Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Grain Offering - Sermon on Leviticus 2

Leviticus 2. Sermon
References: The best understanding of Leviticus is by Bob Deffinbaugh over at Bible.org who has helped immensely here in my understanding of Lev and Lev 2 as this sermon reveals. However all mistakes are mine.
Well tonight we come to our second sermon on Leviticus and I hope and pray you are ready to let our Lord God speak to you through his Word, let’s pray. ..

Have you ever been travelling at Christmas time and run out of food or milk and search in vain for a shop, anything to be open to buy it? At one point here in Australia I was travelling through Adelaide on Christmas day and couldn’t even find a petrol station open. This situation isn’t much appreciated these days when teenagers haven’t experienced not being able to get what they want when they want, or haven’t travelled to places which don’t provide what they like.
Such situations really hinder your progress and make you desperate to finding out where things are!

Tonight we finally come to Leviticus 2. Not a chapter that is often preached upon is it? I have the feeling from the lack of good commentaries and the lack of preaching on Leviticus, that there are a lot of preachers who just don’t get its relevance and cannot see clearly what it means for Christians. So often they tend to lump together chunks of Leviticus in order to find some sort of application. Or even worse they just resort to typology or allegory to find some present application for Christians.

Not just one preacher but quite a few focused on the items of the sacrifice in chapter 2 like taking the oil as signifying the Holy Spirit or the baked flour suggesting the "stuff of life" and then from latter point this leaping into Jesus as the bread of life.

The difficulty I have with this is that there is nothing in the text to suggest this.
There are times when the OT is to be understood in terms of types or examples for us today. We see this in 1 Cor 10:6 where we are told that Old Testament events are particularly there for a reason. We are told "these things occurred as examples [ types! ] to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did." Yet it is difficult off hand to see in Leviticus 2 what the evil things they might have done since there aren’t any such things mentioned.
And who doesn’t know 2 Tim 3:16-17 which tells us “All Scripture [ the graphe = writings, and therefore at minimum the Old Testament ] is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness so that [ purpose] the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work”.

Keeping in mind the above passages of 1 Cor 10:8 and 2 Tim 3:16-17 I need also to hear and give heed to the impact of Nehemiah 8 where we are told the Levites on finding the book of the law, read it, and gave it's sense to the people.

This is an important reminder for me as I preach the Old Testament. It means that in dealing with the Old Testament I must ask
1. What did this passage mean to the original hearers?
2. How would they have understood it? What is the sense they gave to it?

We grant that they would not have specifically have seen some of the prophecies as pointing to the Messiah, as they rightly do, but the scripture passages still had meaning for them there and then.

And so when dealing with the sacrifices required of Israel by the Lord God, we must not merely ignore the two points above and read back into them some meaning that we have in the light of Christ's death as the sacrifice for sin and some Christian understanding we have of this. [ I am not saying here that there may not be some further understanding of some Old Testament Text in the light of the New Testament and the coming of Christ and His teaching, however we must correctly handle the word of truth, which means first of all seeing the text in its immediate context! ]

Working through the above two points will actually fill out and enrich our understanding of God’s Word and throw more light on any New Testament related text or theme. Preachers and Christians short change themselves when they ignore the immediate context and merely jump into the New Testament.

Now as I read through Leviticus 2 I was perplexed. What is the meaning of the "grain offering"?
None of the commentaries really helped me at this point, reflecting perhaps my lack of solid commentaries on Leviticus. Sure the ones I had, explained what the grain offering was, how it was done, but explaining the what and how do not explain Why. What was the meaning of this sacrifice for the Israelites?
At this point the temptation is to read the further chapters and their sacrifices and preach some general overview and make some point from all of them, but this is not I believe appropriate. It goes against the grain of Leviticus 2 { yes that was a pun for those of you who missed it }. And it doesn’t take notice of Nehemiah chapter 8 as I said.

I mean it reads to many as though it’s a case of a couple cooking on one of those reality TV cooking shows. Like My Kitchen Rules MKR.

