The Lord’s Day Evening
November 14, 2004
“Priestly Pay: the Priest’s Portion of the Grain
Dr. J. Ligon Duncan III
If you have your Bibles, I’d invite you to turn with me to
Leviticus, chapter six. Tonight we will be looking again at what has been called
the grain offering or the meal offering. We spent some time
looking at this offering from the perspective of the basics required in this
sacrifice to the Lord, especially from the perspective of the worshippers
offering this sacrifice. We learned in Leviticus 2 that the grain offering, or
the meal offering, consisted of worshippers offering cooked or uncooked meal to
the Lord. The ingredients of this meal symbolized God’s lasting bounty to them,
and excluded elements that represented corruption–such as leaven or honey, or
other elements. And this was to demonstrate a dedication to the Lord, to
holiness, to consecration on the part of the people who are offering these grain
or meal offerings.
And we saw several things in looking at the grain
offering as we studied it in Leviticus 2, but two things I want to remind you
of. In Leviticus 2, and we saw this repeatedly emphasized we saw it, in fact,
at least three times, that the grain offering, or pledge offering,
literally, is an act of dedication to the Lord, and it was often something
that often followed the burnt offering, though it could be done alone.
And the idea behind this pledge or grain offering
of dedication was that those who have been reconciled to God and have access
into His presence will want to acknowledge that they owe God everything; and,
they do so in this sacrifice by bringing a gift, a tribute, a pledge, a portion
of their substance, a portion of what God has given them. They bring to the
Lord a portion of their daily bread. And the spiritual Old Testament worshipper
understood this gift to be symbolic not only of the fact that God had provided
everything that we have and need, but also that that portion of our substance,
or our property given back to the Lord, was a picture, a symbol, of giving
ourselves to the Lord.
So, this meal offering was a dedication, a pledge
offering. It was a sacrifice that showed our commitment to the Lord.
But we also saw that this meal offering was a
memorial. In chapter two, verses two and three, and eight and ten, and
sixteen, we see the meal offering as a memorial. God lays claim to it as He lays
claim to the first fruits. So, in giving back the meal offering to the Lord,
we are giving back to Him in order to acknowledge His lordship over all, and His
kind provision. In other words, in the very act of giving the meal–this
flour, these cakes, these baked goods–there is a reminder that God owns the
offering that we’re giving back to Him just as He owns everything else that He
has given to us; indeed, it’s an acknowledgement that God owns the offerer as
well as the offering. So, thus far, Leviticus, chapter two.
Now we’re into the same material in Leviticus
6:14-18, but now the focus will be on the role of the priests. Briefly, the
dedicatory aspect of the grain offering is repeated, and you’ll see that
especially in verses 14 and 15. But the real focus of this passage, which is in
verses 16,17,18, is on the role of the priests and what they are to do with the
remainder of the grain offering after the memorial portion of the grain offering
has been burned. And what they do with the remainder of that offering has
tremendous spiritual significance for Old Testament worshippers and for us as we
understand its meaning in light of God’s glorious revelation in Jesus Christ.
So that’s what we’re going to look at tonight. Before we read God’s word, let’s
look to Him in prayer.
Lord God, we thank You for Your word. It is true
Your word is better than food, and we ask that you would feed us with Your word
this night. We ask that we would come with hearts ready to hear, and that You
would search us out, speaking to us by Your word; applying the truth by Your
Holy Spirit to our hearts, that we might respond in love, in devotion, in
faith. We ask, O Lord, that You would open our eyes to behold wonderful things
from Your law. For this we lift up in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, our
Savior, Your Son. Amen.
Hear God’s word.
“‘Now this is the law of the grain offering: the sons of
Aaron shall present it before the Lord in front of the altar. Then one of them
shall lift up from it a handful of the fine flour of the grain offering, with
its oil and all the incense that is on the grain offering, and he shall offer it
up in smoke on the altar, a soothing aroma, as its memorial offering to the
Lord. And what is left of it Aaron and his sons are to eat. It shall be eaten
as unleavened cakes in a holy place; they are to eat it in the court of the tent
of t meeting. It shall not be baked with leaven. I have given it as their
share from My offering by fire; it is most holy, like the sin offering and the
guilt offering. Every male among the sons of Aaron may eat it; it is a
permanent ordinance throughout your generations, from the offerings by fire to
the Lord. Whoever touches them shall become consecrated.’”
Amen, and thus ends this reading of God’s holy word. May
He add His blessing to it.
