Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
Leviticus 2:1-11John 4:34; Acts 10:4; Philippians 4:18; John 6:27. The idea prominently presented in the burnt offering is, we have seen, personal consecration, on the ground of expiation and acceptance through a substitute. In the meat offering, to which we now address ourselves, we find the further and supplementary idea of consecrated life-work. For the fine flour presented was the product of labour, the actual outcome of the consecrated person, and consequently a beautiful representative of that whole life-work which results from a person consciously consecrated. Moreover, as in the case of the burnt offering there was a daily celebration, so in the case of this meat offering there was a perpetual dedication in the shew-bread. What we have in this chapter, therefore, is a voluntary dedication on the part of an individual, corresponding to the perpetual dedication on the part of the people. The covenant people are to realize the idea of consecration in their whole life-work. Lange has noticed that here it is the soul (נֶפֶשׁ) which is said to present the meat offering, something more spiritual, as an act, than the presentation of the burnt offering by the man (אָדָם). We assume, then, that the leading thought of this meat offering is consecrated life-work, such as was brought out in all its perfection when our Lord declared, "My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work" (John 4:34).
I. WORK DONE FOR GOD SHOULD BE THE BEST OF ITS KIND. The meat offering, whether prepared in a sumptuous oven (תַנּוּר) such as would be found with the wealthy, or baken in a pan (מַחְבַת) such as middle-class people would employ, or seethed in a common dish (מַרְחֶשֶׁת) the utensil of the poor, - was always to be of fine flour (סֹלֶת), that is, flour separated from the bran. It matters not what our station in life may be, we may still present to God a thorough piece of work. "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might" (Ecclesiastes 9:10) is an exhortation applicable to all. The microscopic thoroughness of God's work in nature, which leads him to clothe even the grass, which is tomorrow to be cast into the oven, with more glory than Solomon (Matthew 6:28-30), is surely fitted to stimulate every consecrated person to the most painstaking work. And here we are led of necessity to the life-work of Jesus Christ, as embodying this idea perfectly. How thoroughly he did everything! His life was an exquisite piece of moral mosaic. Every detail may be subjected to the most microscopic criticism, only to reveal its marvelous and matchless beauty.
II. WORK DONE FOR GOD SHOULD BE PERMEATED BY HIS SPIRIT AND GRACE. The fine flour, be it ever so pure, would not be accepted dry; it required oil to make it bakeable. Oil has been from time immemorial the symbol of Divine unction, in other words, of the Holy Spirit's gracious operation. Hence we infer that work done for God must be done in cooperation with the Spirit. It is when we realize that we are fellow-workers with God, that he is our Partner, that he is working in us and by us, and when, in consequence, we become spiritually minded, walking in the Spirit, living in the Spirit, - it is then that our work becomes a spiritual thing. And here, again, would we direct attention to the life-work of Christ, as spiritually perfect. The gift of the Spirit at his baptism, the descending dove, an organic whole (Luke 3:22), signalizes the complete spirituality of Jesus. He was "filled with the Spirit," it was "in the power of the Spirit" he did all his work. Herein he is our perfect Example.
III. WORK CAN ONLY BE DONE FOR GOD IN A PRAYERFUL SPIRIT. This follows naturally from what has been already stated, but it requires to be emphasized in view of the frankincense which had in every case to accompany the meat offering. This is admittedly the symbol of devotion (cf. Kalisch, in loco). A life-work, to be consecrated, be steeped in prayer; its Godward object must be kept constantly in view, and stated and circulatory prayer must envelop it like a cloud of incense. It is, again, worth while to notice how the perfect life-work of Christ was pervaded by prayer. If any one since the world began had a right to excuse himself from the formality of prayer in consequence of his internal state of illumination, it was Jesus Christ. And yet we may safely say that his was the most prayerful life ever spent on earth. As Dr. Guthrie once said, "The sun as it sank in the western sea often left him, and as it rose behind the hills of Moab returned to find him, on his knees." We need not wonder why he spent whole nights in supplication, for he was bringing every detail of his work into Divine review in the exercise of prayer. There is consequently a most significant appeal issuing out of his holy life, to work prayerfully at all times if we would work for God.
IV. WORK FOR GOD MUST BE DIVORCED FROM MALICE AND FROM PASSION, AND DONE IN CALM PURITY AND STRENGTH. Much of the world's work has malice passion for its sources. These motives seem to be symbolized by the leaven and honey, which were forbidden as elements in the meat offering. Care should be taken in work for God that we do not impart into it worldly and selfish motives. Such are sure to vitiate the whole effort. The Lord with whom we have to do looks upon the heart and weighs the motives along with the work. What a commentary, again, was the perfect life of Jesus upon this! Malice and passion never mixed with his pure motives. He sought not his own will, nor did he speak his own words, but calmly kept the Father's will and glory before him, all through.
V. WORK FOR GOD SHOULD BE COMMITTED TO HIS PRESERVING CARE. For it is to be feared we often forget to season our sacrifices with salt. We work for God in a consecrated spirit, but we do not universally commit our work to his preserving grace, and expect its permanency and purity. Work for God should endure. It is our own fault if it do not. Our blessed Lord committed his work to the preserving care of the Father. He was, if we may judge from Isaiah 49:4, as well as from the Gospel, sometimes discouraged, yet when constrained to say, "I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for naught, and in vain," he could add, "Yet surely my judgment is with the Lord, and my work with my God."
VI. WORK DONE FOR GOD IS SURE TO BENEFIT OUR FELLOW-MEN. The meat offering was only partially burnt on the altar - a handful, containing, however, all the frankincense, was placed in the sacred fire, and thus accepted; the rest became the property of the priest. How beautifully this indicated the truth that when one tries to please God, his fellow-men, and especially those of the household of faith, are sure to participate in the blessing! The monastic idea was an imperfect one, suggesting the possibility of devotion to God and indifference to man coexisting in the same breast We deceive ourselves so long as we suppose so. Our Master went about doing good; he was useful as well as holy; and so shall all his followers find themselves, if their consecrated life-work is molded according to the pattern he has shown us. Faithfulness in the first table of the Law secures faithfulness in the second. - R.M.E.
