by Craig Munro, Scotland
The details regarding the meal offering are found in Leviticus chapter 2 and the law of the meal offering is recorded in Lev. 6.14-23. The offering in chapter 2 was made of meal, that is, flour and, therefore, it is generally called the meal offering. The King James Version of the Bible calls it a “meat offering” as a few centuries ago all food was called ‘meat’. Today the word ‘meat’ is reserved for food that has come from an animal. Since this offering did not come from an animal, we will call it a meal offering throughout this chapter. Another legitimate name for this offering is the gift offering after the meaning of the Hebrew word minchah, a gift or a present, and it is uniquely used of the meal offering.
The first five books in the Bible are called the Pentateuch and are the five books of Moses. There is a progressive development of truth throughout these books, which can be summarised as follows:
Genesis emphasises God’s purpose creatively, for example, in the creation of the world and the Flood, and individually, for example, in the lives of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Noah, Sarah and Melchizedek. It depicts man put out of the garden of Eden and moving away from God.
Exodus emphasises the purchase of God as He purchases a nation. The history of the nation of Israel is fully described as they are brought out of the slave market of Egypt.
Leviticus emphasises the priesthood of God and the fact that His people have been brought to the sanctuary of His tabernacle.
Numbers emphasises that God’s people are pilgrims and they are to be brought through the wilderness.
Deuteronomy emphasises that God’s people will take possession of the land and they are being prepared to be brought into the land.
The meal offering is therefore set in the context of the tabernacle and the worship of Jehovah. It is one of five principal offerings described in the opening chapters of Leviticus: burnt offering, chapter 1; meal offering, chapter 2; peace offering, chapter 3; sin offering, chapter 4; and trespass (guilt) offering, chapter 5.
The Offerings Speak of Christ
The Lord Jesus taught, “Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself” Lk.24.25-27,44-46. Therefore, we should read the offerings to find Christ in them. The Hebrew writer also taught that Christ was in the offerings. We read, “Wherefore when He cometh into the world, He saith, ‘Sacrifice and offering Thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared Me: In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin Thou hast had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo I come’” Heb.10.5-7. The sacrifices and offerings foreshadowed the coming into the world of the One of Whom they spoke. Those offerings of bulls and goats could “never take away sins: but this man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins, for ever sat down on the right hand of God … For by one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified” Heb.10.12,14. The offerings foreshadowed Christ, but He is the substance, Col.2.17.
Features of Christ in the Meal Offering
The meal offering is the second of the five principal offerings. The fact that it was made of meal, and was bloodless, distinguished it from the other four. All the others were sacrifices involving the killing of an animal. It is, therefore, a beautiful picture of the life of Christ. Just as the grain grew up out of the earth and produced a harvest for the glory of God, so He came down to earth, and grew up on the earth and brought fruit for God.
The Order of the Meal Offering has Lessons for Us about Christ
The Meal Offering Is First in Terms of Frequency
This is the first offering in the sense that it was the most commonly offered, although it was actually the middle sweet savour offering, coming between the burnt offering and the peace offering. It was required whenever a burnt offering or a peace offering was offered. These other offerings could not be offered without a meal offering with a prescribed amount of fine flour, depending on the size of animal that was brought. In making “an offering by fire unto the Lord, a burnt offering, or a sacrifice in performing a vow, or in a freewill offering, or in your solemn feasts, to make a sweet savour unto the Lord, of the herd, or of the flock: then shall he that offereth his offering unto the Lord bring a meat offering of a tenth deal of flour mingled with the fourth part of an hin of oil. And the fourth part of an hin of wine for a drink offering shalt thou prepare with the burnt offering or sacrifice, for one lamb … And when thou preparest a bullock for a burnt offering, or for a sacrifice in performing a vow, or peace offerings unto the Lord: then shall he bring with a bullock a meat offering of three tenth deals (approximately 6.6 litres) of flour mingled with half an hin (approximately 1.8 litres) of oil. And thou shalt bring for a drink offering half an hin of wine, for an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the Lord” Num.15.3-10.
There was always meal in the presence of God, just as there was always bread in the holy place. God would have the perfect life of His Son ever before Him. Literally tonnes of flour would be needed in the tabernacle each year. The reason for this may be that the life of Christ is a truth that is needed even when meditating upon His death and my blessings in Him, or indeed upon the fact that He has died for my sin; none of these and other wonderful truths associated with the other offerings can be divorced from His perfect life. From a practical point of view, the meal offering was also the food for the priests. Each of the other offerings depicts a different aspect of the Lord’s Person and work, as indeed, do the four Gospels. The Gospel of John, where the Lord is seen especially as the Son of God, corresponds in some measure with the burnt offering: He is there depicted as the perfect offering to God His Father, glorifying Him and bringing Him delight and pleasure. Luke stresses His perfect manhood, and the peace offering presents the Lord as the One Who makes communication and fellowship possible between God and man. In the Gospel of Mark He is seen as God’s perfect, obedient Servant in a world defiled by sin, and this would make us think especially of the sin offering. Matthew portrays Him as King and Messiah, and stresses the debt sinners owe to God, and the way sin is an affront to the holy rule of God. This causes us to think of the trespass offering. The meal offering stresses the consistent purity, perfection and holiness of the Lord as seen in all four Gospels; this is in keeping with the fact that the meal offering could not be divorced or offered separately from the burnt offering and peace offering.
