Leviticus: In Defense of Carbohydrates: The Grain Offering

Sermon by J. Ligon Duncan on October 3, 2004

The Lord’s Day Evening

October 3, 2004

Leviticus 2

“In Defense of Carbohydrates: The Grain Offering”

Dr. J. Ligon Duncan III

If you have your Bibles, I’d invite you to turn with me to
Leviticus, chapter two. Last week we began our study of this great book which
sets forth the quest for holiness, and in the first seven chapters we commented
that we encounter five great offerings, and those five great offerings are
covered twice in the first seven chapters: first, from the perspective of the
offerer of those offerings or sacrifices; secondly, from the perspective of the
priests who are to administer the offering of those sacrifices. And so we
appreciate different aspects of the significance of these sacrifices as we look
at them from these two perspectives.

Now, we’ve already observed a number of things about
the structure and content of the Book of Leviticus as a whole. We said, for
instance, that the first sixteen chapters of Leviticus contain regulations
relating to the sacrifices (we see this in chapters one to seven); but, also,
the formal initiation of the priesthood that we find immediately after the
institution of the sacrifices in Leviticus 1-7. There is the discussion of the
distinction between clean and unclean, a vitally important distinction for
Israel’s practice of holiness. And finally, in Leviticus 16 we have the
instructions for the rituals of the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, that high Day
of Atonement, propitiation and expiation. Then, the last eleven chapters of
Leviticus give to us the ceremonial holiness code for the Old Testament people
of God, Israel.

Now, as we commented about the sacrifices that we’re
studying this fall in Leviticus 1-7, we’ve already noted that, unlike the
sacrifices of the festivals, these sacrifices were voluntary, and personal and
spontaneous. These were not communal sacrifices that were to be offered at an
appointed time by every family in Israel: these were sacrifices that were
brought by individuals voluntarily, representing personal commitment, senses of
need, desires for communion with God, and spontaneous in their outpouring. We
also said that the very way that the first verse of Leviticus is phrased
connects it with the instructions about the build ling of the tabernacle at the
end of the Book of Exodus. And so Leviticus is the sequel to those particular
regulations that Moses had been given by God, and which are recorded at the end
of the Book of Exodus.

We made several comments about the ceremonial system
described here in Leviticus. We said that the ceremonial rituals of the Old
Covenant were designed to aid the people’s experience of the presence of God.
For one thing, they drew all of the people at one time or another to the
tabernacle, and the tabernacle was the focal point of God’s manifestation of His
presence to His people in the Old Covenant.

Another reason for the ceremonial system was to
provide a means for the people of God to render thanksgiving to God. How should
the people of God express their gratitude for the mercies of God to them? Well,
the Lord provides a way in the ceremonial system for them to give thanks to the

It was also a way that the people of God could
express the desire for renewed fellowship with God. One of the things we’re
going to see from the time the children of Israel wander in the wilderness to
the last days of the kingdom of Israel is Israel go through a cycle of
faithfulness, unfaithfulness, judgment, repentance, and faithfulness. And that
cycle will circle, and circle, and circle, and circle. And Israel–collectively
and individually–is going to need a means whereby to express their desire for
renewed fellowship with God when they have broken it on their end. And the
ceremonial ritual provides that very means.

And of course, ultimately the ceremonial ritual was
a beautiful means of expressing the need for forgiveness. By coming and
offering these sacrifices, one was admitting the need for the covering of one’s
own sin, and forgiveness and acceptance from God.

But the ceremonial ritual also set forth God’s
divine way and program for dealing with our sin: that sin was dealt with through
sacrifice. And we’ve already said that that sacrifice itself ultimately points
to the great sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ, because the Book of Hebrews is
the New Testament commentary on the Book of Leviticus, and Hebrews explains the
ceremonial system as it is fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

Now, before we read the passage before us tonight,
let me give you a two-part outline of Leviticus, chapter two. We could break it
down into many further divisions, but here’s a simple one. Leviticus two can be
broken into two main sections. Verses 1-10 give you the instructions for the
two basic kinds of meal, or grain offerings. Verses 1-3 give the instructions
about uncooked grain offerings, and verses 4-10 give the instructions for cooked
grain or meal offerings.

So there’s the first half of the Book of Leviticus,
chapter two, verses 1-10, its instructions about the meal offering.

