Tag Archives: Leviticus 2

I’m an Epic Fail at Gift Giving

If you bring a grain offering baked in an oven, it is to consist of the finest flour: either thick loaves made without yeast and with olive oil mixed in or thin loaves made without yeast and brushed with olive oil.
Leviticus 2:4 (NRSV)

I have a confession to make. I am generally an epic failure when it comes to gift giving. In fact, forget the “generally” and just call it epic fail. The procuring and giving of gifts doesn’t come naturally like it does for others I know and love. I have to think about it. I’m forgetful about special days. I constantly second guess myself. I agonize over what the recipient would want and enjoy. Once the gift is given I am insecure about the gift I gave and agonize over whether I should have given something else.

The truth of the matter is that my agony over gift giving is, in part, because it points to a core self-centeredness in my soul. It feels like an inability to know and love others better than I love myself. I hate that. I need help.

In today’s chapter, God’s ancient rules state that a blood sacrifice should be accompanied with a gift. The grain offering was basically a loaf of bread made with the finest ingredients. It required that the giver remember, think, set aside time, prepare the gift by making and baking it, then bring it to God at the altar. The blood sacrifice was about atonement, the grain offering was about gratitude.

For forty years the nation of Israel wandered around the wilderness in search of the promised land. Each night God sent a gift known as Manna. It arrived with the dew each morning. It was bread from heaven and it sustained them in the long march.

Now God says, “if you want to say thank you, make me a nice loaf of bread.” It tells me that you remember the manna. It says to me that you appreciated my gift and were grateful. It is consider-ate. I appreciate the thought. I value the sacrifice of time and effort you took to think of me in this way. It’s a tangible expression of your love.”

This morning I’m feeling, once again, repentant. I’d like to think that I’ve made progress in this spiritual journey. I know I have. Nevertheless, God’s ancient prescription to be a good and grateful giver of gifts reminds me this morning of core changes that have yet to be made; work still in progress after all these years.

This is a reminder to me that no matter how much progress I’ve made I still need help. I still need a savior. I still need forgiveness, and mercy, and grace. And, it strikes me that this is exactly the point of God’s ancient law in the first place. The law was given to ultimately make our need perfectly clear to us. To which, God responds with a gift. You will find it wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.

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Chapter-a-Day Leviticus 2

Gold Medal Flour at Dot's Cafe
Image by ChicagoGeek via Flickr

When you present a Grain-Offering of oven-baked loaves, use fine flour, mixed with oil but no yeast. Or present wafers made without yeast and spread with oil. Leviticus 2:4 (MSG)

When my children were still babies, I made a habit of having them close their eyes, bow their heads and hold hands while we thanked God for their food. At bedtime I would read Bible stories and we would act them out together in little bed-top improvisations. On Memorial Day, grandma would pick them up each year to help her plant flowers on the graves of loved ones. These repetitious rituals are word pictures and reminders of thankfulness, offering, obedience, and honor that, hopefully, stick with children as they grown into adolescence and adulthood.

When I read Leviticus I often picture mankind and human society in its infancy. The sacrifices, rules and offerings are ritualistic word pictures prescribed by a Father to his people, who are just a toddler society beginning to understand their place in the world.

Today, two things struck me in the word picture of the grain offerings:

First, fine flour was to be used. When we give, to others and especially to God, we should give the best we have. It reminds me of the lyric to David’s song (which we know as Psalm 112) which says “Good will come to him who is generous and lends freely.” Am I giving God and my neighbors the fine stuff or the white elephant stuff on my basement shelf?

Second, the bread offering was not to contain yeast. God uses a word picture out of what was a daily chore at that time: the baking of bread. We bake a lot of bread in our house and the last ingredient you put in to the breadmaker is the yeast. It always amazes me how a little teaspoon of yeast makes such a HUGE difference in the outcome of the bread. That’s why God used it as a word picture for sin. A little sin taints the whole person the way a little yeast taints the whole loaf. You can’t bake a loaf that’s half leavened (with yeast) and half unleavened (without yeast). Once the yeast is added, the entire loaf is tainted. We often want to think of sin as this isolated part of our person. We’re mostly “good” people who have this hidden little sin problem back in our closet. By requiring bread without yeast as an offering, God was telling us “I demand a sinless sacrifice. A pinch of sin affects the whole person, and that’s a problem.”

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