Displaying Holiness Conversation on the book of Leviticus

Chapter 2

David J. Zucker, an American Rabbi, who has provided America and Britain with a life of service to congregations and is a chaplain, quotes Judith Romney Wegner as saying, “A paramount concern for the preservation of cosmic harmony in nature and society, led Israelite priests to make rules…” We know that Yahweh made these rules and passed them to the priests through Moses by the power of his Spirit. As a part of that cosmic harmony it was a good thing to follow the Whole Burnt Offering – the Olah -with an offering of the best part of the grain – the semolina – anointed with olive oil and frankincense – the Minchah. These gifts were required as a sign of submission to Israels King, Yahweh. The donor was to bring the offering to the priests and one of them would take a handful and burn it as an agreeable aroma to Yahweh. The part that remained was to be for Aaron and his sons. Oil and frankincense were associated with celebration and gladness. Today some Christians – Yahweh’s people – assemble for worship and raise their arms in submission to Yahweh. Others gather in community and follow well established rituals with candles, etc. that symbolize devotion to Yahweh.

Ligonier ministries says, “Minchah, the Hebrew term for the grain offering, is used elsewhere in the Old Testament to refer to the tribute that was offered to a great king as a sign of thanksgiving for his goodness to his subjects (Judg. 3:15). In essence, the grain offering served the same purpose. When ancient Israelites offered up their grain on the altar, they were thanking the Lord for His mercies and for supplying their needs. … Offering such things symbolized the need to dedicate every aspect of their daily lives to the Creator, including the labor by which they coaxed the grain from the ground.”[1]

The grain could be baked in an oven – challah, or rakik – , cooked on a grill, or fried in a pan but no matter how it was cooked it was to be made without leaven or sweetener because leaven represents decay, and sweeteners accelerate the process. Everything – all of the sacrifices were to be seasoned with salt – the salt of the covenant. This referred to a binding obligation to Yahweh. Salt was used, long before Moses came on the scene, as a symbol of permanence, loyalty, durability, fidelity, usefulness, value, and purification. Salt was used in treaties to seal a bond of friendship forever. Yahweh chose to employ this ancient custom to teach his people, Israel, because it was already familiar to them. He used salt to help his people understand the binding nature of his covenants with them.

Yahweh’s instructions were that yeast and sweeteners couldn’t be used in the burnt offerings. The priests were to eat their portion in the Tent of Meeting, dinning in Yahweh’s presence. It was a Kodesh Kodashim – a most holy portion. It was holy by association because the small portion that was burned was holy.

Leaven and sweeteners could not be used in the firstfruits offerings when, rather than the grain being stripped of its semolina, and then ground into flour and made into a dough, the grains were simply fire-roasted. The roasted whole grains then had olive oil and Frankincense poured on them and they were presented to the priest who took a small amount and threw it onto the altar fire. This was usually not done along with the Olah – an offering that made the donor acceptable to Yahweh. The grain offering maintained peace with him. Torah class says, “Once this is accomplished, and the worshipper is put into good standing with Yahweh, then the grain offering is accomplished and it expresses thankfulness for God’s provision, at the same time acknowledging the worshipper’s dedication to Yahweh. … [Now] let me point out something here that I think might be worthwhile to our understanding of sin, forgiveness and atonement in general, and the concept of forgiveness of sins by means of Yeshua’s sacrificial death on the Cross. When Messiah died, first and foremost, His sacrifice accomplished in a much more grand and complete manner the purpose of the ‘Olah and Minchah. His death, and our faith in Him, made us acceptable to God. His death allows us to approach Yahweh. And, we will remain acceptable to Yahweh regardless of our behavior … But, our behavior does matter. Yahweh is watching our behavior. Obedience does matter … [Humans have] the capacity (we call it “our will”) to sin but an occasion to exercise that will in disobedience did not arrive until [Yahweh] commanded Adam and Eve not to eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. The Hebrew sages characterize this nature to do wrong as the Yetzer Ha’rah……our evil inclination that lives side-by-side with our good inclination. But, many people with sinful natures do an awfully good job of not sinning outwardly…..they guard their behavior carefully. Not perfect, but pretty … good. … This is why Christ tells us in the Lord’s prayer to ask forgiveness for our trespasses…..our poor behavior…..our disobediences to God’s commands…….not for forgiveness for our corrupted nature. Because the Lord’s Prayer is a prayer only for the believer who already has a new and clean nature, an acceptable nature, thanks to the finished work of Christ and the coming of the Holy Spirit. … The example, shadow and type of that particular aspect of God’s justice system is given to us right here, in the first 2 chapters of Leviticus. [2]

Summary of chapter 2

The grain offering was a gift of homage, which recognized the superiority of him to whom it was offered, and ceremonially promised loyal obedience made by a created inferior to the superior Creator. It was in recognition of Yahweh’s bountiful provision and an expression of dedication, praise, and thanksgiving to Yahweh. Therefore, Yahweh gave instructions about how and where it was to be given. Oil, the symbol of Yahweh’s spirit, was to be used. Frankincense was also used and when burnt it released a fragrant odor – an emblem of prayer. They were to use the best part of the grain because it is always important to give the best to Yahweh – he who gave his best for us. “If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us?”[3] What was left of the handful that went to the fire was for the priests to be eaten in Yahweh’s presence, in fellowship with their God. The offering could be prepared in different ways, but always without leaven or sweetener because they pictured corruption. They were told to always use salt as a remembrance of the perpetual duration of Yahweh’s contract with his people.

Prayer: Lord, you did not just create us and leave us up to our own devices. You are actively involved in the world and care what we do. Therefore, you did not just give us passive rights, but active responsibilities and duties. You are all strength for your people – you make your people strong and give us peace. When I cry out to you for help you change wild lament into whirling dance; you rip off my black mourning band and deck me with wildflowers. I’m about to burst with song; I can’t keep quiet about you. Yahweh, my God, I can’t thank you enough. The Israelites brought you grain offerings as a symbol of their submission and devotion. I will remember that you said “you did it to me ….” so when someone is hungry and and I feed them, I will be feeding you. When someone is thirsty and I give them a drink, I will be giving to you. When someone is homeless and and I give them a room, I will be giving to you. When someone is shivering and I give them clothes, I will be giving to you. When someone is sick and I stop to visit, I will be doing it to and for you. When someone is in chains and I go to them with your love in my heart, I am giving to you. That will be my thanksgiving offering of submission and devotion.

 

 

Things to think about

  1. Why do you think Yahweh made rules about the grain offerings?
  2. What do the guidelines for the grain offerings have to do with the preservation of cosmic harmony in nature and society?
  3. Why do you think oil and frankincense was supposed to be used on the grain but leaven and sweetener was not allowed?
  4. What did the directives about the grain offerings tell Yahweh’s people about their God?
  5. Why was salt important? What is the meaning of the salt of the covenant?
  6. What was the difference between the grain offerings that was made after the Whole Burnt Offering of an animal and the first fruits offering?
  7. What commonality do you see between the “Lord’s prayer” and the grain offering?

 

 

[1] http://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals/grain-offering/

[2] http://www.torahclass.com/old-testament-studies/36-old-testament-studies-leviticus/156-lesson-4-chapter

[3] Romans 8:32

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One thought on “Displaying Holiness Conversation on the book of Leviticus

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