Grace, Gratitude, and Grain

Dr. Kevin DeYoung, Senior Pastor

Leviticus 2:1-6 | January 8 - Sunday Morning,

Sunday Morning,
January 8
Grace, Gratitude, and Grain | Leviticus 2:1-6
Dr. Kevin DeYoung, Senior Pastor

So think about this when we come to the very familiar saying of Jesus, which we read at the very beginning of the service, “You are the salt of the earth.” Now, yes, couple that with the light of world, He does mean you’re a light shining in a dark world, you’re a salt that prevents decay and you’re a kind of moral leaven in the world, but He means something else – the covenant of salt. You are My salty people. That is, you are the true people of God, and if you have Jesus as your Lord, you are heirs of the covenant promise. And as the covenant people of God, you will last forever. You will even survive the burning of God’s wrath on the earth. You are the salt of the earth. You will not be consumed when God’s righteous fury consumes all of His enemies.

Lord, our prayer is very simple. We need You to speak and we need Your help that we might listen. Give us grace to receive from Your Word exactly what each of us need to hear, whether we have been walking with You a long time, or we come this morning very far from you, whether we are nearing the end of our life, or we are small and just beginning. I pray, O Lord, that You would help us to hear the voice of Jesus. In His name we pray. Amen.

Yes, we come this morning Leviticus chapter 2, having begun this new series on the book of Leviticus. Many of you were kind enough to say you actually did remember the sermon from six years ago on Leviticus 1. Well, that’s as far as got six years ago, so now Leviticus 2. We preached on Leviticus 1, of course, my candidating sermon hear six years ago, and I love this book and if you pay attention and you are hear, I can just about promise that you will love this book. Though it’s filled, on the face of it, some of the most tedious and let’s be honest, seemingly boring sections in the Bible, there is so much here to teach us about life and about Christ.

It’s probably not overdoing it to remind you a bit of the context in which Leviticus is given, because it helps to make sense of what we see here if you keep in mind the drama. This seems to be a book absent of drama, because there’s very little narrative. It’s all instructions for Israel.

But remember in the book of Exodus God had promised to dwell in their midst. Exodus 25:8 – Let them make me a sanctuary that I may dwell in their midst. Exodus 29 – I will dwell among the people of Israel and I will be their God.

He had promised to them I will dwell with you. It was not just that He was leading them out of bondage in Egypt. There’s a metaphor here for the Christian life. It’s not that just forgives us or He leads us out of sin, but He leads us to a place and He was leading them to the mountain that they might receive His law and His instructions and ultimately, not just that they would be out of slavery, but that they would meet with God and He with them.

So having given this promise at least twice in the book of Exodus, “I will dwell with you,” in Exodus chapter 40 this great promise finds fulfillment, verse 34: “Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.” Notice the language “the tent of meeting,” and yet ironically here it is not yet fully a tent of meeting. It’s a tent of glory, God’s glory has inhabited it, but no sooner does God’s glory descend upon the tabernacle and He dwells in the midst of the people, fulfilling that promise, then we read in verse 35, “and Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting.” He’s there at the tent of meeting but even Moses, of all people, the one who interceded on behalf, their prophet, their leader, he is not able to enter in. It’s like God built his house and everyone could see the tabernacle being built.

Maybe you live in one of those neighborhoods that has a new development coming in or new house, and especially if it was right in the middle of your neighborhood and it was this elaborate, ornate construction, everyone would be talking about the house is built, the house is built. Then when you saw the moving trucks pull up and you say finally our new neighbors are here, this grand structure in the middle of our neighborhood, it’s completed, it’s built, they’ve moved in, and then the doors are locked. Well, when will we get to meet our new neighbor?

God has come to dwell in the midst, and yet Moses cannot enter in. This is not just the predicament for Israel, but in a way this is the predicament for all of humanity. As we’ll see throughout the book, the tabernacle is both a copy from heaven, and we have that teaching explicitly in the book of Hebrews, that you’re to build what is sort of a replica of the heavenly design and you build that tabernacle, and later it would be the temple, it’s a replica of a heavenly picture. So it’s both looking forward to a heavenly reality and it looks back to the garden of Eden paradise.

