In the burnt offering of Leviticus chapter 1, the food offering is entirely the LORD’s. But as we get into chapters 2-3, we see that God not only demands our food; he invites us into the feast, and from it we learn how to enjoy communion with God.


Leviticus 2-3

The Book of Leviticus (NICOT), Gordon Wenham

Leviticus: Holy God, Holy People (Preaching the Word)Kenneth Mathews

Who Shall Ascend the Mountain of the Lord? A Biblical Theology of the Book of Leviticus, Michael Morales

Sermon Transcript

The COVID-19 pandemic damaged a lot of industries, but one industry it helped was the food delivery industry. Pizza delivery was always a thing, but now GrubHub, Uber Eats, Doordash, and many others offer delivery of food from many of your favorite restaurants without you having to ever leave your house. You can even get your groceries delivered. One option that also evolved during COVID was the “no contact delivery” option, in which the delivery driver simply drops your food on your steps, hopefully rings your doorbell or calls you to let you know they did so, and then leaves. The driver brings you a meal, but you don’t invite them into your house to eat it with you. I suppose you could say you have a relationship with the driver, you may have even spoken to them on the phone, but it’s a pretty shallow one. You probably don’t even know their name.


And this is sometimes how we imagine God relating to us, isn’t? We know he wants things from us; in Leviticus chapter 1 that we looked at last week, God said he wanted the Israelites to bring him the best of their animals as a burnt offering. Today we may attend a church gathering or give some money to our church because we know God wants such things from us, but is that where the relationship ends? Does God relate to his people like someone ordering a no-contact delivery typically relates to their delivery driver? Today we’re getting into chapters 2 and 3 of Leviticus, and they are about the grain offering and the peace offering, respectively, and they are both closely associated with the burnt offering. The grain offering was typically offered with the burnt offering, and as we see in verse 5 of chapter 3, the peace offering was offered on top of it. Each of these offerings were what you might call “general offerings”, i.e., they weren’t offered in response to a specific situation like the offerings we’ll look at in chapters 4 and 5. They are also all called “food offerings” with a “pleasing aroma” to the LORD as they are burned and the smoke from them ascends to heaven. In a symbolic sense, in each of these offerings, the offeror brings food to the LORD, much like the delivery driver brings food to the one who orders it.


But what the grain offering and peace offering show us is that the scenario of God’s people bringing him food is less like a typical no-contact delivery from GrubHub, and more like God inviting the delivery driver into his home to join the feast. While the burnt offering was devoted entirely to the LORD, the grain offering was also eaten by the priests, and the peace offering could even be eaten by ordinary Israelites. As we progress from Leviticus 1 to Leviticus 2 to Leviticus 3, the feast of the LORD expands from the LORD alone, to his priests, to his people. In relationship with the LORD, we not only offer him our stuff and ourselves; we enjoy communion with him. Isn’t that great? There would be no injustice on his part if he did simply tell us to drop the meal on the steps and be gone. But out of his sheer kindness, in instituting the grain offering and the peace offering, as we bring our offerings he is saying to us, “Come in. Join me in the feast.” Don’t try to just do things for the LORD without enjoying communion with the LORD. Instead, join the feast of the LORD, and these chapters really focus on how to do so. They show us five ways: Remember the LORD, feed the LORD’s workers, keep it pure, remember the LORD’s covenant, and give the LORD the best portion.


