The Levitical Offerings
This is the third article on the Levitical offerings by Archie Naismith, M.A. These articles not only give us an understanding of the laws governing the offerings, but they provide us with divine illustrations of the work of Christ for us on the cross.
3. The Meal Offering
The meal offering was unique among the offerings. In the Old Testament it is referred to again and again as an adjunct to the burnt offering, as the phrase, “the burnt offering with its meal offering,” indicates. The materials that composed the meal offering were from the vegetable kingdom, and consisted mainly of cereals, so the R.S.V. translates it “cereal offering.” The other four main offerings were taken from the animal kingdom. In the meal offering there was no taking of life, no shedding of blood and no mention of atonement or amends. In many aspects it as a type of our Lord Jesus Christ, but of our Lord in His life on earth and not in His sacrificial death. In this sweet savour offering the fragrance of our Lord’s life on earth, the Father’s beloved Son, is foreshadowed.
Our Lord’s Perfection
The perfection of our Lord Jesus in His deportment before men is symbolized by the fineness of the flour that was the basic ingredient of the cereal offering. The pleasure and satisfaction His obedience and devotion brought to the Father is reflected in the fragrance of the frankincense, and the faithfulness and fervour that marked His every word, in the flavour of the salt.
The flour used in the meal offering must be fine flour with nothing coarse or uneven in it, flour well sifted and strained, flour that would stand the closest scrutiny and be approved in the severest test. How perfectly the even, balanced life of our Lord satisfies every test! His temptations were real, His triumphs resplendent. His is the moral glory that is “full of grace and truth,” a perfect blending of love and light, meekness and majesty, courtesy and courage, pity and purity. From the opened Heaven, at the baptism of Jesus when He fulfilled all righteousness; at His transfiguration on the holy mount where His kingdom glory was foreshadowed; and between the temporary acclamation of Him by the people of Jerusalem as Israel’s King and their vehement rejection of Him; the Father bore witness to that blending of meekness and majesty, grace and truth. On those occasions He declared His delight in the fragrance of the Son’s life of obedient dependence as He announced, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” Today, after more than nineteen centuries, the preservative power of His gracious words “seasoned with salt” is still felt wherever the ‘Gospels’ are read or the gospel preached.
Our Lord’s Purity
The purity of our Lord Jesus is the outward manifestation of His perfect holiness. Known in Eastern lands as the Safed Christ, He alone lived in this world “without blemish,” “holy, harmless and undefiled.” He alone did no sin, and His mouth was free from guile. In the meal offering neither leaven nor honey was permitted: the former as always symbolic of evil and productive of fermentation, and the latter sweet until heat is applied, when it too ferments. Our Lord Jesus, the antitype of the meal offering, had no sinful nature, for “in Him was no sin,” therefore He was impeccable. “He knew no sin” and “He did no sin,” therefore He was immaculate. Even His enemies pronounced Him “innocent” and “faultless,”‘ He was born “holy,” as the angel Gabriel who announced His birth beforehand to Mary attested; therefore there was no carnal propensity in Him capable of responding to the evil that might assail Him from without.
As man, He was filled and anointed with the Holy Spirit. In the cereal offering oil was a chief component. The fine flour was to be mingled with oil when presented to Jehovah in wafer form. When the offering was divided into pieces, oil was to be poured on each piece. In Scripture oil is the recognized type of the Holy Spirit, the “unction” (or anointing) from the Holy One of which the Apostle John writes (1 John 2:20, 27).
In Luke chapters 1, 3 and 4, in three aspects of our Lord’s life and ministry the presence of the Holy Spirit is affirmed; and these correspond to three ways in which oil was to be applied in the meal offering. The “mingling” of the oil with the fine flour is typical of the Holy Spirit’s activity at His incarnation. The words of the angel to the virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus, were, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:34 R.S.V.). The pouring on or effusion of the oil finds its counterpart in the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Lord Jesus at His baptism (Luke 3:22). The anointing of the unleavened wafers with oil calls to mind our Lord’s reading from Isaiah 61 in the synagogue at Nazareth, and His personal application of the prophetic utterance to Himself, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me because He has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor” (Luke 4:18 R.S.V.). Our Lord was “full of the Spirit” (Luke 4:1) and the Spirit’s wisdom and power were displayed in all His words and works.
The preparation of the cereals for presentation to God as a meal offering involved bruising, beating and baking in intense heat. These, in terms of our Lord’s life as a perfect man, signify the sufferings He endured. He was “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isa. 53:3), made perfect through suffering (Heb. 2:10) in order to be experientially a perfect helper of those who suffer. His sufferings as man may be considered in two ways; first, as to their nature and intensity; and then, as to their chronological sequence.
The offering of fine flour, with its oil and frankincense on the altar foreshadowed the sufferings of the Son of man as entirely dedicated in His life to the will of His Father; for it was the will of the Lord to bruise Him and He put Him to grief. The offering baked in the oven speaks of the unseen sufferings of His sinless, yet sensitive, nature; that baked on a griddle, the more evident outward sufferings, and that cooked in a pan the more violent and intense sufferings at the hands of men.
Again, the baking in the oven may signify our Lord’s sufferings during the hidden years till He was “about thirty years of age,” the baking on the griddle, what He endured during His three and a half years of public ministry: and the cooking, or boiling in a pan, the intense sorrow and pain and buffetting He endured from the white heat of man’s violence and cruelty between Gethsemane and Golgotha. The firstfruits that were crushed and parched with fire, but not baked or cooked, may be taken to represent His sympathetic sufferings. In resurrection Christ is called “the Firstfruits,” and in His priestly ministry, He suffers with His people and, as One who has Himself suffered, is able to sympathize with His redeemed on earth.
“In every pang that rends the heart the Man of Sorrows had a part:
He sympathizes with our grief and to the sufferer sends relief.”
God had His portion in the meal offering — a handful of that fine flour with its oil and frankincense. The Father found His delight and satisfaction in His Son who always did what was pleasing to His Father. The priestly family partook of the remainder for their sustenance and enjoyment. It was for them a daily portion, a day’s ration. To all who love the Lord Jesus He is the Bread of Life, to be appropriated and enjoyed day by day.
The meal or cereal offering was the fruit of toil and tillage, and in its practical application is suggestive of the Christian’s work in the field, sowing the seed and bringing in the sheaves, threshing out the corn and milling the grain, sifting the wheat and preparing it for consumption. There could be no fine flour to present to God as a cereal offering and no portion for His priests without the toil of the labourers.
Apart from planting olive trees, gathering the olives and crushing them in the olive press, there could be no oil to mix with the flour or pour on the wafers. Yet it is possible for the believer to labour only and entirely for self. In our occupation for the Lord “till He come” we need the anointing and filling of the Spirit, the frankincense of a holy life fragrant to God and the preserving energy and flavour of the salt that has not lost its savour. If our service is marked by these qualities, we shall bring our offerings, with “all manner of pleasant fruits” laid up for our Beloved, and come with rejoicing, “bringing in the sheaves.”