The Meal Offering Is Second in the Offerings in the Book of Leviticus
The order of the descriptions of the offerings must be viewed from the Divine angle. The tabernacle is described inside out, as God sees it, and not from the outside to the inside, Exodus chapters 25-31, so the offerings are described from God’s perspective and not the human viewpoint. In the burnt offering, Leviticus chapter 1, we see Christ, in devotion to God, meeting the Divine affection and in total surrender up to death. Nothing is eaten by the priest or the offerer; it is all for God. Secondly comes the meal offering, in chapter 2, where Christ’s perfection in life is seen fully and satisfies the heart of God, but now the priest is permitted to take a handful and eat. There is nothing for the offerer. In the third offering, the peace offering, in chapter 3, we now enjoy the fact that Christ has made peace with God and fellowship for His people. Now the offerer and his family are permitted to eat with God and the priest. All three groups are fed from the same sacrifice. Finally, the sin offering, in chapter 4, and the trespass offering, in chapter 5, deal with sins of ignorance, and sins of weakness and willfulness, to help us in our life for Him. The meal offering, therefore, comes second in God’s purposes in Christ, as He moves out to man.
The Meal Offering Is One of Three Sweet Savour Offerings
The first three offerings are all called “sweet savour” offerings, Lev. 1.9,13,17; 2.2,9,12; 3.5,16, developing aspects of the Person of Christ that are uniquely appreciated by God. It was only that part of the sin offering which was burned on the altar that was called “sweet savour” Lev. 4.31. The order in which the offerings are brought before us in the early chapters of the Book of Leviticus is the order of their significance and preciousness to God. The burnt offering, therefore, comes first, depicting the Lord’s total dedication and devotion to the will and glory of God His Father: it was all burned up to God on the altar. The burnt offering followed by the meal offering and peace offering, making up the three sweet savour offerings, revealed something of what the Person and work of the Lord means to God. The sweet savour offerings were brought by those who wanted to worship God. The sin and trespass offerings were brought by those who had sinned and needed God’s forgiveness, so that once again they might be able to worship Him. It is only when we see Christ as God sees Him in the sweet savour offerings that we can rightly assess sin; therefore, the sin and trespass offerings are last.
The Meal Offering Comes Fourth When Viewed from the Standpoint of the Sinner
When God speaks to us, the burnt offering is first, the meal offering second and the sin and trespass offerings are described last. However, when we approach God the sin offering is first and the burnt offering last. Numbering the meal offering, from the human standpoint of approaching God, it comes fourth.
The sin and trespass offerings, although last in the order of their institution by God, were always in practice applied first, Ex.29.14,18,25,28. It is easier to appreciate the truth of the sin offering. We certainly enjoyed it on salvation’s day and our initial understanding of Christ’s suffering is often the forgiveness we received as a result of it, before developing a deeper understanding of what His sufferings meant to God.
Until our sins have been forgiven we cannot enter into or appreciate the significance of the other offerings, and it is only after being saved that a believer gradually learns more and more of the wondrous beauties and glories of the Lord Jesus Christ. Until a person’s sins have been forgiven, he or she cannot worship God and enjoy communion with Him.
The Meal Offering Is One of Five Principal Offerings
There are five principal offerings recorded, along with their associated laws, in the first seven chapters of Leviticus: these are the burnt offering, the meal (gift or meat) offering, the peace offering, the sin offering and the trespass (or guilt) offering. Five can be viewed as the number of God’s grace, and the Spirit of God in His grace has given us five different portraits of Christ upon which to meditate. A deeper understanding of these offerings will help us appreciate the different facets of truth in the Gospels and the epistles relative to the Person of Christ. Different words are used for the offerings and some words are used in relation to a number of them. For example, zebach is used of all the animal sacrifices (burnt, sin, trespass and peace offerings). On the other hand, the word olah is normally translated “burnt offering”; shelem is normally translated “peace offering”; chattah as “sin offering” and asham normally as “trespass offering”. The word generally used for the meal offering is minchah, which means a gift and was always used of cereal or grain offerings; for this reason, some prefer to call the meal offering a gift offering. It is interesting to observe that most of the words used for the offerings are found in Ps.40.6: “Sacrifice (zebach) and offering (minchah) Thou didst not desire; Mine ears hast Thou opened: burnt offering (olah) and sin offering (chattah) hast Thou not required”.
