THE MEAL OFFERING: Character of the Crucified
Leviticus 2:1-16; 6:14-23
When the term Levitical offering is mentioned, blood sacrifice flashes across the mind of most people. True, the offerings in the the Levitical system were blood sacrifices, with one exception. The meat offering was a bloodless offering unto the Lord. More properly the offering should be called a meal offering, since it was grain, not meat, presented unto the Lord. The term meat was used by the translators of the King James Version, being more popular during the seventeenth Century.
The Hebrew word for meal (Minchah) means gift. It has reference to any gift presented to God (Gen. 4:3) or man (Gen. 32:13). Here it has reference to the Israelite presenting his meal offering in thanksgiving for God’s love and goodness bestowed upon him.
The meal offering could be presented in one of three forms. The first form was the uncooked flour (vv.. 1-2). Unlike the blood sacrifice, labor went into the preparation of the meal offering. It had to be crushed, ground and sifted some 13 times in order to become fine flour (v. 1). Here is a picture of Christ’s ministry. Fine flour speaks of the evenness and uniformity of our Lord’s character and service. He went through the crushing experience of scourging (Isa. 5 3:4-5; Mt. 27:26-30) and crucifixion (Mt. 27:33-50) for the sin of man. During His earthly ministry Jesus went through the sifting process of Satan (Mt. 4:1-11) and the religious leaders of His day (Mt. 22:15-40), yet there was no sin found in Him (Heb. 4:15).
The uncooked flour is a picture of the Israelite’s labor. He had to plant, water, weed, harvest, crush, grind and sift the grain before it was offered to the Lord. For the Christian’s labor to be accepted and blessed by the Lord, it must be presented with a pure motive, in love, and in the power of the Holy Spirit.
The second form was the unleavened cakes (v. 4). The unleavened cakes could be prepared in one of three ways; first by kneading the flour into unleavened cakes and baking it in the oven (v. 4) which is a picture of the unseen suffering of the Lord at the hand of God the Father (Mt. 27:45-46); second, by baking the cakes in a pan (griddle) [v. 5] which is a picture of intense suffering at the hand of Satan (Gen. 3:15); third, by baking the cakes in a frying pan (v. 7) which is a picture of the visible suffering of Christ at the hand of mankind (Mt. 27:27-31). Notice, the offering went a step beyond that of the fine flour, since there was more preparation involved. It is also a picture of the believer going a step further in his service to the Lord.
The third form was the green ears of grain, dried over fire, and then beaten to remove the grain (v. 14). In John 12:24, Jesus pictures Himself as a grain of wheat which must die to produce fruit. The grain which falls into the ground dies, and through its death the life of a kernel is freed from its encasement to regenerate itself into thousands of other grains possessing the same nature. Through death, Jesus brought resurrection life to all who put faith in His finished work on the cross. Notice that the grain was scorched, which is another picture of Jesus going through the fire of suffering in order to redeem man. The beating of the grain typifies Christ’s scourging and beating (Mt. 27:26, 30) which has already been mentioned. The offering was to be of the first fruits (v. 14). This is a definite type of Christ who is the first fruit of the resurrection (1 Cor. 15:20, 23) appearing in Heaven as representative of all believers who will be resurrected in their glorified bodies (Phil. 3:20-21; Jas. 1:18).
Various ingredients were added or omitted from the meal offering. Leaven was prohibited from being used in the offering (vv. 4, 11). Leaven was made by kneading flour into a ball (without salt) and allowing it to stand until fermentation took place. Its use was forbidden in the Passover (Ex. 12:8, 15-20), Feast of Unleavened Bread (Lev. 23; 6-8), or any offering placed on the altar (Ex. 23:18; 34:25; Lev. 2:11; 6:17), with two exceptions. Leaven was permitted in the peace offering (Lev. 7:13) and the two wave loaves presented at the time of first fruits (Lev. 23:17).
First, the Israelite presented unleavened cakes (Lev. 7:12) with the peace offering. This is a picture of the sinless Christ who provides peace for the believer, reconciling him back to God (Eph. 2:13-18). Second, the Israelite offered leavened bread (Lev. 7:13) as a thanksgiving offering for the peace God provides to him. The leavened bread typifies the believer having made peace with God by means of the proper sacrifice, but evil still exists in him. In the wave offering (Lev. 23: 17), the same type is presented, but the application is made to the Church, not the individual.