Remember the LORD


Our text begins with instructions on the second type of offering we encounter in Leviticus: The grain offering. In verse 1-3, instructions are given for how to offer uncooked grain, in verses 4-10, instructions are given for how to offer cooked grain, and in verses 11-16, more general rules for the grain offering are given. I mentioned already that the distinctive feature of the grain offering compared to the burnt offering was that some of it was kept aside to be eaten by the priests, but before that happened, the priest was still to burn some of it as a memorial portion on the altar, as verse 2 puts it, and there it describes it, like the burnt offering, as a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the LORD. So notice the similarity again to the burnt offering: The one offering the grain offering is still parting with all that grain, and notice again that the grain needed to be valuable: It was to be fine flour, verse 1, not the leftover stuff, and it was to have frankincense and oil added to it, increasing the value and the aroma. And though it will go to feed the priest, a portion of it is first offered to the LORD as the “memorial portion” as verse 2 calls it. It is hard to know exactly what a “memorial portion” means, but obviously it’s meant to remind someone of something, and it seems here that it would remind the worshiper and the priest of the LORD, that even though some of that grain will feed the priests, it is first and ultimately the LORD’s. The worshiper offers it first to the LORD, and then it’s as though the LORD is the one graciously giving some to the priests, and everyone involved was reminded of this dynamic by first offering a portion of it to the LORD.


So yes, we get to enjoy the feast of the LORD, but if you simply aim at your enjoyment while forgetting the worth of the LORD, you’ll ironically never get the joy. That would be like aiming at weight loss while forgetting to exercise. You can’t just go lose weight, and you can’t just go get joy. Joy comes to us as we glorify God. We offer ourselves to him first, and then we get to join in the feast. Consider what it would look like in your life to remember the LORD first. Last week we talked about the significance of beginning each week with a worship gathering. Many Christians find it helpful to begin their day before checking their phone, checking in at work, training their body, or caring for their kids by remembering the LORD through Bible reading and prayer. Consider even how Jesus teaches us to pray: We don’t begin by asking for our daily bread; we begin by remembering the LORD: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Remember the LORD first when you pray. Remember who he is. Remember who’s actually in control of your day. Remember the ways the LORD has been kind to you. Some have found it helpful to even write down at least one way each day that the LORD was kind to them that day. However you choose to do it, remember the LORD, and the next way we see in our passage to celebrate the feast of the LORD is by feeding his workers.


Feed the LORD’s workers


I’ve already alluded to this of course, but notice in verse 3 that the rest of the grain offering besides the memorial portion is for Aaron and his sons, who were the priests of Israel. This is described as a most holy part of the LORD’s food offering. So again, it is the LORD’s food offerings, but the LORD gives it to the priests for their food. Aaron and his sons had a full-time job as priests that prevented them from planting, growing, and harvesting grain. Chief among their duties was offering sacrifices on behalf of the people, such as this grain offering, which the people had to bring to the priest, and which the priest then offered on their behalf. The average Israelite was not authorized to burn the burnt offering on the altar or burn the grain offering on the altar, and when an average Israelite tried to do the duties of a priest, God literally killed them for it (e.g., Num 16).


So the priests had an important job, and a time-consuming job. Reading these descriptions of the sacrificial system in Leviticus should cause us to realize that the whole process took some time. Not only that, but the sacrifices had to be offered often. We learn elsewhere in the Bible that the burnt offering and the grain offering were part of daily offerings that were offered in both the morning and the evening (Num 28). Then on top of the work of offering sacrifices on behalf of the people, the priests had other tasks such as studying God’s law, teaching it to the people, and helping the people distinguish what God wanted them to do from what God did not want them to do. If they had to also plant and harvest their own grain, the worship of God would be neglected, the sacrifices would not be offered, and the holiness of God would consume a sinful people. No one would be enjoying any communion with God or celebrating any feast, because they would all be dead.


So, instead of going that route, God ordained that the people of Israel would do things like plant and harvest grain, and then take some of that and offer it as a grain offering, a portion of which would then be shared with the priests for their food. To the Israelite who knew that God mattered, that he deserved our worship, and that the priesthood was a necessary part of offering him acceptable worship, the grain offering just made sense. Of course we have to feed the priests! The work they do is so valuable. Because of their work, we can offer to God acceptable worship, and we can learn what he requires of us! And this is always the case with our money, isn’t it? We do not generally mind paying people for their work if their work is of great value to us. I get that many in America want free healthcare, but nobody is advocating that doctors simply should not be paid, that we should educate them less, or that we should make them work other jobs alongside their medical profession to pay their own bills. So also the LORD ordained that the work of priests was valuable enough that they should be enabled to do it full-time by the support of the people.


