Let’s learn to love the life lessons in Leviticus by finding out what it is and how Jesus fulfills this food or grain or meal offering, which was motivated by gratitude for the Lord. (References: Lev. 2 and 6:14-23; Num. 15:1-16)
As I note in many of these posts that touch on the Levitical priesthood and sacrifices, the Spirit-inspired writers of the New Covenant Scriptures (New Testament) encourage us to read the Old Testament, particularly the priesthood and the ministry of the priests, as containing types and shadows of the substance or reality, which is Christ and his heavenly priesthood.
They [priests] serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven (Heb. 8:5)
The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. (Heb. 10:1)
Then the author of Hebrews writes many, many verses explaining the realities of the copies and shadows. They are revealed most clearly in Jesus’s sacrifice and his priesthood in the heavenly, eternal sanctuary.
Peter explicitly makes the water of the flood during the time of Noah symbolic:
And this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. (1 Pet. 3:21)
Paul writes that food and festivals are but the shadow, while Christ is the substance:
Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. (Col. 2:16-17)
Even the lives of the people in the OT serve as exemplary warnings for us:
These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. (1 Cor. 10:11)
With their permission, so to speak, I apply their typological and symbolic method here.
For a general overview of the interrelations between the Old Sinai Covenant and the New Covenant, click on:
What Does the New Covenant Retain from the Old?
How Jesus Christ Fulfills the Law: Matthew 5:17-19
One Decisive Difference Between Sinai Covenant and New Covenant
Many (not even close to all) elements are retained, and what is kept is improved on or streamlined.
The NIV is used, unless otherwise noted. Readers are invited to go to biblegateway.com, choose their own translation, and open another window to follow along.
Let’s use the Question and Answer format for clarity and conciseness.
What are the main features of the grain offering?
Let’s take it step by step.
First, the worshiper is to offer their very finest wheat flour (not less nutritious barley flour). This speaks of a sacrifice. Second best won’t do.
They were to pour olive oil on and put incense on it. Let’s do a quick review of oil and its symbolic meaning of anointing and the Spirit.
Oil speaks of the sacred anointing for consecrating the priests (Exod. 29:7; 30:22-33).
Next, Samuel took a flask of oil and anointed first Saul (1 Sam. 10:1) and then David (1 Sam. 16:1) to be kings. In 11 Sam. 6:3, we read: “So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David” (see Ps. 89:20). In Ps. 23:5, David proclaimed that God anointed his head with oil.
Heb. 1:9 says that God anointed his Son Jesus with the “oil of joy.”
Mark 6:13 says Jesus anointed many sick people with oil and healed them. James 5:14 says oil was used to anoint the sick.
In Luke 4:18 Jesus said God has anointed him to carry out the ministry of God. Acts 10:38 says God anointed Jesus with the Holy Spirit. Paul said that God anointed him and his team (2 Cor. 1:21). We, God’s New Covenant people, are also have an anointing from the Holy One, who will guide his people to the truth (1 John 2:20, 27). The Holy One is the Holy Spirit (John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13).
From these verses oil came to symbolize the Holy Spirit. Oil, the anointing, and the Spirit are linked. Being in Christ, we are all anointed by the Spirit.
Next, then the priest burns a handful of the flour, oil, and incense on the altar of the Lord, as a memorial. It produces an aroma that is pleasing to the Lord.
And incense can symbolize the prayers of the saints (Rev. 5:8 and 8:3-4). This is based on David’s psalm:
May my prayer be set before you like incense;
may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice. (Ps. 141:2)
Memorial or (a representative of what has happened in your life) can mean God’s great salvation in the worshiper’s life. This offering asks God to remember who the worshiper is, as the worshiper recall the wonder things God has done. It also asks the worship to remember who God is. His food offering was a gift of gratitude. The incense mixed in is for the sweet aroma to the Lord, which is always one’s consecration to the Lord, not the physical smell, which expresses itself in praying (Rev. 5:8; 8:3-4). More deeply still, recall this verse: “Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Eph. 5:2). Jesus is the pleasing aroma when God inspects our sacrifice. Jesus stands in for us, and God is pleased with our offering, because of his Son.
Paul writes that we too–our message and Christ in us–are a pleasing aroma, but with conditions attached:
14 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. 15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. (2 Cor. 2:1416, ESV)
Those who are being saved knowledge of Christ through God is pleasing, but not to those who are perishing. So the condition is attached to the hearer of our message.