Now, the second half of this chapter two, you find
in verses 11-16, where distinctive ingredients for the meal and the first fruits
offerings, both of which involve the bringing of grain, but for which there were
different rules. There were some things that could be included in the first
fruit offering that couldn’t be included in the regular grain offering. And so
these two offerings, their ingredients are distinguished in verses 11-16.

So there’s the two-part outline of Leviticus 2:
1-10, the instructions for the grain, or the meal offering, or, if you’ve read
the Matthew Henry version, the “meat” offering. Now, by the way, that’s because
in Middle English, meat was a synonym for food. It didn’t necessarily mean
animal flesh; it meant all kinds of food. It’s even reflected in Robert Burns’
Scots poem, Prayer. You’ve heard it before.

“Some hae meat and cannae eat

and some would eat that want

But we hae meat and we ken eat

Sae let the Lord be thankit.”

OK, well, meat there doesn’t just mean animal
flesh. It means all kinds of food. And he’s saying there are some people that
have food but can’t eat it, and there are some people that don’t have food, but
they’d like to eat it; but, Lord, since we can both eat and since You have
provided us food, the Lord be thanked. That’s the significance of the prayer.
Well, perhaps if you’re looking at your King James Version and you see this
called a “meat offering,” don’t think that there’s a contradiction between a
meat offering and a grain offering. “Meat” is just a Middle English way to talk
about food in general.

And, very frankly, what to call this offering is an
interesting thing, because the word–as we’re going to see in a moment–that is
used as the main description of the offering probably doesn’t refer to grain or
meal or any other kind of food. It refers to a gift. But we’re getting ahead of
ourselves! We’ll look at that in just a moment. Let’s look to God in prayer,
and pray for His blessing on the reading and hearing of His word.

Lord God, send your Spirit now to us. Touch our
eyes and make us see, show us the truth which You have revealed within your
Word, and show us Yourself, even in this ceremonial law. We ask it in Jesus’
name. Amen.

Hear the word of God

‘Now when anyone presents a grain offering
as an offering to the LORD, his offering shall be of fine flour, and he shall
pour oil on it and put frankincense on it. ‘He shall then bring it to Aaron’s
sons the priests; and shall take from it his handful of its fine flour and of
its oil with all of its frankincense. And the priest shall offer it up in smoke
as its memorial portion on the altar, an offering by fire of a soothing aroma to
the LORD. ‘The remainder of the grain offering belongs to Aaron and his sons: a
thing most holy, of the offerings to the LORD by fire. ‘Now when you bring an
offering of a grain offering baked in an oven, it shall be unleavened cakes of
fine flour mixed with oil, or unleavened wafers spread with oil. ‘If your
offering is a grain offering made on the griddle, it shall be of fine flour,
unleavened, mixed with oil; you shall break it into bits and pour oil on it; it
is a grain offering. ‘Now if your offering is a grain offering made in a pan,
it shall be made of fine flour with oil. ‘When you bring in the grain offering
which is made of these things to the LORD, it shall be presented to the priest
and he shall bring it to the altar. ‘The priest then shall take up from the
grain offering its memorial portion, and shall offer it up in smoke on the altar
as an offering by fire of a soothing aroma to the LORD. ‘The remainder of the
grain offering belongs to Aaron and his sons: a thing most holy of the offerings
to the LORD by fire. ‘No grain offering, which you bring to the LORD, shall be
made with leaven, for you shall not offer up in smoke any leaven or any honey as
an offering by fire to the LORD. ‘As an offering of first fruits you shall bring
them to the LORD, but they shall not ascend for a soothing aroma on the altar.
‘Every grain offering of yours, moreover, you shall season with salt, so that
the salt of the covenant of your God shall not be lacking from your grain
offering; with all your offerings you shall offer salt. ‘Also if you bring a
grain offering of early ripened things to the LORD, you shall bring fresh heads
of grain roasted in the fire, grits of new growth, for the grain offering of
your early ripened things. ‘You shall then put oil on it and lay incense on it;
it is a grain offering. ‘The priest shall offer up in smoke its memorial
portion, part of its grits and its oil with all its incense as an offering by
fire to the LORD.

Amen. And thus ends this reading of God’s holy, inspired,
inerrant word. May He add His blessing to it.