Now today, since the coming of Christ, the special office of priest has ceased, but notice how the apostle Paul applied this principle: “Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? [That’s what we’re seeing here.] 14 In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel” (1 Cor 9:13-14). So how do you apply this today? You give a portion of your money to your church as giving to the Lord, and the Lord pays your pastors out of the church’s fund. You give a portion of your money to your church as giving to the Lord, and the Lord pays missionaries to proclaim the gospel elsewhere. You don’t need a priest to offer sacrifices on your behalf; Christ has offered the perfect sacrifice once for all sins. But we do need pastors to proclaim that message to us over and over again and to help us figure out how it applies to our lives. And we do need missionaries to take that gospel to those who have not yet heard it, because how else will they hear it?


When many Christians today think of communion with God, they think of it very individualistically. If I can have communion with God through just me and my Bible, why pay a pastor? And certainly I pray you do enjoy rich communion with God as you meditate on scripture and pray, but pastors, much like the priests, are meant to be a help to your communion with God. These services are meant to be the primary way we commune with God together, and someone has to pick the songs, order the service, lead the prayers, preach the sermon, and administer the Lord’s Supper. And those services are meant to shape you in such a way that they feed richer communion with God privately throughout the week. God never designed communion with him to be a purely individual endeavor. The individual came to offer their grain, but they had to give it to the priest. You can read your Bible by yourself, but God has given pastors to the church to teach you so that you read it better.


So, consider: If you are pretty comfortable neglecting the ministry of pastors when God says you need it, what does that indicate about how much you trust his wisdom over your own? To what do you offer the money you earn? What does that communicate about what you value? It’s all the LORD’s anyway, isn’t it? That’s one thing the people were to remember by offering the memorial offering first. If the crops yield grain, it’s because he gave it, and if your labors yield a paycheck, it’s because he gave it. If you really get that, and all your money, along with all of you, is offered to the LORD, it’s just not that big of a deal to set aside a portion of it specifically for the church, who uses a portion of that to feed the LORD’s workers. That’s the second way to celebrate the feast of the LORD: Feed the LORD’s workers. Third, keep it pure.


Keep it pure


We can see this call for purity in verse 11 where we read that no grain offering you bring to the LORD shall be made with leaven or honey. The text obviously doesn’t tell us why these things were prohibited, but it seems that it has something to do with the ability to change the bread itself rather than adding aroma to it like oil and frankincense would have. Yeast is added to bread typically to ferment the dough and cause it to rise, and while honey does not initiate fermentation, it can help the fermentation process as the yeast eats the sugars present in it. It turns the unleavened bread into something it was not previously, and so is symbolic of impurity or corruption. So the New Testament picks up on this idea when it says, “Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump,” referring there to the removal of an unrepentant sinner from the church due to his corrupting influence (1 Cor 5:6-7). Unleavened bread was pure bread, and if we are to celebrate the feast of the LORD, that’s what we must celebrate it with.


And if we want to enjoy communion with God, we must be unleavened. I’ve never done this, but I have heard the story from multiple other pastors of someone coming to them for counsel because they say God feels distant and unreal to them, and the next question these pastors have asked the person is something like, “So how long have you been sleeping with your girlfriend?” Again, not the pastoral approach I’ve chosen to take, but the point is well made: If you tolerate leaven in your life, that is, if you tolerate sin in your life, you should not expect to enjoy close communion with God. How many of us here today can testify to that in our experience? Who ever tolerated sin in their lives and found that it helped their relationship with God? If you notice communion with God is lacking, then, certainly one important question to consider is, “Are there sins in my life I am tolerating?” and as you ask that question, remember that even a little leaven leavens the whole lump.


