Barbecuing with God Leviticus 1:1-14 October 13, 2019 Rev. Don Hackett, D.Min.
Centre Presbyterian Church New Park, Pa
Barbecue season is almost over. I have seen the rusted-out grills along the road waiting for the garbage truck to haul them away. I know some of your like to grill all through the winter. That takes special commitment! The good news is that God loves barbecues, all the time! The Bible is full of descriptions of offerings of beef, lambs, and grains that set the table for a holy barbecue! It is a party to which all people are invited! You see, God wants to enjoy our friendship. The purpose of a barbecue is to connect the participants in deep and wonderful ways. To understand how this barbecue with God works, let’s quickly look at a short history of Bible barbecues, altars, and offerings.
1. Abel and Cain offerings
The first place we see grilled offerings to God are in Genesis 4 with Abel and Cain. Remember the story?
Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a tiller of the ground. In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel for his part brought of the firstlings of his flock, their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard.
What was going on here? To show their devotion to God Cain and Abel took a portion of what they produced and gave it as an offering to God. Cain brought crops and Abel brought livestock. God was pleased with Abel’s offering but not Cain’s. Why not?
- Was it the quality of their offerings? Was it that Abel brought the choice fat portions for his offering and Cain brought some leftover crops?
- Was it that God was looking that the hearts of each and saw different attitudes and motivations? Was Abel delighting in the offering because it bonded him with God? Was Cain coming grudgingly and did not care for God?
- As we barbecue with God, as we come to God with our gifts the quality of our offering and the intention of our hearts are important things to remember.
2. Noah’s offering
The next place we see one is in Genesis 8. Noah and family have survived the flood and the first thing they do when they hit dry land was to give thanks by building an altar and making an offering. It says in Genesis 8:20-21:
Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And when the Lord smelled the pleasing odor, the Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of humankind, for the inclination of the human heart is evil from youth; nor will I ever again destroy every living creature as I have done.
Here the barbecue was a sacrifice of thanksgiving. It was given in response to God saving them and allowing them to return to the land. This offering of thanksgiving so pleased God that God made a covenant, a divine promise, to Noah and his family and all the animals that a flood would never wipe out the world again.
- Please note: Our offerings of thanksgiving deepen our connection with God. They open us up to the promises of God. When we are grateful and show it, God meets us and takes deeper inside his love and provisions.
- Summary: What we have learned so far is that our barbecues with God can be deeply rich when we come offering our best with sincere and thankful hearts.
Abraham had a number of barbecues with God. Let’s just look at the first one recorded in Genesis 12:
Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. The Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the Lord, who had appeared to him.
At the beginning of this chapter Abraham is told by God to leave his country and take his family to a land in Canaan that God would show him. So Abraham packed up the whole clan and all their belongings and hit the road. When he arrived in Shechem after hundreds of miles of travel, the Lord told him this was the land he promised. In trust and faith Abraham built an altar to worship and barbecue with God.
- Note that the promise is not fulfilled yet. Canaanites are still living in the land. Abraham and family would still have a lot of obstacles to overcome before they would make it back to this promised land.
- When you and I barbecue with God, it is always a demonstration that we trust God, even when we do not have all the answers and may be still waiting for God to work in our situation.
- Barbecues with God can be a way of resting with God and getting replenished for the journey still ahead.
- Summary: What we have learned so far is that our barbecues with God can be deeply rich when we come: 1) offering our best, 2) sincerely, 3) with thankful hearts, and 4) trusting God will provide all we need.
4. Moses’ barbecue handbook
With Moses we see offerings being made in the wilderness as the people are seeking direction and being shaped into the people of God.
- After receiving the ten commandments in Exodus 20, specific altar construction plans are given. Through the rest of the book of Exodus whole sacrificial system established with the tabernacle and the priesthood and lots of fancy equipment.
- In Exodus 32 we see a barbecue party go bad. The Israelites got impatient waiting for Moses to come down from the mountain. He was talking to God, taking notes, and it took awhile. They decided instead of waiting for instructions from God, they would make their own golden worship calf and gather the next day to barbecue and celebrate. That did not sit well with God and when Moses arrived in the middle of the party, he had to clean things up and get the people focused in the right direction.
- Our take-away: Barbecues and offerings to God can go sour and off course when we rush ahead of God. When we wait on God and do things in love, our hearts are reconnected with God. The party continues!
Let’s read together this passage from the book of Leviticus which tells us how and why these God barbecues are so important.
Leviticus 1:1-4 The Lord summoned Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting, saying: Speak to the people of Israel and say to them: When any of you bring an offering of livestock to the Lord, you shall bring your offering from the herd or from the flock. If the offering is a burnt offering from the herd, you shall offer a male without blemish; you shall bring it to the entrance of the tent of meeting, for acceptance in your behalf before the Lord. You shall lay your hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it shall be acceptable in your behalf as atonement for you.
The Word of the Lord, Thanks be to God!
An aroma pleasing to the Lord
A repeated phrase in the book of Leviticus is “It is a burnt offering, a food offering, an aroma pleasing to the Lord (Lev. 1:9,13,17).” Eleven times in Leviticus and again the book of Numbers this phrase occurs, “an aroma pleasing to the Lord.” It seems there is a pattern here. As we come to God offering our best it smells good. It is an aroma pleasing to the Lord!
How do you and I barbecue with God? We bring our best to God. We offer ourselves to Jesus Christ. We invite the Holy Spirit to work in and through us.
- When we wake up in the morning we say to God, “Here I am, God. Use me to bless others today.”
- When we starting our work at home, at the farm, in the office or classroom, we offer ourselves again to God. “Help me learn and serve well here today.”
- As we encounter a tough situation, we say “Help me Jesus respond in caring ways.”
- As we are in the car or bus coming home after a long day we say, “Thank you, God, for being with me today.”
- As we see a need, we stop to help or write a check, we say, “Use this God to bless others.”
Paul sums this up in Romans 12 when we writes:
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.
Let’s enjoy God by bringing our best each day…quality offerings, joyful and thankful hearts, not rushing ahead but waiting on God, and putting ourselves on the altar each day. Each time we come to barbecue with God in these ways, God takes a deep breath and says “O yes, that smells good!”