Scripture: “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.” Leviticus 2:1-2 ESV
Observation: As with all the offerings, God expects his chosen people to present their best gifts (grain in this instance) as a memorial to the Lord. Unlike the “burnt offering” (see yesterday’s Daily Focus), the priests receive a portion of the tribute (2:3). Still, like the burnt offering, the priest burns the gift on the altar but uses oil (rather than animal fat) to incinerate its contents. And frankincense provides a pleasing aroma symbolizing prayers, which again follows the intent of the “burnt offering.”
Overall, the uncooked grain offering has three distinctive elements:
- the priests use the grain to make bread for their daily sustenance,
- the offerer presents it as a tribute to the Lord, and
- it typically accompanies the various other offerings on the altar (23:13-20, Exodus 29:40, Numbers 28-29).
The law also provides three alternative recipes for cooked grain offerings (2:7-10):
- baked from fine unleavened flour (harkening to the Passover) mixed with oil, or
- grilled as a wafer using the same ingredients and then broken into pieces with oil poured over it, or
- fried in a pan using the same ingredients and preparation for grilling.
Lastly, no matter the type of grain offering, it must be seasoned with the”salt of the covenant of your God” (2:13-14).
Regarding the actual sacrificial ceremony, the nepeš (a generic title for any person, man or woman) brings the offering to the priest. The priest then burns the offering on the altar as a memorial portion to Yahweh, a pleasing aroma. Aaron and his sons (and their future successors) eat the rest of the bread as the “most holy part” of the Lord’s food offering (2:10). Thus, as theologian Ron Gane contends, the tone of this grain offering is that of thanksgiving for God’s provisions.
Takeaway: It’s hard to see the contemporary relevance to these chapters of the Pentateuch that detail worship rites. But when we ask the right questions, they point us to Christ. One such question that comes to my mind is, Are there living offerings that do not require taking a life? The answer is yes. Under the Old Covenant, on the Day of Atonement, the priest would send a scapegoat into the wilderness bearing the sins of Israel. This solemn ceremony foreshadows the mission of Christ. As Paul articulates, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Still, Paul provides an answer that hits closer to home regarding how we are to respond to this good news.
In his letter to the Romans, Paul writes: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1 ESV). So what does Paul mean by offering our bodies as a living sacrifice? In his second letter to the Corinthians, he clarifies: “and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Corinthians 5:15 ESV). Hence, we no longer live for our selfish desires but to please our Savior out of love and gratitude. It may be a tough sell for some, but we gain far more: forgiveness, reconciliation, and eternal life. Thus, when we offer ourselves as living sacrifices, like the grain offering, we express our thanksgiving for God’s provisions in Christ, who gave his all for us. And it is indeed a pleasing aroma to God.
Prayer: Father God, we thank you and your Son for making the ultimate sacrifice in his life, death, and resurrection to ensure our place in eternity with you. Would you please help us follow your Holy Spirit’s lead in offering our lives back to you as expressions of thanksgiving for your provisions in Christ? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling