Last Saturday, in What Is in YOUR Sacrifice, Part 5, we saw that for a 21st century offering to the Lord to be “with no defect”, we must confess our sins, repent, put away guilt, pride, contempt, etc., we reconcile with those who have something against us, and we give God our very best.
One of the harder to understand offerings commanded by God in the book of Leviticus was the grain offering. It was a vegetable sacrifice, it contained no blood and therefore it could not work towards the remittance of sin. Why, then, a grain offering? And why does the Bible specifically say that it is to be mixed with oil?
In our day and age, grain is a common commodity. It grows readily, and most cultures consume quantities of it daily. In fact, for many cultures, grains and grain products are a staple of their diet. We have to remember, however, that when the commands were given for the people to bring their grain offerings to the priests, they were in the desert. There were no fields, no water to grow them… Hey, the Israelites never stayed in one place long enough to grow and harvest crops, even if the conditions hadn’t been so arid! All they had was manna. But God didn’t ask for a “manna” sacrifice. He asked for grain.
We notice that the other sacrifices were all animal sacrifices. There would have been plenty of cattle and flocks with Israel, and animals would have been in abundance, but this one sacrifice was special in that God was asking for something that was actually NOT in abundance!
Of course, Israel had just left Egypt where grain was plentiful, and any grain they had with them would have been brought out of Egypt, and my own speculation would say that it was likely used to feed the flocks and herds, as there wasn’t likely too many pasture lands in the desert. It is also likely that they took grain with them as seed in the promised land. Certainly, however, it was not for regular consumption, for it would have run out long before the people entered Canaan. Perhaps of important note is that while in the desert, the people were completely dependent upon God for their food and water. They were, however, on their way to the Promised Land where grain would be plentiful and the people wouldn’t be reliant upon God for provision. In asking the people to give a grain offering, was God working into the system a way for the people to remember their dependency upon Him, even when there was plenty to eat?
The grain offering was always to be mixed with oil: “If your offering is a grain offering baked in an oven, it must be made of choice flour, but without any yeast. It may be presented in the form of thin cakes mixed with olive oil or wafers spread with olive oil. If your grain offering is cooked on a griddle, it must be made of choice flour mixed with olive oil but without any yeast.” (Lev. 2:4-5 NLT).
In “What Is in YOUR Sacrifice, Part 2” we took at look at why the commands were for the grain offerings to be without yeast; but what is the significance of mixing it with oil? Let’s remember that this is olive oil we are talking about, and again, there were no olive groves in the desert. All oil they had with them would have had to have been brought out of Egypt, and therefore, was in short supply. However, like the grain, it would be in abundance in Canaan.
Throughout the Bible, oil has great symbolism and significance. It fueled lamps, it was used in consecration of the temple, priests, kings, prophets, etc, even as a metaphorical usage in anointing for healing. (See Ex. 27:20-21, James 5:14, Ps. 23:5, Lev. 8:30, 1 Sam 16:13, 35c). In addition, there is repeated emphasis on Jesus as the “Anointed One” (See Isaiah 61:1, Acts 10:38, etc.)
Throughout all of the more than 200 times that oil is mentioned in the Bible, it most often pictures the work and anointing of the Holy Spirit. For example, we know that the prophets, priests and kings were anointed with oil, and we see in the case of David that immediately after this the Bible records, “And the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David from that day on.” (1 Samuel 16:13b NLT). We also know that it is the role of the Holy Spirit to convict us of sin: “And when he comes, he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment.” (John 16:8 NLT), and since we must confess our sins (See 1 John 1:9) to be saved, without God’s Spirit, we would all stand condemned.
In summary, then, the grain offering mixed with oil was likely to help the people remember their dependency upon God and His Spirit.
What does this have to do with our 21st century sacrifices? Just this: Sometimes our sacrifices of our time, talent, resources and worship need to be for the sole purpose of recognizing our dependency upon Him and His Spirit!
As an example: I sacrifice my time and talent to facilitate a grief recovery program through our church. I have historically had others who facilitate the program with me, and yes, the tendency has been to depend upon them rather than upon the Lord. Recently my co-facilitator had to step down leaving me running the program alone. I freaked. That’s when God began to speak to me about making the group a grain offering mixed with oil. I needed to hand it back to Him, acknowledging that I am totally dependent – not upon another co-facilitator – but upon Him and upon His Holy Spirit. I began, then, making Him a “grain offering” before each group. I began to give Him the group, to confess to Him my inadequacy, to submit control of the group to Him, to ask for an influx of His Spirit to give me the words to say and the wisdom to know when to be silent, etc. Is anyone surprised that suddenly the group starting going a lot better???
Whatever it is we are giving as our offering to the Lord, let’s acknowledge our total dependency upon Him. Let’s receive the anointing of His Spirit over our offering. Let’s submit it totally to Him. For when we do, we will have given the Lord a grain offering mixed with oil that is pleasing to His sight!
To come to a better understanding of the importance of blood and how it applies to our modern-day sacrifices, please join us on Thursday for: “What’s With All That Blood! What’s in YOUR Sacrifice? Part 7”
In His love,
Lynona Gordon Chaffart, Speech-Language Pathologist, mother of two adult boys, Author — “Aboard God’s Train — A Journey With God Through the Valley of Cancer”, Author and Moderator for The Nugget, a tri-weekly internet newsletter, Scriptural Nuggets, a website devoted to Christian devotionals and inspirational poems, The Illustrator, a four-times-a-week internet newsletter, and the Sermon Illustrator website, all with Answers2Prayer Ministries.
(To access the entire “What’s in YOUR Sacrifice?” miniseries, please click here!)