Yesterday I was driving home from central PA and I decided not to use my GPS. “I’ve made this trip enough times now that I know where I’m going,” I thought. But then I got past Conshohocken on the Schuylkill, and what do you know? I found myself in bumper-to-bumper traffic. So while I was stopped I thought maybe I’ll bust the GPS out and see if I can learn anything about what is going on. I saw the little traffic icon and I think this is the largest number I’ve ever seen on it: +41 minutes it said. It ended up being more like 55 as a tree had fallen on 76, forcing traffic into one lane for a long stretch of it. And what was my first response? Anger. I start thinking, “Man, if I had just checked my GPS a little earlier, I could have avoided this whole thing.” And that matters because a little leaven leavens the whole lump, and thereby hinders communion with God, and right there in my car the leaven of anger was beginning to spread in my heart. Communion with God was the last thing on my mind; to tell it like it is, I was angry with God, though it took me a bit to admit it. I didn’t want to pray; I just wanted to stay angry.


Brothers and sisters, fight sin in your life on that level. Don’t tolerate a little leaven—the command in verse 11 of our passage is to burn no leaven nor any honey as a food offering to the LORD. Or as Ephesians 5:3 puts it, “But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.” Some of you here are in dating relationships; others of you want to be. One question dating couples often ask is, “How far is too far before marriage?” and the answer is to stop asking that question, and instead ask, “How can we strive for purity, so that sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness are not even named among us, as is proper among saints?” If you really want to enjoy rich communion with God, keep yourself pure.


And strive for the purity of your church. Remember that communion with God is not merely an individual endeavor. Remember the command I quoted earlier from 1 Corinthians 5 telling us to cleanse out the old leaven is about removing an unrepentant sinner from the church as an act of church discipline. Obviously that is not a step anyone wants to have to take, and so the ideal is to confront sin in one another’s lives and call one another to repentance before it reaches that point. And to do that, you have to know one another and let yourself be known by one another well. It can feel safer to remain anonymous in a church, but do you know what it’s really safe for to remain anonymous in your church? Your sin, and we don’t want our sin to be safe, we want it to be killed! Who knows you well enough to see the leaven in your life? Who have you let in at that level? Who do you know at that level? If the answer is someone who does not live in the same city as you, that’s an insufficient answer. I praise God for close friends in my life who I no longer live in the same city as, but they see the version of me I choose to present when I happen to get on the phone with them or see them for a day in the year. You need people close enough to you to see you when your guard is down, and you need at least some of them to be members of your local church. Only they have the ability if they do see leaven in your life and you refuse to repent of it to tell it to the church, and if you really want to keep the leaven out of your life, that’s the kind of accountability you want and need. Many in our church have found Citygroups and Discipleship groups helpful tools to foster that.


Brothers and sisters, this is one of the main reasons we practice church discipline: We want to enjoy close communion with God, and sin only hinders that! So we seek to know one another in the ways I’ve been describing, in hope that where sin is present in our lives that we may be blind to, others can point it out and lead us to repentance, that we might enjoy closer communion with God. And yes, if one of us refuses to repent after repeated attempts to call him or her to repentance, God commands us to remove him or her from our membership as an act of church discipline (1 Cor 5:2). If they won’t take the leaven out, we must, because a little leaven leavens the whole lump. If someone remains in good standing in a church family who is engaged in unrepentant sin, then everyone else who is already struggling against the temptation to sin starts to look at him or her and think, “Well, I know they’re engaged in sin, and it doesn’t seem like it’s really killing them. My battle against sin sure is hard. Maybe I should let up a bit too.” I remember one membership interview I did with one of you a little while back that really illustrated this point. I asked, as I typically do, if this person had any questions about church discipline. She said she really appreciated it, and then she told me a story from the church of which she was previously a part. She was a leader in that church, but discovered that when she and other leaders would hang out, the other leaders would regularly joke about their sexual sin, rather than repenting of it. So she confronted them, they didn’t repent, and over time, she found she was actually the one being excluded from their community. What happened there? The leaven leavened the lump so much that the one person who actually wanted to live righteously was excluded! Let’s not let that happen in this church. Let’s strive for purity personally and corporately so that we might enjoy communion with God. And next, let’s remember the LORD’s covenant.


