The Meat Offering, Leviticus 2. 1-16; 6.14-18; 7. 9,10
Denis Clapham, Birmingham
This offering which is the most common of all the bloodless offerings mentioned in the Scriptures is called in Hebrew minchah, meaning 'a gift'. The Authorised Version translates it 'meat offering' (i.e. food offering); the Revised Version gives 'meal offering'; and J.N.D.'s new translation simply 'oblation'. No flesh ever formed any part of this offering. It was principally of flour made into cakes in a variety of ways, or of firstfruits.
Before considering the details of the meat offering it may be helpful to state what its typical significance is. As with all the other Old Testament offerings it speaks to the believer of Christ, but unlike the others which set forth His death, this sets forth the perfections and beauties of His life on earth. It was a life of perfect devotion to God incurring reproach from men; and of love and faithfulness meeting with only hatred and gainsaying.
It will be noticed that Leviticus 2 forms part of a single communication by the Lord to Moses which covers chapters 1 to 3. The meat offering therefore would have been brought to the Lord together with the burnt and peace offerings as a voluntary expression of the offerer's (i.e. worshipper's) desire to please God, and for his own acceptance. Five categories of meat offering are specified: (1.) Of fine flour, 2. 1-3; (2.) Made in the oven, 2. 4; (3.) Made in a pan or on a flat-plate, 2. 5-8; (4.) Made in the fryingpan, 2. 7-10; (5.) Of firstfruits, 2. 14-16. Since five is symbolically the number of grace our attention may well be directed by this to Him who was full of grace and truth, in order that we may thereby learn to appreciate more of the only One in whom God found all His delight.
Of Fine Flourtells of a character that was without any coarse ingredient. No rough or dark bits spoiled the smooth white flour which formed the first category, and from which the second, third and fourth were prepared. In 1 John 3. 5 we read, 'in him is no sin', nothing which, if passed through the finest sieve, would be left behind as an evidence that His nature was full of imperfections, flaws and foreign bodies like ours.
Made in the Oven.In this category the meat offering was prepared by fire, as in the next two. But note that the fire was not the fire of the altar. It was the fire of the hearth at home. We are not then to think in terms of the sufferings of Christ endured on the cross at the hand of God, but of those sufferings which He bore in His life from the people who were God's enemies. As that baked in the oven was prepared out of sight, so the Lord Jesus lived His first thirty years in obscurity at despised Nazareth. It was there He was first made to feel from both family and kinsfolk how little they appreciated the unique kind of man He was. The fire of man's hatred towards Him was first kindled there.
Made in a Pan(or on a flat-plate). This leads us to contemplate that period of His blessed life when He was presented to Israel. From His baptism to His riding into Jerusalem He was teaching openly. In those few years of showing Himself to the people He daily experienced an increasing intensity of suffering as the result of their growing opposition. How painful to His tender heart were the wounds inflicted by their indifference! How grieving must have been their blindness to the proof He gave of His Messiahship! He was truly 'despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief, Isa. 53. 3.
Made in the Fryingpan.While not wishing to press the significance of these things too far, may it be that in this category there is suggested something of the Saviour's sufferings during the last week before the cross, when the heat of man's hatred, particularly that of the rulers of Israel, became so intense that they took counsel together to put Him to death? Their burning antagonism had now reached the point at which He must be destroyed by it.
Of Firstfruits.These spoke of the best. Scripture speaks of the firstborn of mankind; of the firstling of animals; but when it is the produce of the ground, of the firstfruits. Nothing better could be brought. God must have the first and choicest portion, and this, of course, He has in Christ who is the Firstfruits in His life on earth, 2. 14-16; in His resurrection life, 23. 10 and in His glorified life, Deut. 26. 2, 10. Always when thinking of Christ, we do not think of what is comparative, but of what is superlative:
No mortal can with Him compare
Among the sons of men;
Fairer is He than all the fair
That fill the heavenly train.
To every meat offering oil, frankincense and salt were to be added, while leaven and honey were always to be excluded, 2. 1, 11-13. The former items made the meat offering acceptable, the latter unacceptable, hence the importance of these details.
Oilwas 'poured on', 2. 1. 6; 'mingled with', 2. 4, 5; 'anointed with', 2. 4; 'with', 2. 7; or 'put on', 2. 15. It will be appreciated by the spiritual mind how these expressions serve to illustrate the wonderful ways in which the Holy Spirit was identified with the Lord Jesus at His birth, Matt. 1. 18, 20; Luke 1. 35; and in view of His public ministry on earth, Matt. 3. 16; Mark 1. 10; Luke 3. 22; John 1. 32, 33; also Matt. 12. 18 and Luke 4. 18.
Frankincense,which is said to be the most sweet smelling of balsams, and which was the ingredient of the sweet incense which gave the aroma to the three sweet spices, Exod. 30. 34, suggests something of the unique fragrance marking the character of the meek and lowly-hearted Jesus. Friends and foes alike could not but acknowledge at times, some of the beautiful traits which caused a contemplative, inspired writer to declare, 'Yea, he is altogether lovely', S. of S. 5.16.
Salt,with which every meat offering was to be seasoned, is a cleansing and preserving agent. When the Saviour said to His disciples, 'Ye are the salt of the earth', Matt. S. 13, He was teaching them that what the salt was in the sea, they were in the earth (i.e. among men). Thus it speaks of the power of a holy life to resist the working of sin, and reminds us of Him in whose presence both moral and physical corruption could not long continue.
Leavenwas excluded because, as a symbol, it spoke of what puffed up, and of what was pungent or sour to taste. Nothing like this was ever noted in the life of Him who humbled Himself. He was not of the old lump of dough, but was through and through a new lump. There was not one thing about Christ that could have corrupted a single soul, even the tenderest infant, such was His purity.
Honey.As leaven is sour, so honey is most sweet. And just as leaven would speak of the sourness of human nature, so honey would speak of that natural charm, or of those acquired good tastes which are cultivated and developed in certain worldly circles. But not the slightest trace of this was to be found in the Lord Jesus. He never flattered anyone, nor did He ever adopt merely natural graces in order to gain acceptance with odiers.
Finally, when the Lord had been provided with His portion of the meat offering, all that was left was for the priests. It was regarded as most holy. Their unleavened bread was made from it. This they had to eat in a holy place in fellowship with the Lord. The lesson here for us who also form part of 'an holy priesthood', 1 Pet. 2. 5, is this, that if our lives are to be lived in fellowship with God, and are to express worship that will be acceptable to our Father, they will need to be sustained daily by our feeding upon Christ Himself. Minds that have learned something of His grace and ways from the delightful details of the meat offering will relish every soul-satisfying insight of Him afforded by the Holy Spirit, and will say continually, 'Thou art enough, the mind and heart to fill'.