she organizes events as needed (like Guess Who's Coming To Dinner which is happening next week). She maintains the photo-directory (if you call Rock Valley Bible Church your home, you should get a picture to her). She does work helping to organize Vacation Bible School each summer. I'm thankful to God for all the work that she does for us at the church. We compensate her for her work.
Lance works to clean the church each week. I'm thankful for his steady, faithful work. We compensate him for his time.
We have building costs. Heating, air conditioning, supplies, repairs, improvements. These all take money. And you all have given to support this work. As the church has helped you spiritually, you have helped the church physically. I'm thankful for your faithfulness in giving to this work. Without your faithful giving, our church would simply not be here. Your giving to the Lord's work is like the grain offering. It supports the work of Rock Valley Bible Church.
Let's turn back to Leviticus 2. One thing that I want for you to see here is that your giving to this church is giving to the LORD. On a purely human level, your giving to this church is not unlike any other non-profit organization. You identify a good cause, which is really helping people. And you give to that cause, to help them in the work. You can deduct your giving from your income. People are benefitted.
I remember during my days in the secular workplace in information technology. I recall a series of conversations that I had at work with a fellow co-worker. He was arguing that the church is like any other human institution. People gave to its cause. The donations were, in turn, used to benefit themselves. That's it. Nothing else is going on. It's no different than the Rotary or the Moose club down the street. But, in giving to the church, there is another dynamic going on. You are, in fact, giving to the LORD.
Notice how the grain offering is described. Verse 1 says, "When anyone brings a grain offering as an offering to the LORD, ..." Verse 8 says, "and you shall bring the grain offering that is made of these things to the LORD, ..." Verse 11 says, "No grain offering that you bring to the LORDshall be made with leaven." And verse 12 says, "As an offering of firstfruits you may bring them to the LORD, ..." And again in verse 14, "If you offer a grain offering of firstfruits to the LORD, ..." and 15, "... it is a food offering to the LORD."
Though on a human level, the Israelites were giving of their food to the priests (after a little bit was offered up in smoke), in a very real way they were giving to the LORD. And in the same way, when you give to the church, when you are giving to the Lord's work, you are giving to the Lord!
The Lord knows what you give. The Lord is pleased with what you give. Verse 2 calls it, "a pleasing aroma to the LORD." And verse 9 says the same: "a pleasing aroma to the LORD." And so, I would encourage you to be generous. "Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal" (Matthew 6:20). For your own good, be generous.
At this point it would be good to point out that a grain offering can be an acceptable offering before the LORD. I have often heard of how Cain's offering (Genesis 4:1-7) wasn't accepted, because his offering didn't contain blood, whereas the offering that Abel brought was a blood sacrifice. But, the presence of the grain offering in Leviticus 2 tells us that a grain offering is entirely appropriate to offer to the LORD.
So, you ask, "Then, why was Abel's offering accepted, but Cain's rejected?" I believe that the best clue comes in Hebrews 11:4, "By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts." We see the writer to the Hebrews bringing up the issue of faith as the way through which Abel's offering was accepted. We might easily conclude that Cain's offering didn't come with faith. Perhaps this is why Cain's offering was rejected.
Furthermore, you get a hint of this when reading Genesis 4. After offering the sacrifice, Cain "was very angry, and his countenance fell" (Genesis 4:5). The LORD then said to Cain, "Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it" (Genesis 4:6-7). God is placing a choice before Cain. If he conquers the sin, he would be accepted. But, alas, he succombed to sin and killed his brother.
It seems to be clear that it was the sin in Cain's heart that caused God to reject his sacrifice, not the fact that he brought a grain offering and not a burnt offering.
This comes as a warning to us. When we give to the LORD, it's important that we come with a proper heart of faith to the LORD.
The ingredients of the offerings. This is where there is much curiosity. This is where there are many questions. This, quite frankly, is where I don't have a lot of answers. Because, I think that many of the "answers" tend to be mere speculation at best. Furthermore, it may just be that there are no answers to these questions.
