What is the relevance of this ceremony to us who move in light of the New Testament and its light and liberty? From the perspective of those who have come into the good of a completed work and an all-sufficient Savior, we look back at sacrifices and offerings and see in them lessons and illustrations that give us insight into what we have in Christ.
In the burnt offering, it was suggested that the offerer was coming with a deep awareness of what he lacked in his devotion to God. This paralleled the first demand of the law: to love the Lord with all one’s heart, mind, soul, and strength. In the meal offering, there was an awareness that I am not “fine flour” in my dealings with others. I do not “love my neighbor as myself.”
Some may object here and warn against the danger of morbid pre-occupation with self. But this is something far different. This is reality. If the meal offering shows us that we are not the “fine flour” we were meant to be toward others, if it is showing us that we fail to fulfill the second part of the law (loving neighbor as self), then I am continually reminded of my failure. God intended us, as being in the image of God, to treat others as God would treat them. We are to represent God in our dealings with our neighbor. But we fail.
Progress in Christianity is paralleled by an increasing awareness of what is lacking in me. This reveals how unlike Christ we are. Selfishness, self-awareness, pride, and a host of other evils which are in our hearts continually remind us of our failure toward others. Even in confessing our self-awareness to God, we are self-aware of our “humility!” God’s answer to this is not a casual dismissive attitude. It is an appreciation of what this offering signifies.
As we interact with other believers we quickly realize that we are not “fine flour.” Balance and fragrance are not always found in our ways. Impatience, irritation, selfishness, and a flood of other impurities, are found in us. The fire of the hearth (the home) reveals our imperfections. The flatplate reveals what is lacking in us so obviously, even to others. And if no other eye sees, the eye of God can pierce the oven experiences and see what is unseen by men of our anger, pride, and manipulative manner.
Despair? Despondency? Frustration? Thank God there is an answer. It is found in another.
I can turn my eyes from self and all I am and gaze upon another Who has met every demand of the second half of the law. He loved His neighbor as Himself. We have no point of reference; we have no experience we can draw upon to understand. This Man never had a selfish thought. He never used a person for His own ends. He never failed to treat everyone as God would have a man treat a man.
He was fine flour. He was always balanced, never displaying one attribute at the expense of another. While we look at distinct incidents in His life and interactions and note one trait or another, the eye of God saw every virtue present moment by moment in this perfect Man. Nothing was lacking and nothing overshadowed. He knew what to, when to do it, how to do it, and to whom to do it (Isa 50:4). Everything was in season (Psa 1:3), and nothing was out of season (Luke 23:41 Newb). The oil of the Spirit saturated every fiber of His life and service; the fragrance and purity of the frankincense rose moment by moment. He was that in Himself inherently (Lev 2:11-13); He was that experientially when exposed to the fires of life’s sufferings (Lev 2:4-9).
Pressures intense reveal anew
Inner perfections shining through.
What a wonderful thing that He is this eternally.
What fruitfulness marked that life! What beauty for the eye of God. Finally, a Man on earth Who not only possessed and displayed what pleased God, but everything that pleased God: “in Whom is all My delight.”
Every interaction with others served to display what God desired. Purity of motive, sincerity of word, gentleness and meekness of manner; every aspect of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23) in one continuous, unceasing stream flowed from that life to the heart of God. While primarily for the heart of God, the believer has the great privilege of enjoying what God enjoys. For us there is a continual feast as well, gazing upon the perfections of Christ. He is the summation of all that is lovely” (Song 5:16 Newb).
Lest any should think that an appreciation of the offering in this manner means excusing one from striving to treat others by the principle of “love your neighbor as self,” there is another principle which is operative: you cannot look at Christ without longing to be like Him and becoming like Him!
Where does faith enter into this equation? Paul reminded the Colossian believers that when they received Christ, they had received everything they needed for growth and development. “As ye have received … rooted and built up in Him … abounding therein” (Col 2:6-7). God’s remedy for my awareness of my deficiency, in fact, His remedy for every deficiency, is grasping that I am in Christ. In Him, I am accepted and can approach God. This does not foster an indifferent attitude to my relationships with other believers and other people, but it does teach me that there was One Who perfectly satisfied God as to what we as men owe other men.
The offerer, aware of the imperfection of his devotion to God and of his love for his neighbor, would come with his offerings: the burnt offering and his meal offering. In bringing these to God he was owning that what he lacked, the offerings were to make “atonement” for, and to enable him to approach God as a worshiper.
Can we who are marked by such glaring deficiencies move freely in the presence of God? Can we come as worshipers despite what we are? Unlike the Jewish worshiper under the law, we do not come with a sacrifice. God Himself has provided that. By faith I grasp what God has done, and move in the good of all Christ is. What a salvation!