Leaven is always a picture of impurity and evil in Scripture (1 Cor. 5:6-8). Jesus compares the evil doctrines (Mt. 16:12) of the Pharisees (Mt. 23:14-16, 23-28) and the Sadducees (Mt. 22:23, 29) with that of leaven.
Honey was to be omitted from the meal offering (Lev. 2:11) for a number of reasons. First, honey, like leaven, is a fermenter and corrupter when used in the preparation of vinegar. Second, honey represents natural sweetness which is pleasant to the taste and something to be desired, but it is a symbol of carnal pleasure. Though very tasty in the mouth, honey becomes sour in the stomach (Prov. 25:16, 27) if too much is eaten. Third, honey was offered in the abominable religious practices of hethenistic people living around the Israelites. These points can be applied to Christ’s ministry. He did not rely upon the natural graces or sweetness of His person to persuade men, but upon the power of the Holy Spirit. Christ also turned away from the sweet things of life, whether they were relationships or material comforts, if they interfered with His mission on earth. His sacrifice on the cross had no sweetness in it, but was a picture of cruel suffering.
Oil was to be mixed into the meal offering (vv. 2, 4-5). Olive oil is a symbol of the anointing power of the Holy Spirit. He is the person of the Godhead who administers the plans, purposes, and programs of God on earth. The Holy Spirit played a major role in the ministry of Christ. He was conceived (Mt. 1:18-20), baptized (Mt. 3:16), anointed (Jn, 3:34; Heb. 1:9), empowered for service (Lk. 4:14, 18), and resurrected (Rom. 8:11) by the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is operative in the believer in many ways. Each believer is born of the Spirit (Jn. 3:3-6), baptized into the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:12-13), blessed with gifts for service (1 Cor. 12:7-11, 27-30; Eph. 4:11), and empowered to witness for his Lord (Acts 1:8).
Salt was to be used in the offering which preserved it from putrefaction and arrested any corruption within the meal. The salt was emblematic of God’s covenant relationship with Israel; thus it was called “salt of the covenant of thy God” (v. 13). It signified the enduring covenant relationship between God and Israel which was never to be broken (cp. Num. 18:19; 2 Chr. 13:5). Whenever the offering was seasoned with salt, it reminded the Israelite of his covenant relationship with God: first, that he was to live a pure and consistent life before the Lord; second, that he was to bring his offering in truthfulness without hypocrisy; third, that he was to be obedient unto the commands of God; fourth, the covenant signified God’s friendship with the Israelite, that God would be a faithful Friend keeping His promises; and fifth, that the covenant was to be forever showing him the perpetuity of his relationship with God.
Salt is used in the New Testament as a symbol of the Christians relationship to God. He is to be “the salt of the earth” (Mt 5:13). As salt arrests corruption, so the Christian is to dispel the tide of Satanic corruption manifested in the world. The Christian’s speech is to be “seasoned with salt” (Col. 4:6) so as to “minister grace unto the bearers” (Eph. 4:29); by means of the tongue the believer’s life is exposed. Salt Is not insipid but has tang, and so will the Christian whose life is filled with the Holy Spirit. But salt can lose its savor (taste) [Mt. 5:13]. The Christian is not to lose his savor by allowing sin to dwell in his life. When the believer has lost his savor, he becomes unusable for God s service and must be set aside. The end result is that he becomes noneffective in his testimony to the world, and men will trample his witness under their feet.
Frankincense was to be sprinkled over the top of the meal offering (vv. 1-2, 15-16). It should not be confused with the incense burned upon the altar of incense, since it was a different substance. Frankincense was made from a fragrant white gum which exudes from the salar tree found in Arabia. Frankincense was never to be used privately (Ex. 30:31-33), but only for worship. It typifies Christ in two ways: first, at Jesus birth the wisemen presented Him with frankincense (Mt. 2:11), emblematic of His pure life. The incense is a picture of Jesus’ life which manifested the sweet fragrance of perfection in all that He said and did; and second, the incense is a symbol of Christ through the Christian. Paul says, “Now thanks be unto God, who always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savor of his knowledge by us in every place. For we are unto God a sweet savor of Christ . . .” (2 Cor. 2:14-15).
