This chapter looks at grain offerings, in some Bible translations it is called the meat offering. Meat doesn’t mean animal flesh, it means meal. This offering was not for sin, but to show devotion to The Lord and to remember His grace, love, and provision. Israel received this law while they were still wandering in the desert, they were no longer in Egypt where wheat and corn was plentiful. They were not yet in Canaan where crops would be abundant. They were in the desert, living off of manna and the occasional quail. It made the grain offering that much more precious and therefore more sacrificial. Verses 1-3 read,
“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 2 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. 3 But the rest of the grain offering shall be for Aaron and his sons; it is a most holy part of the Lord's food offerings.”
Only a portion of the offering was burned on the altar. That portion was a pleasing aroma to God. The rest was given to Aaron and his sons, and in the future to the priests who would be administrating the offering. It was for their provision. In thanking God for His grace, the people took care of the priests. In this way the priests could be completely devoted to their responsibilities, serving God and His people.
Not every grain offering was raw, often it was cooked and then offered. And there were laws covering the different variations of cooking the grains into cakes. Verses 4-10 describe the variations and include oven, griddle, and pan. In each case oil is included with the offering and a portion is burned to be a pleasing aroma to The Lord and the remainder is given to the priests.
There was work involved in the offering regardless of how it was brought to the altar. This was the valued food of the offeror. He had to grind the wheat or other food into a fine flour. He then had to mix it, form it, cook it, and prepare it. Before giving his meal to The Lord.
How often do we read in the Bible of visitors to someone’s home and the owner of the home gets to work immediately making cakes for the visitor? It was something they did to honor their guest, to be hospitable and meet needs. In 1 Kings 17 when Elijah met the Widow of Zarephath, who was about to use the very last of her barley meal and oil to make one last meal for her son and herself before they died, Elijah instructed her to use it to make him a meal instead. She did as the prophet told her. She sacrificed the last of what she had to bless The Lord, who she only knew about. The Lord honored her gift by making more meal appear in the jar, and by feeding her and her son for the rest of their lives. Elijah lived with the woman for two years and through that time he no doubt taught her about God and she became closer to Him.
But the cakes couldn’t just be any cakes. The offeror had to make them with certain specifications. There were ingredients God didn’t want. Verses 11-12 read,
“No grain offering that you bring to the Lord shall be made with leaven, for you shall burn no leaven nor any honey as a food offering to the Lord. 12 As an offering of firstfruits you may bring them to the Lord, but they shall not be offered on the altar for a pleasing aroma.”
The cakes couldn’t include yeast or honey. Although honey was acceptable in a first fruits offering even then they would not be burned on the altar. Leaving out the leaven was reminiscent of Passover. Leaven had become a symbol of sin, of foulness entering and sullying purity.
It is not explained why honey couldn’t be included. These are my thoughts on the subject, my best guess. Honey would sweeten the cake. And The Lord didn’t want sweet cake, He wanted a savory meal with a pleasing savor to reach Him. Adding honey to the cakes would mean that they wouldn’t last as long. They could spoil and be of no use to the priests. Burning the honey might cause it, like the yeast to ferment and change the makeup of the meal being offered.
There was also an ingredient that God said had to be included. Verse 13 says,
“You shall season all your grain offerings with salt. You shall not let the salt of the covenant with your God be missing from your grain offering; with all your offerings you shall offer salt.”
Salt was also a precious commodity. And adding it to every offering reminded the offeror of God’s covenant with him. Today salt remains a reminder of God’s promises to us. Although we do not do grain offerings at an altar, our lives are living sacrifices to the Lord. Romans 12:1-2 reads,
“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. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
As believers, we live our lives as worship to God. We are the salt of the world. We are the flavor and the aroma of our lives is what pleases God. In Matthew 5:6 Jesus told us,
“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet.”
Just as salt reminded Israel of God’s awesome grace, we are to walk with grace, standing out from the world so that they will see God. Colossians 4:2-6 read,
“Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. 3 At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— 4 that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.
5 Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. 6 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”
Is your life a living sacrifice to the Lord? Do your offerings to Him take care of and edify the church, your fellow priests in the ministry of Christ? Are your offerings seasoned with salt? Are they unleavened by sin?
Grain offerings didn’t atone for sin. There was no blood involved. They were a reminder for the giver of God’s awesome grace. They were a symbol of love and devotion to The Lord. When we walk as living sacrifices to Him, it doesn’t make us any more righteous, it doesn’t erase sin. Jesus’ blood did that. What it does do is glorify God. It reflects The Lord and allows the world see Him when they look at us. Our conformity to Christ and subsequent nonconformity to the world allows the lost to peek at the Mystery of the Gospel. It is how they will come to know Him. Like the widow gave all she had to Elijah and never ran out of barley, we can give all we have to others and never run dry. We are free to give generously. We are free to be completely devoted to God and the ministry of our spiritual gifts to one another and the lost.