Leviticus 2: The Need to Respond


On Monday we looked at Leviticus Chapter 1, which solidified the fact that God can be the only fulfillment of our desires. The sweet aroma we emit when we have truly committed our lives wholly to him is pleasing!!

Now we come to the “meal” offering, as many versions call it. In the King James Version it is called the “meat” offering because meat was the old English word for “food,” or “meal.” But there is no meat in it at all. In fact this is the only one of the offerings that is bloodless. In all the others, animals had to die, but in this one no blood was shed.

It could be offered in any  three forms. In Verses 1 through 3 of the second chapter of Leviticus we find that the first form was that of simple, fine flour.

“When one brings a cereal offering as an offering to the LORD, his offering shall be of fine flour; he shall pour oil upon 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 upon the altar, an offering by fire, a pleasing odor to the LORD. And what is left of the cereal offering shall be for Aaron and his sons; it is a most holy part of the offerings by fire to the LORD.” (Leviticus 2:1-3 RSV)

You can see that this was intended to be food for the priests. Their meat and cereal came from these offerings. In Verse 4 there is a second form in which the offering could be presented:

“When you bring a cereal offering baked in the oven as an offering, it shall be unleavened cakes of fine flour mixed with oil, or unleavened wafers spread with oil.” (Leviticus 2:4 RSV)

They could bring loaves or cakes of unleavened bread which,  could be either baked, grilled, or pan fried. The third form is found in Verse 14:

“If you offer a cereal offering of first fruits to the LORD, you shall offer for the cereal offering of your first fruits crushed new grain from fresh ears parched with fire.” (Leviticus 2:14 RSV)

They could take freshly harvested wheat and shake the grain out by hand and crush it. This  was then acceptable as a cereal offering. It is obvious that the essence of this offering was that it was bread. It was food, the staff of life. This theme is the key to the cereal offering. All through the Old Testament you find people offering meal offerings, often in the form of three loaves of bread. And in the tabernacle there was the showbread.

In the New Testament, after the great miracle when he took loaves and fishes and fed five thousand people, Jesus stood before the people and said, “I am the bread of life. I am the living bread which comes down from heaven. He who eats me shall live by means of me,” (John 6:33-35). He was indicating that he himself is to be our food and that we are to feed upon all of his character and his life!

This gives us a clue to what the meal offering is depicting. It is a description of mankind the way God intended it to be. We should be drawing from and  feeding upon God, our living bread!

Paul said, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me,” (Galatians 2:20a KJV). His perfect humanity is available to me. All the fullness of his life, the fineness of his character,  is available to me. And as I draw upon it by faith, as I expect him to link himself with me and to be part of me!  And we are privileged to present that perfect humanity back to God to be used as he wants. That is the fullness of the gospel and that is what the meal offering is all about.

Think about fine flour. If you take a pinch of fine flour and run it through your fingers, there is no coarseness, no roughness. There are no uneven, jagged corners nor anything sharp. It is smooth. It is consistent, no matter where you sample it. Fine flour is such an great picture of our life with God as it was intended to be and which is available to us in Christ…balanced. Without him there are chunks, chips and straw…

Balance is so hard for us in our own doing. You do not have to balance the life of Jesus. It is already a balanced life. And if you draw upon it, if you expect him to live in you, what you do will be balanced. Because he is the meal offering with its perfection of fine flour.

There were three things always included in the meal offering and two things which never could be included.

The three things always included were oil, frankincense, and salt.

The oil was used in two ways: it was mingled with the fine flour and it was also poured on top of it. The frankincense was perfume. It was a delightful fragrance. The use of salt is specified in Verse 13:

You shall season all your cereal offerings with salt; you shall not let the salt of the covenant with your God be lacking from your cereal offering; with all your offerings you shall offer salt. (Leviticus 2:13 RSV)

The symbolism of these ingredients stand for the three elements of our relationship with Christ.

The first is oil, which is a type, or picture, of the Holy Spirit. All through the Scriptures you find that it symbolizes the Spirit of God. With this offering the oil is to be used in two ways: It is, first of all,  the indwelling Spirit. When you became a Christian by faith in Jesus Christ, the Spirit of God was shed abroad in your heart. He came in to live in you and he is part of you.  That is also called the baptism of the Holy Spirit. It has nothing to do with speaking in tongues; it means that, by the Spirit, “we are all baptized into one body,” as Paul puts it in 1 Corinthians 12 (1 Corinthians 12:13a RSV).

But then also, when you do something, when you minister, you need to have the Spirit anointing you, empowering you. You need to take fresh hold of him, so that you speak or act or think or write or work with power. That is the pouring of the Spirit upon you: “We are all made to drink of one Spirit,” (1 Corinthians 12:13b RSV).

In Jesus’ own life. He was filled with the Spirit from his mother’s womb. But then there came the day when, in the baptism at the river Jordan, the Spirit of God anointed him for his ministry. This is to be true of us as well.

The second element  is frankincense. The frankincense was all offered to God. Verse 2 says, “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 … a pleasing odor to the LORD.” In other words, this is primarily something which God wants, something which he sees. Therefore it is not something outward, but something inward.  Things that  delight God. What would you think is something about your life which delights God, which pleases him?

Mine is always a cheerful heart and praise…

Because now when we present our offering , we dont have to bring the ox or the bull,  just bring a thankful, cheerful, praising heart. That will please the Lord. In Hebrews 13:15-16:

Through him[i.e., Jesus] then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. (Hebrews13:15-16 RSV)

In other words, the frankincense of our lives is to be a thankful, cheerful, willing, voluntary, obedient heart. That is what God likes. That delights him.

