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.
The second chapter of Leviticus is the prescription for the grain offering. With every offering that God prescribes, there are two ways that I try to look at them. First is the literal understanding, trying to see what God is telling the Israelites to do on a practical level and to consider what implications that might have. Second is the symbolic understanding, looking to see if the sacrifice will bear scrutiny as a metaphor of something else.
On the first pass, this sacrifice seems straightforward. The worshiper is to bring the grain either as fine flour or as cakes made from fine flour. A portion of the offering would be offered up in fire while the rest became food for the priests. The grain offerings were to involve oil in all forms and involve frankincense when offered as flour. The oil makes sense to me, as the flour will need some kind of binding agent to keep it together as a cake as well as to keep the flour from turning into a flammable cloud near the altar. The frankincense also makes a degree of sense, as the bronze altar area of the tabernacle would smell like a combination slaughterhouse and barbecue pit with all the animals being killed and burned in the fire. A different aroma probably helped.
On the second pass, there are lots of directions that I want to go, but verses 11-13 caught my attention. This offering has three very specific prescriptions: (1) no leaven, (2) no honey, and (3) salt.
Leaven, in The Bible, is often synonymous with sin. Jesus warns His disciples to beware the leaven of the scribes and Pharisees. And believers are warned that a little leaven leavens to whole lump, speaking of intentionally permitting even a tiny bit of sin into our lives. This offering is to have no leaven in it. This offering must be sinless.
Honey is generally a good thing when I run across it in The Bible. It most often seems to be spoken of in connection with luxury, as in the land flowing with milk and honey. The only warning I really see against it is in excess and as a metaphor for flattering or seductive speech. But honey is also the product of another’s work — the bees, specifically. This offering is not to include anyone’s work but the worshiper. You can bring only your own labors to the altar for this offering.
Salt was, in the ancient world, a valuable commodity. So much so that people were sometimes paid in salt. Hence the phrase “worth his salt.” Moreover, salt acts as a preservative and enhances flavor.
All of these combine to form a picture of Christ, The Bread of Life. He is the only sinless offering. He is the only One Who can bring His own works to the altar and be accepted. And He preserves and gives flavor to life.
What this has to do with me is twofold. One, I need to be mindful that the sacrifices are often pictures of Christ and I should be looking for Him in them. Two, I am reminded that He is MY sacrifice. I do not come into the presence of the Father by any good work of my own, but by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. His sacrifice is all well and good to note academically, but it is ineffective to me until I accept His work as my sacrifice.
Father, thank You for Jesus’ sacrifice and for this reminder of it. Please teach me to keep always in mind that Jesus is my sacrifice and the only way I can be accepted by You.