I. A DISTINCTION IS MADE BETWEEN OFFERINGS ACCEPTED BY GOD DIRECTLY, AND THOSE PRESENTED TO HIM INDIRECTLY FOR THE USE OF HIS APPOINTED SERVANTS. The flour being brought to the priests, a handful was taken, and with frankincense was burnt upon the altar, rising to heaven in the form of smoke and perfume. The remainder of the flour was for the consumption of the priests. This distinction is applicable to many Christian offerings. The money given for the erection or support of a place of prayer, the surrender of time and thought for public worship, or for evangelistic work, the acknowledgment of Jesus Christ by baptism and by partaking of the Lord's Supper, the devotion of our strength and influence to God's service, - these may be considered as gifts presented straight to God himself. They are laid upon the altar, enwrapped in the fire of holy love, perfumed with prayer, and are consumed with zeal of God's house. But there are other oblations which must be regarded in the light of mediate presentations to God, such as, supporting the ministry at home and missionaries abroad, ministering to the need of the aged and feeble, and giving the cup of water to the disciples of Christ. This distinction is not meant to glorify the one class in comparison with the other, but to clarify our views, and to lead to the inquiry whether we are doing all we can in both directions. There is an idea in many minds that if the works of benevolence and charity be performed, the other duties of gathering together in the solemn assembly and of avowal of attachment to Christ are of little importance. The burning of a portion of the offering upon the altar rebukes such a conception. And similarly we learn that the punctual attendance upon the means of grace, and the regular offering of praise and prayer, must not exclude the exercise of hospitality and sympathy.
II. Looking at these two classes separately, we remark, respecting the bestowment of the "remnant" upon the priests, that OFFERINGS TO GOD MUST BE PRESENTED IN THEIR ENTIRETY. All the flour brought was considered "most holy," and could not be employed thereafter except for the benefit of "sacred" persons. A man was at liberty to offer or withhold, but once having vowed, he could not withdraw even a portion of his present. God will not be satisfied with a share of a man's heart. If it be given at all, it must be the whole heart. And once having engaged ourselves to be his, there can be no revocation of faculty, affection or time. To look back after taking hold of the plough is to mar religious dedication. The mistake of Ananias was in pretending to give the full price, and attempting to conceal a portion of it. Oh that we could make religion permeate our lives, hallowing even our secular employments by doing all to the glory of God!
III. With respect to the portion burnt for a "memorial," observe that AN OFFERING HAS A DOUBLE INTENT; IT EVINCES A GRATEFUL REMEMBRANCE BY THE WORSHIPPER OF GOD'S BOUNTY AND REQUIREMENTS, AND IT ENSURES A GRACIOUS REMEMBRANCE OF the WORSHIPPER ON THE PART OF GOD. The special significance of the "minchah" lay in its expression of thankfulness, and of desire by that expression to secure the favour of the God by whom our needs are supplied. To appreciate past kindness is to show a fitness to receive additional mercies in the future. To remember God is to be remembered in turn by God. At the Communion we take the bread and wine as Christ's memorial, and he, the Master of the feast, approves the spirit and the act, and thinks upon us for good. Self-interest recommends us to honour the Lord. To save a handful of meal would be to lose a coming harvest, and to save ourselves temporally is to lose eternally.
IV. ALL OFFERINGS MADE IN THE APPOINTED WAY ARE WELL PLEASING UNTO GOD. The meal oblation differed from the sacrifice of a lamb or bullock, perhaps was not so expensive, and all of it was not consumed by fire; yet it was also declared to be "of a sweet savour unto the Lord." We should not trouble ourselves because our kind of service is distinct from that which our fellows render, or is treated by the world as less important. The mites of the widow lie side by side in the treasury with the shekels of the wealthy, and will receive quite as much notice from the Lord of the sanctuary. If a niche in the temple of heroes is denied to us, or if the eloquence that sways the wills of men belongs not to our tongue, yet may we with kindly words and manly actions and loving tones do our little part in Christianizing the world, and our efforts will win the commendation of him who "seeth not as man seeth." And further, let us not be sad because at different periods we do not find ourselves able to render the same service. In the winter we may sacrifice from our herds and. flocks, but must wait till the summer for the firstfruits of the field. Youth, manhood, and age have their appropriate labours. Leisure and business, health and sickness, prosperity and adversity, may present to the Lord equally acceptable offerings. - S.R.A.
Hebrews 9:22), some have supposed that it was in use before the Fall. This opinion, however, has but little to sustain it. We certainly read of the minchah as having been offered by Cain (Genesis 4:3); but then Abel, at the same time, offered the holocaust, or sin offering, which no one dreams of having formed any part of the original worship in Eden. Cain's fault was not in having offered the minchah, but in not associating with it some sin sacrifice. It is questionable whether the minchah, under the Law, was ever offered without such an accompaniment. Yet we may view the minchah as a type of Christ. For -
I. ALL THE HOLY BREAD TYPIFIED CHRIST.
1. The manna was of this class.
(1) It is called "bread from heaven" (see Nehemiah 9:15).
(2) Compare John 6:31-35, 41, 48-51.
2. The shew-bread also was of this class.
(1) It was the bread of heaven, for it rested in the sanctuary, which was one of the typical "heavenly places."
(2) It rested under the splendours of the Shechinah, and therefore took its name, "Bread of Faces," viz. of God. The Bread of the Sacred Presence.
3. So was this bread of the minchah.
(1) This, indeed, was offered in the outer court; for there the altar stood. But so was Christ offered "outside the gate" of Jerusalem, and outside the courts of heaven.
(2) But it was, like the shew-bread, destined to be eaten in the sanctuary. So is Christ eaten by his spiritual priesthood in his kingdom of heaven upon earth. So is he destined to nourish the joys of the glorified in the heaven of heavens (Luke 22:30).