Remember the LORD’s covenant


While leaven and honey can’t be presented as part of the grain offering, verse 13 does tell us that all grain offerings shall be seasoned with salt, and then it tells us that this is the “salt of the covenant with your God.” This association of covenant with salt appears in two other places in the Old Testament. Once it refers to the promise God made to Aaron and his sons of what they are to receive from the people of Israel as their perpetual due as priests (Num 18:19). The other is in reference to the covenant God made with David and his sons, to give them the kingship over Israel (2 Chr 13:5). In each case, the covenant of salt is associated with the enduring nature of the covenant. One function of salt in the ancient world was as a preservative. So the LORD likely had the people of Israel put salt on their offerings so that they might remember their covenant with their God, which involved two basic pieces: God’s commitment to them, and what God required of them. When they offered their grain offering, they were to remember that this was not just a one-time thing, but one time in an enduring covenant relationship with God.


That’s the nature of a covenant relationship, after all. A covenant relationship is a committed relationship. A boyfriend may get excited about a girl for a bit and give her a gift as a token of that. He may say, “I love you so much I just want to be with you forever,” but until he says that publicly before God, witnesses, and government, and she does likewise, he is not in a covenant relationship with her. He may say he is, but he can still be gone tomorrow. And as long as that is the nature of their relationship, their communion will always be limited. To state the obvious, God forbids them from having sex in such a state, but consider even the relational dynamics: When each person knows the other person may be gone tomorrow, they’ll be constantly tempted to hide. If you can be gone tomorrow, I don’t really want to let you know me, because if you really knew me and you could leave, I’m afraid you would leave. So you may feel loved by the other person, but deep down you know it’s not really you they love, because the lack of commitment makes it unsafe to let the other person really know you. A lack of commitment, a lack of covenant, is another hindrance to communion, and God is calling us into a deeper relationship than that with him.


So some of you here today lack communion with God because you refuse to enter into covenant relationship with him. Maybe you believe he exists, and maybe you even get excited about him from time to time, sing some songs to him, and give some money to him, but you aren’t willing to make an accountable commitment to him, and the evidence of that is that you are not baptized and/or you are not a member of a church. That’s how you express your entry into the LORD’s covenant biblically. If you profess faith in Christ but have not yet been baptized since becoming a believer in Jesus or are not yet a member of a church, I would encourage you to grab the mini-books on the back table entitled, “Why should I be baptized” and “Why should I join a local church?”, attend our next baptism and membership class on March 10 and 17, or find another church in which to be baptized and join.


Many of you here today have done that though, and are in fact members of this church. The Israelites to whom this passage was addressed were already in covenant with God through the Old Testament covenant sign of circumcision. But they needed to add the salt to their grain offering to remember that covenant. Imagine a married couple that is truly in covenant with one another, but they still relate to one another as though they might be gone tomorrow. They still wonder whether the other person is cheating on them, and they still regularly contemplate leaving the other. Though they are in covenant, their forgetting that covenant will hinder their communion, and isn’t this how it often happens in our communion with God? We allow ourselves to entertain thoughts of leaving him, thus forgetting our commitment to him, and we fear that he might leave us, thus forgetting his commitment to us. Brothers and sisters, remember the LORD’s covenant with us. Don’t let your relationship with God ebb and flow based on your ebbing and flowing level of excitement. Don’t come to church and pray and give your money and do the things the LORD requires only when you feel like it; remember what he requires of you, what you are now committed to in covenant with him. But more importantly, remember what he has committed himself to. You can confess your sins to him and let him know the real you, because he has promised that he will never leave you nor forsake you, and has even gone so far as to promise that he will keep you so that you do not leave or forsake him. To celebrate the feast of the LORD, to enjoy rich communion with him, remember his covenant. And, finally, give him the best portion.