Ways of Presenting the Meal Offering – Leviticus chapter 2
Uncooked Offering – vv.1-3
An uncooked meal offering consisted of fine flour, poured oil and frankincense. If an uncooked meal offering was presented to the priest it would have been at the priest’s discretion how he was to eat it; there is no suggestion that it was eaten uncooked! It could have been baked in an oven, griddled on a flat plate or fried in a frying pan. Some offerings were prescribed: for example, in the day of anointing it was to be griddled on a flat plate, Lev.6.19-22.
The offering was to be cooked in one of four ways:
- “in the oven” v.4
- “in a pan (flat plate)” v.5
- “in the frying pan” v.7
- upon the open fire – “thou shalt offer for the meat offering of thy firstfruits green ears of corn dried by the fire, even corn beaten out of full ears. And thou shalt put oil upon it, and lay frankincense thereon” vv.14,15.
The offerers would come with their burnt offerings and peace offerings and they would prepare their meal offering in an oven, flat plate or frying pan to give it to the priest. Most of this would be entirely of their free choice but, for some offerings, for example, in the peace offering, the method of preparing the meal offering was prescribed, especially if it was for a thanksgiving, Lev.7.11-13.
There is an increasing level of responsibility seen in the offerings. In the burnt offering the offerers selected from what God had provided, that is, a perfect lamb, goat, bullock or bird. In the meal offering participation and preparation were allowed under certain conditions. Spiritual intelligence was needed for the meal offering, and preparation required an understanding of the meal offering that would be appropriate for the corresponding burnt offering, Num.15.3-10. God expects worship to be intelligent. We are learning here about how to bring Christ to God in worship. There is something fitting about a tenth deal of flour for a lamb. The way He is presented to God matters. A little morsel of our appreciation of Christ is special to God.
The Meal Offering has five ingredients; four are mandatory:
- Fine flour – v.1
- Oil – v.1
- Frankincense – v.1
- Salt – v.13
- Green ears of corn (specific to the firstfruits) – v.14.
Fine Flour – His life Is Inherently Pure, Lev.2.1
A bloodless offering reminds us more of the life, rather than the death of Christ. Observe that it is flour and not manna that is prescribed. Manna came from heaven, whereas the emphasis here is on Christ and His pathway on earth as a man. Flour is hard to find in the wilderness! It had to be taken from another climate and offered to God. God expects our worship to cost us something; it also does not derive naturally. We need to have some appreciation of the perfect life of Christ. Bread and corn present a regular picture of Christ. The Lord Jesus said, “I am the bread of life” Jn.6.35. He said, speaking of Himself, “a corn of wheat …” Jn.12.24. “The seed is the word of God” Lk.8.11. Grinding flour to powder is the emblem of deepest suffering: “bread corn is bruised” Isa.28.28. In the burnt offering the Lord Jesus is pictured as One consumed in the will of God including the intense sufferings of Calvary, but in the meal offering we see One Who suffered and was pressed by those for whom He daily gave Himself: “That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, ‘Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses’” Matt.8.17. There was no limit to His self-sacrifice: “Reproach hath broken my heart; and I am full of heaviness: and I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none” Ps.69.20. The words “fine flour” are one word in Hebrew and not two. He was not made finer; in Him there were no irregularities, impurities or imbalances. There was no sifting process; He is not just a bit better than ordinary men; He is perfect.
- In smooth and silken whiteness,
- Without a rough’ning grain,
- In clear, unbroken brightness,
- Without a speck or stain,
- The fine flour in its beauty
- The perfect man portrays
- In all His path of duty,
- In all His heavenly ways.
- In softness unresisting
- The rough and ruthless touch,
- In purity consisting
- As not another such,
- In every feature flawless,
- In every aspect fair,
- The search of sinners lawless
- Could find no blemish there.
- A wealth of heavenly glory
- Unfolds before our gaze:
- Remembering the story
- Of all His wondrous ways,
- We muse in conscious weakness
- On gentleness and power,
- On lowliness and meekness –
- Frankincense and fine flour.
- O God, His God and Father,
- What shall we say to Thee?
- Our hearts would incense gather
- And raise it rev’rently.
- In worship thus ascending,
- To Thee our hymn we sing,
- The theme our thoughts transcending,
- Thy Son remembering.
- (Isaac Y. Ewan)
The New Testament light on the Old Testament figure of the fine flour, picturing the sinlessness and perfection of Christ can be seen in the following unique statements about Christ:
- The witness of John: “in Him is no sin” 1Jn.3.5
- The witness of Peter: “Who did no sin” 1Pet. 2.22
- The witness of Paul: “Who knew no sin” 2Cor.5.21
- The witness of the Hebrew writer: “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” Heb.4.15 – or ‘tested, apart from sin, in all points as we are’. He was never tempted to tell a lie or have an immoral thought. He was incapable of sinning
- The witness of Christ about Himself: “Which of you convinceth Me of sin?” Jn.8.46; “He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory: but He that seeketh His glory that sent Him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him” Jn.7.18; “Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in Me” Jn.14.30.
His holy nature rendered it impossible for Satan’s evil suggestions to have any impact, as there was nothing within Him that could respond to sin. Hallelujah! What a Saviour!
Oil – His Life Empowered by the Holy Spirit
Scripture makes it clear that oil is a picture of the Holy Spirit. Zechariah chapter 4 depicts two olive trees and we are told that these speak of the Holy Spirit of God: “And two olive trees by it, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof. So I answered and spake to the angel that talked with me, saying, ‘What are these, my lord?’ Then the angel that talked with me answered and said unto me, ‘Knowest thou not what these be?’ And I said, ‘No, my lord.’ Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, ‘This is the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts’” Zech.4.3-6.
Furthermore, the “anointing” of the prophet, 1Kgs.19.16, the priest, Ps.133.2, and the king, 1Kgs.1.39, was always with oil and is seen in Scripture as emblematic of the anointing of God, Isa.61.1. When our Lord was being baptised, the Spirit descended upon Him visibly, Lk.3.22; Jn.1.33, answering to that which was poured upon the fine flour. We note also that “Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and there went out a fame of Him through all the region round about” Lk.4.14. Furthermore, it was He Who read these Scriptures in Nazareth and said they had been fulfilled in Him that day: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor: He hath sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised” Lk.4.18. Peter declared that “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power” Acts 10.38. These Scriptures remind us that we need to appreciate the Holy Spirit’s activity in our worship and the fact that the life of Christ was “full of the Holy Ghost” Lk.4.1.
Frankincense – His Life of Perfection: a Fragrance to God
In the oil we see the medium and the process through which the power of Christ’s life and work was manifest: the Holy Spirit. In the frankincense we see the objective and purpose of Christ’s work on earth: the glory of God.
Frankincense is a white crystalised gum secreted from a large pink flowering tree, conveying the idea of purity; frankincense means ‘white’. It has a distinctive smell when burnt, unlike honey (see later prohibition). The honey reminds us that man’s natural charm and sweetness cannot stand the fire of affliction. The frankincense was all for God. Therefore, it is a beautiful picture of the perfect sinless life of Christ that could only be fully appreciated by God. Everywhere else there was a “savour of death unto death”, but in the midst of the rottenness of the human race there was One from Whom there was a “savour of life unto life” 2Cor.2.16. This is why the wise men brought frankincense to the Christ of God at His birth, Matt.2.11. It was also one of the four sweet-smelling spices compounded and offered at the altar of sweet incense in God’s immediate presence: “And the Lord said unto Moses, ‘Take unto thee sweet spices, stacte, and onycha, and galbanum; these sweet spices with pure frankincense: of each shall there be a like weight’” Ex.30.34. The frankincense was also to be placed on the table of shewbread, Lev.24.7. In God’s presence there was a constant appreciation of Christ.
All the frankincense was for God. The frankincense was not edible; only God can fully appreciate the holiness, purity and sweetness of Christ. Only God can fully appreciate the Son. There are mysteries to His life on earth that can only make us wonder, even if we do not understand. “All things are delivered unto Me of My Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father” Matt.11.27.
Salt – His Life Was an Incorruptible Force in This World
We will deal with salt more fully in v.13, but it has anti-bacterial, seasoning and latent heat properties that all speak of Christ. The life of Christ was incorruptible. We are exhorted, “Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man” Col.4.6.
Green Ears of Corn – His Life in Resurrection
This was the only ingredient that was not mandatory. The other four were. We will deal with the green ears of corn more fully when we reach v.14. There seems to be an appendix to the meal offering from vv.14-16. The special case of the first of the firstfruits is regarded as a meal offering. It would speak of the resurrected life of Christ, “But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at His coming” 1Cor.15.23.
Uncooked Offering: Fine flour, Oil Poured on, Frankincense – vv.1-3
The uncooked offering, vv.1-3, and the cooked offerings, vv.4-13, all speak of the life of Christ on earth up to and including Calvary. The final section of the meal offering allows us to enjoy His life after death and resurrection.
“And he shall bring it to Aaron’s sons the priests: and he shall take thereout his handful of the flour thereof, and of the oil thereof, with all the frankincense thereof; and the priest shall burn the memorial of it upon the altar, to be an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the Lord” Lev.2.2. The priest was therefore permitted to take a “handful”. Every priest’s grasp was different, v.9, and we learn that some have a greater appreciation of Christ than others; the point is that each priest still had to take a handful and place it on the altar. It did not say take a litre of flour or another human measure like an omer. The expression that is used for the amount is impossible to calibrate: a handful. We cannot substitute our worship for something mechanical; there are no shortcuts. Only God can fully appreciate my enjoyment of Christ and it is only He that can read the heart. There is no commercialism to be permitted in our worship. Prewritten liturgies, chants and prayers are all examples of man-made approaches to worship. All believers are priests today, Rev.1.6, and it is our privilege to worship as a priesthood in the assembly, 1Pet.2.5. May this encourage every priest, male and female, to ensure that we offer and enjoy the Person of Christ in worship. We remember the wonderful grasp of Christ that Mary of Bethany had as she sat at His feet and heard His word, Lk.10.38-42. This is how our handful is enlarged, through His Word. Abel had a real grasp of God as he intuitively presented the firstlings of the flock to God. Ziba tried to present what belonged to another, 2Sam.16.1-4, but this never works; falsehood at the altar is soon exposed.