The third element is salt, which, as you know, is a preservative.

You remember that Jesus said to his disciples on one occasion, “You are the salt of the earth,” (Matthew 5:13a RSV). That is, “You Christians are intended to be the thing which keeps society from getting rotten, from degenerating, from becoming corrupt and smelling.” And he said, “You are the light of the world,” (Matthew 5:14a RSV). Light, of course, is truth revealed. And salt is truth obeyed in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Then there are two things which were excluded from the offering, and both are found in Verse 11:

“No cereal offering which you bring to the LORD shall be made with leaven; for you shall burn no leaven nor any honey as an offering by fire to the LORD.” (Leviticus 2:11 RSV)

Leaven is  yeast. When you have made bread you have taken yeast, or leaven, and put it in the dough. Why? Because it has the power to expand, to puff up. Thus leaven is a fitting illustration or symbol of that in our human life which puffs us up. What is that? Pride.

Paul said to the Corinthians, “Love builds up, but knowledge [i.e., pride in your knowledge] puffs up,” (1 Corinthians 8:1 RSV). This is so true. You see, what God is saying is, “When you come to offer your humanity to me, don’t have any ego in it. Don’t be doing this for your own glory. Don’t be trying to derive from this a certain amount of satisfaction or credit for yourself.” “No flesh,” he says, “shall glory in my presence.”

There must be no leaven in the offering. Second, there shall be no honey. Here are some scriptures I found in regards to why Leaven or Honey was not needed or wanted by God in the offering

  • Leaven symbolized hypocrisy (Luke 12:1)
  • It represented false doctrine (Matthew 16:12)
  • A little could corrupt the entire congregation (Galatians 5:9)
  • Yeast risen bread spoils quickly
  • To the Jewish people, rising bread dough speaks of puffed of pride/self righteousness
  • To the Jewish people the warm loaf of yeast-bread entices the senses, a picture of lack of self control
  • Honey was a delicacy that was frequently offered to pagan gods in the Canaanite regions.
  • If you know anything about cooking, you know that honey can make things sweet that were not so originally. Likewise yeast can add a bitter/sour flavor that was not there originally.

The prohibition against leaven and honey is really a picture. We are to come before the Lord just as we are and He will do His work. We must neither appear sweeter than we are or worse than we are. Pride and false humility are two sides of the same sinful coin. Neither has any place in the offering.

There is one other thing to note about the meal offering . The children of Israel never offered a meal offering by itself. It was always accompanied by an animal sacrifice. These meal offerings were designed to go with one of the animal sacrifices, and most often with the burnt offering. That is why it is put right next to the burnt offering in the order of the sacrifices. There is the burnt offering, then the meal offering, then the peace offering. The meal offering is always offered in connection with the burnt offering.

That is very instructive, because it is telling us something significant about the meaning of this meal offering. The burnt offering, remember, was the need to be loved — the need to be accepted and to belong. But if God reaches out to you and says, “You are mine,” then that lays a demand upon you, doesn’t it? You need to do something. You need to say something back to God. You need to respond to his love. You need to open up your life toward him. Love  cannot develop, it can never go anywhere, it can never fulfill itself until it is ready to respond to the love which reaches out to it.

This is why you read in Hebrews 4:2 that when the good news reached the people of Israel, “the message that they heard did not benefit them, because it did not meet with faith” (Hebrews 4:2b RSV). That is, they did not do anything in return, they did not respond to the Word when it came to them. This is why Paul in his second letter to the Corinthians cries out to them with such pleading eloquence:

Our mouth is open to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide. You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. In return — I speak as to children — widen your hearts also. (2 Corinthians 6:11-13 RSV)

He says, “There is nothing limiting us. We love you and want to help you, to reach you. I want to minister to you, but you are not responding. You won’t say anything back. You won’t open your heart. You won’t widen your life.” And so he pleads with them as a father. “I speak to you as children,” he says. “Let me in — widen your hearts also.”

In Hebrews 11:6 the most basic approach to God is described in this way, “whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who diligently seek him,” (Hebrews 11:6b). God has been seeking us, and he says, “Now it is time for you to begin to seek me. I’ve been reaching out to you. Now you reach back to me.” Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. This is the law of response in human nature. This is why John says, “We love, because he has first loved us,” (1 John 4:19 RSV).

This is why the meal offering is the second of the offerings. In the burnt offering you have God reaching out and saying, “You’re mine. I want you.” But in the meal offering you must say in response, “Yes, Lord, I’m yours. I give myself to you.” This is what God is after. Love creates the possibility of response. But if that response is refused then nothing can happen until, at last, the heart begins to respond.

This is why God, again and again through our lives, calls us to times of crisis, times of decision, times when we recognize that we are shutting ourselves away from the grace and love he wants to give us. And we have to come to him and say, “Lord, here I am. Here is my redemption, with its oil and its frankincense and its salt, but with no leaven and no honey.  I give myself to you. Here I am, Lord. Let’s walk together this day.”

Have you answered Gods call? Or is there an  area where you are saying no to God?  Are you puffed up with pride, extra sweeteners. Or coming forth in humbleness, so God can use you as He sees fit!

I pray I can remain humble, teachable and reachable. Lord decrease me and increase you!!!




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