Some may object that the aroma from the sacrifice and the incense are two different things, and that’s true, both both smells please the Lord, so I see a similar message in both–prayers and consecration.
The priest burns the memorial portion on the altar. And this means God consumes your life. “For our “God is a consuming fire” (Heb. 13:29, quoting Deut. 4:24). He is what happened to Gideon’s offering, which he prepared for a visitor: “Then the angel of the Lord touched the meat and the unleavened bread with the tip of the staff that was in his hand. Fire flared from the rock, consuming the meat and the bread. And the angel of the Lord disappeared” (Judg. 6:21). Divine visitations always burn off one’s selfish attitudes and behavior.
On the other hand, a memorial aspect of the offering can be one’s good works. The angels said to the soon-to-be-saved Gentile Cornelius: “The angel answered, ‘Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God'” (Acts 10:4).
Second, the rest of the grain offering belongs to the the priests, for it is holy. The priests were specially set aside by God, and they alone could eat the sacred portion. Commoners were excluded. Fortunately by Christ’s blood and salvation, we make up a royal priesthood: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Pet. 2:9; see Exod. 19:6).
Third, the grain or food offering could be prepared at home. It could be baked in an oven or thin loaves (maybe like pita bread). It was brushed with oil and no yeast was to be used. Or it could be cooked on a griddle with oil and no yeast. In a pan, it is still to be made with the finest flour and oil. All these preparations are to be brought to the priest, who takes the memorial portion from it and burn it on the altar, as a food offering. The priest burns the memorial portion on the altar, and again the aroma rises up as a sweet smell. Then the priest eats the rest of it, which is holy, or set apart only for him, for his sustenance. Recall that consecration and holiness means being set apart. Recall the verse 1 Pet. 2:9. We are now royal because he transported us from darkness into light.
Fourth, every food offering is not to have yeast. In Exod. 12, the Israelites were not to bake bread with yeast, because they had no time to lose, waiting for it to rise. They were to depart from their slavery in Egypt in haste. What about your personal slavery? Do you want to leave it behind you in a hurry, or do you lollygag and linger, as it entices you backwards? In some (not all) contexts, yeast is a bad thing. Jesus told his disciples to watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees. When the disciples didn’t understand the metaphor, he told them that yeast symbolized their teaching (Matt. 16:5-6 and 11-12). Luke says the yeast of the Pharisees was hypocrisy (Luke 12:1). Paul says that even a little yeast leavens (or rises) the entire loaf, which in context speaks of a negative influence, which we are to get rid of (1 Cor. 5:6-7; Gal. 5:9).
Fifth and finally, “Season all your grain offerings with salt. Do not leave the salt of the covenant of your God out of your grain offerings; add salt to all your offerings” (2:13). Salt in the context of covenant appears only two other times: The Lord’s covenant with the priests (Num. 18:19) and his covenant with David (2 Chron. 13:5). Why salt other than flavoring? It has an enduring character, so it speaks of the everlastingness of the two covenants. One Jewish commentator says that covenants were sealed with a meal. That’s perfect. Jesus sealed his new covenant at the Last Supper. The author of Hebrews has lots to say about the new covenant effected and presided over by Jesus. Chapter 8 is especially clear, ending with this verse: “By calling this covenant ‘new,’ he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear. (8:13). The old covenant here refers to the Sinai covenant begun in Exod. 19. But all the other covenants find their ultimate fulfillment in Christ. He himself carries all the other covenants and makes them everlasting in his person.
There is no blood manipulation, indicating that this offering did not make atonement in the sense of wiping away or expiating sins. Instead, it was used for a memorial of what God had already done and to remember him.
One last note: It is interesting that Lev. 6:18 says: “Whatever touches them [unleavened bread] will become holy.” A Jewish commentator says that talmudic authorities believed that holiness could be transmitted by contact like an electrical charge, from one conductor to another (Torah, p. 782).
Jesus had the power to heal: “And the power of the Lord was with Jesus to heal the sick” (Luke 5:17). The woman with the issue of blood sneaked up to him touched him with faith. He reacted. “But Jesus said, ‘Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me” (Luke 8:46).