“And the remnant of the meat offering shall be Aaron’s and his sons’: it is a thing most holy of the offerings of the Lord made by fire” Lev.2.3. Unlike the burnt offering, the priest is allowed to enjoy the meal offering. We are allowed to eat after we have offered. What we eat is what we sacrifice. Let us enjoy the humility, purity, power and glory of the life of Christ. Perhaps Paul had this in mind when he exhorted the Philippians: “think on these things” Phil.4.8.
They offered before they ate: God was first. He must eat before we can eat. This principle has never altered. Worship comes before service. The actual time the assembly meets to break bread upon the first day of the week is not given, but the principle has been given: it should be the first collective exercise of the new week. We gather at the breaking of bread to give, not gain; this is where we, as it were, place food on the altar for God. Afterwards we can enjoy eating that which we have offered, in the ministry of the Word of God.
After they offered they ate: it was a priority to eat it and the matter could not wait. There are certain truths that require priority and one of them is the enjoyment of Christ. We are now feasting on what God has feasted upon.
What they offered they ate: the two things are connected; I am what I offer and I am what I eat. My worship will never rise higher than what I have come to understand and enjoy from Scripture about the Person of Christ. My preaching and teaching should come from my worship.
They ate all of it: the meal offering was not all burnt, but it was all consumed, Lev.6.16,18. In the case of the offering of bullocks the meal offering would represent a most substantial meal, three tenths of an ephah, or 6.6 litres of flour. God does not expect us to be meagre in our giving or our enjoyment of Him. There was an offering where the meal offering was fully burnt, but that was on the day of the inauguration of the priest, Lev.6.20-23.
Cooked Offering – vv.4-10
Preparation for worship was largely done at home, and brothers and sisters alike should be preparing to present Christ. This section gives us clear instructions about how Christ should be presented to God and this is illustrated in the three ways in which the cooked meal offering was prepared:
Preparation in the Oven
“And if thou bring an oblation of a meat offering baken in the oven, it shall be unleavened cakes of fine flour mingled with oil, or unleavened wafers anointed with oil” v.4.
Preparation in the Flat Plate (Pan)
“And if thy oblation be a meat offering baken in a pan, it shall be of fine flour unleavened, mingled with oil. Thou shalt part it in pieces, and pour oil thereon: it is a meat offering” vv.5,6.
Preparation in the Fryingpan
“And if thy oblation be a meat offering baken in the fryingpan, it shall be made of fine flour with oil” v.7.
Three Stages in the Life of the Lord Jesus
The three ways to prepare the meal offering are a picture of the three phases of the life of the Lord Jesus Christ. The meal offering in the oven would have been hidden from view as it was baked and rose into a cake, speaking of the thirty years of obscurity in His life. It is amazing to think that it was at the age of thirty that He performed His first miracle, Jn.2.11, and preached His first public address, Matt.4.17. The next three years are often called the years of public ministry and these correspond to the open view of the meal offering on the flat plate. This is the period of the life of Christ that we know so much about as recorded in all four Gospels. The last way the meal offering was prepared was in a frying pan that allowed the cooking process to be partially seen. This corresponds with the final phase of the Lord’s life: the days leading up to His death, where there was much that we can understand and appreciate. On the other hand, there were also days of darkness and periods in the garden of Gethsemane, when we must keep the distance of a stone’s cast and appreciate that only God can fully understand His sufferings. These three phases of the meal offering correspond with the three descriptions of Aaron’s rod in Numbers chapter 17. There it is said that it budded (His birth), blossomed (His public ministry) and yielded almonds (His death and resurrection).
Three Anointings of the Holy Spirit
In the oven the meal offering was baked, on the flat plate it was griddled and in the frying pan it was fried. Each way of preparing the meal offering required different amounts of oil. The three phases of the Lord’s life are seen in the use of the oil, reminding us of the three anointings of the Lord: at His birth, His baptism (at the end of His years of obscurity) and at the commencement of His public ministry, after the testing of Satan in the wilderness.
First of all it is “mingled with oil” v.4. This would remind us of Lk.1.35: “And the angel answered and said unto her, ‘The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.’”
Then at the end of the oven experience in v.4 it says: it is “anointed with oil” reminding us of Lk.3.21,22: “Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon Him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, ‘Thou art My beloved Son; in Thee I am well pleased.’”
