In our look at the burnt offering in Leviticus 1, I noted that the context and content of the offering suggested two important ideas. First, there is a serious breach between God and man that must be addressed. Second, God graciously provides a way to repair that breach through the burnt offering sacrifice. After we appreciate how serious the breach is between God and us, we must then recognize the graciousness that God called out to Moses from the tent of meeting to instruct him on how his people might be made fit to commune with him. At the most basic level, God’s revelation is a gracious provision to us as he reveals himself to us without compulsion or necessity. Even more so, then, the content of that revelation, specifically this burnt offering, is gracious in that God reveals that he has seen fit to provide a substitute as an acceptable means by which a believer can have atonement and God can be reconciled.
As we turn to the next offering described in Leviticus, the grain offering in chapter 2, the undercurrent of grace continues to be present. To the worshiper who had eyes to see it, this sacrifice was an object lesson in God’s grace on a few levels.
First, God graciously asks for only a token to demonstrate thankful dedication to him. In the legislation on the grain offering, the mention of firstfruits and thus the connection of this offering with the harvest festival of firstfruits and the Feast of Weeks is a reminder that God owns everything. Indeed, all good things come from God. God owns the cattle on a thousand hills; he is the one who makes the sun to shine and sends the rain. Therefore, the fruit of our hands is not strictly ours because God has animated our hands, and moreover he sustains our hands as we work with them.
From that perspective, God has a right to demand what is his due, does he not? And his due is everything, is it not? But he does not ask for a burdensome sacrifice. Even when we bring in the concept of the tithe, it is not anywhere near what we might call a burdensome tax rate. And so, that this sacrifice is an offering of some fine flour and not an offering of most of your fine flour points to God’s grace.
Second, and related, that only a memorial portion was burned on the altar further displays God’s grace. Again, he is rightfully due what is his, which is everything, but just a handful of the offering is consumed on the altar of sacrifice. In this regard, the grain offering is not wasteful (though the next point is needed to make full sense of this point). In the end, God’s requirements are not burdensome, but gracious.
Finally, that the rest of the grain offering was then given to the priests for food reminds us of God’s grace to take notice of what we need and also to provide for our needs. The priests, like the larger clan of the Levites from which the priests came, were not going to have a land inheritance in Canaan. Instead, they were going to be fed by God’s grace through the sacrificial system. Thus, beginning with the grain offering, we have a visible word of God’s grace in providing for all of his people. More than that, we are reminded here that God did not need to be fed by these sacrifices, and he did not need to hoard the best for himself. Instead, a memorial portion was burned in thankful acknowledgement of him, and the rest of the offering was given to the priests for nourishment.
Looking to the New Testament fulfillment of this thankful dedication of our whole selves to God, we are well served by approaching Paul’s words to offer ourselves as living sacrifices to God from the perspective of God’s grace. It is not burdensome to offer our whole lives in service to God, and whenever our service to him seems to exceed our ability, he gives more grace so that we always have what we need to offer up to him. We get in trouble when we begin to view service to God as a burden, and God himself as a strict taskmaster. But what we can be reminded by this grain offering is that God is gracious in his dealings with us. Therefore, let us dedicate ourselves to him all the more willingly and thankfully.