A review and preview of the five main offerings:
Burnt offering: full surrender of the worshiper symbolized by the victim animal to God, and full surrender and consecration must come before fellowship with God;
Grain offering: consecration to God of the fruit of his labors; people are at rest in Christ;
Peace / fellowship offering: sustenance of life from God’s table and peace with God; Fellowship offering: joy and fellowship with God and humans; humanity needs fellowship with God
Sin offering: expiation of sin by the shedding of blood; it is beneficial for the Israelite worship to have his sins forgiven. The animals stands in for him.
Guilt offering: expiation of sins even for sins a man may not know he committed; providing an Israelite a way of ridding himself of guilt benefits him psychologically. Sometimes he is also responsible for restitution.
So how does Jesus fulfill this offering?
In addition to the fulfillments already alluded to in the previous section, let’s answer the question more clearly by quoting Scripture about the agape feast or the Christian love feast.
This food offering in Leviticus here is wonderful. It speaks of gratitude for what God has done in the past. It is a memorial. “God, remember me. And in gratitude, I offer this bread to you and your consecrated priests.”
Now what about the New Covenant Scriptures?
Usually the Last Supper is associated with the Passover or Easter, and this is right. But it is still a supper that the earliest church celebrated with great frequency and with more than just bread and the fruit of the vine, though those elements culminated the meal, the agape (Christian love) feast. It was like a banquet, Paul says (see below).
So let’s first begin with the Last Supper as Jesus instituted it.
Here’s Matthews version:
26 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”
27 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”
30 When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. (Matt. 26:26:30).
In that above passage Jesus clearly says that the bread and wine means something more than just the surface appearance. They represent or symbolize his body and bread. We are to partake of it with our hearts, realizing its extra-significance.
Next, Paul clearly connects the agape feast with the two main elements of bread and wine. Here he has to scold the gifted but immature Corinthian church:
20 So then, when you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, 21 for when you are eating, some of you go ahead with your own private suppers. As a result, one person remains hungry and another gets drunk. 22 Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God by humiliating those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? Certainly not in this matter! (1 Cor. 11:20-22).
In that above passage, they don’t share the food all around but eat their private suppers, so that those who have nothing go without food. Some people even got drunk, showing the wine was fermented!
Next, Paul says of the revelation he got from the Lord, or he may have heard this important meal from another apostle, a reliable “traditioner,” or someone who passes on the teachings of Jesus who may have been with Jesus from the very beginning or who was in the room where Jesus instituted the meal. In any case, here’s the passage:
23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. (1 Cor. 11:23-26).
I like the last verse, for it reveals the purpose of eating the sacred meal. “Proclaim the Lord’s death.” In their love feasts, the Corinthians (and we too) must not forget its original purpose.
Finally, Jesus through his earliest followers in Jerusalem fulfilled the joyous grain offering in Leviticus. His kingdom community right after the resurrection shared in the love feast and then the two elements in various houses.
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. (Acts 2:42)
The two elements are not explicitly named, but it’s not possible to believe that they were not consecrated (set aside) during these home group meetings. Why impossible? Jesus had just instituted it about fifty days earlier. It was fresh in everyone’s mind.
So we don’t need to go to a temple or a designated place to offer the grain or cooked bread to the priest. We can celebrate the Lord’s Table as a church family. We live out love in the agape feast.
Jesus said, “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them” (Matt. 18:19-20). He is the great high priest (Heb. 2:1; 3:1; 4:14-15; 5:1, 5, 10; 6:20; 7:26-27; 8:1, 3; 9:7, 11, 25). Jesus himself presides over the Last Supper as the New Covenant high priest. Never forget that he is there during this holy moment of remembering his death.
Please see my posts:
Basics about the Lord’s Supper
The Lord’s Supper in Synoptic Gospels + Church Traditions
John 6 and Partaking of His Body and Blood
How does this post help me grow in Christ?
I’m drawn back to the teaching that we have to get rid of the infectious yeast.
Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. (1 Cor. 5:6-7)
Then he plainly says without the metaphorical language of yeast:
Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God—I say this to your shame. (1 Cor. 15:33-34)
Ouch! We are supposed to get rid of bad influences in our lives. And then we can come back to our senses in order to stop sinning and return to a right relationship with God.
The Burnt Offering from a NT Perspective
The Grain Offering from a NT Perspective
The Fellowship Offering from a NT Perspective
The Sin Offering from a NT Perspective
The Guilt Offering from a NT Perspective
The Day of Atonement in Leviticus 16 from a NT Perspective
Christ’s Death on Cross = Cosmic Child Abuse?