We don’t have time to do it now, but the way in which the, what the tabernacle looked like with the depiction of stars and sky and palm trees on the inside. It was meant to look like a miniature cosmos that you would enter in and it would be like entering into this garden paradise. So the tabernacle is both a picture of paradise lost and of paradise to come. Isn’t this the story of the entire human race of all time, all people, and all places? How do we get back? How can we regain what was lost?

Whether you have a Christian or any sort of Christian mindset, this is true among all peoples, all religions. There’s a sense of maybe some golden age. How do with get there? How can we come back home? How do we gain entrance into the house of the Lord? Everyone has some sense. You all have some sense. There’s something, however your good life is this morning, it’s not totally complete. Most of you feel far from that, filled with sin and pain and brokenness.

How do we get back to the way the world was supposed to be? That’s what the tabernacle represents, the heavenly realm to come and the paradise that was lost. It’s right there, literally on their doorstep, and God comes to dwell and Moses can’t enter in. Leviticus is the answer. It’s the answer to this specific predicament of Moses’ day, and it’s the answer to the problem we all face – How can we get back to Eden? How can we be assured of paradise? How can an unholy people dwell in the midst of a holy God?

Chapters 1 through 6 give detailed instructions for the laity, so the non-priests, and then chapters 6 and 7 give instructions for the priests.

There are five types of offerings. The first we saw last week, the burnt offering, ola is the word in Hebrew.

This is the second. The Hebrew word is minhah. We’ll read it in just a moment, translate it as grain offering, but the word minhah simply means offering, and it’s used throughout the Old Testament for various kinds of offering, but here it’s connected with flour and so it’s translated as a grain offering. So here’s the second type.

How can we get back to Eden? How can we dwell in the midst of a Holy God? How can we be on our way to heaven?

Well, the answer is found in sacrifice. First the burnt offering, here the grain offering.

Leviticus 2, verse 1: ““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 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. 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.””

This is the procedure for bringing an uncooked grain offering, next paragraph we’ll have cooked offerings. So here the priest takes some of the fine flour, some of the oil, so this would be olive oil, olive oil, wheat flour, basic food stuffs, and frankincense and burns it on the altar. Frankincense. Wasn’t that one of the gifts that the magi gave to Christ? Isn’t that a perfume? Well, yes, it is, that’s why this is part of the offering that the priests aren’t eating. You don’t want to eat the perfume, but thy sprinkle this offering with perfume so that when it’s burnt it will be a literal pleasing aroma.

So they want the people in the camp to understand something is happening. There it is again. We smell the frankincense on this food offering. The priest uses all of it because his sons are going to eat the rest of the offering, and use all the perfume on the food you’re not eating. So this is called a memorial portion for the Lord, and then there is going to be a separate portion for the priest.

Remember the burnt offering, it said, all of it is burnt up, all of the burnt offering is sacrificed. Now part of this grain offering will be to feed the priests. So first paragraph uncooked grain offering sprinkled with this perfume so they can all smell it.

Second paragraph, verse 4: ““When you bring a grain offering baked,” so first uncooked, now cooked, “baked in the oven as an offering, it shall be unleavened loaves of fine flour mixed with oil or unleavened wafers smeared with oil. And if your offering is a grain offering baked on a griddle, it shall be of fine flour unleavened, mixed with oil. You shall break it in pieces and pour oil on it; it is a grain offering. And if your offering is a grain offering cooked in a pan, it shall be made of fine flour with oil. And you shall bring the grain offering that is made of these things to the Lord, and when it is presented to the priest, he shall bring it to the altar. And the priest shall take from the grain offering its memorial portion and burn this on the altar, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the Lord. 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.””

So here we have the cooked grain offerings, and notice there’s three ways of doing this. You can bake it in an oven, which is just a very simple clay oven, or on a griddle, which would have been a flat pain, or in a pain which is some sort of deep frying device. In all three you have fine flour, unleavened, mixed with oil. The priest burned some of this as a memorial portion and the rest is available as food for the priests.

Verse 11: ““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. 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. 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.””

We had instructions for the uncooked grain offerings, then for the cooked grain offerings, and now here are some general instructions. There’s a couple of curiosities which we’ll come back to at the end. For example, you never burn leaven for the grain offering and you never burn honey, and you must always add the salt.