Imagine the Israelites, travelling in the wilderness. No corner stores or Coles and Woolworths here from which to buy your daily needs. Out in the desert under Mt Sinai with no place or time to grow a crop for barley and grain. You just have in your bag what you had when you left Egypt. And that get’s down to how much you and your family can carry and perhaps if you have horses or camels what you could load onto them.

And that’s the first point to pick up on from our text. This sacrifice was costly. It was asking for something they generally lacked. And it was asking for their seed that would be the foundation of their crops in the promised land.

So was this all required by “a mean nasty, put you in a corner god” like that which Richard Dawkins says in his book ‘The God Delusion’?

Of course not. Do you read here that God says to the Israelites you must make this sacrifice on such and such a day or month or when you do X & Y bad things?

No. there’s none of that here in the text. This is a freewill offering, one that the Israelite decides upon for his or her own reason to give to the Lord. It is an offering of gratitude, having already offered and understood the burnt offering which enables him to stand before the Lord God as OK.
It’s in that light that this offering stands out.
This is an act of gratitude when you stand by Grace before the Lord.
Still, just because it’s one of gratitude doesn’t mean you can be sloppy or reckless in how you approach God. It doesn’t mean you can presume upon Him. It still means doing things His way.

What do we see from the text about this grain offering. Well for starters in vs 1-3 it speaks of the uncooked grain offering. It is to be of fine flour, that in itself talks of the grain being well ground. Not fine in the sense of good but rather it’s well ground. And that tells us that a lot of hard work, a lot of physical effort is put into it. It’s not as though they had an electric flower grinder in their tent! You had to sit there and grind the grain between two stones.

And it is to have oil and frankincense added to it. Expensive items which again are difficult to come by in the wilderness. then a handful of all this is offered up on the fire, whereas the rest of it goes to the Priests, to Aaron and his sons.

This is how the priesthood is provided for by God. Through offerings made to Him the priests receive a portion which sustains them! See how it says that it is the most holy for the Lord and it’s for the priests! It’s holy, set apart for the Lord and yet it goes to the Priests! God says it’s important to Him and yet it’s for them!

Then in verses 4-10 it tells us about grain offerings that are cooked in different ways.
vs 4-10 the various cooked grain offerings.
It’s a little bit like having bread or dumplings or pancakes. A fair bit of variety is available to the offerer in this regard. You can bake it in an oven, vs4, have it prepared on a griddle, vs 5, or cooked in a pan, vs7.

And yet it cannot have any ingredient you choose. As in vs 3, vs 4, vs 5 and again in vs 11 and so it is to be without yeast. Yeast or as we read in the NIV “leaven” is a corrupting ingredient, both leaven and honey ferment if left overnight. We aren’t given the reason for leaven and honey being forbidden – but we do know that before leaving Egypt they weren’t to eat leavened bread with the Passover feast because it reminds them of their departure from Egypt in Haste and effectively of God’s deliverance of His people. See Deut 16:4.

vs11-13 Ingredients: refused ( leaven ) and required ( salt ).
Look at verses 11-14, “must be made without yeast…. Or honey, but it must have salt
Importantly, the salt of the covenant, is speaking of the Mosaic covenant. By which God promised He would be with them, and they’d have the promised land - If they were obedient.
The thing about salt isn’t that it only purifies, but also that it lasts. It is everlasting. Salt, like the Mosaic promise of God, is long lasting. And so it is with the promise, the Mosaic covenant of God. It will stand. It isn’t some promise that God made on a whim, and he will change his mind about later. It’s set in stone! It is an enduring covenant. What we have then is a massive assertion about the reliability of God and His Word. He stands by what he has said.

Then in vs14-16 we have Early grain offerings, in other words, that of the firstfruits.

So where do we see the application in all of this. We have seen partly what it meant for the people of God in the wilderness. We see how in moving from Egypt by the exodus through the wilderness and into Canaan how it will be a situation much different to Egypt. In Egypt they had the Nile to rely upon but here and in Canaan they would have to rely upon rain which meant relying upon the Lord himself.

