Amber Waves of Grain
A Pocket Paper
On this Independence Day of 2004, it’s important to remind ourselves that our great nation was founded and established by those who reverenced and respected God’s Word and God’s Son, Jesus Christ. Patrick Henry said: “It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians, not by religions, but by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Virtually without exception, the founders of our nation maintained the conviction that a moral society is impossible without a respect for the Bible.
Noah Webster said: “The moral principles and precepts contained in the Scriptures ought to form the basis of all our civil constitutions and laws. All the miseries and evils which men suffer from vice, crime, ambition, injustice, oppression, slavery, and war, proceed from their despising or neglecting the precepts contained in the Bible.”
I can give you quote after quote from almost every one of the Founding Fathers of our nation, warning us that a healthy society depends on strong morality, and strong morality depends on a respect for religion in general and of Christianity in particular. But this is a message that has fallen to the wayside in our own day of pride and pluralism. How do we as a nation rediscover a reverence and a respect for God’s holiness?
Strange as it seems, there’s no better book for us to study on this subject than the Old Testament book of Leviticus, which contains the Mosaic law which serves as the underpinning of all biblical ethics and holiness. The theme of Leviticus is summed up in the words: Be holy for I am holy.
Our God is a holy and sinless God, and He expects His people to reflect His holiness. In this book of Leviticus:
· The word holy occurs 95 times.
· The word unholy occurs once.
· The word clean occurs 48 times.
· The word unclean occurs 131 times.
· And the phrase Be holy is found 24 times.
Is there any subject or theme in
the Bible more needed by the
Now in our study through
Leviticus, we’ve learned that when Moses led the Children of Israel out
As we open the book of
Leviticus, we have these sacrifices and offerings described to us. The first seven chapters of Leviticus
describe the five different offerings that comprised the worship ritual of
The remarkable thing about these offerings is that they are prophetic in nature. They have no power or meaning or significance in and of themselves. They are simply symbolic types, pointing to the great coming Messiah who would offer Himself as a sacrifice for the ransom of many. So each of these five sacrifices and offerings points to Jesus Christ, and each one of them tells us something essential about our Lord.
Last week we looked at the Burnt Offering in chapter 1. The distinction of this offering is that it was entirely consumed on the altar. Nothing was left. Nothing was eaten. Nothing was given away. Nothing was used for any other purpose. The animal was slain, placed on the altar, and entirely consumed in the flames. This is one of the Bible’s most graphic pictures of the totality of the sacrifice that Jesus Christ made for you and me.
Now today we are coming to the second type of offering, and it is very different. It’s called the Grain Offering. It didn’t involve an animal, and there was no shedding of blood. This was a vegetarian offering, as it were. When the people harvested their grain, they would bring some of it to the Tabernacle—the best and richest portions—and offer it to the Lord. It represented the perfect humanity of Jesus Christ, the Bread of Life, the Bread broken for us.
There are some interesting details about this offering that speak of Jesus, so let’s read the entire chapter of Leviticus 2 and then I want to point out seven details that point to Christ.
When anyone offers a Grain 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 bring it to Aaron’s sons, the priests, one of whom shall take from it his handful of fine flour and oil with all the frankincense. And the priest shall burn it as a memorial on the altar, an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the Lord. The rest of the Grain Offering shall be Aaron’s and his sons’. It is most holy of the offerings to the Lord made by fire.
And if you bring as an offering a Grain Offering baked in the oven, it shall be unleavened cakes of fine flour mixed with oil, or unleavened wafers anointed with oil. But if your offering is a Grain Offering baked in a pan, 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.
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. Then the priest shall take from the Grain Offering a memorial portion, and burn it on the altar. It is an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the Lord. And what is left of the Grain Offering shall be Aaron’s and his sons’. It is most holy of the offerings to the Lord made by fire.