II. THIS BREAD HAD THE QUALITY OF EXCELLENCE.
1. As bread it was the staple of food.
(1) We can dispense with luxuries, but bread is necessary. It is "the staff of life." So is Christ.
(2) Bread is, by a figure of speech, put for everything needful for the body (Matthew 6:12). Christ is, by no figure of speech, everything needful to the soul.
2. This bread was of "fine flour."
(1) It may have been of barley as well as of wheat (see Numbers 5:15). Every variety of spiritual nourishment may be found in Christ.
(2) But the flour must be "fine." The nourishment we find in Christ is of the finest order. Christ is God's best Gift to us. So is Christ our best Gift to God. All secondary gifts are valuable as they are offered in his Name (2 Corinthians 9:15).
III. IT HAD NOTICEABLE ADJUNCTS.
1. Oil was poured upon it.
(2) The fine flour was anointed with it. Messiah is so named because anointed with the Holy Ghost without measure. The Greek synonym of the Hebrew Messiah is Christ (Isaiah 61:1; Acts 4:27; Acts 10:38; Hebrews 1:9).
2. It was offered with frankincense.
(1) This was a favourite spice, which appears not to have been yielded by one tree alone, but probably was compounded from several. We read of "spikenard and saffron; calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense" (Song of Solomon 4:14).
(2) It is associated with the Bridegroom in the Song of Songs, to express the perfections of his holy character, by which he is infinitely attractive to his Spouse, the Church. He is there described as coming up out of the wilderness "like pillars of smoke," probably alluding to the Shechinah, and "perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, with all the powders of the merchant" (Song of Solomon 3:6).
(3) In these perfections he is no less grateful to God when offered up to him (Matthew 3:17; Matthew 17:5; 2 Peter 1:17). As we become Christ-like, we are also well pleasing in his sight. The faithful minister of the Word is "unto God a sweet savour of Christ" (2 Corinthians 2:15). - J.A.M.
I. FEASTS HAVE EVER BEEN REGARDED AS TOKENS OF FRIENDSHIP.
1. Secular history abounds in examples.
(1) These date back to very ancient times. The ancient Egyptians, Thracians, and Libyans made contracts of friendship by presenting a cup of wine to each other. Covenants were made by the ancient Persians and Germans at feasts. The Pythagoreans had a symbol, "Break no bread," which Erasmus interprets to mean "Break no friendship."
(2) Similar usages still obtain. It would be considered amongst us a most incongruous thing for persons at enmity deliberately to sit down at the same table. So according to our laws, if a person drinks to another against whom he has an accusation of slander, he loses his suit, because this supposes that they are reconciled.
2. Sacred history also furnishes examples.
(2) The verb (ברה, bern) to eat, in the Hebrew, if not the root of the word (ברית, berith), covenant, is at least a kindred word.
(3) Hence in apostolic times, Christians were forbidden to eat with wicked persons (1 Corinthians 5:11; see also Galatians 2:12). It must never be forgotten that the "friendship of the world is enmity against God."
II. THE FEAST OF THE MEAT OFFERING WAS A SYMBOL OF FELLOWSHIP WITH GOD.
1. The "memorial" of the minchah was God's meat.
(1) The offerer separated a portion of the mass, which was called the memorial, or representation of the whole. Thus he took from the bulk of the fine flour a handful. To this he added a suitable proportion of oil. The whole of the frankincense was devoted.
(2) The priest then burnt the complete memorial upon the altar of burnt offerings.
(3) God signified his acceptance of it by consuming it in fire, which was not of human kindling, but had issued from his Shechinah. The portion thus consumed was regarded as "God's food," or "meat," of the offering which he was pleased to accept. This was one part of the feast.
2. The remnant was then eaten by the priests.
(2) The common priests were representatives rather of the holy people. Hence the whole nation of Israel were regarded as a "kingdom of priests" (Exodus 19:6). The people, therefore, and in particular the offerer, representatively, feasted with God.
(3) Under the gospel even this official representation is changed. The people of God are now an holy priesthood, not by representation, but in right of their spiritual birth (1 Peter 2:9). They draw nigh unto God (Hebrews 10:19-22). They feast with him at his table and in his very Presence.
(4) All this, amongst many other blessed things, is set forth in the Christian Eucharist, or Supper of the Lord.
III. CHRIST IS THE MEDIUM OF THIS FELLOWSHIP.
1. Obviously so since the minchah was a type of Christ.
(1) This has been sufficiently shown (see Homily on verses 1, 2).
(2) We may add that the argument is sustained by the use of the term "memorial." When the firstling of the cattle was taken instead of the rest, it is called making a memorial to God (Exodus 34:19; see Hebrew text). This represented the taking of the Great Firstborn instead of all men, and the firstling of the cattle was only a memorial, not the real sacrifice.
(3) It is a great truth that Christ is our one way of access to God (John 14:6). "He is our peace;" and it is through the frankincense of his presence that our offering becomes a "sweet savour " - a savour of rest, "unto the Lord" (verses 2, 9).
2. Christ is delectable food to faith.
(1) Sometimes in the minchah the flour was unbaked (verse 2). In this case the oil accompanying it was unmingled. The portion reserved for the priests might, therefore, be mingled by them in any way they pleased to render it most palatable.
(2) In other cases the bread was prepared to their hands. Sometimes baken in the oven in cakes, mingled with oil, or in unleavened wafers, with oil poured upon them (verse 4). Sometimes in a pan or fiat plate, mingled with oil or oil poured over it (verses 5, 6). Sometimes in the frying-pan or gridiron, with oil (verse 7).
(3) The bread of life is essentially good and nourishing. It is at the same time capable of being served up in such variety as to suit every taste that is not vicious. It is the privilege of the scribe instructed in the kingdom to bring out "things new and old," to set old things in new lights, and to show that there is "nothing new under the sun; for all things are as old as the councils of eternity. - J.A.M.
