Date: March 8, 2020
Speaker: Erik Raymond
Series: Leviticus: You Must be Holy
Category: Biblical Exposition
Scripture: Leviticus 2
Title: Guilt, Grace, Gratitude
Text: Leviticus 2, 6:14-23
TBI: Gratitude is the fitting response to God's grace.
Outline: 3 grateful pledges from the grain offering
Think about the biggest problem you are currently facing. Imagine if it could be solved?
Think of the source of your shame or guilt. Imagine it removed. Think of your greatest debt. Imagine it was paid. Think of the illness or health problem you’re facing. Imagine it could be cured. What would your response be to any one of these scenarios? It would be gratitude. You’d be overjoyed.
The Bible shows us that humanity has the same big problem. And the good news is God has dealt with it decisively. The Bible confirms what our conscience knows: we stand guilty of breaking God’s law. All of us stand equally deserving of God’s judgment. And because God is holy and we actively sin, we have no way of rescuing ourselves from the problem. But God is gracious. In loving compassion, he provides a way that we can be forgiven. He provides a substitute, an atoning sacrifice to bring us to God. And when we see that our sins have been properly dealt with and our greatest blessing secured, then we overflow with joyful gratitude. It’s this framework that led the writers of the Heidelberg Catechism to succinctly sum up the Christian experience in three words. Guilt, grace, gratitude.
The argument I want to persuade you of from Leviticus 2 this morning is simply this: Gratitude is the fitting response to God's grace.
In Leviticus 2 we see instructions for how to respond to God when you consider that your sins are forgiven and you’re accepted by God. You want to say “thank you.” You’re grateful to God. And you want to show it with something tangible and personal. This is what the grain offering is all about. It’s a pledge of gratitude to God.
Today we’ll consider three grateful pledges from the grain offering, Tribute, Purity, and Loyalty.
What it means…
The grain offering could also be called a gift offering or a tribute offering. At the time of the original writing of Leviticus (about 1500 BC), these offerings were common. They would be brought as a tribute by a conquered nation to their new king. It expressed allegiance, homage, and loyalty.
In other parts of the Bible, we see the grain offering used as an expression of reverence (Judges 6:19; 1 Samuel 10:27), gratitude (Psalm 96:8), homage (Genesis 32:14; 43:11, 15, 25), goodwill (Genesis 32:11ff), or allegiance (2 Samuel 8:2, 6; 2 Chronicles 17:11).
The people of God were bound to a monarch. But their response of tribute was not simply blind and unfeeling obedience and servitude. Instead, their offering included gratitude and joy. Their grain offerings expressed their grateful tribute to God for his abundant grace. To make the grain offering was to make a pledge of honor or tribute to God.
What it was…
What was the grain offering? Chapter two breaks up in four categories. There is the uncooked offering and overview in 1-3, then there is the cooked grain offering in 4-10, some specifics on the ingredients in 11-13, and instructions for offering from the first fruits in 14-16.
You’ll notice there are various ways in which it could be prepared. We see it could be uncooked flour (2:1–3), baked bread (2:4–10), and roasted grain (2:14–16). Regardless of which form it took, the grain offering always contained salt (2:13) and oil (2:1, 4–7, 15). Sometimes it would have frankincense in it (2:1, 15). And it would never contain honey or leaven (2:11).
How it was offered….
They would present the offering like this. First, the worshiper would take the offering (in whatever form) to the priest (2:1–2a). Then the priest would bring it to the front of the altar (6:14). And the priest would then take a handful of the items (flour, grain, bread, oil, salt, and when applicable frankincense), and then he’d burn it on the altar as a memorial offering to the Lord. Then what was left from the offering was given to the priests as food (2:3, 10, 6:19–23). The priests then would eat it in the holy place because it was holy to the Lord. He couldn’t leave the tabernacle courtyard and take it home in a to-go box. It was holy to the Lord (6:16–17). The priests could not eat the offering on one occasion: if it was offered for themselves (6:23).
What it shows…
Think about what offering was just mentioned before this in chapter one. It was the burnt offering. Is the ordering significant? Yes, I believe it is.
Remember the purpose of the burnt offering, as we discovered last week, was for atonement and acceptance before God. It satisfies God’s holy requirement and secures the worshipers' safe access to God. Remember the vivid image of the charging of the sin to the animal and then killing it in their place so that the anger of God would be turned away and satisfied? God’s wrath against sin was turned away from the worshipper and was applied to the animal. As a result, the worshipper is consecrated or set apart having had his sin dealt with.
