“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.” Leviticus 2:13
There’s an expression here in America that talks about throwing out the baby with the bath water. Sometimes we do that with Your Word, Lord. Sometimes, something is just difficult or we don’t even have a picture of what it’s really like, and we just toss it out with disregard as though it has no benefit for us. I see that done with the Old Testament truths. I see that done with the sacrifices, and the feasts and festivals. Only there is this word, perpetual, that God says this will be among Israel.
If You established these sacrifices and festivals as perpetual, “olam,” then why do we discard them as uninteresting and unneccesary to understand? If they were valuable to You and necessary for the Jews, then why are they so invaluable to us? It’s funny but that word olam means “vanishing point, time out of mind, eternity.” So maybe, just maybe, You intended these things to have value for us eternally somehow?
Now, I don’t want to get hung up on performance here. I understand that we are saved by grace, not by works we do. God, You save us because there is nothing we could ever do to make ourselves acceptable on our own. But let me ask a question. What about the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper? Paul tells us, “For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when He was betrayed took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it, and said, ‘This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way also He took the cup, after supper saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” (1 Corinthians 11:23-26) Now, does remembering through this ordinance save me? No. Absolutely not! Is that why I do it? No. I obey this “tradition” because it does exactly what Jesus said it was for. It reminds me. I remember what it stands for. It continually and repetitively points me back to You, Jesus.
I suppose it’s always a tendency of people to want to trust in their own good works, but that’s not what the sacrificial system and the feasts were about any more than the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper is about saving faith by eating bread and drinking wine. Maybe we’d remember a lot more about You God and about Jesus and about ourselves if we took time to think about these “time out of mind” reminders.
Do you realize that Ezekiel was given a vision of a future temple and sacrificial “system” which most scholars believe is part of the millenial kingdom? Here is a time when Jesus is on earth with us and the nation of Israel has returned to the Lord in Jesus Christ, and they are offering sacrifices! And God says, “This is a perpetual statute.” (Ezekiel 46:14) What if the sacrificial system and feasts of the Old Testament were pointing forward to Christ as daily reminders of what was to come and the sacrificial system and feasts in the Millenial Kingdom are pointing back to Christ as daily reminders of what You have done for us? Since when don’t we need continual reminders lest we forget?
In desiring to understand this grain offering better, I did an internet search. I wanted to find someone coming from a Jewish believer’s perspective. Here’s what they started with, “The heart of the Good News is that Messiah Yeshua died for our sins. Dying to atone for sin sounds strange to many people today, including my Jewish people. The Good News would have greater impact if more people understood Temple worship, the sacrifices and the priests who offered them. They might be able to see how they are fulfilled in the Messiah and the New Covenant, which enables us to truly get close to the Three-In-One God of Israel!” The point is, these statutes that You gave the Jews, Lord, were for the Jews and for us to be able to get close to You. It was never about works but always about relationship.
The word most usually used for sacrifices and offerings is “korbanot.” The root means “to get close.” Why do we need to get close to God? Because we’ve been estranged from You because of our sin. Now to learn a little more about what You were doing God, by instituting sacrifices and feasts, let’s think about the sacrifices. A sacrifice was not intended to be taken lightly or superficially. It required giving something valuable. Remember the statement “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required…” (Luke 12:48) The rich brought bulls, the poor (like Mary and Joseph) brought pigeons or grain. You came with the best You could give, not the least. You were to come with a right heart attitude before the Lord. Has that changed? Doesn’t my heart attitude still matter? Or can I approach You with an attitude of giving the least I can? Would that attitude show I’ve really come to know and love You?