The doctors may not like that and a few husbands are elbowing their wives, “See, it’s biblical, give me my salt.” We’ll come back to that.

These are general instructions for the grain offerings.

Finally, in the last paragraph then, instructions for presenting a grain offering as a part of the firstfruits of your harvest.

Verse 14: ““If you offer a grain offering of firstfruits to the Lord, you shall offer for the grain offering of your firstfruits fresh ears, roasted with fire, crushed new grain. And you shall put oil on it and lay frankincense on it; it is a grain offering. And the priest shall burn as its memorial portion some of the crushed grain and some of the oil with all of its frankincense; it is a food offering to the Lord.””

Basic procedure, take some barley, roast it, crush it into grain, put oil and frankincense on it. Since it’s uncooked, it needs to smell, that’s the idea. The cooked, well, when you bake some bread that’s going to smell good, but the uncooked needs the perfume so they can smell it. Burn some grain, some oil, pinch of frankincense, and then presumably from this first fruits offering after you offer some to the Lord, the rest presumably the priests get, though it doesn’t say for sure.

So what, having read through these introductions, which on the face of it seem rather pedantic, what was the purpose for the grain offering?

Well, on a very practical level, it helped to feed the priests. Remember, and we’ll come back to this chapters later, the history of Aaron and his sons, the priests and the Levites, the Levites didn’t own land like the rest of the tribes. When they were apportioned for the 12 tribes, the Levites didn’t get their own tribal inheritance, so they were dependent upon the contribution of others. Later they are given certain cities. But they didn’t have an arable space of land like the other tribes had to do their harvest and to have cattle and sheep and grain, and so they are dependent upon the other tribes to come and present to them the food that they need to eat.

The Apostle Paul actually uses this practice as justification for paying preachers and pastors.

For example, 1 Corinthians 9 – Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings. In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the Gospel should get their living by the Gospel.

Now Paul famously said, “I’m going to stand apart from this that is my right, but it is a right that those who minister the Gospel have a right to make a living by the Gospel.” Paul’s explanation for it is well, look at the tabernacle, look at the temple. Those priests who handled your sacrifices, handled your offerings, they were meant to share in a portion of the food that you brought to them, and if those who handled mere earthly things were meant to share, then how much more are those who handle the heavenly realities, heavenly bread and wine, for God’s people, are they not meant to receive support from God’s people?

I don’t have to belabor this point and this is a very generous church and you provide for me and for the other pastors very well, but if some of you should move away from here or you graduate or you go to some other church at some point, just keep it in mind why the church ought to be generous to its pastors. Paul says the soldier does not serve at his own expense, the farmer gets some of the crop, the herdsmen gets some of the milk. The principle is that those who proclaim the Gospel have a right to have their needs met, their family cared of.

And thank you so much for the generosity of this church in abiding by this principle.

So that’s one very practical means. The grain offering, as we’ll see with some of the offerings, it helped to feed the priests.

But more central to the grain offering, and perhaps the best way to think of the grain offering, is as a “thank” offering. It could be offered as a voluntary expression of praise to God.

For example, Psalm 96, verse 8 – Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name, bring an offering, that’s the word minhah, bring a minhah and come into His courts.

So on any occasion, God’s people feeling overwhelmed with gratitude for God’s blessings, the psalmist says come to His courts, come to the tabernacle, later come to the temple, bring a minhah.

What might this mean for us? Perhaps it’s an extra gift that you give, a financial gift to the church. It can also mean come, bring a song, bring a prayer, give an amen. It’s okay, you can say amen if ever I say something that seems particularly good. You come and you bring an offering.

It was also a firstfruits grain offering. You understand the concept. We hear this as a firstfruits. Of course, in an agricultural setting, it’s not like today where most of you, maybe you’re on a fixed income and the government sends you money at regular intervals, or you’re working and perhaps your employer pays you weekly, twice a month, once a month. But here in an agricultural economy, it’s the annual harvest. Maybe depending upon the crop, it might take place at maybe two different harvests, but it’s only every six months, or maybe once every 12 months, that you bring in the harvest. So this was a big occasion.

The principle throughout the Old Testament is that you would bring firstfruits, that when you come and you have this great celebration, that the harvest is in, that you would give very first, not the scraps, not what is left over, not after you’ve already satiated yourselves and built bigger barns and bigger tents, but you bring first to the Lord.