For instance, suppose that someone asks you what your favorite meal is. I know for me, my favorite meal is something we call, "Chinese Steak." It's a (sort of) Chinese meal served with rice and beef chunks and tomato slices and pea pods and this special sauce that I really like. Yvonne often makes it for my birthday.
Now, if you would ask me, "Why are those ingredients special to you?" My answer is, "I don't know. It's simply what I like. It's what I prefer for my birthday dinner." Do I need any more of an answer than this?
And may it be with the LORD that there is a similar answer to why these ingredients are to be included (and no other)? May it be that the LORD simply likes worship to be this way? It's an open question for us to ponder.
Anyway, the first ingredient given in the grain offering is "fine flour." That's simply crushed up grain. This simply means that the worshipers would have put some labor into their sacrifices. They weren't to bring the whole grain to the LORD. They were to grind it until it was a fine powder.
Each of the offerings contained oil. Perhaps this was to give the flour some consistency so it would clump together. Fine flower alone would simply blow away in the breeze. Remember, this sacrifice took place outside.
Note that the frankincense (in verse 2) only comes in the uncooked offering and would be entirely burned up upon the altar. Verse 2, "... And he shall take from it a handful of the fine flour and oil, with all of its frankincense, and the priest shall burn this as its memorial portion on the altar." Frankincense isn't even mentioned in any of the cooked offerings (verses 4-10).
So, here's the question: Why did the LORD give these details for the burnt offering? I don't know. Better yet, I'm not sure that we ought to go looking for symbolism at every turn in the book of Leviticus.
Now, in preparing for my message this morning, I listened to several preachers who sought to take each of the ingredients and explain how they point to Jesus. The fine flour represents Jesus, who has no inconsistency in Him. The oil represents the Holy Spirit, who anoints His people. The frankincense represents the loveliness of Christ, as the lovely fragrance would be evident to all. But, such interpretations go a bit far for me.
Of anything I see here is that it's a simple offering. You can't find a recipe that more simple than two ingredients--flour and oil. Really, you add a third, salt (verse 13). It doesn't get much simpler than this. Flour, oil, and salt. Some uncooked; some cooked. And as elaborate as God has decreed His worship to be, fundamentally there is really a simplicity about it. This is one of the most simple recipes that you could have. Flour, oil, and salt (cooked or uncooked).
This reminds me of the gospel and how simple it really is. When we come to God, it isn't elaborate ritual; it isn't the right set of mantras that we chant; it isn't the right words that we sing. It's simply this: "If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved" (Romans 10:9). It's this: "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved" (Acts 16:31). It is this: "Repent and believe in the gospel" (Mark 1:15). Acknowledge God as holy. Confess your own sin before Him. Turn from your sin. Believe in Jesus Christ, the Savior. Follow your Lord, seeking His strength. That's it! That's the gospel! It's so simple that even a child can believe. So also is this grain offering simple. Flour, oil, and salt (cooked or uncooked).
Well, to get an idea of what we are talking about, Yvonne cooked up some of this last night. If you simply mix these three ingredients, you get sort of a gooey ball. If you cook them, you get "wafers" (verse 4) which are more like tortilla shells. The uncooked isn't very good. But, the cooked is really quite good.
Now, there were two ingredients that were prohibited: leaven and honey. Verse 11 instructs, "No grain offering that you bring to the LORD shall be made with leaven, for you shall burn no leaven nor any honey as a food offering to the LORD."
Let's deal with the honey first. Then, we'll get to the leaven. Why not honey? I heard several preachers say some pretty different things. One said that honey is syrupy sweet (something that Jesus never was). Another said that honey ferments (which breaks down food--Jesus never was engaged in such an evil). Another said that is natural sweetness, as opposed to sugar, which is manufactured sweetness (this points us away from being naturally sweet in and of ourselves. We need Jesus to make us sweet).
