In this chapter, full instructions were given to God’s people concerning grain-offerings and drink-offerings. There were two kinds of grain-offerings. Some of them could be offered alone, as a separate offering in themselves; and these were detailed in Leviticus chapter 2. However, some grain-offerings were to be included as a necessary part of the ceremony of offering a burnt-offering or a peace-offering. Since those sacrifices were intended to be “the food of God’s table,” so to speak, there was always to be a constant supply of bread, oil, and wine to accompany the meat that was sacrificed. The intention of the laws in this chapter was to give directions concerning the proportion that the grain-offering and drink-offering should have in relation to the sacrifices to which they were annexed. If the sacrifice was a lamb or a kid of the goats (verses 3-5), then the grain-offering was to be “a tenth deal of flour” – that is, about 14 dry cups (1.8 kg). This flour was to be mixed with “the fourth part of a hin of oil,” which was about 2 quarts (1.9 l); and the sacrifice was also to be accompanied by a drink-offering of an equivalent measure of wine. If the sacrifice was a ram (verses 6, 7), the flour for the grain-offering was doubled; and the oil to mix with the flour, and the wine for the drink-offering, were both increased to roughly 2 and 2/3 quarts (2.5 l). Sacrifices of bullocks (verses 8-10) required the flour to be tripled, with 4 quarts (3.8 l) each of oil and wine. And in this matter, both native Israelites and foreigners were placed on a level of equality – which was a happy foreshadowing of the calling of the Gentiles (non-Jews), and of their admission into Christ’s Church. If the law made no difference between Jew and Gentile, much less does the Gospel.
Verses 17-21 contain a law requiring the people to offer the Lord a portion of their dough that they would make. At this point, they were in the wilderness and living upon manna that the Lord most clearly provided; but when they came to Canaan, where they would eat the fruit of their own industry, God required that He should be acknowledged as their Great Benefactor. They must not only offer Him the firstfruits and tithes of their harvest; but also, when they had the fruits of their harvest in their homes, and were preparing them in their kneading-troughs – when it was almost ready to be set upon their tables – God desired to have a further tribute of acknowledgment. Herein they showed their dependence upon the Lord for their daily bread, even when they had it in the house with them. Christ has not taught us to pray, “Give us this year our yearly harvest”; but rather, “Give us this day our daily bread.”
Sins committed ignorantly – whether by an individual or an entire nation – still need to have atonement made for them (verses 22-29); for ignorance will not excuse those who might have known their Lord’s will, and yet did not do it. Even David prayed to be cleansed from his secret faults – those sins which he himself was not aware of (Ps. 19:12). The good news is that sins committed ignorantly may be forgiven through Jesus! The efficacy of His precious atonement not only refers to sins that we know we are guilty of, but it also takes in and includes our sins of ignorance.
Verses 30 and 31 speak words of doom upon those persons who did not sin through ignorance, but rather in defiant contempt for what they knew the law required. Presumptuous sinners are those who sin intentionally against God’s will and glory, and these kinds of sins are exceedingly sinful. The next few verses give a particular instance of “presumptuous sins,” illustrated by a man who deliberately broke the Sabbath by gathering sticks – probably to make a fire; but the people were commanded to cook their food the day before (Ex. 16:23). And so the actions of this man were an affront to both the law and the Lawgiver. God requires the honoring of His Day, and He will not hold a person guiltless who profanes it. The right of God to have a day of devotion to Himself will only be disputed and denied by those who listen to the pride and unbelief of their hearts, rather than to the teaching of the Spirit of truth and life. How sad it is that so many turn their backs upon the blessings and mercies of the Lord’s Day, and use that time to heap up worldly riches, or to waste their property and strength in sinful pleasures which lead to ruin of the soul!
The people of Israel were ordered by the Lord to make fringes upon the borders of their garments. These fringes were made of silk or thread, with a blue ribbon at the top of them to keep them bound together tightly. The Jews were to be distinguished from their neighbors in their dress, as well as in their diet; and thus they were taught to not be conformed to the way of the heathen in other things. By this mark of distinction upon their clothing, they openly proclaimed – wherever they were – that they were a people who were not ashamed of their God and His law. If they were tempted to sin, the fringe would remind them of God’s commandments, and serve as a warning not to break them. In the same way, we should use every means possible of refreshing our memories with the truths and precepts of God’s Word, in order to strengthen and quicken our obedience, and to arm our minds against temptation.
The chapter closes with the great fundamental law of religion: “Be holy unto your God” – cleansed from sin, and sincerely devoted to His service.
Lord, in light of the many things appointed in this chapter to Your people of old, when they were to come to the Promised Land; help us to contemplate the vast privileges of that better heavenly country that Jesus has won for us, where neither sins of ignorance nor sins of presumption will any longer defile our souls! Amen.
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