Leviticus 23 gives these instructions. The idea is easy to see, that as you are collecting your harvest, you want to say to the Lord, “God, all that I have is provided from You. This is all yours. All of this harvest, all of this herd, every bit of this paycheck. Yes, I’ve worked, yes, I’ve labored, but it all is a gift from You. Everything I have comes from You, so would You take as a small expression of my thanksgiving some of the first of what I have received?”

So it is when we give our offerings to the church. It ought not to be that we just sort of wait around and see if there is something left over for God. In fact, God says, “Would you put me to the test?” God very rarely says that, but Malachi says, “Would you see if you can out give me? You can’t. See if you suffer for giving to Me what is first rather than waiting to give to Me what is last.”

There was a special firstfruits offering in particular when they came into the Promised Land. Remember, Leviticus takes place, there’s a timestamp at the end of Exodus and the beginning of Numbers, and Leviticus takes place in a month here in between Exodus and Numbers, and they’re not yet to the Promised Land but they look forward to it, and we read in Deuteronomy chapter 26 what they were to do with their offering when they entered the Promised Land. Just listen.

““When you come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance and have taken possession of it and live in it, you shall take some of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you harvest from your land that the Lord your God is giving you, and you shall put it in a basket, and you shall go to the place that the Lord your God will choose, to make his name to dwell there. And you shall go to the priest who is in office at that time and say to him,”” here’s what you say to the priest, ““‘I declare today to the Lord your God that I have come into the land that the Lord swore to our fathers to give us.’ Then the priest shall take the basket from your hand and set it down before the altar of the Lord your God. And you shall make response before the Lord your God.””

Now this is a great response. So you come in, you give your grain offering, and you make this declaration and the priest receives it, and now here’s your response. It’s a bit more complicated.

““‘A wandering Aramean was my father. And he went down into Egypt and sojourned there, few in number, and there he became a nation, great, mighty, and populous. And the Egyptians treated us harshly and humiliated us and laid on us hard labor. Then we cried to the Lord, the God of our fathers, and the Lord heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. And the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great deeds of terror, with signs and wonders. And He brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. And behold, now I, I bring the first of the fruit of the ground, which You, O Lord, have given me.’ And you shall set it down before the Lord your God and worship the Lord your God. And you shall rejoice in all the good that the Lord your God has given to you and to your house, and to you, and the Levite, and the sojourner who is among you.””

It’s a beautiful little service. We’re in the land, we have our firstfruits, you bring it to the priest, you thank God, and then you rehearse your own history. Whether you’re old and you lived it or you’re new, you rehearse it. You say, “Here’s our story. We were, I come from a wandering group of people. We went down into Egypt. There were about 70 of us and we went there and we grew to become a great nation. The Egyptians oppressed us but You, God, set us free. You gave us this land. You gave us this harvest. How can I not give my firstfruits to You?” and they rejoice.

It is most fundamentally a “thank” offering. And though we don’t have these same agricultural rhythms for most of us, or this Deuteronomic instruction when we come into a Promised Land, there ought to be key moments in our lives. Even if our harvest, so called, is every two weeks, or once a month, or some pay day, we ought to take time to stop and recount the Lord’s blessing. Even if you set up some direct deposit and understand doing that and that actually makes you give more regularly so the church appreciates that, but if you do that, so you’re not actually bringing something here to put in a plate or put in one of the boxes, would you have some occasion in your life, week by week, month by month, where you acknowledge all that the Lord has given to you?

Now the most common occasion, we talked about the firstfruits offerings, we talked about a freewill offering, but the most common occasion for the grain offering was actually with the burnt offering. Remember the burnt offering was the most foundational, the most common sacrifice, and usually along with the burnt offering, remember that’s a bull or a sheep or a bird depending on what you can afford, along with a burnt offering would be the grain offering. This would happen at festivals and special days and it accompanied the morning and evening sacrifice. Remember, the burnt offering took place every morning, every evening.

Here’s what we read in Numbers 28:4 and 5: “The one lamb you shall offer in the morning, and the other lamb you shall offer at twilight; also a tenth of an ephah of fine flour for a grain offering, mixed with a quarter of a hin of beaten oil.”

