Monday, December 9, 2013
In Search Of Truth, Leviticus 2:1-16
The Hebrew word for "grain offering" used here means "gift, present, or tribute". The symbolic purpose of the grain offering is not clearly stated in the text, but given the definition of this word it seems to have a connotation of thanks to Yahweh for providing sustenance or recognition that he is the source of life and well-being.
Deuteronomy 7:13 includes oil as a result of productive farming. The use of it here, in addition to being a practical part of the recipe, may have been an additional reminder of God's provision.
As with the burnt offering, the grain offering is voluntary. It was an option each Israelite had for expressing gratitude to Yahweh.
Although not specified here, the size of the grain offering varied, with a size of about 2 quarts being the smallest portion that could be offered. It's significant, then, how much of the offering was burned and how much was given to the priests. In addition to being a relational expression to Yahweh, this offering served a practical purpose and helped the priests (who did no other work for a living) have the food they needed.
There were a number of ways that this offering could be prepared. Although there is no known symbolism attached to any of these cooking methods, the variety of options would have made it easy for the preparation of the offering to be done by the families of Israel. Although priests were required to perform the final ritual, the rest of the preparation was a very "hands-on" experience that probably took place in the home, adding a familiar, almost intimate element to the process.
The unique holiness of this offering is demonstrated in the consumption of the priests' portion. These portions were not taken home to eat, but could only be eaten by the priests in the courtyard of the tabernacle. (Leviticus 6:16)
Leaven, or yeast, was also prohibited from use in the last meal the Israelites ate before leaving Egypt. (See Exodus 12) The reason then was because there would be no time to wait for the yeast to rise. They were to hurry away from that land to where Yahweh was taking them. Eventually, in the New Testament era, yeast became a symbol of sin.
Scholars are not sure how this connotation developed. But if I were to offer sloppy speculation I might wonder if yeast became connected to the idea of staying where we are instead of moving in the direction God wants us to, just as using yeast on the first Passover would have meant staying longer in Egypt.
Scholars seem even more unsure regarding the reason for prohibiting honey in this offering, but have suggested its potential for fermentation may have been a factor.
A "firstfruits" offering was made of the first produce of the season, and seemed to even more specifically symbolize gratitude for a good harvest, or recognition that Yahweh determined the success of the coming harvest.
The symbolic reason for the inclusion of salt is not agreed on by scholars. There are a number of ideas and explanations offered, but none are conclusive. In the treaties of surrounding cultures, salt was used to symbolize preservation. It may be intended here that salt symbolize the preservation of the covenant relationship between Israel and Yahweh.
At the very least we know that salt was an important part of a healthy ancient Israelite diet. Its importance in food may have some symbolic application to its use in these "food offerings" for Yahweh.
This chapter made me stop and think about the productivity I experience in my life and the resulting tangible blessings of that productivity. I'm sitting here now asking myself uncomfortable questions about the financial or tangible blessings in my life.
A trend in geek culture that unfortunately almost defines us is our obsession with "things". Maybe you're not the "collecting" kind of geek, but many of us are. So consider steeping onto the skinny branches with me as we ask ourselves:
Do I consider how my possessions can be "offered up" to God?
Am I quick to lend out my treasures and take initiative in offering to do so? Or do I quietly hope that no one will ask to borrow "my precious"?
Lately I've been challenging myself to keep a loose grip on my possessions, offering to lend them out whenever I sense potential interest from a friend. It's difficult in some cases, but also liberating, as I realize I'll be just fine and my life will go on even if they take my expertly cared for comics and DVD and let their dog play with them in the back yard.
Lending out my treasures is a great way to help someone who is trying to save money and handle finances in a God-honoring way. And let's be honest. Geeks have the coolest stuff to lend out to others. We are uniquely equipped to bless others in this area. (Even if they don't realize how cool Farscape is yet, they'll be blown away after the first two seasons.) I also see in it a chance to invest in relationships and express love and trust. And who doesn't want to feel loved and trusted?
Like the ancient grain offering, we can offer up the fruits of our labor to serve God's agenda and practically and tangibly bless others who are serving him.