There are many unique and different things which mark the meal offering. The first and most obvious is the misleading translation given to the title. It is called in our AV, a “meat offering.” It is actually a “meal” or grain offering and not a meat offering. There is no meat associated with it.
But then there is perhaps the most difficult difference – the absence of blood. Some might suggest that for grain to be prepared, the “life of a plant” had to be taken. But Scripture links the sacrifice of life with blood being shed. So it is not likely that this is the key. What will be seen and may serve as an explanation is that the meal offering was rarely ever offered alone. It was normally linked with the burnt offering. This association will help us not only to explain this bloodless sacrifice, but to also grasp its meaning.
The Desire Awakened
What would motivate a man to bring a meal offering? Its link with the burnt offering suggests that, as the latter was brought conscious of an inability to love the Lord with all one’s heart, so here the meal offering was brought with an awareness of a failure to “love my neighbor as myself.” The fine flour of the meal offering would speak of an evenness and balance in every moral virtue or trait. Our interactions with others display how “uneven” we are. He stands in contrast to us. He was the only “normal Man” who ever lived. He perfectly lived out teaching such as found in Colossians 3:12-14.
The Details Given
What it was essentially: The first thing we are told concerning this offering is that it was “fine flour.” No process is mentioned, no manufacturing is implied, no tool is raised to produce fine flour. It is fine flour inherently and essentially (Lev 2:1). Likewise our Lord Jesus Christ, the antitype of the flour, was perfectly full of every virtue that God desired to see in a man. There was no process, no chastening, no refinement to develop these moral virtues. They were inherent to His person.
All His dealings with others were marked by the truth: “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” To this fine flour was added oil to remind us that the virtues displayed were in the power of the Spirit of God. From the offering, God was to receive all the frankincense. No one appreciated what He was to men; but God appreciated and delighted in seeing a Man Who always “esteemed others better than self.”
What it displayed experientially: Verses 4-9 tell us of three other ways in which the meal offering could be presented to God: in a flat plan, in a frying pan, or having been baked in an oven. These remind us of the experiences of Christ which served to reveal the fineness of the flour. He was inherently fine flour and did not need experiences to reveal His virtues to God; but they were displayed in all His relationships, words, and deeds. All three offerings show the meal offering exposed to the fire; however, it is not the fire of Calvary at first, but the fire of the hearth and home. In this we see the pressures Christ endured in home life and in society. Yet He was still the fine flour.
The “oven” experiences would suggest what was intense and not seen by men. The flat plate would be what was observed by all; the frying pan might tell of the beauties expressed to those who were nearest to Him.
Differences can be noted here again. The “oven” meal offering was not parted but brought in its entirety. The “flat plate” meal offering was parted into pieces. The latter suggests that we see one virtue of Christ in this incident and another in a different incident. But the meal offering made in the oven for the eye of God alone tells of a “wholeness” to every aspect of His life. Where we see kindness and compassion, God saw every virtue equally evident and operative.
What He is exclusively: The meal offering speaks of Christ in the fullness of His moral virtue, rendering to man all that God desired a man to be to other men. He possessed every beauty. Not only did His life bring pleasure to God, and not only did God find in Christ everything to please Him, but there was nothing which could please God which was not found in Christ. God found all His delight, and every conceivable delight, in His Son. There is nothing that God finds pleasure in that was not in Him.
The meal offering was brought to the altar and the priest took a handful from it and placed it on the altar with all the frankincense. What God received depended on the size of the priestly hand. What God receives from us depends on the size of our priestly hands, our ability to “apprehend” Christ.
The remainder of the offering became food for the priestly family. What God enjoyed, the food for the altar, became what the offering priest could enjoy as well.
What was excluded: Two things were never to be found in a meal offering – honey and leaven. Throughout Scripture, leaven is emblematic of evil. It puffs up and, while increasing size, does not add weight. It permeates everything. There was to be nothing symbolic of sin in the offering. In fact, this is one of the offerings to which God appends the pronouncement, “It is most holy,” a reminder of the sinless holy character of Christ in His manhood.
But what of the honey? It represents sweetness, but it is a sweetness which sours when exposed to the heat. If leaven speaks of the worst of nature, honey would speak of the best of nature. Neither were to be part of the offering. If leaven reminds us of pride and puffing up, honey speaks of what is “put on.” There was nothing artificial or insincere in Christ. He never had to conceal inner anger or frustration. There was no hiding of His “true” feelings when He dealt with men. Sincerity, honesty, integrity, and reality marked His every encounter.
The Days of Observation
A profitable study would be to consider the different times the meal offering was brought to God and different circumstances which hindered meal offerings (Joel 2:14; Neh 13:5, 9; Mal 1:10; 2:12; 3:3). It was offered continually or daily (Num 28), at ceremonial occasions (Num 5, 6; Lev 8, 14), at the Feasts (Num 28; Lev 23), during crisis days (Ezra), and in the coming Millennial days (Ezek).