So every morning and every evening the priest is to offer a burnt sacrifice and along with the burnt offering is a grain offering, along with the ola is a minhah. Why? Think about it. This is, this is beautiful. Because daily, burnt offering, grain offering, is a symbol not just of atonement but of thanksgiving. When you put them together, and you heard the language like we did in chapter 1 of a pleasing aroma, again a pleasing aroma, to the Lord, the smoke that would perpetually be going up and especially at the morning sacrifice and the evening sacrifice, was a reminder, “I need a substitute.”

But it wasn’t just that, because the grain offering was to remind you to thank God that He gave you a substitute. Every day that you dwell in the midst of a holy God is a day that you and I deserve to die. That’s the worldview of Leviticus. But the morning and evening sacrifice reminds us there is a substitute, a sacrifice, on our behalf that we can have atonement. Atonement. How estranged parties are reconciled, at-one-ment. The burnt offering, God has provided a substitute. The grain offering, praise God, thank God, He offered a substitute.

It’s deeply theological. Do you see it? Atonement must come first, but thanksgiving must follow. You have to get the order right.

On the one hand, if you think that you can have atonement with God because of your obedience, you completely do not understand the Gospel. It’s not that the grain offering was foundational and the burnt offering added to it, as if your offering to God is what makes you right with Him. That would be to get the order backwards. No, the burnt offering is first.

But on the other hand, the burnt offering is accompanied with the grain offering. So put it in theological terms, it’s like justification leading to sanctification. Not your own personal holiness making you right with God, but having been reconciled to God, having your sins forgiven, how can you not then want to live a life of thanksgiving.

So on the one hand if you think your offering makes atonement for you, you don’t understand the Gospel. You don’t understand the severity of your sin. And yet if we do not live a life of thanksgiving to God, then we have not understood the immensity of His sacrifice for our sakes.

In living color, every morning, every evening, the burnt offering, the grain offering, was to reinforce to God’s people gratitude follows grace. Gratitude follows grace. Atonement for sin, then an offering of thanksgiving and dedication.

Even the worship we offer to God is made possible only first because of the mercy He gives to us. Notice again a pleasing aroma. So the sacrifice is a pleasing aroma, but did you know that your thanksgiving to God is also a pleasing aroma? It’s not that God needs anything from us, He’s not desperate for our attention. He doesn’t need a temple, He doesn’t need our sacrifices, He’s not hungry, we’re not feeding Him. But, oh, He delights. More than a dozen times in the New Testament it talks about our obedience pleasing God.

Some of us miss that. We just think, well, I’m forgiven, I get it. All right, I’m not going to Hell, I’m going to Heaven. God, I try not to look at God straight on because I know He’s forgiven me, and Jesus, but I’m just going to try to make my way in. He’s sort of, He’s still sort of technically mad at me, but because of Jesus He’s going to let me in. Don’t live your life that way. Yes, God is angry with our sin but He forgives us our sin.

Then more than a dozen times the New Testament tells us He’s pleased with us and we see the foundation of it here. He’s pleased, just as the sacrifice is a pleasing aroma, so when we offer our thanksgiving, it is a pleasing aroma.

Parents, and maybe mothers in particular if you’re the one making the meal, working hard, got all the dishes, all the pots, everything going. Let’s think about the meals that some of you made for Thanksgiving or for Christmas, and it’s days, days of work for Tasmanian devils to come in and [sound effect] devour it in 12 minutes, then go move on to the other room.

And you do it, and you do it gladly, most of the time, but it sure is nice when someone says, “Thank you. Mom, this was delicious. Dad, thanks for smoking that turkey. This was really good and I am glad and I thank you.”

Think, too, many of the commentaries say this and I think there’s something to it. I don’t think it’s overly speculative. Think about the smoke. When God descended on the tabernacle, how did God represent Himself in Exodus? Well, it’s a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night. It’s fire and smoke, fire and smoke. Smoke in Genesis and Exodus is a kind of theophany, it’s the way God manifests Himself, represents Himself. A cloud, a thick smoke, covers Mount Sinai. So this thick cloud, or smoke, inhabits the tabernacle.

