Leviticus 21:15 - 22:22
NIV - 15 So that he will not defile his offspring among his people. I am the Lord, who makes him holy.' 16 The Lord said to Moses.
I want to emphasize right up front that indeed much of the concept of sacrifices is foreign to our 21st century ears. As believers in Messiah Yeshua (Jesus Christ), we understand that the Levitical priesthood has been brought to its fullness by the effectual, bloody sacrifice of the Perfect Sacrifice (Heb. 7:18, 19 and 8:23-28 along with 10:1-4). All sacrifices honored the LORD and found their fullness in him, both in the time period of the TaNaKH (Old Testament) as well as today or any time in the future. Throughout the book of Leviticus various sacrifices are prescribed both for priests and for laypeople. The opening chapters of the Book deal exclusively with animal “korbanot,” a Hebrew word that is commonly translated as either sacrifices or offerings, but the truth is that the English language does not have a word that accurately expresses the concept of a korban. The word “sacrifice” implies that the person bringing it is expected to deprive himself of something valuable—but God finds no joy in His children’s anguish or deprivation. “Offering” is more positive and closer to the mark—indeed, it is found in many translations—but it too falls short of the Hebrew korban. The Torah (Law) actually outlines five major types of sacrifices: 1. ‘Olah (Burnt Offering) – Lev. 1:1-17 2. Minchah (Grain Offering) – Lev. 2:1-16 3. Sh’lamim (Peace Offering) – Lev. 3:1-17 4. Chata’at (Sin Offering) – Lev. 4:1-35; 5:1-13 5. ‘Asham (Guilt Offering) – Lev. 5:14-26 Germane to our short study here is that the first three in this list could easily be considered voluntary “freewill offerings,” brought before God by anyone at various times in the life of anyone in the community. As such, they did not effect atonement or provide ritual cleansing for worshippers or for the Holy Sanctum. By comparison, the last two in the list (sin offering and guilt offering) were required to make restitution for various sins against either God or your fellow man, or both. Such korbanot (chata’at and ‘asham) are classified as “expiatory.” Food offerings, as you referred to them (also called meal offerings or meat offerings), would fall under the category of the minchah (grain offering). Likewise, some of the other categories of offerings included elements of the minchah, in essence creating a combined effect. There are five types of donated grain offerings: 1) the standard “meal offering” whose dedication portion is removed before it is baked; 2) the “baked grain offering,” which came in two forms: loaves or 3) flat bread; 4) the “pan-fried” grain offering; 5) the minchat marcheshet, deep-fried in a pot. Concerning the grain offering, in Lev. 2:9, it is said that when this type is freely and voluntarily offered to God that the resulting portion that goes up in the fire of the altar becomes a “pleasing aroma to the LORD” (Hebrew=REYACH NICHOACH LA’ADONAI). The answer to your question, “Why did the LORD need food offerings?” must be that in the mystery of our service to God he saw that his prescribed sacrificial system pointed to his Son in even the smallest detail, and we know that the Son ever lived to please the Father (John 8:29). Therefore, even though we cannot offer grain offerings today, we can indeed offer the sacrifice of our love, our hearts, our minds, our time, our worship, our adoration, our prayer, our praise—you name it! The ways in which we can be pleasing to our God through the LORD Jesus Christ are practically limitless. I will close with Romans 12:1, 2, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”