Give the LORD the best portion


Finally we come to chapter 3, the peace offering, and don’t worry, the sermon is not about to get twice as long. Though it is another whole chapter, the procedure for the peace offering is essentially the same as that for the burnt offering: We’re back to animals being offered, it must be an unblemished animal, though females could be offered now, the offeror lays his hand on it, kills it, and gives it to the priest. That’s all basically consistent with the burnt offering, and if you want to learn more about that, I would direct you to listen to last week’s sermon on our website. For this week, though, I’ll focus on what’s different about the peace offering, and it is that when the priest goes to burn it on the altar, with the peace offering, he does not burn the whole thing. Instead, verses 3-5 specify that for the food offering to the LORD the priests were to take the fat covering the entrails, the fat that is on the entrails, the two kidneys with the fat that is on them at the loins, and the long lobe of the liver, and burn that on the altar on top of the burnt offering. And though this chapter does not tell us, we learn in Leviticus 7 that the rest could be eaten by the offeror and likely also his family and friends.


The peace offering was the offering through which the ordinary Israelite could also celebrate the feast of the LORD. It was the means through which he could enter communion with God. The name peace offering speaks to this—you know how you can tell when people are really at peace? When they can eat together. But, in order to enter that feast, the Israelite still had to offer some of the animal to the LORD, and the parts especially emphasized in chapter 3 are the parts containing fat, as verse 16 summarizes: “All fat is the LORD’s.” And, once again, the text does not spell out for us the rationale for why the fat would be uniquely devoted to the LORD, but the idea seems to be that the fat was considered the most precious part. Today many people don’t eat the fat with their meat, but if you do ever eat the fat on a piece of ribeye, a brisket, or a pork shoulder, you know it really is among the richest, most decadent tastes available.


And yet, the Israelites were to offer it to the LORD, rather than eat it themselves. As they came to the feast of the LORD, they were to give him the best portion. Why? Because he is the greatest attendee of the feast, and to be with him is better than getting to eat the fattest, richest portion of the food. Listen to this testimony of the Psalmist: “My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,6 when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night;7 for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy” (Psalm 63:5-7). What’s he saying? He’s saying basically that to have communion with God is to satisfy your soul as with fat and rich food. In other words, if you give the LORD the best portion of the food, you won’t miss it, because he is himself the best portion of any meal.


We began the sermon talking about remembering the LORD first—the priest gives him the memorial portion before the priest gets a portion. We could say that we saw there that the LORD gets the first of our resources, while here we see that he also gets the best of our resources. Time is again an appropriate example. I recently heard John Piper say that he prepared four hours every Saturday as a young man to teach an 8th grade Sunday school class at his church. Four hours of preparation, on a Saturday, to teach 8th grade Sunday school? Why? Because he believed the LORD was worthy of his best. Do you? Give the LORD the best of your time, the best of your efforts, the best of you, and you will not miss it. Rather, your soul will be satisfied with the best thing there is: Him.


The peace offering is similar to the burnt offering in a number of ways, but it cannot be offered in place of the burnt offering. Instead, verse 5 makes clear that it goes on top of the burnt offering, and the burnt offering was offered to make atonement for the sins of the worshipper. As long as we are still guilty in God’s sight, communion with him is not possible. So when Jesus Christ came, he said, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh” (John 6:51). Jesus Christ is the true and better grain offering, the bread of life, who gave his flesh as bread for the life of the world when he died on the cross for the sins of God’s covenant people, and who rose again so that now whoever feasts on him by faith has peace with God and will live forever in communion with him. He is the only way to true communion with God. Feast on him by faith, and your soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food. Remember him first, today and every day, feed his workers, cleanse out the old leaven, and you will have rich communion with God.