“And since Abraham and the other patriarchs were holy, their descendants will also be holy—just as the entire batch of dough is holy because the portion given as an offering is holy. For if the roots of the tree are holy, the branches will be, too.”
Romans 11:16 NLT
We are having a second look at this verse in Romans 11. Paul reminds his readers that the early Jews were obliged to provide an offering to God made up of dough. This was a type of bread made from finely ground wheat or barley with oil and salt, but without any yeast. It could be cooked or uncooked and it was brought to the priests with some of it offered to God. We read all about the grain offering, which was presented in the form of dough, in Leviticus 2, and we read that it was considered a special offering. Leviticus 2:10, “The rest of the grain offering will then be given to Aaron and his sons as their food. This offering will be considered a most holy part of the special gifts presented to the Lord”.
But we pilgrims ask if the dough offering has any relevance today. I think it does, as a principle to be followed. As we look at the offerings set out in Leviticus and the other parts of the Torah, they all relate to something significant for the person presenting the offering. A grain offering when the Israelites were wandering for 40 years in the desert would have been difficult to find, so would have been considered something precious. And that is the key – an offering to God of any kind is worthless if it is submitted from a position of plenty. In modern terms, an offering of £10 to God is worth little to someone with £1000, but a lot to someone with £15 in their wallet. Jesus was in the Temple one day with His disciples, and the offering from an old lady caught His attention. We read the story in Mark 12:41-44, “Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few pence. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything – all she had to live on’”.
Tithes and offerings were a significant part of the Jewish faith, and the same principle applies to Christians today. Of course, our Western societies have a system of taxes to support local and national governmental responsibilities, but our religious leaders, our pastors and teachers, need support through our tithes and offerings. And there seems to be a connection between our generosity and our personal well-being. Proverbs 11:24-25, “One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed”.
But Paul, in the next chapter in Romans, exhorts us to bring a personal offering to God, in the shape of our bodies. We read in Romans 12:1, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship”. But however we view the “dough” in our lives, and whatever form it takes, there is a principle here of holiness in our attitude towards God.
In a sense we pilgrims are resident in a society, a “dough”, consisting of many people. but perhaps through our presence within it we are introducing a glimmer of holiness because of our connection to God. A bit like the salt and light in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. We must never underestimate the importance of being God’s ambassadors in our communities. Sodom and Gomorrah might still be with us if righteous people could have been found there. A contentious thought? Perhaps, but God is looking for holiness amongst His people. We read in 1 Peter 1:15-16, “But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy””. Perhaps we feel the bar for achieving holiness is too high, and, of course, it is through our own efforts. Thankfully, through Jesus, we are considered righteous in God’s sight.
Dear Father God. Thank You for Jesus and Your plan for our salvation. Please refresh us today by the power of Your Spirit, so that we can shine brighter and brighter in our families and communities. Amen.