“No grain offering that you give to the LORD can be made with yeast. You must not completely burn any yeast or honey as a food gift for the LORD.”
Leviticus 2:11 CEB
If you’ve ever heard me preach, you know I often approach the Bible a certain way. I typically look at the passage from a bunch of absurd angles before being led by the Spirit (you hope) to focus on what God might actually be saying to us. Let me show you my rabbit hole with this passage.
This passage is bizarre. Let’s be honest, to our modern ears the whole book of Leviticus is a little bizarre. There are some good memory verses and rules to live by for sure, but they are awash in a sea of seemingly arbitrary laws with even more arbitrary details. When I read through chapter 1 and 2, I immediately recalled Monty Python’s King Arthur’s encounter with the knights who say “ni!” In order to pass through the forest, Arthur and his men must obtain a shrubbery (one that looks nice and is not too expensive). Then, once said shrubbery is obtained, they are told they must supply a second shrubbery, a little taller than the first, and cut down the largest tree in the forest with a herring.
I feel a little bit like Arthur when I consider applying these verses to my life. Why does God want bread? Why only certain ingredients? And, aren’t the Israelites wandering around like nomads? Where would they obtain enough bread to need specific rules to govern how they sacrifice it? Not too mention, they are, in fact, allowed to offer bread with honey or yeast, as long as it isn’t burned (see verse 12). Is this so that the Levites can eat the good bread that isn’t burned, or is it because God doesn’t like the way burning yeast or honey smells? I don’t like the smell of burned pizza crust (yeast), so maybe God’s on to something.
Scholars have different opinions on these rules. Some suggest that honey and yeast were used in pagan rituals, and therefore not appropriate as a gift to the one true God. Some suggest that yeast was a common metaphor for how sin grows, and yeast is prone to mold faster (get corrupted). And of course if you know anything about the Exodus story (the Israelites fleeing slavery), you know that unleavened bread without yeast was eaten, so they could leave in a hurry, so maybe the offering should remind them of their freedom from slavery. Of course, none of this explains why you can offer it unburned (except my theory about feeding the Levites).
Even though my understanding is incomplete, the conclusion I can draw for us is this: our worship, our sacrifice should remind us of the God we serve. We don’t just sacrifice for catharsis, feeling good about giving something away. We don’t just worship because we like to sing, or yell, or dance, or clap our hands. We do it as a response to God, a specific God that delivered the Israelites from slavery and delivers us from our sins. Worship shouldn’t just feel good or let us check a box on our to-do list. It should draw us closer to the God of the universe that never stops loving his people.
Worship with all your mind, focusing intently on the object of our worship, the triune Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Worship with all your body, energy, and material sacrifices because when we realize who this God is, we realize that to give up everything for him is to gain more than we could ask, think, or imagine. This is what your life is about. This is what you were born for.
Oh, and please don’t set any bread on fire during church….or say ni at old ladies.