No Grain Offering which you bring to the Lord shall be made with leaven, for you shall burn no leaven nor any honey in any offering to the Lord made by fire. As for the offering of the firstfruits, you shall offer them to the Lord, but they shall not be burned on the altar for a sweet aroma.
And every offering of your Grain Offering you shall season with salt; you shall not allow the salt of the covenant of your God to be lacking from your Grain Offering. With all your offerings you shall offer salt. If you offer a Grain Offering of your firstfruits to the Lord, you shall offer for the Grain Offering of your firstfruits green heads of grain roasted on the fire, grain beaten from full heads. And you shall put oil on it, and lay frankincense on it. It is a Grain Offering. Then the priest shall burn the memorial portion: part of its beaten grain and part of its oil, with all the frankincense, as an offering made by fire to the Lord.
There are seven details that are quite significant.
Fine Flour = His Perfect Life
First, the fine flour represents our Lord’s perfect humanity. Warren Wiersbe points out that there was no shedding of blood involved in the Grain Offering, for it focused on the life and character of our Lord Jesus Christ rather than His death. This Grain Offering could be offered in various forms. The worshipper could bring the flour itself, or he could bake it into a loaf of bread, or he could cook it on the griddle, or he could bring the crushed heads of grain. But whatever the form, it was to be the finest wheat he could possibly grow, for it represented the perfect life of our Lord Jesus Christ. Notice verse 1 of the chapter: “When anyone offers a Grain Offering to the Lord, his offering shall be of fine flour.”
I think that it’s always a good idea for us to stand amazed at the perfections of Christ. I recently read an old biography of the Reformer Martin Luther, and I think one of the things that characterized Luther was a constant wonder at the perfections of Jesus Christ. Luther said on one occasion: When I am told that God became a man, I can follow the idea, but I just do not understand what it means. For what man, if left to his own natural promptings, if he were God, would humble Himself to lie in the feedbox of a donkey or to hang upon the cross? God laid upon Christ the iniquities of us all. This is that ineffable and infinite mercy of God which the slender capacity of man’s heart cannot comprehend and much less utter—that unfathomable depth and burning zeal of God’s love toward us.
Oil = His Spirit-Filled Life
The second characteristic of the Grain Offering was this: When the worshipper brought the Grain Offering to the Lord, it was to include oil. Look at verse 1 again: When anyone offers a Grain Offering to the Lord, his offering shall be of fine flour. And he shall pour oil on it….
This is an easy symbol to interpret, for oil is a common symbol for the Holy Spirit. Think of how perfectly this fits. Fine grain mixed with oil. Fine grain anointed with oil. It represents the perfect humanity of Christ being anointed with the Holy Spirit. When Jesus was baptized by John in the River Jordan, the Holy Spirit descended from heaven like a dove and rested upon Him, filling Him and possessing Him and empowering Him for His work. The very words “Messiah” and “Christ” mean, literally, the “Anointed One.”
Frankincense = His Fragrant Life
Added to the oil was frankincense. Look at verse 1 again: When anyone offers a Grain Offering to the Lord, his offering shall be of fine flour. And he shall pour oil on it, and put frankincense on it.
This perfumed oil called
frankincense is referred to fourteen times in the Bible. It was a perfumed, sweet-smelling
ointment that was derived from the resin of a special tree. It was a valuable
specialty of the
The historian Philip Schaff wrote: A catalog (list) of virtues and graces (of Christ), however complete, would merely give us a mechanical view. It's the spotless purity and the sinlessness of Jesus as acknowledged by friend and foe that raises His character high above the rich of all others. In Him we see the even harmony and symmetry of all graces: His love for God and man, His dignity and humility, His strength and tenderness, His greatness and simplicity, and His self-control and submission. It's the absolute perfection of Christ's character that makes Him a moral miracle in History. It's futile to compare Him with saints and sages, ancient or modern. Even the skeptic Jean Jacques Rousseau was compelled to remark, "If Socrates lived and died like a sage, Jesus lived and died like a God."