Finally it says that they should “pour oil” upon the meal offering, v.6. This equates with the full outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the days of His public ministry as recorded in Lk.4.1: “And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost, returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness”.
Three Voices from Heaven
God spoke from heaven during each of the three phases of the life of His Son. These correspond to the three approaches to preparation of the meal offering. The three words from heaven are summarised in Ps.26.2: “Examine me, O Lord, and prove me; try my reins and my heart”:
“Examine me” corresponds to the oven. God could examine the life of the Lord Jesus and after thirty years of complete dependency He could speak “… from heaven, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased’” Matt.3.17.
“Prove me” corresponds to the flat plate. On the Mount of Transfiguration God surveyed the life of Christ and, having proved Him in the public arena, showed His complete approval when He declared “in whom I am well pleased” Matt.17.5.
“Try me” corresponds to the fryingpan. As Calvary loomed the Saviour said: “Father, save Me from this hour … glorify Thy name. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, ‘I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again’” Jn.12.27,28. How precious to note that, with the trials of Gethsemane and Golgotha lying before Him, the Father declared that He had glorified and would continue to glorify His Name.
Three Aspects of Suffering in the Life of the Lord
The three ways of preparing the meal offering speak of the three different forms of suffering in the life of Christ:
Spiritual Sufferings (spirit) – This is the aspect of His sufferings that is known to God alone. There is much hidden of the forty day testing by Satan in the wilderness, Matt.4.1-11. We know also that His anticipatory sufferings in the garden of Gethsemane are hidden from our view: “And He went a little farther, and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, ‘O My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me: nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou wilt’” Matt.26.39. The prophetic words, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me? Why art Thou so far from helping Me, And from the words of My roaring?” are equally appropriate, Ps.22.1.
Physical Sufferings (body) – These are the sufferings that were visible for all to see in His life of public ministry. “Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses” Matt.8.17, and His sufferings for righteousness: “they pierced My hands and My feet” Ps.22.16.
Psychological Sufferings (soul) – These are the emotional sufferings, that we can only partially understand. “For consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds” Heb.12.3; “Many bulls have compassed Me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset Me round. They gaped upon Me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion” Ps.22.12,13.
Three Forms of Meal Offering Described
In the oven, cakes are literally ‘pierced’ cakes, v.4. These piercings remind us of the Man of Sorrows, Isa.53.3 and we read: “Sacrifice and offering Thou didst not desire; Mine ears hast Thou opened (digged): burnt offering and sin offering hast Thou not required” Ps.40.6. When we compare this with the Hebrew bondservant who did not want freedom from his master, we see a fitting picture of Christ in the pierced cake; “then thou shalt take an aul, and thrust it through his ear unto the door, and he shall be thy servant for ever” Deut.15.17. The dedication by the Hebrew servant of his life to the will of his master was seen in the piercing. The life of Christ was one of complete devotion to His God and Father, and was marked by a dedication greater than any other servant.
There were also thin “wafers” in the oven, v.4. The root of this word means ‘to empty’. It reminds us of Paul’s words about Christ, Who “made Himself of no reputation (emptied Himself), and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men” Phil.2.7. Now, there is no thought whatsoever that Christ ever emptied Himself of His Deity. Never! He was as much God on earth as He was in heaven. However, He did empty Himself in the sense that He humbled Himself (no one else could do it), pouring Himself out and taking a form that veiled His glory, the form of a servant, moving in complete dependency and obedience.
Part in Pieces
In the flat plate the meal offering was parted into pieces, v.6. It reminds us of the way they treated the Lord Jesus in the days of His public ministry. “And they were filled with madness; and communed one with another what they might do to Jesus” Lk.6.11; “The Son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, ‘Behold a gluttonous man, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners!’” Lk.7.34; “And they (Samaritans) did not receive Him, because His face was as though He would go to Jerusalem” Lk.9.53; “He came unto His own, and His own received Him not” Jn.1.11.
Presentation – vv.8-10
How It Is Presented
There were three stages in its presentation:
Firstly: “And thou shalt bring the meat offering that is made of these things unto the Lord: and when it is presented unto the priest, he shall bring it unto the altar” v.8.
Secondly: “And the priest shall take from the meat offering a memorial thereof, and shall burn it upon the altar: it is an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the Lord” v.9.
Thirdly: “And that which is left of the meat offering shall be Aaron’s and his sons’: it is a thing most holy of the offerings of the Lord made by fire” v.10.