I. THE TRUE ORDER OF THE DIVINE LIFE IN MAN. It is, indeed, a mistake for the human teacher to attempt to lay down precise lines of thought and feeling along which souls must move. "The progress of religion in the soul" varies with individual experience. The action of God's Spirit is not limited, and while we should seek to lead all souls to walk in the road by which we are traveling, we should not be anxious that they should tread in our own steps. On the other hand, there is an order of thought and experience which may not be inverted. First the burnt offering, then the meat offering; first the soul's presentation of itself as a sinner to ask forgive-Hess and to offer itself to God, then the service of recognition of him and gratitude for his gifts. It is a serious, and may be a fatal, spiritual error to attempt to gain God's favour by doing those things which are appropriate to his children, without having first sought and found reconciliation through a crucified Saviour. Start at the starting-point of the Christian course, lest, when the goal is reached, the crown be not placed upon the brow.
II. OUR GRATEFUL RECOGNITION OF GOD'S CONSTANT GOODNESS TO US. The meat offering was a sacrifice in which the worshipper acknowledged that the various blessings of his life came from God and belonged to him. He brought fine flour (verse 1), and oil (verse 1), also wine as the accompanying drink offering (Leviticus 23:13). The chief produce of the land, the principal elements of food were, in a sacred hour, at the holy place, and, by a pious action, solemnly recognized as gifts of God, to be gratefully accepted from his hand, to be reverently laid on his altar. We are thankfully to acknowledge:
1. God's kindness in supplying us with that which we need. Bread (corn) will stand for that food which is requisite, and when we consider the goodness of our Creator,
(1) in originally providing that which is so wholesome and nourishing to all men;
(2) in multiplying it so freely that there is abundance for all;
(3) in causing it to be multiplied in such a way as ministers to our moral and spiritual health (through our intelligence, activity, cooperation, etc.);
(4) in making palatable and pleasurable the daily meals which would otherwise be (as sickness occasionally proves) intolerably burdensome; - we have abundant reason for blessing God for his kindness in respect of the necessaries of life.
2. His goodness in providing us with that which is superfluous. A very large part of the enjoyment of our life is in the use of that which is not necessary but agreeable; in the appropriation of that which is pleasant, - the exquisite, the harmonious, the fragrant, the delicately beautiful, etc. This also is of God. He "makes our cup to run over;" from him come the fruits and the flowers, as well as the corn and the grass. Nay, he has closely associated the superfluous with the necessary in nature as in human life. The common potato does not grow without bearing a beautiful flower, nor the humble bean without yielding a fragrant odour. As the Hebrew brought his oil and his wine to the altar of gratitude, so should we bring our thanksgiving for the delicacies, adornments, and sweetnesses which come from the bountiful hand of Heaven.
III. THE NECESSITY FOR PURITY IN OUR SERVICE, There might not be leaven nor honey (verse 11); there must be salt (verse 13). Everything associated with corruption must be avoided; that which was antiseptic in its nature should be introduced; "nothing which defileth" before him; the "clean hands and the pure heart" in "the holy place" (Psalm 24:3, 4). (See "Purity in worship," infra.)
IV. THE ACCEPTABLENESS OF OUR GRATITUDE TO GOD. All the frankincense was to be consumed on the altar, and the burning of the other offerings with this fragrant incense accompanying it betokened that it was, as stated, a "sweet savour unto the Lord" (verses 2, 12). God is not to be worshipped with men's hands, as though "he needed anything" (Acts 17:25); but he takes delight in his children:
1. Realizing his presence.
2. Recognizing his hand in their comforts and their joy.
3. Responding to his fatherly love with their filial gratitude and praise.
V. THE WHOLESOME INFLUENCE OF GRATEFUL SERVICE ON OUR OWN HEARTS. He who "knows what is in man," warned his people against saying in their heart, "My power and the might of my hand hath gotten me this wealth" (Deuteronomy 8:17). Such a sacrifice as that of the meat offering - a service of grateful acknowledgment of God's hand - is fitted to render us the greatest spiritual benefit, by:
1. Helping us to keep a humble heart before God.
2. Causing us to be filled with the pure joy of gratitude instead of being puffed up with the mischievous complacency of pride. - C.
eucharistic. A portion of bread, firstfruits, offered in the fire as a memorial of Divine goodness and pledge of the future life. Several particulars noticeable.
1. It was what made part of the daily meal of the house.
2. Frankincense mingled with it, and oil poured upon it; the prayers and thankful worship of the offerer, which were the work of God's Spirit, returned to him.
3. It was partly consumed by fire, and partly "a thing most holy," or set apart to the Lord, eaten by the priests, supporting the temple worship.
4. If baked, no leaven in it nor honey, no corruption, a pure sacrifice.
5. Every offering seasoned with salt, "the salt of the covenant of thy God," i.e., the emblem of Divine grace, which, while it accepts man's obedience, overlooks and pardons its imperfection. - R.
I. THAT EVERY POSSIBLE THING WAS DONE TO IMPART TO THEM PECULIAR SANCTITY. They were separated and sanctified by various ceremonies and services.
II. THAT SPECIAL SANCTITY WAS ASSOCIATED IN THE MINDS OF THE PEOPLE WITH THEIR PERSON AND OFFICE. So much so that offerings given to them were lawfully regarded as presented to Jehovah. In the meat offering "the remnant" (the greater part) was to be "Aaron's and his sons'," and this is declared to be "a thing most holy." To these statements we may add -
IV. THAT IN PROPORTION TO THEIR PERSONAL EXCELLENCE WOULD BE THE OFFERINGS OF THE PEOPLE. Few meat offerings would be brought whereby a rapacious, or arrogant, or impure, or unsocial, or irreverent priesthood would be benefited; but free and full offerings would come to the altar where blameless, beloved, and honoured men were ministering. The Christian ministry is unlike the Jewish priesthood in that:
1. It is not hereditary; it is (or should be)only entered upon where there is individual fitness for the office.
2. It offers no sacrifices (Hebrews 10:11, 12).
3. It approaches God with men rather than for them. Yet it is like that ancient priesthood, in that it is a section of God's people set apart for conducting Divine worship and for the service of society in all sacred things. We are reminded -
I. THAT IT IS THE WILL OF CHRIST THAT CHRISTIAN MINISTERS SHOULD BE SUSTAINED BY THE PEOPLE'S OFFERINGS (1 Corinthians 9:11, 13, 14).