So what happens as the smoke of the burnt offering and the grain offering arises into heaven? The ascending smoke is a kind of symbol of our own transformation, of our own transportation. Because of atonement, we, too, can be made like God. When we offer thanks, we are giving to God some of what He’s given to us.

So even that picture of ascending smoke is something of our own transformation as God’s people to become like God, having been purified, having been forgiven by atonement, to be made like unto God that now we in a way, our sacrifice is represented by smoke and fire and we ascend to be with God where He dwells in the heavens.

It’s a little picture. You’re not yet entering the tent of meeting and no ordinary person could just barge their way into the tent of meeting, and yet by atonement, by thanksgiving, we’re transformed and we’re transported to be our own sort of fire and smoke, to be purified and to be holy as God is holy, and to ascend and to dwell with God in heaven. The morning and evening sacrifice was to remind us of our sin and our need for atonement and our morning and evening dedication and gratitude.

Typically, you have your devotional time, your quiet time, in the morning or in the evening. Spurgeon famously, his little book of morning and evening devotions, befitting and is a practice for many of you already to do at least something when you wake up and some sort of prayer as you go to bed at night, morning and evening.

It’s represented here. The daily rhythms of life, with the sacrifice, and with gratitude.

I wonder, not to put it too cheekily, but some of us I think are better at crank offerings than thank offerings. What’s your attitude in the morning? I know, some of you are morning people, some of you are night people. I feel more energetic and ready to go in the morning and by the evening I have to wonder if I’m a Christian sometimes, so… You may be just the opposite. I feel like by the evening I’m giving more crank offerings than thank offerings.

But might it be, it certainly would be a good habit in your life, get up in the morning, you might need the coffee first, come to God. You gave me life today. Be reminded of God’s provision in the burnt offering and offer Him thanksgiving in the grain offering, and then when you go to bed at night, again the Israelites would be reminded – an atonement in the burnt offering and gratitude in the grain offering, morning and evening.

The grain offering was an essential part of their daily discipleship, their rhythm as God’s people. They’ve been given grace, they return gratitude.

Now I said as we read through that there a couple of curiosities, and so here we need to wrap up by trying to understand these two strange instructions.

The first. Why are they told no leaven and no honey? Leaven, yeast, is forbidden at the Passover in Exodus 12 and 13 and various other sacrifices in Exodus 23, so part of it is just a remembrance of you were in haste when you left Egypt and you didn’t have time to leaven your bread.

But why is it forbidden here? And in particular, why is honey forbidden? That seems strange. Look at verse 11 – 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.

Why no leaven and no honey? Well, one option, people say, well, these were used by pagans. Perhaps. Another says, well, leaven was a kind of living thing and honey maybe came from living things. But I think the best option is to understand that these two elements are forbidden because both of them, if heated enough, would ferment. That’s why you can use honey in other situations where it’s not bad, but here if you’re going to burn it, so leaven and honey are given to fermentation, which is a kind of decay. It’s a kind of death.

These offerings, like the burnt offerings, are to be without blemish, without decay, without fault, without flaw. So you cannot have anything in this grain offering that would give any sort of literal or figurative taste of death. Nothing that could ferment.

You have to marvel at the details that God gives. He wants His people to understand this in every possible way. He wants them to understand the only offering I accept is a perfect offering, no blemish, no impurities, nothing unclean, nothing decaying, nothing dying, in itself. Of course, the animal then is put to death.

But it’s reinforcing to God’s people, day after day, century after century, the only offering that is acceptable to God must be a perfect offering. So how could they not reflect on their lives. Surely this is not me. But it is here an animal and it is this baked loaf of bread. Only perfection will do. Only a flawless offering can be made from our sakes, or for our sakes. That’s part of the curiosity, why no leaven, why no honey.

What about this other instruction? We’ll end here. Verse 13. Three times it repeats “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,” and then a third time, “with all your offerings you shall offer salt.” Really? We need salty bread? Why salt? Why three times the emphasis that all of your grain offerings must have salt?

Well, one reason you may think of, comes immediately to mind, salt prevents decay, that’s part of it. It’s just the opposite. Leaven and honey when burnt ferment; that is, decay. Salt prevents decay, so it’s the opposite. One is leading to death, one is preventing death and corruption.

