The Grain Offering (Lev. 2:1-16)
The second offering that God told the Israelites to bring was also a sacrifice of dedication to the Lord, but it did not involve the shedding of any blood or the death of an animal. Instead, the worshiper was to bring grain, and a portion of it was to be burned on the altar as a memorial to the Lord, while the unburned portion was eaten by the priest and, in some instances, the worshiper. He could prepare it by grinding it into flour, baking it in an oven, or on a griddle, or in a pan, or by roasting the green heads of grain, if it was a firstfruits offering. The grain offering was generally not a stand-alone offering, but accompanied the burnt offering and the fellowship offering, and in the case of those who were very poor and could not afford an animal, grain could be substituted for a sin offering.
The mechanics of the grain offering are not very difficult to understand, but the question we would ask is what was its meaning and purpose? This offering had a variety of different applications, and so there is more than one answer to that question. In the case of the firstfruits offering, the worshiper was recognizing God’s faithfulness in his covenant with Israel – faithfulness that had been demonstrated by bringing them into the promised land and blessing them with agricultural produce. His gift was an act of thanksgiving in which he declared that he had faithfully obeyed God in the law of the firstfruits, and an act of faith in which he expressed trust in God to see the rest of the harvest come in to supply his needs for the coming year.
When the grain offering accompanied a sin offering, its significance was slightly different. It spoke then of the individual’s dedication of himself and all that he had to the Lord who had cleansed him and forgiven his sin. It was a recognition that God was not only his Savior but also his King and a commitment to follow the Lord in keeping his law. Where the burnt offering was a costly sacrifice intended to express a true heart of worship to the Lord, the grain offering was relatively inexpensive but symbolically represented all that the worshiper possessed and remind him that it all belonged to God.
From our perspective as NT Christians, the grain offering serves as a helpful reminder that we, too, are to dedicate ourselves and all that we have to the service of the Lord. We find a helpful example of this type of attitude in the early church at Jerusalem, “Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed were his own, but they had all things in common” (Acts 4:32). And the writer of Hebrews encourages believers to do the same, when he says, “do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.”
Furthermore, the apostle Paul seems to look back to the grain offering in 1 Cor. 9:13-14 when he says, “Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar? Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel.” For the priests in OT Israel, the grain offering was a primary source of food, and they even signified their thanksgiving by burning a memorial portion to the Lord before eating it. In the church, Paul says, those who preach the gospel ought to gain their living by it. When we consider that Christ has redeemed us, and that everything we are and have belongs to him, then we will be able to give freely and cheerfully as an act of worship and thanksgiving to the Lord, and by it support those who minister to us in the word of God. Thus the common grain offering becomes our example as we seek to serve Christ our God and King.