III. THAT IN THE RELATIONS OF MINISTER AND PEOPLE THERE SHOULD BE RECIPROCAL GENEROSITY. On the part of the latter let there be:
1. Full appreciation of the high nature and the large number of their services.
2. Generous overlooking of lesser faults, remembering human frailty.
3. Constant credit for purity of motive.
4. Active sympathy and cooperation; and
5. Substantial practical support. He who has "the burden of the Lord" upon his heart should not be weighed down with temporal anxieties. On the part of the former, let there be:
1. Complete subordination of temporal to spiritual solicitudes.
2. Free and generous expenditure of love and strength, both on individual souls in special need, and on the Church and the world. Reciprocal indifference and closeness will end in leanness of soul; reciprocal love and generosity in largeness of heart and nobility of life (Luke 6:38). - C.
I. OFFERED FOOD. Acknowledgment of dependence. Praise for life and its gifts. Joys and pleasures should be consecrated. The will of God in them and over them. Family worship a duty. Recognition of God in common life. Firstfruits are God's, not the remnant or gleanings of our faculties and opportunities, but all.
II. OFFERING DIVIDED BETWEEN OFFERER AND PRIESTS. Connection of daily labour and its results with the sanctuary and religious duties. The secular and sacred only nominally distinct. The house of God and the house of man should open into one another. Nothing should be allowed to interfere with the holiness of that which is assigned to God's service in the sanctuary. "It is most holy." Too often Christians fall into a carelessness with respect to sacred appointments which reacts on the spirit and life. Our partnership with God involves responsibility.
III. NO LEAVEN, NO HONEY. In all things purity and humility. There must be no corrupt principle admitted into our service of God. The doctrine must be purified of leaven. The motives must be examined. We ought not to serve God for the sake of filthy lucre, under the influence of mere sensational excitement. Truth and sobriety in worship.
IV. SALT WITH EVERY SACRIFICE. All must be brought to God in the spirit of penitent faith. Salt preserves life, sets forth the dependence of man upon God. The gracious covenant is the source of all. He who commands is himself the giver of all power to fulfill his word. He is the Alpha and the Omega of the spiritual life.
V. FRANKINCENSE AND OIL. Fragrance and brightness. Heaven and earth mingled together. Reconciliation of God and man. The outpoured spirit of light and life. Joy in God and in his gifts. The anointing oil mingled in the fire and increased the flame. The Messiah is the true Anointed One. Every Israelite, in a lower degree, was himself a Messiah, an anointed one, taken up into the Son of God and blessed. The people are a holy, consecrated people, separated unto Jehovah. Every individual act of religion is acceptable as the oil of the Spirit is poured upon it. What a new view of life can thus be obtained! Make all a meat offering to the Lord. - R.
I. THE MATERIAL OF WHICH THIS OFFERING WAS COMPOSED. "His offering shall be of fine flour." The sacrifice God desires is of what man deems most precious, viz. life. As the animal was killed, giving up its life to God, so now there is presented in this oblation:
1. Something that belongs to daily life.
2. Contributing to its support;
3. and enjoyment.
By bestowing of our substance upon God, all our property is sanctified. To set apart specifically a portion of time in which to worship God, hallows the remainder of the week. See in Jesus the true Meal Oblation, the Bread of Life. We ask the Father to accept his offering on our behalf, and we also live on him as our spiritual food.
4. The sample presented must be of the best of its kind. God will not be slighted with scanty adoration and inferior exercise of our powers. Only wheaten flour is permitted.
II. ACCOMPANIMENTS OF THE OFFERING. Allusions to the Jewish sacrifices are frequent in the New Testament, and we cannot be wrong in guiding ourselves by such an interpretation of these figurative regulations.
1. Oil must be added. It was the element of consecration, and reminds us of the needful anointing of the Spirit to qualify us for our duties. "Ye have an unction from the Holy One." As used, like butter, to impart a relish to food, it became a symbol of gladness. So the Christian motto is, "Rejoice in the Lord always."
2. Frankincense is required that a pleasant odour may ascend to the skies. So may our service be redolent to earth and heaven of a fragrant savour. In Revelation 8:3, incense is offered with the prayers of the saints, and speaks to us of the intercession of Christ, by which our pleadings are made effectual. Let prayer be the constant attitude of our souls, and let us connect the Saviour with all we do and say.
3. It must be seasoned with salt, a remembrance and an emblem of God's covenant, by which his people are admitted to intimacy and friendship with him. The status of the believer is an indissoluble alliance with the Almighty on the ground of promise and oath. This is his privilege and motive power. Every sacrifice must be salted with the salt of holy obedience, producing peace and purity, and preserving it from corruption.
III. THINGS PROHIBITED.
1. Leaven, the emblem of wickedness, of hypocrisy, of fermenting putridity.
2. Honey, which, though sweet and increasing the delight with which food is partaken of, quickly turns to bitterness and corruption. It is regarded as typical of fleshly lusts which war against the soul, that love of the world which mars Christian character. The warning conveyed by these prohibitions is worthy of being sharply outlined in modern days, when the tendency waxes stronger to obliterate the dividing line between the Church and the world, and attempts are made to purify the impure, or to whiten the outside of sepulchers, and to seduce Christians into the belief that all the pursuits and pleasures of life may be harmlessly indulged in, and even sanctified to the glory of God. The first intention may be good, but the ultimate issue is unbounded license. Christ and Belial, light and darkness, can have no lasting concord. We may, however, take the leaven and honey as indicating the truth that some things lawful in themselves and at certain seasons, are at other times displeasing to God. The mirth and music and demeanour that are innocent as such, may not befit us in the solemnity of special circumstances, for example, the worship of the sanctuary. "To everything there is a season."