There are three or four things I want you to
see in this passage tonight.
The first thing I want you to see is that in the grain
offering the worshipper is giving himself to God. We’ll see this in verses 14
and 15. And that awe is to produce in the worshipper a solemn joy. It is a joy
to come into the L
The second thing I want you to see, you’ll see
especially in verses 16-18, and that is that God draws a circle of awe around
all the activities of His tabernacle. The purpose of entering the Lord’s
tabernacle was to fellowship with him, but everything that is involved in His
worship must be holy. And so there is a holy joy, a solemn bliss that is
experienced by the worshipper as he comes into the tabernacle.
The third thing, I want you to see in verse 17. And
that is, we’ll see that not even the smallest detail of this service is
insignificant to the Lord.
The fourth thing is that in this passage the priests
eating of the remainder of this grain offering is not so much for their pay as
it is for our assurance. I want to look at those four things with you tonight.
I. The meal/pledge offering is a
symbolic giving of ourselves to God.
First, let’s look at verses 14-15, where the
grain offering, the meal offering, the pledge offering is set forth as a
symbolic giving of ourselves to God:
“Now this is the law of the grain offering: the sons of Aaron shall present it
before the Lord in front of the altar. Then one of them shall lift up from it a
handful of fine flour of the grain offering, with its oil and all the incense
that is on the grain offering, and he shall offer it up in smoke on the altar, a
soothing aroma, as its memorial offering to the Lord.”
Here we see in the giving of the grain offering a
symbolic act in which the worshipper dedicates all that he has and all that he
is, property and body, to the Lord. That’s what’s being declared in the grain
The meal, or the grain, represents the worshipper’s
loyal devotion and dedication to the Lord. As God is Lord and has provided
everything that we have, it was a public expression of giving back to the Lord
what was due Him. The first fruits: a public expression of commitment on the
part of the worshipper to the Lord. And so this offering is an offering in
which the worshipper expresses his dedication of his whole self to the Lord.
II. The purpose of worship is to
fellowship and draw near to God.
Now, of course, there are two glorious New
Testament applications of this. One we considered the last time we looked
at this grain offering. It comes from Romans 12:1,2, where Paul calls us to
give the whole of ourselves to God as living sacrifices. But of course, the
ultimate fulfillment of this grain offering is found in the Lord Jesus Himself.
Isn’t it interesting that on the night in which He was betrayed, the Lord Jesus
used the giving and breaking of bread as the symbol of His giving of Himself as
a sacrifice on our behalf: the giving of His body, His whole person, as a
sacrifice to the Lord. And so the Lord Jesus Christ, in the breaking of that
bread and in its distribution to His people, reminds us of His total self-giving
as a sacrifice to the Lord. And we are reminded of that, and we memorialize
that, and we rejoice in that, and we partake in the benefits of that every time
we’re under the means of grace, and especially coming to the Lord’s Table. And
so, I simply want to remind you first that the grain offering, as it was for the
Old Testament believer an opportunity to symbolize our giving ourselves to God,
so also it reminds us that we are to give ourselves to God, and to rejoice in
Jesus’ giving of Himself to God on our behalf.
But there’s a second thing I want you
to see, as well. And that you’ll find in verses 16-18. This is this
shroud of holiness and awe which surrounds everything that goes on in the
tabernacle. In verses 16-18, Moses speaks of what is to be done with the
remainder of the grain offering, that which was not given as the memorial gift
and burned to make a sweet aroma to the Lord. And he says this:
“‘…what is left of it, Aaron and his sons are to
eat. It shall be eaten as unleavened cakes in a holy place; they are to eat it
in the court of the tent of meeting. It shall not be baked with leaven. I have
given it as their share from My offerings by fire; it is most holy, like the sin
offering and the guilt offering. Every male among the sons of Aaron may eat it;
it is a permanent ordinance throughout your generations, from the offerings by
fire to the Lord. Whoever touches them shall become consecrated.’”
Notice four things that we learn
in just this passage:
First of all, when this
bread is eaten by Aaron and his sons, it is to be eaten as unleavened. There is
to be no leaven in the cake. Again, we saw as we studied Leviticus 2 that this
was a sign of purity and consecration. There was to be nothing in the grain
offering, nothing in the flour, cooked or uncooked, which would lend to its
deterioration. It was to be eaten unleavened.