Here's what I think about the prohibition to including honey: I don't know. Better yet: we don't know. I would rather not speculate.
When it comes to the leaven, I heard several pastors speak of the evils of leaven. Some even went so far as to say that leaven always represents evil. Remember Jesus who said, "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees" (Matthew 16:6), meaning the permeating influence of the Pharisees and Sadducees. "See," they say, "leaven is evil." However, you have a problem with such a statement, because verse 12 says that it is permissible to bring both honey and leaven in the offering of firstfruits. "As an offering of firstfruits you may bring them to the LORD, but they shall not be offered on the altar for a pleasing aroma" (Lev 2:12). Furthermore, in Leviticus 23:17, 20 the bread to be brought as firstfruits during the feast of weeks was required to have leaven. Furthermore, in Hezekiah's day, honey was presented in their offering of the firstfruits.
If anything, perhaps that the issue with the leaven and the honey has to do with the burning on the altar. It was permissible to bring it at other times. Just don't burn it on the altar. Why? I don't know. The best that I can do is quote from Gordon Wenham's commentary:
No rationale for the ban on the use of yeast in sacrifice is provided in the Bible. Most commentators reckon that yeast and honey were prohibited because they cause fermentation. This they believe was unacceptable because it suggested corruption. Another explanation is that yeast is a living organism and only dead things could be burned on the altar in sacrifice." 
If there's no clear explanation given in the Bible, let us leave it alone.
Well, let's move onto the last required ingredient in the grain offering: salt. We read about it in verse 13. Listen to how emphatic Moses was about the salt. He makes three statements:
You shall season all your grain offerings with salt. You shall not let the salt of the covenant with your God be missing from your grain offering; with all your offerings you shall offer salt.
God was saying, "Salt. You need salt. Don't forget the salt." I'd be inclined to say that the salt was simply added for flavor (for the sake of the priests) Without salt, these grain offerings would taste quite poorly. However, we have a clue regarding the significance of the salt. Look again at the middle statement, "You shall not let the salt of the covenant with your God be missing from your grain offering" (verse 13).
This "salt of the covenant" is mentioned in two other places in Scripture: Numbers 18:19; 2 Chronicles 13:5. I want to consider these two verses with you. There is a common thread that is helpful to us.
In Numbers 18:19, God is speaking to Aaron regarding the leftovers of the sacrifices that he and his family may eat. We read, "All the holy contributions that the people of Israel present to the LORD I give to you, and to your sons and daughters with you, as a perpetual due. It is a covenant of salt forever before the LORD for you and for your offspring with you" (Numbers 18:19).
And in 2 Chronicles 13:4-5, we read of Abijah's exhortation to Jeroboam, confronting him of his rebellious ways. He said, "Here me O Jeroboam and all Israel! Ought you not to know that the LORD God is Israel gave the kingship over Israel forever to David and his sons by a covenant of salt?"
In both instances where this "covenant of salt" is mentioned in the Bible, there are allusions to the eternal covenant relationship that the LORD has with his people. In Numbers 18:19, the "covenant of salt forever" was a promise God made with Aaron to be faithful to his priests forever. In 2 Chronicles 13:5, the covenant of salt was a promise God made with David to be faithful to his kings forever.
There is this enduring, forever quality about salt. You really can't burn it up. It will remain forever as a residue on the altar, as a reminder of God's faithfulness forever. And as we look to the ingredients in this sacrifice, it is the salt that points us to the enduring quality of the gospel.
Not only is it simple (in that the ingredients are few). It is also powerful in that it endures. The priesthood endures forever through Jesus. The kingdom of David endures forever through Jesus. And all who place their trust in Him will know eternal life. "And this is the promise that he made to us--eternal life" (1 John 2:25). "I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever" (John 6:51). Believe in Jesus, and your hope is an eternal hope. Just as the salt of the earth never fades away, so the promise of our Lord never fades away.