CONCLUSION. The perfect realization of every offering is seen in the Lord our Saviour. What a matchless life was his! No stain of malice or lust; grace, beauty, purity, all exemplified in fullest degree; on him the Spirit ever rested; his words and works a continual sacrifice to his Father, evoking the exclamation, "This is my beloved Son: hear him." As the heavenly Manna, he satisfies the wants of his kingdom of priests, and his Body was consumed in the flames of Calvary as our memento before God. - S.R.A.
I. THE PROHIBITION OF LEAVEN (verse. 11). The reasons of this appear to be:
1. Because of its fermenting properties.
(1) These, which, under the action of heat, throw the lump into commotion, represent the evil passions of the heart (see 1 Corinthians 5:6-8). But since the meat offering is taken as a type of Christ, it was most fitting that everything suggestive of these should be excluded. In him was no ferment of anger or discontent when he was subjected to the fiercest fires of the wrath of God (Isaiah 53:7). What an example has he left to us!
(2) By its fermenting properties, leaven tended to reduce substances to corruption. But since our "Bread of Life," our "Firstfruit" of the resurrection, could not "see corruption," because he was the "Holy One," it was most proper that leaven should be absent from his type (Psalm 16:10; Acts 2:31).
2. That the Hebrews might be reminded of their deliverance from Egypt.
(1) For they were, at the time of the Exodus, so hurried that they had to take their dough as it was without being leavened (Exodus 12:39). It was most salutary to keep alive the remembrance of such mercies as they then experienced, and of the stupendous works with which they were associated.
(2) But since those things were all typical of gospel blessings, so must it be most edifying to us to remember the spiritual bondage and darkness from which we have been emancipated by the hand of that great Prophet "like unto Moses," to whom it is our duty to hearken in preference to him.
II. THE PROHIBITION OF HONEY (verse 11). The reasons of this appear to be:
1. Because honey was a symbol of carnal pleasures.
(1) It was in this light viewed by Philo and by Jerome: and certainly the similitude is apt. Though luscious to the palate, it is bitter to the stomach. Be evermore is sensual gratification (see Proverbs 25:16, 27).
(2) The exclusion of honey from the sacrifices and offerings of the altar will, therefore, convey important morals, viz.
(a) considering these as types of Christ,
(b) considering them also as types of such spiritual sacrifices as we can present acceptably to God through Christ. Another reason may be:
2. Because honey was offered with the abominations of the heathen.
(1) Honey was offered to Bacchus and to the dii superi, the dii inferi, and departed heroes. Hence Orpheus, in beginning his hymns, calls the infernal gods μειλιχιοι θεοι, and the souls of the dead, μελισσαι. The origin of which custom is thus explained by Porphyry, "They made honey a symbol of death; and therefore poured out a libation of honey to the terrestrial gods" (see Brown's 'Antiquities,' volume 1, page 381).
(2) The Hebrews were instructed scrupulously to avoid the customs of the pagans (see Deuteronomy 12:29-31). Let Protestants studiously avoid the abominations of the Romish Antichrist (Revelation 18:4).
(3) Leaven and honey might be offered with the oblation of the firstfruits; but they must not come upon God's altar. This is the teaching of verse 12. The loaves of the firstfruits, which were perquisites of the priests, were even ordered to be baken with leaven (chapter 23:17). So in like manner honey was to be offered to them (2 Chronicles 31:5). There are things which may be lawfully offered to man that may not be offered to God. As leaven and honey mingled with. the bread, even of the priests, so human conversation, at its best, is but imperfect.
III. THE REQUISITION OF SALT (verse 13). The reason of this appears in the many excellent things of which salt was the symbol.
1. It was a symbol of purity.
(1) Hence it is described as "the salt of the covenant of God." The Hebrew term for covenant (ברית, berith) literally signifies purification; and the covenant of God is the gospel which is instituted of God for our purification from sin.
(2) Perhaps it was religiously, viz. in relation to the covenant, rather than for hygienic purposes, that infants were rubbed with salt (see Ezekiel 16:4).
2. It was a symbol of friendship.
(1) The effect of a covenant to the faithful is friendship. So, in token of friendship, the ancient Greeks ate bread and salt together. And the Russian emperors had a custom, derived to them from antiquity, of sending bread and salt from their tables to persons they intended to honour.
(2) The delights of friendship are also set forth in this symbol. The following is rendered by Dr. A. Clarke from Pliny: - "So essentially necessary is salt that without it human life cannot be preserved: and even the pleasures and endowments of the mind are expressed by it; the delights of life, repose, and the highest mental serenity are expressed by no other term than sales among the Latins. It has also been applied to designate the honourable rewards given to soldiers, which are called salarii or salaries. But its importance may be further understood by its use in sacred things, as no sacrifice was offered to the gods without the salt-cake."
3. It was a symbol of perpetuity.
(1) This is suggested by its preserving properties. It is used to preserve meat and other things from decomposing. It is in this the very opposite of leaven; so, the reason which includes the one excludes the other.
(3) Christians, who are the people of the covenant, are the preservers of the earth (see Matthew 5:13). Take the Christians out of the world, and it will rot.
4. The qualities of salt should distinguish all sacrifices.
(1) They do distinguish the Great Sacrifice of Calvary.
(2) All Christian offerings should resemble that. In allusion to the salting of sacrifices preparatory to their being offered up in the flames of the altar, our Lord says," Every one shall be salted with fire," or rather, "salted for the fire," viz. of the altar, "and," or rather, "as every sacrifice is salted with salt" (Mark 9:49, 50). "We may reasonably infer, that as salt has two qualities - the one to season meat, the other to preserve it from corruption; so it fitly denotes that integrity and incorruptness which season every sacrifice, and render men's persons and services grateful to God" (Old Bible). - J.A.M.