Now let’s remind ourselves of a few things that we
learned last week as we studied chapter one and the burnt offering. There were a
number of great spiritual lessons that stood out. One that struck us was that
here again we saw that God cares how we worship Him. The very detail of the
instructions of Leviticus, chapter one, lets us know that the Lord takes His
worship seriously, and He is particular about how He is approached
. Did you
get that impression again tonight? As these detailed instructions are given as
to whether you’re doing this on the pan or on the griddle, and whether you’re
doing a grain offering or whether you’re doing a first fruits offering–it’s
incredibly detailed. The Lord cares about how He is worshiped. It comes
through loud and clear again in Leviticus 2, doesn’t it?

Well, there was a second thing that we saw in
Leviticus 1, and that is that these offerings, being voluntary, and personal and
spontaneous remind us that there is a voluntary and personal and spontaneous
aspect to all true religion.
That is not something that is just part of New
Covenant religion as opposed to Old Covenant religion. That is not something
that is just part of Puritan experientialism or Great Awakening experientialism;
there is a voluntary, personal and spontaneous heart aspect to all true
religion, even here in the ceremonial code.

The people of God decided when to bring these
offerings, and that decision was related to the state of their hearts, the state
of their heart’s sense of need for God’s forgiveness; the state of their heart’s
sense of desire to express thanksgiving; the state of their heart’s desire to
express devotion to the Lord; the state of their heart’s desire to express the
longing for communion with God. All of these are part of the ceremonial system,
so don’t view the ceremonial system as something that is merely external, rote,
going through the motions. The symbolism and the ceremony were to be the
expression of a heart on fire in devotion to the living God.

Thirdly, we learned last week that the Lord
accepts and communes with those who come into His presence through the death of
an atoning sacrifice
. The burnt offering was called so because it
all goes up in smoke. It’s burned completely before the Lord. Nothing of it is
left over for the priest. It’s the only offering that is holy and only for the
Lord, consumed on the altar. And that certainly emphasizes to us that no one
can approach the Lord, no one can be acceptable to the Lord without this
substitutionary sacrifice of atonement to provide for sin and defilement so that
communion with God can be enjoyed. The blood shed in that burnt offering
insures the death of the sacrifice and it symbolizes the life force of the
victim; and the laying of the offerer’s hands on the sacrifice identifies the
sacrifice as the property of the offerer, and it identifies the offerer with the
sacrifice. The sacrifice is a stand-in for the offerer. It is the symbolic
substitute, and so the offerer is giving himself in the sacrifice.

In the ritual of the burnt offering we
also learned that every sacrifice should cost the offerer something
In Leviticus 1 we saw that the Lord provided different kinds of burnt offerings
so that the most well-to-do all the way down to the poorest in the land would be
able to offer a burnt offering sacrifice to the Lord, but it cost everyone who
brought it something.

Now, that principle reminds us of David’s great
exclamation in the day that the Lord relented in the destroyer as it came near
Jerusalem, and he came to the threshing floor or Ornan the Jebusite and spared
Israel. And David said to Ornan, “Let me buy your field and offer sacrifice.”
And Ornan says, “No, no, my king! I’ll give you the field.” And David says, “I
will not offer a sacrifice to the Lord that costs me nothing.” And it’s a
beautiful expression, and it reminds us of the costliness of the sacrifice. But
you know, long before David ever uttered that, long before this law was given on
Moriah, where that threshing floor was found on Mt. Moriah in Jerusalem, Abraham
and Isaac had climbed, and Isaac had said to his father, “I see the wood and I
see the knife, but I don’t see the sacrifice.” And you remember Abram’s
response: “The Lord will provide, my son.” And Abraham, my friends, spoke more
than he knew. And ultimately it will not be the costliness of the sacrifices
that we render to the Lord, but the costliness of the sacrifice that the Lord
provides for us that secures our entrance into the family and the presence of

And so we learned all these things last week. Well,
tonight we follow up with the grain offering; the burnt offering first, now the
grain offering.

Well, what is this grain offering, this gift
offering to the Lord? Well, in the gift offering, or the grain offering, or the
meal offering, or the meat offering–whichever way your translation renders it,
the worshiper offers a cooked or uncooked meal offering. The ingredients
symbolize God’s lasting bounty
, and no ingredients are allowed to be in
either that cooked or uncooked offering that represent corruption. And so
leaven and honey, both things which are sweet and desirable and reflective in
the Old Testament of good parts of God’s creation, especially leaven, are used
as something to reflect a corrupting influence. Both of those things ferment,
and hence do not accord with the lasting representation of God’s bounty in the
rest of the meal offering. So they are excluded. So in the grain offering, or
the gift offering, worshipers offer a cooked or uncooked meal offering in order
to express their dedication to the Lord.