Like the ingredients, there are questions here about the meaning of the grain offering, because there is no real explanation given here in Leviticus 2. You remember the purpose statement of the burnt offering came in verse 4 of chapter 1: "He shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him." The burnt offering was given to deal with our sin. But, no such purpose clause is given here for the grain offering.
So, in order to determine its significance, you need to go to other places in the Scripture to see how the grain offering is used. And the interesting thing that you will find is this: the vast majority of times that the grain offering is mentioned, it is usually following the burnt offering. Last week, I mentioned all of the different types of burnt offerings. The daily offering. The weekly offering. The monthly offerings. The yearly offerings at the festivals: Passover, the Feast of Weeks, the Feast of Trumpets, Feast of Booths.
And with every burnt offering, a grain offering followed quickly after. And if you trace the grain offering through Scripture, you will find a similar pattern: burnt offering, then grain offering. It's not always the case, as sometimes, the grain offering is accompanied by other offerings. And there are times when it stands alone, as in a type of sin offering (Leviticus 4:11-13). However, the majority of the time when a grain offering is offered, it is in the presence of other offerings.
I think that this gives us a major clue regarding the significance of this offering. It accompanies other sacrifices, perhaps as a response. It's the response to the burnt offering. It's the response to atonement.
So, what's your response to the sacrifice of Jesus? Is it not often "thanks"? As the hymn writer says, ...
Thank you, Lord, for saving my soul
Thank you, Lord, for making me whole
Thank you, Lord, for giving to me
Thy great salvation so rich and free
The Heidelberg catechism, question #43, says, "What further benefit do we receive from the sacrifice and death of Christ on the cross?" That by virtue thereof, our old man is crucified, dead and buried with him (Rom.6:6); that so the corrupt inclinations of the flesh may no more reign in us (Rom.6:6-8,11,12); but that we may offer ourselves unto him a sacrifice of thanksgiving (Rom.12:1)."
We have a further clue that this might be the case in Leviticus 7.
"And this is the law of the sacrifice of peace offerings that one may offer to the Lord. If he offers it for a thanksgiving, then he shall offer with the thanksgiving sacrifice unleavened loaves mixed with oil, unleavened wafers smeared with oil, and loaves of fine flour well mixed with oil. With the sacrifice of his peace offerings for thanksgiving he shall bring his offering with loaves of leavened bread.
Did you notice what the grain offering was called? It is called, "the thanksgiving sacrifice." Do you want to give thanks to God? Then offer up the grain offering to Him. Give thanks to His name. God loves the sacrifice of thanksgiving.
Psalm 100:4 says, "Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name." And in Psalm 118:1 we read, "Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His steadfast love endures forever."
Thanksgiving has much to do with your heart. Psalm 107 shows a clear connection between salvation and thanks, similar to the connection between the burnt offering (atonement) and the grain offering (thanks). Psalm 107 begins, ...
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever!
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,
whom he has redeemed from trouble
and gathered in from the lands,
from the east and from the west,
from the north and from the south.
Throughout the rest of Psalm 107, you see the same pattern: people who are in distress call to the LORD, who answers their cry. Then, the redeemed are called to give thanks to the LORD.
Consider those who wandered. "They cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress" (verse 6). As a result, the Psalmist calls them to testify, "Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man!" (verse 8).
Consider those who were prisoners. "They cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress" (verse 13). As a result, the Psalmist calls them to testify, "Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man!" (verse 15).
Consider the fools. "They cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress" (verse 19). As a result, the Psalmist calls them to testify, "Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man!" (verse 21).
Consider the sailors caught in a storm. "Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress" (verse 28). As a result, the Psalmist calls them to testify, "Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man!" (verse 31).
These calls to testify in Psalm 107 are similar to the relationship of the burnt offering to the grain offering. The burnt offering represents atonement. The grain offering represents thanksgiving.
This sermon was delivered to Rock Valley Bible Church on
September 21, 2014 by Steve Brandon.
For more information see www.rvbc.cc.