I. CAREFULLY TO EXCLUDE THAT IN WHICH THERE WAS ANY ELEMENT OF IMPURITY, Leaven is "a substance in a state of putrefaction;" honey "soon turns sour, and even forms vinegar." These were, therefore, expressly interdicted; they might not be laid on the altar of God. But so important was this feature that positive as well as negative rules were laid down. The offerer was -
II. CONSTANTLY TO INTRODUCE THE CORRECTIVE OF IMPURITY, "Neither shalt thou suffer the salt... to be lacking;" "with all thine offerings thou shalt offer salt." Salt is the great preservative from putrefaction, fitting type of all that makes pure in symbolic worship. When we come up to the house of the Lord to "offer the sacrifice of praise" or to engage in any act of devotion, we must remember that -
I. GOD LAYS GREAT STRESS ON THE PURITY OF OUR HEART IN WORSHIP. Only the pure in heart can see God (Matthew 5:8). Without holiness no man shall see him (Hebrews 12:14). They must be clean who bear the vessels of the Lord (Isaiah 52:11). None may ascend his holy hill but "he that hath clean hands and a pure heart." "If we regard iniquity in our heart, the Lord will not hear us" (Psalm 66:18). We have not now laid down for us any precise directions as to what words we shall use, what forms we shall adopt, what gifts we shall devote, but we know that the chief thing to bring, that without which all is vain, is a right spirit, a pure heart, a soul that is seeking God and longing for his likeness. The interdiction of the leaven and honey, and the requirement of salt, suggest that -
II. GOD DESIRES A VIGILANT EXCLUSION OF EVERY UNHOLY THOUGHT WHEN WE DRAW NIGH TO HIM. We may be tempted to allow corruption to enter into and our worship or our Christian work, in the form of:
1. An unworthy spirit of rivalry.
2. An ostentation of piety.
3. Self-seeking by securing the favour of man.
4. Sensuous enjoyment (mere artistic appreciation, etc.).
5. A spirit of dislike or resentment towards fellow-worshippers or fellow-workers.
Such spiritual "leaven" must not be brought to the altar; such sentiments must be shut out from the soul. We must strenuously resist when these evil thoughts would enter. We must vigorously and energetically expel them if they find their way within the heart (Proverbs 4:23).
III. GOD DESIRES THE PRESENCE OF THE PURIFYING THOUGHT IN DEVOTION. There must not only be the absence of leaven, but the presence of salt; not only the absence of that which corrupts and spoils, but the presence of that which purifies. There must be the active presence of sanctifying thoughts. Such are:
1. A profound sense of the nearness of God to us.
2. A lively sense of our deep indebtedness to Jesus Christ.
Let these convictions fill the soul, and the lower and ignobler sentiments will fail to enter or will quickly leave. If we feel our own feebleness and incapacity, we may fall back on the truth that -
IV. GOD HAS PROMISED THE AID OF HIS CLEANSING SPIRIT. We must pray for "the renewing of the Holy Ghost" (Titus 3:5); that he will "cleanse us from our sin;" will give us "truth in the inward parts;" will make us "clean," "whiter than snow;" will "create in us a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within us" (Psalm 51; and see Psalm 19:12-14; Psalm 139:23, 24). - C.
Leviticus 2:12-16Proverbs 3:9; 1 Corinthians 15:23; James 1:18. This arrangement about the firstfruits, though appended to the meat offering, demands a special notice. The meat offering, we have seen, affirms the general principle that our life-work should be dedicated to God. But here in the firstfruits we have a special portion which is to be regarded as too sacred for any but Divine use. This leads us directly to affirm -
I. WHILE GOD HAS A RIGHT TO ALL, HE CLAIMS A SPECIAL RIGHT TO THE FIRSTFRUITS OF ALL OUR INCREASE. The danger is in losing sight of the special claim in asserting the general principle. For instance, we must not deny God a special claim upon the first day of the week, because we acquiesce in the general principle that he has a right to all our time. Again, we must not withhold our tithes, a certain proportion of our substance, through an easy-going statement that he has a right to all our substance. We must condescend to particulars.
II. THE DEDICATION OF THE FIRSTFRUITS EXTENDED TO ANIMALS AS WELL AS TO the VEGETABLE KINGDOM. The dedication of the firstborn of man and beast is manifestly part and parcel of the same principle (Exodus 13:1-16). This leads up to God's right to the Firstborn of the human race, to him of whom the Father said, "I will make him my firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth" (Psalm 89:27). Jesus is the Firstborn of humanity, the flower and firstfruits of the race. Hence we find the expression used regarding the risen Saviour, "But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept" (1 Corinthians 15:23). He is also called "the firstborn from the dead" (Colossians 1:18). Of him, therefore, pre-eminently was the dedication of the firstfruits typical. If God has a right to the firstfruits of the life-work of the human race, he receives in the perfectly holy life of Jesus Christ. So that, as we found the meat offering to this, so do we find this arrangement about the firstfruits.
III. GOD HAS ALSO A RIGHT TO SERVICE, EVEN THOUGH IT MAY NOT BE PERFECT. This seems to be the principle underlying the "oblation of the firstfruits." This, as we from Leviticus 23:15-21, was presented at Pentecost, and consisted of two tenth-flour baked with leaven. Such an arrangement points to the possibility of imperfection in serving God, which was met by the sin offering accompanying it. If, then, the firstfruits at the Passover, presented with oil and frankincense, typified Christ the Firstfruits in all his perfection; the oblation at Pentecost typified believers, Gentiles and Jews, who are trying, though imperfectly, to realize a consecrated life-work. God does not reject the labours of his people, even though they are very far from perfect. He has provided a sin offering to meet the imperfections of the case and render all acceptable to him.
IV. THE DEDICATION OF THE FIRSTFRUITS WAS THE EXPRESSION NOT ONLY OF THANKSGIVING BUT ALSO OF FAITH. God's rights first, even before man's need has been met. It was seeking God's kingdom first, in the assurance that all the needful things shall be added (Matthew 6:33). It is most important that we should always act in this trustful spirit. This faith is, in fact, a kind of firstfruits of the spiritual life which the Lord expect s, and in rendering it to him we experience wondrous comfort and blessing. - R.M.E.