It would mean living by faith, living by trust in the Lord to provide and sustain. And in this very point we see that such faith acknowledges God not just as creator, not merely as redeemer but also as sustainer!

It’s really easy when things are going good, when you are receiving blessings from God to “forget where you have come from and Why”. [ quote by Deffinbaugh ]

And if you need any illustration of this you see it in Israel’s unfaithfulness over and over again throughout the Old Testament. Just look at what the prophet Ezekiel was told to tell Israel after they had chosen idolatry instead of the loving Lord. Look at Ezekiel 16:19.
In the New Testament is it no wonder that Jesus points out to the Jewish people, God’s special people, that a Kingdom person relies upon God for everything. “give us our daily bread” is no idle prayer. Matthew 6:11.
And as James makes really clear in James 4:13-16, we depend upon God much more than we realise or want to admit.

We have great backups don’t we? A Government provision of Medicare, a pension or superannuation. Some of us even have family to fall back on. It’s so easy to ignore God’s centrality as our Sustainer.

And He sustains not just physically but spiritually.

Not just physically but spiritually - >we are under the new covenant, and we are to abide in Him John 15, to abide in His Word, which is the bread of life, John 15:7; 16:13-15; 17:17.
They, the Israelites in the wilderness had a burnt offering, and with it they offered a free will offering in a response of gratitude to God’s provision.

So what about us? No grain offering is required, or there for us since we are not Jews, but interestingly we read of giving in gratitude to the support of fellow Christians which is spoken of as a fragrant aroma. READ Phil 4:8.
We have the ability to give sacrificially, of time, money and emotionally in support of the brethren.

We just need to think of the example here of that wonderful widow in 1 Kings 17:8-16 who through her own meagre rations provided for God’s man Elijah and the container miraculously filled each time!

Remember most of all that this isn’t demanded of God, it is your free will offering and one He delights in. And that’s what I’d like to finish on tonight and focus our thoughts upon, Our text of Leviticus 2 speaks over and over again of this offering being “an aroma pleasing to the Lord.”

We find this same phrase mentioned after Noah sacrifices on leaving the ark in Genesis 8. In the RSV or KJV it says literally, “a sweet aroma to the Lord.” And that word “sweet” is connected to the very name “Noah” by both coming from the same Hebrew root.
Look with me to verse 21.
“The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and said in His heart, never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood.. “ and then he speaks of the enduring nature of that promise.
This is what the Israelite remembers. That’s what comes to mind for the Israelite when he hears this.
God’s promise. God’s Word endures. And it will come to pass. Back then He was pleased with Man’s offering of sacrifice even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood. Here is the grace of God. God’s mercy and God’s forgiveness and God’s patience. As we learnt earlier in Genesis, God has a plan to redeem man, to send his Messiah to pay the penalty for sin, to defeat satan. Gen 3:15. That Word will endure, and indeed we know it does through the coming of Jesus the Messiah to die on the cross and rise again.

So, If you want to please the Lord, the Lord who is Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer, then here is how you can do it. He is pleased by your gratitude. By your actions that show this.

Further research is required on the following…
But let me leave you with something to ponder upon here, I pointed out that the word sweet and the word Noah derive from the same Hebrew root. both in Leviticus 2 and in Genesis 8. That Hebrew word is “rest” which gives us the idea of being settled in a particular place with overtones of finality. It seems to me, and I could be wrong but it seems to me given it is talking about God’s response to man’s freewill offering by speaking of that word soothing, or sweet as the KJV uses it in a sweet aroma, all this is suggesting that God is finally pleased, settled in himself at this response of man’s action of a freewill offering in gratitude to His grace shown in the giving of the burnt offering. This is what pleases the Lord. When we give Him the thanks and praise that is His due!


Ben Robie said...


BeeMore said...

Bless you! This reading was a answer to my question when reading this morning. I needed to know the significance of the grain offering to further understand the passage I read from 2 Kings 3. I appreciate this post so much. Thank you.