Now, this offering is given as an expression of gratitude to God. They have gained favorable access to his presence. They want to acknowledge their devotion to God. They want to acknowledge that they owe God everything. They want to be consumed with the worship of God as they pursue holiness.
Through this grain offering, they offer from themselves, their daily bread back to God. It is as if in the bread the worshipper is saying, “everything I have is from you and everything I am is to you. You are my King and God. I joyfully give this tribute back to you.”
Do you remember the old Watts hymn, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross? In the final stanza we sing:
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small.
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
Our gracious King has provided for our greatest need. The proper response is gratitude. It is expressed through this loving tribute called the grain offering.
Connection to Christ
It’s powerful to consider the life of Jesus as an ongoing expression of a grain offering. He gave sacrificially of himself to God in service. Remember Jesus stealing away early morning hours to pray with his Father? Remember him working hard into the night serving everyone? Remember him going out into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil for 40 days and 40 nights? At every turn, he did what was pleasing to his Father. He never flinched or faltered. He always obeyed God. His heart was full of praise while serving God on earth. Listen to Hebrews 10:
“Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’ ”” (Hebrews 10:5–7)
Jesus whole life was a life of tribute to God, obeying God’s law from his heart and offering praise to God through submission, sacrifice, and service.
There is another pledge of gratitude expressed in this offering. It’s purity.
You may have noticed that there are a couple of elements forbidden in the recipe for the grain offering. The worshiper may not include either leaven or honey (2:11).
Why is this?
They couldn’t include yeast or honey on the altar because God says so. There is some speculation as to why (including the speeding of the leavening process, association with corruption, or the fact that it was a living organism), but at the end of the day, we don’t know precisely. The right and clear answer is it’s because God says so. God’s not against yeast or honey, they are allowed to be part of the first fruit offerings–perhaps because these weren’t burnt on the altar (2:12).
What’s the point? They were pursuing the pleasure of God therefore they do so in a way that is acceptable to him. Through their offering, they are pledging purity to God.
Have you encountered commands in the Bible that don’t necessarily make sense to you?
Is there something that God tells you to do that you may not understand?
Is there something that God requires of you that seems to be outside of your comfort zone?
Perhaps there is something that you want to do that God forbids that you would rather he didn’t.
The grain offering helps us with this. Because we don’t have to always know all of the answers to the “why” questions. When we know the answer to the “who” question then why finds its place. Suddenly it’s not why do I need to do this? But instead, God requires that I do this, and do it in his way. When you are calibrated to the grace of God then obedience flows out.
Here we are thinking about purity. Let’s think about it this way. God has dealt with your biggest problem, your impurity. And he calls you to live and worship him in a manner that is fitting with his honor. Therefore, your worship is to be pure. Your manner of living is to be pure.
This, of course, includes sexual purity but also pure devotion to him.
Are you worshiping God in the purity that he requires? Is your life befitting of gratitude? Does it show itself through personal purity?
Connection to Christ
This grain offering of gratitude to God looks forward to Jesus because he himself is pure. He has no blemish in him. The Psalmist says that God desires truth in both the outward and inward parts (Psalm 51:6). Jesus is our substitute. And aren’t you thankful for this?
On your best day, your gratitude to God does not fit what God deserves. As sinful people, we cannot offer God pure and true worship.
But listen: “And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” (1 John 3:3)
Through Christ’s perfect life of obedience in our place, we have the Savior offering up exactly what God deserves. He gives what we have not given God. He is our grain offering bringing not only a tribute but purity to God.
A Memorial Offering
The portion the offering that wasn’t for the priests was offered up to the Lord as a memorial portion and it’s said to be a pleasing aroma to the Lord (2:2,9).
In what way is this a memorial? This portion, the offering was to remind the Lord of the worshiper. In other words, the offering is a grateful pledge to God to remember them.
Don’t misunderstand. I’m not implying that God has a poor memory or that he forgets who his people are. Instead, the call to remember is a reminder of the covenant, the promises that God has made. And specifically, that God would remember the worshiper.
Covenant faithfulness pledged
On the other side is the expression of personal loyalty to God. We see this not only in the act itself but in the connection to the covenant.
Did you notice what all of the grain offerings are to be seasoned with? Look at verse 13:
“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)
Why must there be salt on there? The salt emphasizes the covenant’s permanence. We see this in passages like Numbers 18:19 and 2 Chronicles 13:5). The covenant is forever.
You can see how this would be encouraging to the worshiper. God has made a covenant and he will keep it. He does not change. He will not change his mind. He is true and good.