No Leaven = His Sinless Life
That brings us to the next observation. When the Grain Offering was brought in the form of bread, it was to be baked without leaven. Look at verse 4: If you bring as an offering a Grain Offering baked in the oven, it shall be unleavened cakes of fine flour mixed with oil, or unleavened wafers anointed with oil. But if your offering is a Grain Offering baked in a pan, it shall be of fine flour, unleavened, mixed with oil.
In the Bible, leaven was sometimes used as a symbol of sin, and I’m sure this is the meaning and significance here. The Grain Offering was to be made of finest flour, anointed with oil, touched with fragrance, and containing no leaven. What a picture of the perfect humanity of Jesus Christ, a man without sin or stain or blemish.
None of us can look upon the sun with our naked eyes without going blind. Yet the sun is not pure and spotless. There are sunspots. There are blemishes. There are flare-ups. There are imperfections and fiery explosions. But Jesus Christ radiates brightness like the sun in all its glory, and there are no spots. Nothing but pure radiance. Nothing but perfection.
In my library are scores of biographies and autobiographies of great men and women. Some of these people have done great things. Some of them have changed the world and gone done in history as heroes of humanity. But every one of them—even the greatest and noblest—lived an imperfect life filled with faults and failures. I only have one biography that records the life of a human being who had absolutely no faults or failures—and that is the book I hold in my hands, the Gospel, the Good News, of Jesus Christ.
No Honey = His Difficult Life
Now there is another interesting little detail about the Grain Offering that we observe in verse 11. Not only was the cake of bread to be devoid of leaven, but it was also to be made without honey. Verse 11 says: No Grain Offering which you bring to the Lord shall be made with leaven, for you shall burn no leaven nor any honey in any offering to the Lord made by fire.
This is the one element that I’m not sure about. I cannot be dogmatic or certain about the prophetic or typical significance of this. I’m sure that it isn’t meaningless, for there are no wasted words in the Bible; but I’m not sure as to the meaning. I can offer one suggestion. Honey was the sweetening agent of ancient times. When you wanted to bake a cake or some sort of sweet pastry or desert, you sweetened it with honey. It was the sugar of that day. It was the sweetening agent. When you added honey to the loaf of bread, it became a dessert.
That was not appropriate for the Grain Offering. While Jesus Christ came as the unleavened, sinless Bread of Life, He did not come as a sweet dessert. His life was not one of pleasure. It was not one of enjoyment or amusement. His sacrificial life and death were not for His own entertainment. He brings pleasure to us to be sure, but He Himself was a “Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief.” He didn’t come to laugh and dance and eat desserts and enjoy life. He didn’t come to eat, drink, and be merry. He came to offer Himself as a ransom for many. He come to suffer anguish and pain and the horrors of crucifixion. His life was lived without desserts, as it were, without honey, without sweetness. He cried, “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me.” It was a life of sacrifice and giving and dying on the cross for our sins. I don’t know for sure, but perhaps that’s the significance of the cake being made without honey.
Salt = His Covenant Life
The next distinction of the Grain Offering was that it was to salted bread. No leaven and no honey. But it was to be salted. Look at verse 13: And every offering of your Grain Offering you shall season with salt; you shall not allow the salt of the covenant of your God to be lacking from your Grain Offering. With all your offerings you shall offer salt.
In the ancient world, they somehow used salt when they made a covenant or a contract with one another. Salt was thought of as being indestructible. When a house burned down, the salt remained unburned, undestroyed. And so I suspect that when they made a contract with one another, they took a little salt and sprinkled it over the agreement as a token of the permanent nature of the covenant.
In the Upper Room, as Jesus passed around the cup of wine for the disciples to drink, He said, “This is My blood of the New Covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.”
Jesus Christ was God’s own contract – a flesh-and-blood agreement. In subjecting Jesus Christ to the pain and penalty and punishment for sins, we are released from guilt and made heirs of eternal life.