The way we present Christ to God is of the utmost importance. These verses are very similar to vv.2,3. This truth is being repeated because God is emphasising that the presentation of His Son is not a haphazard matter, but one that requires deep holiness and diligence. Perhaps in some assemblies the “meal offering” is not being offered in worship at the breaking of bread. There is a danger that public worship only goes as far as the “sin offering”, that is, the giving of thanks for sins forgiven; perhaps it might rise as high as the “peace offering”, that is, thanking God for our blessings in Christ, but a presentation of the life of Christ to God as seen in the meal offering and the death of Christ Godward as seen in the burnt offering is missing. In other words, it reaches the height of thanksgiving but not as far as worship. Is this the reason why there is a lack of blessing amongst us? God is not getting His portion in worship?
The presentation was “a thing most holy” v.10. It could only be eaten in the holy place. There are certain truths about the Person of Christ that require the full enjoyment of a holy environment. Such an environment needs protection. There are two places called “most holy” in Scripture: the holiest of all, Ex.26.34, and the brazen altar, Ex.29.37; 40.10. Items or activities called “most holy” are: incense on the golden altar, Ex.30.36; blood on the horns of the golden altar, Ex.30.10; eating the meal offering, Lev.2.3,10; eating the sin offering, Lev.6.25; eating the trespass offering, Lev.7.6; eating the shewbread, Lev.24.9; a devoted thing to God, Lev.27.28; our faith, Jude 20. The priests fed from the altar. May we recognise the sacredness of meditating on the Person of Christ collectively in the assembly. May we preserve the holiness of God’s house.
Prohibitions – vv.11-13
How It Is Not To Be Presented
Observe three prohibitions:
Firstly: “No meat offering, which ye shall bring unto the Lord, shall be made with leaven: for ye shall burn no leaven, nor any honey, in any offering of the Lord made by fire” v.11.
Secondly: “As for the oblation of the firstfruits, ye shall offer them unto the Lord: but they shall not be burnt on the altar for a sweet savour” v.12.
Thirdly: “And every oblation of thy meat offering shalt thou season with salt; neither shalt thou suffer the salt of the covenant of thy God to be lacking from thy meat offering: with all thine offerings thou shalt offer salt” v.13.
The offerer would be under no illusions. If any leaven was found in his meal offering, then it would not be accepted by the Lord. Leaven was yeast added to the dough to make it ferment, rise and be lighter. In the Lord there was nothing sour, turgid, or inflated, and all was pure, solid and authentic. There was no corruption in Him.
The Lord Jesus adds a commentary on leaven with three solemn “bewares”:
- “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees” Matt.16.6
- “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod” Mk.8.15
- “Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy” Lk.12.1.
It was the Lord Who taught that the leaven of the Pharisees was hypocrisy through legalism, and we can see from the Gospel records that the leaven of Herod was hedonism through liberalism and profligate living. The leaven of the Sadducees was heresy through rationalism and bad doctrine. In the life of the Lord Jesus there was none of these evils. Every picture sought to protect the perfection of Christ. He “loved righteousness, and hated iniquity (lawlessness)” Heb.1.9.
It was the Lord Jesus Who warned that the professing kingdom would be infiltrated by leaven, Matt.13.33. It was Paul who taught that the leaven of liberalism was in the assembly in Corinth and needed to be purged out, “Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” 1Cor.5.6-8.
He also taught that the leaven of legalism was infiltrating the assemblies in Galatia. He warned that this was corrupting the true gospel and reminded them of the solemn fact that leaven spreads, “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” Gal.5.9. This was a matter that needed to be addressed immediately.
The offerers would not be permitted to bring any honey with their meal offerings. Honey is associated with self-promotion in Scripture: “It is not good to eat much honey: so for men to search their own glory is not glory” Prov.25.27. The Lord Jesus was marked by true humility and so honey would not be a suitable picture of Christ. Also, if honey was placed upon the altar it would produce a foul odour, v.11. This would not be in keeping with One Whose every moment of His life of service was a savour of sweetness to His God and Father. The sweetness of the honey might picture man’s natural charm or sentiment. These were entirely absent in the life of Christ. The sweetness of Christ was something deeper and eternal, Ps.19.7-10; it was borne out of love for the people of this world and empowered by the Holy Spirit. His tears, for example, were never tears of sentiment or self-pity, but deep sorrow, Jn.11.35. We should look out for the “honey” in our worship and praise, Matt.16.22,23; the intrusion of natural sentiment is often found in our hymns. If our appreciation of Christ is genuine it will not need to be artificially sweetened.
No Omission of Salt
Salt was never to be lacking with any meal offering that was brought to the Lord. Salt has three properties that speak of Christ. These are:
Preservative – salt has antibacterial properties and is a product that has been used for years to slow down the process of corruption in food, being itself incorruptible. That is why fish were packed in salt in the day before freezers. Salt is a preservative. The longevity of salt may be one of the reasons why we have the expression “a covenant of salt”, reminding us of permanency: “All the heave offerings of the holy things, which the children of Israel offer unto the Lord, have I given thee, and thy sons and thy daughters with thee, by a statute for ever: it is a covenant of salt for ever before the Lord unto thee and to thy seed with thee” Num.18.19; 2Chr.13.5. Throughout the whole of His life the Lord Jesus is beautifully pictured in the incorruptible salt. “In Him is no sin” 1Jn.3.5.