You could picture it this way: these offerings were
often given together, the burnt offering first and then the meal, or the grain,
or the gift offering. The idea is this. Since the Lord has graciously welcomed
us into His presence by this atoning sacrifice, now we dedicate ourselves to the
Lord. How do we dedicate ourselves to the Lord? By giving to Him of the daily
bread that He has given to us. He has given us the staple food of life, and in
thanksgiving we express our dedication to Him by bringing this grain in whatever
form, cooked or uncooked, in accordance with His word. Well, there are
three great lessons I want you to see from this as we study this passage tonight.

I. The grain offering (literally
the pledge offering) is an act of dedication to the Lord.

And the first one is simply this: the grain
offering is an act of dedication to the Lord. It could be done alone, but it
often followed the burnt offering. Let me say a word about the name. The name
of this offering could literally be rendered “the gift offering” or “the pledge
offering” or “the tribute offering.” You see, those who have been reconciled
to God in that burnt offering, those who have gained access into His presence
through that burnt offering, will want to acknowledge their devotion to God
They will want to acknowledge that they owe God everything. How will
they do this? They will do it through this gift, or pledge, or tribute
offering. They do so in this sacrifice by giving a gift, a tribute, a pledge
that is a portion of their very substance, part of their daily bread. And such
is our defense of carbohydrates. In this Atkins Diet world, bread still
represents the staple food of life, the provision of God for our daily needs.
And so of that grain, of that meal, cooked or uncooked, the people of God devote
themselves and express their dedication in this offering.

You see, the spiritual Old Testament worshiper
understood this gift to be a symbolic gift of his whole self
. To give this
gift as a tribute to God was to say, “Lord, I devote myself to You.” Christians
respond to the glorious truth of both Christ’s incarnation and redemptive work
with the same attitude.

You remember the words of Christina Rosetti’s
incarnational hymn– Christmas carol–In the Bleak Mid-Winter. It will
start playing in about a month on various radio stations.

In the bleak mid-winter, frosty wind made moan;

Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone.

Snow had fallen, snow on snow on snow,

In the bleak mid-winter, long, long ago.

And in the third stanza, do you remember the words?

What can I give Him, poor as I

If I were a shepherd, I would
give a lamb.

If I were a wise man, I would
do my part;

But what I can, I give Him:

I give Him my heart.

The very essence of my being, from the core of my being, I
give to Him. That’s the response to the picture of the incarnation of the Lord
Jesus Christ. But you know, Isaac Watts has us meditating on that at the foot
of the cross in his hymn, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross. Do you
remember the final stanza?

Were the whole realm of nature mine,

That were a present far too small.

Love so amazing, so divine,

Demands my soul, my life, my all.

That is exactly what the Old Testament spiritual believer
is symbolizing when he brings that bread before the Lord after the burnt
offering: “Lord, You have provided in this sacrifice a way back into fellowship
with You. In response, I devote myself to You. I give myself to you. This
bread…it represents me. You’ve given me this bread. All that I have, I have
from You. I give it back to You. It’s me, Lord, that I’m giving to You. I’m
devoting myself to You.”

Young people, do you realize that being redeemed by
the Lord Jesus Christ lays that very claim upon your heart? Does it show in the
way that you’re living, in the choices that you make? Do you say with Joseph
and with Daniel, and with the saints of God, “How can I do this thing and sin
against the Lord my God?” Because you belong to God. You have been bought with
a price, and you are God’s. You belong to Him.

Christian, if you have been redeemed by the Lord
Jesus Christ, you belong to Him. And this offering is an expression of devotion
to Him, and it sets forth that spiritual devotion which every believer is to
render to Christ.

Turn with me to Romans, chapter twelve. Paul puts
it this way. He says in Romans 12:1, “I urge you therefore, brethren, by the
mercies of God to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice acceptable to
God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” You see, Paul is saying the
same thing that’s being represented in this offering of dedication, this gift
offering: give yourself to God, that’s your sacrifice of gratitude and
thanksgiving to God. It’s not a sacrifice that saves you; it’s your response to
the sacrifice that saves you.