Secondly, notice that it
was only to be eaten in the court of the tabernacle. “It shall be eaten…in a
holy place; they are to eat it in the court of the tent of meeting.”
Thirdly, notice that only
the males of the descendents of Aaron are to eat it. Now, you know that there
were other offerings that were given to the priests which their whole families
could partake of. It was one of the ways that the priestly caste was taken care
of in Israel. They didn’t have land to farm, they hadn’t been given land. Their
job was to minister to the rest of the tribes, and so one of the ways they were
taken care of was through the portions of some of the offerings that were
brought to the worship of the Lord. But this is only to be eaten by the priests
themselves, the male descendents of Aaron, because they were consecrated and
holy to the Lord in the ministry of His tabernacle.
And finally, notice the
requirement that everyone who comes into contact with this must be consecrated.
It’s said in an interesting way in verse 18: “Whoever touches them will
become consecrated.” It sounds like that if you accidentally touched this
remnant of the grain offering, you would become consecrated–from a first
reading– but what is clearly intended is that no one should eat of this who is
In other words, in
four distinct ways God is drawing a circle of awe around the altar and this
offering. He’s emphasizing the holiness of fellowship with Him–the
necessity of holiness in fellowship with Him.
The priest was a
mediator. He stood between the people and the Lord, representing the Lord’s
holiness to His people, and representing His people’s sacrifices back to the
Lord. And as the priest eats of this grain offering and is a picture of the
fellowship of all God’s people with the Lord, he must eat it unleavened so that
the material of the sacrifice is holy. He must eat it in the courts of the
tabernacle, so that the place where he’s eating it is holy. Only the male
priests must eat it, so that those who are eating it are holy; and only those
male priests consecrated to the service of the tabernacle are to eat it, so that
the holiness of this offering can be protected.
You see, God is showing
His people the solemn thing that it is to come into fellowship with Him. We
speak of desiring the joy, and the pleasure, and the delight and the bliss of
fellowship with God; and indeed, it is a joy and a pleasure and a delight, and
it is our greatest bliss to come into His presence. But when we come into His
presence, that joy is solemn, and that bliss is holy, and that delight is
fearful. It is not the world’s trivial joy and delight; it is not the world’s
light happiness and light-heartedness: we are coming into fellowship with a holy
God. And this sacrifice reminds us that when we come into His presence, we come
into the presence of the Most Holy. And so He draws a circle of awe around the
altar and its offerings.
And if He did that in the
old covenant, how much more ought we to come into His presence, coming to Mount
Zion, with a solemn joy; with a holy bliss; and with a fearful delight, not
trivializing the privilege of His presence; not diminishing its joy in any way,
but recognizing how profound it is to be in the presence of God.
When Moses was in God’s
presence, he took off his shoes and he acknowledged that he was on holy ground.
To be in God’s presence so often in the Scriptures provokes not some wild,
ecstatic happiness, but dread and awe. Why? Because God, our God, is a
consuming fire; and so the joy of the worshipper is a solemn joy, and this very
offering reminds us of that.
Even the smallest thing we do in worship is very important.
There’s something else we
see. Look at verse 17. Notice this instruction: “‘It shall not be baked with
leaven. I have given it as their share from My offerings by fire; it is most
holy….’” You see here that the details of bringing cakes and baked goods to
the Lord are not ignored by the Lord. Not the smallest detail is overlooked,
and not the smallest offering or act of dedication is considered to be
insignificant to the Lord.
Think of it: these cakes,
this bread brought to the Lord as an offering is declared to be holy. The
Lord says these unleavened cakes, this unleavened grain offering, it’s holy to
Me. You may think that you have brought an insignificant sacrifice to the Lord,
that you’ve done something small, not worthy of God’s seeing it. But here the
Lord says even the cakes brought by the poor of His people into His presence,
are holy before the Lord. They are significant in His eyes.
Now this actually
hints at the most important point that I want to bring to your attention
tonight, and you see it throughout from verses 15 all the way to verse 18, and
that is this: that the function of this sacrifice and the function of the
priests partaking of this sacrifice, is not so much a physical provision for the
priests. There were other ways that God made for that physical
provision. It was not so much for priestly pay as it was for the believer’s
assurance. The main emphasis here, throughout, is on the priest whose actions
signify that this offering was proper, and that it has been received by the Lord.
They are holy mediators, and everything they do in this offering, everything
they’re commanded to do from verses 15-18, is designed to confirm to the
worshipper that his offering has been accepted by God.