Hebrews 8:6 says: But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises.
Hebrews says: He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption for the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.
Hebrews 10:16ff says: This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: “I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them,” then He adds, “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.”
It is this covenant, this agreement that God makes with us through Jesus Christ that makes possible the forgiveness of our sins and lawless deeds. It’s our Lord Jesus Christ—perfect humanity, Spirit-anointed and fragrant, without leaven or honey, agent of the indestructible new covenant—that brings light and hope and life into our hearts.
The Broken Bread = His Broken Life
Finally, I’d like for you to notice something else about this Grain Offering. Another little detail. When it was brought in the form of bread (remember, it could be offered as flour, as crushed wheat, or as baked or grilled bread) it was to be broken. Look at verses 5 and 6: But if your offering is a Grain Offering baked in a pan, 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.
This reminds us immediately of the rites and rituals of the last supper. Jesus said, “This is My body which is broken for you. Do this, whenever you do it, in memory of me.” There is a sense in which, in that Upper Room, Jesus was saying, “My Grain Offering is My own body which is broken for you.”
Bread of Heav’n on Thee we feed,
Several years ago, there was a
movie that came out that was relatively true to life. It starred Denzel Washington, and it
was the story of a man named Antwone Fisher. I haven’t seen the movie, but
I’ve read about the man named Antwone Fisher, and his is a remarkable
story. He was literally born in a
In the movie, Antwone’s life doesn’t change for the better until he enters the United States Navy and meets a psychologist portrayed by Denzel Washington who takes an interest in helping him. In real life, Antwone did receive help from a Navy psychologist, but the real seeds of hope were sown into his life earlier by a school teacher who took an interest in him.
By his own testimony, Antwone says that by the third grade he had lost any interest in learning anything. His foster mother had told him repeatedly that he was the worst child in the world and that he couldn’t learn anything and that he was nothing but a failure. But he ended up in the class of a school teacher named Mrs. Profit, Brenda Profit. She had compassion on the boy and started encouraging and helping him. He began to make progress, but still, by the end of the year, his grades were not really good enough to pass on to the next grade. But when Mrs. Profit learned that she was going to be moved to teaching the next grade herself, she promoted Antwone so that she could continue working with him in the fifth and then in the sixth grades.
One day, Antwone was asked to read aloud in class. He was horribly shy and he sometimes stuttered. But on this day, instead of panicking, he read very well and even sounded out a difficult word. Mrs. Profit praised him, saying, “I’m proud of you. I want you to know that I really struggled over promoting you, and I’m so glad that I did. You are doing very well that year.”
Years later, Antwone Fisher credited those words and that moment with changing his life. He said it was like a bolt of lightening and a thunder clap. For the first time in his life he realized that there might be hope, that he could improve, that he could do better, that he could help himself, that by working hard enough he could change his circumstances. He would still have plenty of ups and downs, but those words from a beloved teacher provided the moment in which the direction and trends of his life were reversed and he began traveling in a different direction.
All of us need a life-changing moment in which the direction and trends of our lives are reversed and we began traveling in a different direction. No one can change our lives like Jesus Christ. He knows our sins and He sees all our weaknesses. But He says to us, “You know, I saw all your failing grades. I knew all your faults. And I struggled in my heart on your behalf, and I’m so glad I did. I’m so proud of what you can become through Me.
That’s our Jesus, portrayed 1500 years in advance by the Grain Offerings of the book of Leviticus.
· Fine wheat representing His perfect humanity.
· Anointed with oil representing the Holy Spirit.
· Offered with frankincense representing the aromatic beauty of His earthy life.
· A life lived with the leaven of sin
· …or the sweetness of honey.
· Salted with salt representing an indestructible covenant between you and your God.
· Broken before the altar, representing the body of our Lord, broken for our sins.
He’s not only our burnt offering; He’s our Grain Offering. For He Himself said: I am the Bread of Life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.
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