Now, how do you do that? Well, he tells you
in verse two: “Don’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the
renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is
good and acceptable and perfect
.” Do you have one foot in the world and one
foot in the church? Are you trying to love God and mammon at the same time?
This sacrifice points to the whole soul’s devotion, which is the only acceptable
response to the grace of God to us in Christ. So there’s the first thing we
learn in the grain offering. It’s an act of dedication to the Lord.

II. That which is given to the Lord
must be without corruption. Those who are loyal to God’s covenant want to bring
the best they have.

But we also learn in this grain offering that that
which is given to the Lord must be without corruption. If you look at verses
four through seven, the reason that those ingredients are forbidden in the grain
offering is because, as we’ve indicated, they ferment. They would corrupt the
offering eventually, and the Lord is particular that the offering that is to be
brought to Him is to be a perfect offering. And those who are loyal to God’s
offering want to bring the very best they have.

III. The meal offering is a
memorial. God lays claim to the first fruits. Giving them back to Him
acknowledges His Lordship over all and His kind provision.

But thirdly and finally (and you see this in verses
2,3, and 8-10, and also in 16), this meal offering is a memorial. Did you hear
the reflection of that phrase three times, its memorial part? Now this doesn’t
just mean the part not given to the priest is the memorial part, and the rest of
it is given to the priest–the memorial part is the part that’s not given to the
priest, it’s offered up as a soothing offering. And it’s not just that the
memorial part stands in for the whole grain offering gift, where part of it is
given to the priest; the memorial part stands for the whole. The point of the
memorial is this: it is a remembrance on the part of the offerer of the
sacrifice that God owns the offerer and the offering. In verses 11-16, God
Himself lays claims to the first fruits, and so giving back to Him of these
first fruits and giving Him of this grain and meal offering acknowledges His
lordship over all, and His kind provision.

Have you noticed on the bulletin, on the
page, the theme verse for the Stewardship Season for 2005?
“The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains; the world and those who dwell in
it.” This dedication offering was to memorialize to us and to God that
reality. We belong to God. Everything that God has given us belongs to God.
The world belongs to God. He is Lord and owner of all. And the memorial is the
remembrance of that, a reminder that God owns the offerer and the offering.

But how do you express this dedication to the
Lord? How do you express spiritually this devotion to the Lord which is
symbolically set forth in the ceremonial ritual of the grain offering in
Leviticus 2?
Well, David tells you in Psalm 40:6-8. Listen to what David

“Sacrifice and meal offering You [speaking to God] have not desired; My ears You
have opened; burnt offering and sin offering You have not required. Then I
said, “Behold, I come; In the scroll of the book it is written of me; I delight
to do Your will, O my God; Your law is within my heart.” ”

Now it is that passage that is
quoted by Paul’s student in Hebrews 10:5-9, where he says:

“Therefore, when He comes into the world, He says, ‘Sacrifice and burnt offering
You have not desired, but a body You have prepared for Me; In the whole burnt
offerings and sacrifices for sin You have taken no pleasure. Then I said,
‘Behold, I have come (in the scroll of the book of the law it is written of Me)
to do Your will, O God.’ After saying above, ‘Sacrifices and offerings and
whole burnt offerings and sacrifice for sin You have not desired, nor have You
taken pleasure in them (which were offered according to the Law), then He said,
‘Behold, I have come to do Your will.’ He takes away the first in order to
establish the second.”

Do you see what the author of Hebrews is saying? It is
Jesus who has performed the will of God perfectly on our behalf. He’s speaking
of Jesus’ active obedience. There are a lot of people that don’t believe in
Jesus’ active obedience any more. Well, you just take them to Hebrews 10:5ff
sometime. He’s speaking about Jesus’ active obedience on our behalf, that we
might be made right with God.

And what is the result of that? That we express our
devotion by loving God’s word like Jesus did.

Let’s pray.

Lord God, we bless You for Your word, and we give
to You of the daily bread that You have so richly given to us as a token of
giving ourselves to You. Receive this sacrifice of thanksgiving and praise for
Christ’s sake. Amen.

Would you stand for God’s blessing?

Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith,
through Jesus Christ our Lord, until the day break and the shadows flee away.

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