But there’s more to it than that. There’s a related reason and actually a more central reason. We usually think of that as salt, you’re the salt of the earth, you prevent corruption and decay in the world, you’re the light of the world. But there’s a more central reason why all the offerings must have salt.

Listen to Numbers 18:19.

““All the holy contributions that the people of Israel present to the Lord I give to you, and to your sons and daughters with you, as a perpetual due. It is a covenant of salt,” there’s the strange language again, a covenant of salt, and then here’s the operative word in Numbers 18:19, “forever before the Lord for you and for your offspring with you.””

Again, 2 Chronicles 13:5.

“Ought you not to know that the Lord God of Israel gave the kingship over Israel forever to David and his sons by a covenant of salt?”

So both of those occasions, this rare occurrence of a covenant of salt. It’s here in Leviticus 2 and then Numbers 18 and 2 Chronicles 13. Both in Numbers and in 2 Chronicles you hear in conjunction with covenant of salt is the word “forever,” forever.

Salt, in other words, is a metaphor for permanence. What gets burned up in the fire? Well, your grain offering, your bread is reduced to carbon and has. But what is not consumed in the fire? The salt.

The worshiper is making a commitment on his part to keep the covenant all his days, and God is making a promise on His part to honor the covenant forever. God’s covenant with His people is on these few occasions called a covenant of salt because it is a picture of permanence.

Now thankfully here in Carolina we have very few occasions to salt the road because of snow and ice, but I can tell you from experience, and Grand Rapids, Michigan has already gotten 75 inches of snow this season already, and they use sand and other sorts of mixture now because salt breaks apart the roads, you can tell as you travel north the roads get worse. I can tell you that when the mounds of snow and slush melt away and it’s all gone you still see all of those white patches on the road. Salt. You have after the snow finally melts, for miles you have all of the midwesterners’ cars lined up to the carwash. Why? Because caked on all sides of the vehicle, salt.

What has remained when everything else has disappeared? All of the salt. What remains, if you ever have to soak an injury or a foot or something in a tub of Epsom salt and then you drain out the water and there’s still a ring of residue, the salt remains. If you burn something up and then you see in the pain at the bottom, the salt remains. It’s still there.

This is why God says I don’t want you to ever give this grain offering without salt, because when it’s burned up and you see the salt residue there in the pain, you’re to remember God doesn’t leave us. God doesn’t forsake us. God cannot be burnt up. He watches over us. He forgives us. He never changes. He promises to be our God and we will be His children.

You should think of this every time you see salt at the bottom of some meal. Every time you see salt in some fire pit. Every time you see salt on the side of the road or the side of your boots or your vehicle, you are to think, “God loves me forever.”

Everything else burnt up, covered with snow, soaked in water… Salt remains.

Three times we read in this passage, verse 2, verse 9, verse 16, that the offering is a memorial portion, a remembrance. It is to say, us to God, “I have not forgotten Your sacrifice,” and it is God saying to us, “I will not forget you. I see you. I know you. I will remember. Just as surely as the salt will not be consumed, you, My people, will not be consumed.”

So think about this when we come to the very familiar saying of Jesus, which we read at the very beginning of the service, “You are the salt of the earth.” Now, yes, couple that with the light of world, He does mean you’re a light shining in a dark world, you’re a salt that prevents decay and you’re a kind of moral leaven in the world, but He means something else – the covenant of salt. You are My salty people. That is, you are the true people of God, and if you have Jesus as your Lord, you are heirs of the covenant promise. And as the covenant people of God, you will last forever. You will even survive the burning of God’s wrath on the earth. You are the salt of the earth. You will not be consumed when God’s righteous fury consumes all of His enemies.

So the grain offering is an expression of dedication, of gratitude, and of hope. It is hope in the forever and always promises of God.

So every morning, every evening, let each of us as God’s people say, if not out loud then in our hearts, as the burnt offering ascends and the grain offering ascends with it, the steadfast love of the Lord never cease. His mercies never come to an end, they are new every morning, they are there every evening. Great is your faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, says my soul, therefore I will hope in Him.

Let’s pray. Gracious heavenly Father, thank You for all You teach us in Your Word, by laws, by poems, by wisdom, by stories, by pictures, by sacrifices. May we be as Your people salt and light in this world. We thank You for Your grace. May we in response live lives of gratitude. In Jesus’ name. Amen.