Because Your character is holy, my sacrifice was and is to be holy or perfect, without blemish. If I don’t care about that, if I would give You a defective sacrifice, then I don’t really recognize You in my heart. I show I despise You. And it reminds me that holiness and righteousness is only attained by living to Your statutes. Which reminds me of my impurity and unholiness and sinfulness and imperfection and points me to Jesus, my Necessary Perfector. It wasn’t myself that I offered. I had to offer an unblemished sacrifice in my place. No imperfect animal could do that once and for all. But You, Jesus, were and are our Ultimate Sacrifice. What a beautiful connection to remember. What a beautiful connection for someone to look forward to. It was what Simeon and the widow at the Temple got so excited over when they saw this Jesus, even as a baby, that they had been looking forward to. “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation that You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to Your people Israel.” (Luke 2:29-32)
All these things were substitutes and examples. These things were burnt so the offerer wouldn’t have to be. They got what the person deserved to get. We transfer our guilt, our shame, our imperfection to that which we offer. The offering experiences it for us and we should understand that. I should be receiving that punishment. I should be the one burning. But the Ultimate Sacrifice takes my place. He became my Substitute. He was the Substitute even back then. Simeon understood that. We all must because we are called to identify with Him and identifying with Him means really starting to understand the depth of what You have done for us.
The order of the offerings mattered, that’s why the sin offering was first. Before we can walk in faith, we must deal with the things that separate us from You, God. My sin is a problem that must be dealt with. It must be atoned for before I can ever dedicate myself to You or serve You, before true fellowship and intimacy with You can ever be experienced.
It was never about going through the motions. The Korbanot was about having genuine faith. Going through the motions never draws us closer to God. Our hearts and minds and actions need to be engaged with You, God. I must truly respect You for who You are. Yes, You God, care how I come to You. You care about the attitude of my heart and mind. “‘What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?’ says the Lord; ‘I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats. When you come to appear before me, who has required of you this trampling of my courts? Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations–I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly. Your new moons and your appointed feasts My soul hates; they have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them.” (Isaiah 1:10-14) Pretty strong stuff, huh? Well, God, You weren’t burdened by and sick of these things because You set them in motion. You were burdened by and sick of the emptiness of men’s hearts, the lack of love for You, the going through motion mentality, and the burden it was for them to serve You. What heart attitude do I surrender to You with? Am I serving in faith and in love and in delighting in You? Or is it a chore, a chore to read Your word, a chore to fellowship in a church with other believers, a chore to talk about You, a chore to obey?
The offerings remind us that we don’t just commit intentional sins. Sin can be unintentional. I can be careless with my word or actions. It’s interesting that some of the offerings were burnt as a sweet fragrance to You, but a portion was given as food to the priests. I wonder if that was a picture of how we are both effected by others sins and how we have a responsibility to help others in their struggle with sin? I wonder if You are telling us that You will take care of our sin and keep us in relationship with You and with each other?
Back to the sin offering. It forced one to identify with the offering and realize it as a substitute. There was an exchange-of-life, this animal’s life given for mine. Not a fair exchange, especially when transferred to You Jesus, but no other exchange could give us life! The offerer had to kill the animal. It’s my sin that leads to death. It’s my sin that causes pain. I am the problem and the minute I realize that, God can begin a work in me. The priest offered the blood by sprinkling it. I can’t offer the blood. Someone holy has to. That’s where Jesus, You come in. The blood is a symbol of life. My life was sprinkled before God. Is my life sprinkled out before God?
Do I see the visual of Jesus here and how I must respond and how He responded for me? Is it just a sacrifice? Or is it about relationship? Is it about seeing and understanding the depths of what God needs to do for me and what He has done or what He wants to do? It’s still all by faith. If I understand and act upon that understanding, I’m living out faith. You redeem me, You save me, and You forgive my sins. Then You lead me in You. You grow me in You. I delight more and more in You. Everything becomes a reminder and a picture. I see You everywhere around me, in other people, in nature, in traditions, in statutes, and even in balloon creations! And I keep acting on that seeing and that knowing.