The meal offering was to be brought voluntarily to the Lord, “. . . when any will offer . . . “ (v. I). The offerer could bring as much meal as often as he desired unto the Lord. The meal offering, like the burnt offering, was a “sweet savor unto the Lord” (v. 2). The Israelite was to present his meal offering unto the priest: “And he shall bring it to Aaron’s sons, the priests . . . (v. 2). The whole offering was then given to the priest at the entrance to the tabernacle. Unlike the burnt offering, the meal offering had no ceremony connected to it. The Israelite did not participate in the offering, but simply yielded the gift to the priest in obedience to the law. Here is a picture of the Israelite presenting the fruit of his labor unto the Lord, The believer today is to offer his life and labor as a living sacrifice unto the Lord (Rom. 12:1-2). Christians are to labor together in love (1 Cor. 3:9; 1 Th. 1:3), not for earthly rewards, but for treasure in Heaven (Jn. 12:27; Mt. 6:19-24). Realizing his labor is not in vain gives the believer incentive to be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in good works (1 Cor. 15:58), for the believer knows he will someday stand before the judgment seat of Christ to have his works judged (I Cor. 3:12-13; 2 Cor. 5:10).
The Officiating Priest
The priest took a handful of flour, cake or grain to burn upon the altar as a memorial (v. 2). The handful offered on the altar was to represent the whole presented unto the Lord. The remaining meal offering could be eaten by the priest in the holy place or the tabernacle court (Lev. 6:16). Only males were allowed to partake of the offering (Lev. 6:18). This was only true of the meal offering, for the daughters of the priest were allowed to eat other offerings which could be taken from the tabernacle. For the priest to partake he must be ceremonially clean for “everyone that toucheth them shall be holy” (Len. 6:18), Likewise, the Christian is expected to have a holy walk (1 Pet. 1:14-16) if he expects to have communion with Christ and be used by Him. The Christian is expected to feed upon Christ, who is the Bread of Life, receiving in return spiritual sustenance in order to be fruitful in his service. Jesus said, “. . . for without me ye can do nothing” (Jn. 15:5). Paul saw our great need for Christ when he wrote, “I can do all things through Christ, who strengtheneth me” (Phil. 4:13).
The priest was required to present a meal offering at his installation into the priesthood. He was to take a “tenth part of an ephah of fine flour” (v. 20), mixed with oil, and bake it in a pan (v. 21). Half was offered along with the burnt offering at the morning sacrifice and half during the evening sacrifice (v. 20). The offering was to be perpetually (v. 20) given during the time of the priest’s service. The priest could not eat of the meal offering which he presented to the Lord (v. 23), but offered it all on the brazen altar.
One question still must be answered concerning the meal offering. Since the meal offering is not a blood sacrifice, and the Israelite could offer meal for a sin offering (Lev. 5:11), did the Israelite have to bring a blood sacrifice to atone for sin? Yes! The Scripture definitely teaches, “. . . it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul” (Lev. 17:11).
The meal offering always accompanied the burnt offering as a memorial of thanksgiving unto the Lord, with one exception. The meal offering could be substituted for a blood sacrifice, but only under one condition. If the Israelite were too poor and could not afford the very inexpensive offering of two turtledoves or two young pigeons, then, and only then, he could offer a tenth part of an ephah of fine flour as a sin offering (Lev. 5:11-13). But it must be offered without oil or frankincense showing it lacked the same character as the usual meal offering.
The oil and frankincense were removed from the meal offering for the following reasons. First, this was a poor man’s offering. Oil and frankincense represented costly ingredients which must not be added. Second, this was a sin offering. Oil and frankincense, which represent fellowship with God through the Holy Spirit and prayer, must be omitted from the offering. Third, this is a sin offering and must not be embellished with the taste of oil nor the fragrance of frankincense. The bland flour would impress upon the offerer an aversion towards sin.
The Israelite brought his meal offering in thanksgiving for God’s love and mercy bestowed upon him. Although the Christian does not present a meal offering, he is to offer his life and labor unto the Lord.
This truth is vividly expressed in Frances Havergal’s hymn, “Take My Life and Let It Be.” While visiting a friend in England, she was instrumental in leading ten others in the home to salvation or recommitment unto the Lord. On February 4, 1874, too happy to sleep, Frances passed the night in consecrated renewal before the Lord. As she did so, the phrase “Take my life and let it be” chimed in her mind. The last stanza goes like this:
Take my love – my God, I pour
At Thy feet its treasure store;
Take myself — and I will be
Ever, only, all for Thee,
Ever, only, all for Thee.
Is that your prayer, my friend? Why not offer your life and labor unto the Lord!