Palatable – salt has a seasoning property. For years people have added salt to their meals and it adds an unmistakable tang to the taste. Christ is distinctive. Paul picks up on this property of salt and exhorts Christians to be careful with their tongue before the unsaved. Having exhorted them to walk in wisdom towards men and women and to display Christ by their lives, he then adds, “Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man” Col.4.6. We need to make sure that our words have the unmistakable taste and tang of the grace of Christ. The Lord Jesus spoke and every word was a word from heaven, a word from His Father, an inspired word of the Holy Spirit, an eternal word. The way He spoke was marked by salt: every word was in grace and kindness, and love and wisdom. The Lord warns us about losing our distinctive Christian testimony before the world: “Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his saltness, wherewith will ye season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another” Mk.9.50.
Properties of specific and latent heat – Over the centuries, humans have added salt to water to raise the temperature of the water. Salt has properties that intensify heat as anyone can testify who has seen salt spitting when heated. It is this aspect of salt that the Lord had in mind when He said, “For every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt” Mk.9.49. It seems fitting that salt was added to the meal offering and then placed upon the altar. It reminds us of the intensity of the sufferings of Christ.
Verse 12 – Feast of Pentecost
“As for the oblation of the firstfruits, ye shall offer them unto the Lord: but they shall not be burnt on the altar for a sweet savour” v.12. It would seem that this verse is in brackets. The additional information is added parenthetically because it is not essential to the main argument of how the meal offering was not to be presented, that is, no leaven, no honey and no omission of salt. However, the offerer may have wondered about the Feast of Pentecost, when a new meal offering was to be offered to the Lord, Lev.23.15-20. This meal offering had leaven in it. V.12 is saying that this offering had to be offered to the Lord, but it was not to be placed on the altar, as no leaven was ever to be found on the altar.
Peculiarity – vv.14-16; Meal Offering of the Firstfruits
“And if thou offer a meat offering of thy firstfruits unto the Lord, thou shalt offer for the meat offering of thy firstfruits green ears of corn dried by the fire, even corn beaten out of full ears. And thou shalt put oil upon it, and lay frankincense thereon: it is a meat offering. And the priest shall burn the memorial of it, part of the beaten corn thereof, and part of the oil thereof, with all the frankincense thereof: it is an offering made by fire unto the Lord” vv.14-16.
It would appear that this final section of the meal offering is in a separate category to show the distinction between the life of Christ on earth up to Calvary and the life of Christ after His resurrection. The “firstfruits” speak of the life of Christ in resurrection. “But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at His coming” 1Cor.15.23. “And He is the head of the body, the church: Who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things He might have the preeminence” Col.1.18. It was the Lord Who taught that the corn of wheat falling into the ground and dying and then bearing much fruit was a picture of His death and resurrection: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit” Jn.12.24.
The word translated “firstfruits” v.14, is really “first of the firstfruits” Ex.23.19; 34.26. It would remind us of the Feast of Firstfruits, when the first sheaf of the barley harvest would be brought to the priest, Lev.23.9-14. The Lord Jesus is the first of the firstfruits, the firstborn from among the dead ones. Others had died and been raised, like Lazarus, only to die again. He is the first: the first to die and rise again, defeating death and will never die again. By defeating death Christ will usher in the after fruits of a mighty harvest, of which every true believer forms a part at His coming again: “Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at His coming” 1Cor.15.23. In the light of resurrection, He is declared to be the “firstborn among many brethren” Rom.8.29. A sheaf in the Bible is used to typify a person or persons, Gen.37.5-11. This day marks the beginning of the great eternal harvest, the first sheaf of many more to come, Jms.1.18. Surely we can all say: “What hath God wrought!” Num.23.23.
How beautiful that we can meditate upon the life and Person of Christ in His resurrection body. “Green ears of corn” is a lovely picture of His freshness and vigour. “Full ears of corn” remind us of the maturity and fulness of Christ: “For it pleased the Father that in Him should all fulness dwell” Col.1.19. “Dried by the fire” suggests that the evidence of Calvary will never be forgotten or erased eternally. The nations maltreated Him: they pierced His hands and His feet. It is fascinating that in a resurrection body the Lord could show Thomas His wounded side and nail-pierced hands, Jn.20.25-27. Yet every Christian rejoices in the fact that death has been defeated and extols the Person of Christ, Who has been raised and exalted, saying with Thomas, “My Lord and my God” Jn.20.28. We, too, can enjoy the meal offering of the firstfruits.
The meal offering is a beautiful portrayal of the life of Christ in picture form. It also contains significant principles on how our worship should be presented to God. May God help us to meditate on the Person and life of Christ and in so doing bring glory to God in worship. “Think on these things” Phil.4.8.