Look at verse 15, for
instance. When this offering is lifted up, the priest is to lift from it a
handful of fine flour and offer it up in smoke on the altar, so that…what
happens?…so that the believer worshipping the Lord in the tabernacle can see
the smoke of his sacrifice going up to the Lord. It’s a picture of the efficacy
of his sacrifice going up to the Lord. He can see it physically. But it doesn’t
stop there. The priest then is to eat the sacrifice.
Now, the priest is
consecrated to the work of the Lord, and he is not to touch that which is unholy
in the service of the temple. So, if the priest eats this grain offering that
you’ve brought, what do you know? You know that that grain offering meets the
requirements of God as a sacrifice of worship to Him, because the priest has
taken it and ingested it!
And he’s to eat it right
there in the temple court not only because that precinct was holy, but so that
the people of God could know that their sacrifice was acceptable. It was
proper, because the priests themselves had partaken of it. You see, the priests
were mediators, and they received their portion of the offering to confirm its
acceptability to the Lord to those who were worshipping Him, to confirm to the
believers that they were accepted, to help the believers’ assurance.
You see, the priests had
an obligation to help assure God’s worshippers of God’s acceptance of them and
of their sincere dedication. Isn’t it interesting that God would set forth
ceremonial acts that were designed to help assure His people? It always strikes
me that the Scriptures have so much to say about assurance. That to me is one of
the great testimonies that the Scriptures are divinely inspired. How could
humans have anticipated that believers for hundreds and hundreds of years would
struggle with the full assurance of God’s acceptance and pardon, and yet,
throughout the word there are numerous provisions on God’s part designed to help
assure His people. And we see just another example of it here.
Of course, the
priests’ role ultimately points to Christ’s role in assuring the people of God.
The believer is assured by the sacrifice of Christ, knowing that it is not
merely unleavened bread which has been offered to the Lord, but the body and
blood of the Lord Jesus Christ itself. While it may be hard for an Old
Testament worshipper to believe that grain can be holy to the Lord, it is not
hard at all for a New Testament worshipper to realize that the person of God’s
own Son is exceedingly precious to Him, and causes there to be a benefit, and an
efficacy, and an assurance which grain, the blood of bulls and goats, could
sacrifice of Himself serves to assure the people of God, and the New
Testament minister, in working also with the desire to be of service to the
people of God in assuring them of God’s purposes toward them as they embrace Him
by faith, serves that role by getting out of the way.
In some churches the
priest stands between the people of God and the altar, indicating that he still
mediates for them coming into God’s presence. But reformed ministers stand
behind the Table, indicating to you that we are not your mediators.
Jesus is your mediator.
You come to Him: not through me, not through the ministers, not through the
elders; but you come to Him by God’s grace and Spirit through His shed blood,
and you come directly to Him, and you commune with Him. And my job in assuring
you is to get out of the way, and to take you to the Savior, to show you the
Savior, because there and only there will we find full assurance that we have
been accepted by God.
And you know, the
beautiful thing about the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ is that it is not a
sacrifice that we brought to God. It was a sacrifice that the Father and the
Son rendered up on our behalf, and we had absolutely nothing to do with its
offering. And yet, its consequences and results are offered to everyone who will
trust in His name.
Our Lord and our God,
the only way we can ever experience the assurance of not being condemned is to
rest and trust in Christ alone for salvation. As glorious as these grain
offerings were, as encouraging as it would have been for the Old Testament
worshipper to see that smoke wafting up towards heaven; to see those priests
eating that grain, showing that it was acceptable to God; none of those things
could cleanse the consciences of Old Testament believers fully. Only the blood
of Christ can do that, and so we pray, O God, if we have not applied ourselves
to Him that we would throw down everything and run to the only hope of
salvation. But not only to the only hope of salvation, but to the only One who
can assure our hearts of the grace and mercy and purposes and mercy of God. We
ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Would you stand for the
Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith through Jesus Christ our Lord,
until the day break and the shadows flee away. Amen.
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This transcribed message has been lightly edited and formatted for the Web site. No attempt has been made, however, to alter the basic extemporaneous delivery style, or to produce a grammatically accurate, publication-ready manuscript conforming to an established style template.
Should there be questions regarding grammar or theological content, the reader should presume any website error to be with the webmaster/transcriber/editor rather than with the original speaker. For full copyright, reproduction and permission information, please visit the First Presbyterian Church Copyright, Reproduction & Permission statement.