I. OBEDIENCE TO THIS COMMAND CONSTITUTES EVERY OFFERING A PART OF THE COVENANT BETWEEN GOD AND HIS PEOPLE. It was by virtue of a special covenant that the nation had been selected as the vehicle of Divine revelation and the repository of Divine favours. The relation of superiority in which God stands to man, places in a strong light his condescension in making an agreement by which he binds himself as well as the people. Every covenant implies mutual obligations. God promised to guide and bless the Israelites if they, in their turn, kept his commandments and held him in proper esteem. To put salt, therefore, in compliance with his behest, was to acknowledge that the covenant remained in force, and the act became a present instance of the existence of the covenant. It was as much as to say, "I present this gift because of the covenanted relationship in which I stand to Jehovah." The covenant of the gospel is ratified in Christ for all his faithful seed, who are made partakers of the blessing promised to Abraham (Galatians 3:16). Hence whatever we do is in the name of Christ, recognizing our sonship, heirship, and co-heirship. The covenant influences, embraces all thoughts and deeds.
II. SALT, AS THE EMBLEM OF HOSPITALITY, SHOWS THAT SERVICE TO GOD IS A FEAST OF FRIENDSHIP. The offering of flour on which oil was poured was itself indicative of a friendly meal, and this view was strengthened by adding salt to the sacrifice. So surprising is the intimacy to which the Most High admits his people, that they may be said to feed daily at his table; all the fruits of the earth are the product of his bounty, which honours men as his guests. We do but render to God what he first bestowed; and in thus approaching we enjoy his presence and favour. It is permitted us to make ready for the Passover, whereat the Lord shall sit down with his disciples.
III. SALT, AS A PRESERVATIVE, REMINDS US OF THE PURITY WHICH SHOULD CHARACTERIZE OUR LIVES. Nothing that partakes of corruption is fit to be brought unto the ever-living God. "Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit." "Flesh and blood" tend to impurity and death, and "cannot inherit the kingdom of God." Our speech must he with grace, seasoned with salt, lest anything destructive of peace or edification should issue from our lips. Apart from the life that is instilled through faith in Christ, man is dead, and decay is loathsome. Without faith our walk and conversation cannot please God, nor are we "the salt of the earth." Christians are salted with the purifying fire of trial (Mark 9:49).
IV. SALT TEACHES US THE PERPETUITY OF OUR FRIENDSHIP WITH GOD. A covenant of salt is for ever. (See Numbers 18:19 and 2 Chronicles 13:5.) It lasts as long as the conditions are observed by us, for God will never change, nor desire on his part to revoke his blessing. Let us rejoice in the truth that he abideth faithful, and in the thought of the indissoluble alliance thereby created. He does not wish to treat us as playthings, invented to amuse him temporarily, and then to be tossed aside. We are put in possession by the great Healer and Life-restorer of imperishable principles, seeds of righteousness, that avert corruption and defy decay. Our devotion is not a hireling service that may soon terminate, but a consecration for the everlasting ages. - S.R.A.
I. THINGS PECULIAR TO THE OFFERING OF THE FIRSTFRUITS. These are:
1. The matter of the offering.
(1) It is specified as "green ears of corn." Still, observe, it is of the nature of bread, and so still typifies Christ, the Bread of Life.
(2) But in this case the life is in the grain. In this view Christ compares himself to a corn of wheat (John 12:24). In this passage there is also a reference to Psalm 72:16, which is construed by learned Jews thus: "He shall be a corn of wheat in the earth on the top of the mountains."
(3) It is specified as "firstfruits." As the firstborn of every animal was the Lord's (Exodus 12:29; Exodus 13:12, 13; Numbers 18:16), so did he claim the vegetable firstfruits. And as Christ is "the Firstborn of every creature" (Colossians 1:15), the Anti-type of every firstborn, - so is he the Firstfruits of everything in the creation. Through him all things are blessed to our use and benefit.
(4) In this character Jesus will come out in full form in the resurrection. He is the "First-begotten from the dead" (Revelation 1:5). The "Firstfruits of them that slept;" and still sleep (1 Corinthians 15:20, 23; 1 Thessalonians 4:14). Thus is he "the Beginning [or Chief] of the [new] creation of God ' (Revelation 3:14).
2. The treatment it received.
(1) The corn was dried by the fire. It was not allowed to dry gradually and gently in the air, but was violently scorched. Here was set forth expressively that fire of grief and sorrow which parched the soul of Jesus. The fires of his zeal for the glory of God, which was outraged by the sinfulness of men, entered into his very soul (Psalm 119:139). So did the corresponding flames of sympathy for that humanity which he had so wondrously assumed; consuming, because of its sinfulness, under the fires of God's anger.
(2) It was beaten. This threshing of the wheat represented the severity with which Jesus was treated,
(a) in the court of Caiaphas;
(b) in the hall of Pilate;
(c) at the place called Calvary (Isaiah 53:5, 8).
II. THINGS COMMON TO THE FIRSTFRUITS AND OTHER FORMS OF THE MINCHAH.
1. It was offered upon the altar of burnt offerings.
(1) Touching the altar, it became a sacrifice to God.
(2) Consumed in the fire, it was accepted by God.
2. It was offered with oil.
(1) The natural use of this was that the offering thereby became more readily consumed. The flame of oil is bright and fervent.
3. It was offered with frankincense.
(1) The physical use of this would be to take away from the tabernacle the smell of a slaughter-house, and to fill the courts with a grateful odour.
(2) The spiritual use was to prefigure the fragrance of the merits of Jesus,
(a) in his sacrifice (Ephesians 5:2);
(b) in his intercession (Revelation 8:3, 4).
Thus the offensiveness of the flesh in us is destroyed, and the living sacrifice becomes acceptable (Romans 12:1). - J.A.M.