This week we’re going through the various sacrifices prescribed in Leviticus 1-10, and seeing how they were fulfilled in Christ. Monday was an overview, which you might like to look at first.
The Grain Offering
As well as the burnt offering, the Israelites were instructed to bring grain offerings. These were offerings from their crops – the best of their harvest. They were brought an acknowledgement that everything they had came from God. Everything they possessed was ultimately owned by God. And so they offered some of it – the best of it – back to God. Here are some of the instructions, from chapter 2:
2:11-12 Every grain offering you bring to the LORD must be made without yeast, for you are not to burn any yeast or honey in a food offering presented to the LORD. 12 You may bring them to the LORD as an offering of the firstfruits, but they are not to be offered on the altar as a pleasing aroma.
They weren’t to add yeast, symbolising the purity of their offering. (Yeast ferments – it corrupts.) They weren’t to add honey, because in the Ancient Near East honey was considered the ‘food of the gods’. God wanted to make it clear he wasn’t just one of many gods. Gods like the idols of the nations around. He wanted Israel to be different.2:13 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 your offerings.
The salt was a preservative – it symbolised the enduring nature of the covenant between God and his people.2:14-16 If you bring a grain offering of firstfruits to the LORD, offer crushed heads of new grain roasted in the fire. 15 Put oil and incense on it; it is a grain offering. 16 The priest shall burn the memorial portion of the crushed grain and the oil, together with all the incense, as a food offering presented to the LORD.
(When I preached on this in church, I poured methylated spirits on weet bix and set it alight. I’m not sure how useful it was for teaching about grain offerings, but if you want a good fire-starter, it burned for a good 15 minutes.)
What can we learn from the grain offering? We’re no longer required to bring a formal firstfruits offering (in one sense, Christ is our firstfruits offering, 1 Cor 15:20). One commentator suggests this:‘Living in a world that places such emphasis on private wealth and property, we are prone to forget that the work of our hands really belongs to God. And for those of us who make our living not so much by what we do with our hands, but what we do with our minds, we are in even greater danger of distancing ourselves from God. How easily we fall into the traps of self-sufficiency and self-satisfaction. We begin to think that what we have belongs to us. And we find it easy to believe that we have every right to accumulate for ourselves as much as we can.’ (Gary Demarest)
By contrast, the grain offering reminds us how important it is to acknowledge God’s rightful place in the world. He’s the one who provides, not us. And the grain offering shows us what a right response to this truth looks like – giving our best back to God, not just the leftovers. Giving sacrificially back to God, not just what we can afford.
We still have the opportunity to bring a “grain offering” of sorts. It might look more like this (right) or take the form of a transfer of numbers from one bank’s computer to another. But we, too, get to acknowledge that God is the one who provides for us.
To think about
What is your “grain offering” equivalent? Is what you give to God the leftovers, or the firstfruits of your labour?
If you’re wanting to read all of Leviticus 1-10 this week, read chapters 5 and 6 now to stay on schedule.