But it’s also a reminder of their own need to fulfill the obligations of the covenant. It’s a reminder to be faithful to God in covenant loyalty.
As the worshiper brings the grain offering to the Lord they apply the salt as a token of both the convents permanence and their ongoing loyalty to God.
Connection to Christ
To get the full weight of covenant loyalty one only has to consider Jesus. As he stood under the looming shadow of the cross there was great temptation upon him for another way. As the horror of wrath encroached upon him, sweating as it were drops of blood, he cried out to God in agony. Yet, what was it that prevailed? It was Christ’s faithfulness to the charge that he had been given by his Father. Jesus was faithful to the covenant obligations on our behalf. Our first father, Adam, fell on his face representing us. He was puddy in the Serpent’s hands. But Jesus, the last Adam, endured with astounding faithfulness. He was faithful to God in our place.
Let’s think of the personal implications of this. And to do this I want to focus in on two areas: your personal life and your participation in the church.
How should this take shape in your personal life?
It should manifest itself with a life of gratitude. It is characteristic of unbelief to lack gratitude to God. It is a mark of faith to have it. Is your life characterized by gratitude?
It should manifest itself with a sacrifice of praise to God. Likewise, it’s a mark of unbelief not to praise God. Do you worship God apart from Sunday mornings? Is your life characterized by ongoing praise to God for what he has done? Perhaps you would be well served to consider again the guilt that necessitates grace so you can grow in gratitude.
A couple of ways this manifests itself.
In the life of Jesus, we see him regularly stopping to thank God for providing food. He prays before the feeding of the 5,000. He prays before the Last Supper. He is always thanking God for what he has given. Do you stop to pray and thank God before eating? It is a way to continue to train your heart and your tongue to say thank you to God for what he has provided.
Another way we can do this is by talking to people about Jesus. It is an overflow of gratitude to boast in Christ. Like the man in Mark 5. Do you remember him? He was a crazy demoniac, torturing people in the cemetery, howling all night. But when Jesus showed up he changed him. The man, now in his right mind, wanted to go with Jesus, but the Savior told him to go and tell his family and friends about the Lord and how he had mercy on him. Do you overflow bragging about what the Lord has done for you?
How should this take shape in the church?
We can see this come out through church membership. How so? What does the grain offering have to do with church membership?
Through Church membership…
First, I said this is about a tribute. Those who worship God go public with the fact that they love God and serve him. In church membership, we unite together under the kingship of God. We gather together on days like today, the Lord’s Day to publicly declare that God has done great things for us and his promises are true.
We even covenant together by agreeing to certain biblical truths and core convictions that bind us together. We commit to helping each other to serve Christ faithfully.
We also commit to giving together in support of the Lord’s work. In Leviticus 2, the people are bringing their sacrifice, the priests are offering it to the Lord, and God is pleased by the sacrifice. And through it all, he provides for his priests through the means of his people. The sacrificial service of the priests is blessed by the sacrificial giving of the people. Paul picked up on this in 1 Corinthians 9:7–14. Everything that we have and give comes from God and is for God. God is worthy of having his glory demonstrated through the sacrificial service and giving of the local church.
This is a clear application for us this morning in Leviticus: sacrificial giving is to be seen as our response to God’s holiness. We give towards the ministry of the gospel to promote the administration of God. And in this, there is recognition by all people that:
Through Church Discipline
Through church membership, we also vow together to help each other to live with purity. This means we are going to live in such a way that we honor God. And if we fail to do so then we’ll help each other to do it. We’ll lovingly point out sin together and encourage one other to live faithfully. If we refuse to submit our lives to Jesus and fail to reflect his purity then we even would go so far as to follow Jesus in removing such a one from our midst because life is not lining up with the profession of faith. (cf 1 Corinthians 5:1-9; Matthew 18:15-18)
Through taking the Lord’s Supper
Finally, we reflect this as a church in the taking of the Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s Supper is a meal that Jesus gives the church whereby we remember God’s covenant faithfulness in Christ. The whole meal is to be done, as Jesus taught us, in remembrance or memorial of him. As we come to the table we ask him again to remember him as we charge one another to remember the Lord and his covenant. We are reminded of God’s loyalty to the covenant and our need to respond by walking in covenant faithfulness (1 Corinthians 11:17-34).
We would be greatly helped this week to ponder and turn over in our minds the Lord Jesus Christ. Because when we consider the tribute, purity, and loyalty of Christ, we see his graciousness to us. And indeed, gratitude is the fitting response to God’s grace.