There was even a guilt offering. Asham, the Hebrew root, means “to fail in one’s duty” or “to be negligent”, or “to become guilty.) That’s anytime we don’t do the holy things that You require. Jesus was the Righteous, Guiltless one who paid the price for us, for my failing in my duty to God and man. Yeah, I know I’m guilty at that. Sometimes it happens in the midst of trying do what’s right but I miss what someone else really needs. Yeah, living in relationship is hard. That’s why I need Jesus. I can’t do it right on my own. Offerings tell me that.
The burnt offering declares that my life is not my own. It’s about submission to God’s will. Everything is given, everything is consumed and goes up to God. It’s tied in with gratitude over being forgiven and atoned for. Jesus was that perfect burnt offering. “I must be about my Father’s business.” He was wholly given over to the will of God, dedicated, delighted in Him. He was flawless, never sinned. Then He gave His very life as the final sacrifice for our sin. That’s a high price to pay, the highest. We’ve been bought with a very expensive price. That means that my life is no longer my own. So what’s the least service I ought to give back? What can I give when there is no price of the same that I could ever match? A life, holy and dedicated to His service is the least that I can give for the immense gift of Jesus’ life that God gave for me.
The grain offering took a lot of work on man’s part and was very valuable. Grain was a staple of the diet. You had to break the ground, sow the wheat, wait on God for the rains, weed the crop, harvest the crop, separate the grain from the chaff, mill it into flour, and then take it to Jerusalem to offer. Some was burned and some was eaten by the priests. But here’s the thing, even our energy, our strength, our labor, our skills, come from the Lord. He blesses us with them. He enables us to do work. Remember, He gives us our daily bread? What if the rains never came?
The grain offering would have some oil poured over it by the worshiper. Oil carries a symbolic meaning. It’s all about the presence of God. Is God involved in our work? He needs to be. He deserves to be. Frankincense was also added for it’s aroma. It’s symbolic of the prayers of God’s people. Maybe even our work and the attitude we offer it with is like a prayer. Maybe that’s why no leaven could be used, since leaven symbolizes sin. Our attitude of work, our appreciation for God’s hand over all we do and acquire shows our true relationship with God. Honey was the same kind of symbol. That’s funny, honey tastes sweet and so do our own efforts sometimes. But it’s not acceptable unless we acknowledge God His way and not ours and not by our own efforts.
This grain offering was seasoned with salt. It symbolized nullifying sin. It seasoned the sacrifice. It symbolized God’s holiness, His purity, and the permanance of His covenant. Salt was essential to life. People sealed their word by it in ancient times. It’s what made covenants binding. It wasn’t just a spice or condiment.
The Peace offering makes us whole or complete. It thanks God for restoring us, the worshiper, to a state of wholeness with Him. We thank Him for allowing us to be at peace with Him, for allowing us fellowship with Him. This one is offered to God, eaten by the priest, and eaten by the offerer and his family. Jesus has always been in a perfect peace with God and brings us into that perfect relationship. He restores us to that state of well-being.
I don’t want be hung up over the sacrifices and feasts. I think we need to understand them, and if we choose to celebrate the feasts, well, what better way to understand and enjoy. After all, when Jesus returns we’ll be celebrating them again then. I might as well try to gain some understanding now. I don’t have to do a sacrifice now. I don’t have to celebrate the God-ordained feasts. But I am the salt of the earth as a believer. “[I]f salt has lost it’s 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.” (Matthew 5:13) If You told us these things then I think they matter more than ritual. I think the salt of the covenant still means something. I think Jesus thinks so too or He wouldn’t have mentioned it.
Lord, I pray that as we spend time together in Your word and in prayer, You would just help me to get so excited over what You share with us, over how You reveal Yourself, over how You change lives, that I’m a wonderful salty flavor to others and a wonderful aroma to You. I don’t want to disregard things I don’t understand. I want to keep digging and keep seeking so I can understand and be changed by what You show me and do in me. When it comes to offering my life to You, I don’t ever want it to be about ritual or duty even if duty is required. I want my life to be offered to You in delight of who You are and in awe of what You have done for me. Continually place reminders before me that I may never forget.