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The Christadelphian | June 2014

In the magazine this month:

  • Editorial The Meal Offering
  • New showroom For second-hand books at the Office
  • Letters to the Editor
  • Sunday morning The Lamb of God | J. Hamilton Wilson
  • Studies in Matthew’s Gospel 06 – Judgement | John Benson
  • Where East meets West | Tim Webborn
  • 100 years ago
  • Archaeology in focus 06 – Beds of ivory | James Andrews
  • The Cyrus Cylinder | Tom Ingham
  • The purpose of the Ecclesia 05 – The Ecclesia as the body of Christ part 2 | Peter Anderton & Paul Tovell
  • Enhancing our worship Suggestions for June | John Botten
  • Bible Companion | John Hingley
  • Faith Alive! Aquila & Priscilla | David Simpson
  • “A true witness delivereth souls” | BLC Team, Nottingham
  • Book Review The Temptations of Jesus by Vic Aucott | Michael Owen
  • Signs of the times “East of Suez” | Roger Long
  • Israel and their Land More French Jews arrive | Roger Long
  • Epilogue “For whoever is ashamed …” | David Caudery
  • The brotherhood near and far

A sample article from this edition:

Editorial

The Meal Offering

THE early chapters of Leviticus are not everybody’s favourites. A great deal of detail is given regarding the different offerings which the Children of Israel were to observe throughout their lives, and careful reading is required if we are to grasp both the practical and spiritual aspects of this area of worship. It is easy to let our eyes glaze over as we read these chapters, without appreciating the great lessons which the Almighty was setting out for His people. By ensuring this is kept on record for us today, God is also ensuring that lessons about the saving work of the Lord Jesus are preserved for the discerning reader. Speaking through the prophet Hosea, the Lord says:

“For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.” (Hosea 6:6)

In quoting this passage, the Lord Jesus encourages his hearers to “go and learn what this means” (Matthew 9:13), making clear these passages regarding the offerings carry a significance beyond the ritual, a spiritual relevance which should be meaningful to the offerer in Israel and to today’s reader.

Bread of God

It should be remembered that the offerings had the status of being food for the Lord. For example, with reference to the peace offerings, the record says, “It is the food of the offering made by fire” (Leviticus 3:16). Chapter 21:6 says, “the offerings of the Lord made by fire, the bread of their God”, and in verse 17 we are told that anyone who has a blemish “let him not approach to offer the bread of his God”. This paints a picture we can relate to, one of a God whose desire for sacrifice is likened to hunger, which is satisfied by the food offered. The Psalmist makes clear, however, that this is never to be a simple transaction:

“If I were hungry, I would not tell you; for the world is mine, and all its fullness … Offer to God thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the Most High. Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” (Psalm 50:12-15)

Making an offering was never to be only about the act, but the spirit in which the sacrifice was given. The offerer should be full of thanksgiving that such provisions existed for sins to be removed and atonement to be made, allowing him to appreciate the blessing of forgiveness.

Similarly there was strict instruction given regarding the fat and the blood of the sacrifices. Neither of these belonged to the one making the offering, nor to the priest, but to the Lord alone (Leviticus 3:17). The fat was His, for it was the very best part of the sacrifice, and the blood was His because it contained the life, and without the shedding of this blood there is no remission.

Grain offering

What are we to make then of the meal offering, confusingly referred to in the KJV as the meat offering, but more accurately described an offering of grain? Here was no fat to give to the Lord, nor any blood that contained the life. There could be no laying on of hands, as was required under the animal offerings, indicating a close association between the animal being sacrificed and the man making the offering. The Hebrew word translated (meat) offering is also translated as ‘gift’ or ‘present’ in the Old Testament. For example, Jacob sent a present to Esau when he was returning somewhat fearfully from Laban (Genesis 32:20). This idea of a gift indicates an acknowledgement of authority by the one giving, and is one that carries through to the grain offering, where man makes a gift to God, his superior.

Spiritual meaning

As with all the offerings, the features of the ritual carry significance. This gift was to be a product of the soil, and not something that had grown of its own accord, but something that had been cultivated, nurtured and cared for. It represented effort on behalf of the one making the offering, the fruit of his labours. Leviticus 2 explains that different kinds of grain offerings could be made (for example fine flour or baked cakes), but these had to be processed in some way before being given to God. What had been carefully cultivated over several months now required further attention before the offering was acceptable, all indicating this is the fruit of man’s labours. Three ingredients were required in the processing of the corn, namely frankincense, oil and salt, all of which have important spiritual significance. Incense symbolises the prayers a man offers (Psalm 141:2) and the oil represents the word of God (see for example Exodus 27:20). The seasoning of the cake with salt, the great preservative, improves the taste and reminds us of the great responsibility of preserving the things of God, for “ye are the salt of the earth”, as Jesus explains.

This offering however was to contain no leaven, a symbol of spiritual decline and decay throughout scripture.

It is clear therefore that this offering required time and effort, an indication of the service that should be given by the faithful, and must contain proper attention to prayer, the scriptures and the preservation of holy things. It was not a sacrifice where shortcuts could be taken, but one that required consistent industry over time. Any corrupting influence was to be removed. Similarly our discipleship is to be one of careful cultivation with an appropriate concentration on spiritual matters, which will help us prepare our offering.

Manna

One other aspect of this offering attracts attention. This particular sacrifice has an emphasis on the memorial (see for example Leviticus 2:2,9,16), indicating that in eating this meal the people were to remember, in the same way they had to do at Passover. And this memorial was linked to the great provision made by the Almighty, when He gave them manna in the wilderness day by day throughout their desert wanderings; for we are told that the provision for each person was one omer (Exodus 16:36), and it was this amount that the priests were to offer as the continual meal offering, day by day, for the nation of Israel’s memorial. One man’s daily portion was to be sufficient for the nation’s offering.

Perhaps for the spiritually discerning Israelite the collection of manna each morning would not be a task of gathering food only, nor something which spoke of God’s continuing goodness (even though it was certainly that), but something pointing forward to His greater provision when He sent His Son, who declared himself to be “the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof and not die” (John 6:50). This daily provision in the wilderness became the memorial of the grain offering, that a man was to cultivate and process before offering it back to God.

How fitting then that the memorial we take week by week reminds us of the work of the Lord Jesus. He was God’s gift to us, and the small morsel of bread we take speaks volumes of a life of service and dedication, of prayer, preservation and a concentration on the things of the Father. The days of making a grain offering may be no more, but the exhortation to devote ourselves to the things of the Almighty and His beloved Son is as strong now as it was for the Children of Israel.

Andrew Bramhill

 

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