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Its relation to the Burnt-offering—Denotes the Sinner’s offering of himself to the Lord—The best demanded—The oil of Unction—Frankincense—Leaven and Honey excluded—Salt demanded—Was Eucharistic in its nature—The Mercies of God.
There are some differences between the offerings here prescribed, and those treated of in the preceding chapter. Those were animal; these are vegetable. Those were bloody sacrifices; these are unbloody oblations. Those were wholly consumed upon the altar; these were to be burned only in part, and the remainder made the property of the priests. Those were altogether propitiatory—intended to expiate sin; these are essentially eucharistic—expressions and returns of gratitude and thanksgiving.
And as these differ from the preceding in their nature, so do they also in their application and meaning. Both refer to Christ, and to the sinner as represented in Christ; but in other attitudes. The former presented the Savior in his character as "a propitiation for our sins;" in these he is exhibited as our model and sanctifier, through whom we ourselves are offered to the Lord. The one relates to Justification, or the mere forgiveness or atonement of sin; these relate to sanctification, or our conformity to Christ’s holiness. In the one we behold penitence laying its hand on the head of the innocent sufferer, and praying to be spared for that sufferer’s sake. In those now before us, we behold gratitude making its living return for the unspeakable gift obtained through the former. The one, however, is not to be separated from the other. The holocaust, or whole burnt-offering of the first chapter, and the meat, or rather bread, offering, are but two parts of one great transaction According to the twenty-ninth of Exodus, it was not allowable to present a holocaust without accompanying it with a meat-offering. The fifteenth of Numbers also connects the two, as in some sense parts of each other.
The holocaust goes first. This is the foundation of the whole process. A man cannot be sanctified, or made holy, without first having his past sins covered and forgiven. But mere forgiveness, without something more to follow it, is not salvation. There must be reformation, and a moral change, additional to the atonement, or we shall soon find ourselves again just where we were before. Hence followed the meat-offering, as a sort of essential consequent and filling out of the holocaust, indicating the grateful surrender of the sinner to a life of obedience. The relation between the two is intimate and essential. To separate them, would be to put asunder what God hath joined together—a vitiation of the Divine arrangement. If we have effectually laid hold upon Christ as the sacrifice for our sins, we must needs go on to glorify him in our bodies and our spirits, which are his. No attempt to be holy shall ever succeed before God, unless founded upon atonement by blood. From the days of Adam, bloody sacrifices and meat-offerings went together; and until the day of doom, justification through the blood of Christ, and sanctification, must remain connected and inseparable. Abel brought of the firstlings of his flock, and so looked for acceptance through blood; "and the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering." Cain refused to offer the sacrifice of blood; and though he brought the fruit of the ground—the meat-offering—God had no respect to him, or to his offering. The one embraced the doctrine of atonement by blood, and thus became pleasing to God, and a holy and patient martyr. The other expected to be sanctified without atonement by blood, and with all his meat-offerings, he remained under the curse, and became a persecutor and a murderer. Sanctification by the Spirit is built upon justification by the blood of atonement. And it is only when we have received Christ in his character of a sacrifice for our sins, that we are in a condition to render ourselves a living sacrifice, so as to be acceptable to God. The meat-offering illustrates the second great step in the process of salvation. Let us, then, look at it somewhat more in detail.
I. Let it be observed, that the Jew, for the substance of his meat-offering, was directed to bring fine flour, or cakes or wafers of fine flour, or fine flour baked on a plate, or fine flour fried in oil, or the first fruits in advance of the harvest beaten out of full ears dried by the fire. Either wheat or barley would answer; but the requirement reached the very best grain, either whole, as in the case of the first fruits, or in its very finest and best preparations. Thus are we to offer our very best to the Lord—our bodies and souls, our faculties and attainments—and in the highest perfection in which we can bring them. Christ is the very finest of the wheat and flour, as well as the chiefest of the flock; and both as the one, and as the other, he was completely given to the Lord. From the silence of far eternity, his voice was heard, saying, "Lo, I come, to do thy will, O God!" When on earth, it was his constant protestation, "I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, hut the will of him that sent me." And up to his last hours, when the clouds of his great agony began to settle heavy upon him, he still held out to this: "Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless, not my will, but thine, be done." "Being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." There was no selfish reservation in him. He freely surrendered everything, even to the laying down of his life in crucifixion. This he did, not only as our burnt-offering, but also as our meat-offering, "leaving us an example, that we should follow his steps." And if we are to be identified with him to the forgiveness of our sins through his blood, we must also be identified with him in a living exemplification of his spirit by walking "even as he walked." "I have given you an example," says he, "that ye should do as I have done." To our faith in him as our sacrifice, we must, therefore, add a devout imitation of him as our model. We must submit ourselves to God, as he submitted himself; and give ourselves entirely up to do the whole will of the Father, as he gave himself.
"For if any man have not the spirit of Christ, he is none of his." Holiness is not the mere saying of a few prayer; or the paying of a few weekly visits to the sanctuary; or the giving of a few pennies, now and then, for the Church or the poor. It is the rendition of fresh grain and fine flour to the Lord, our God and benefactor. It is the presentation of our entire selves a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is our reasonable service.
II. It is also to be observed, that oil was to be poured upon, or mingled with, the flour of the meatoffering. This was not common oil, but the oil of unction, or holy oil. It was a peculiar composition, made according to divine directions. It was made of "pure myrrh," "sweet cinnamon," "sweet calamus," "cassia," and "olive oil," "compounded after the art of the apothecary." It was a material used in consecrating, or setting apart. It refers to the Holy Spirit, and the operations of that Spirit in setting apart whom he pleases. It typifies that "unction of the Holy One," of which John speaks so largely, No offering of ourselves to God, no true sanctification can occur, without the oil of divine grace, the principle of holiness and sacred power which is poured upon the believer by the Holy Ghost. Even Jesus had to be thus anointed, or christed, before he was fully set apart to his work, or could become our acceptable oblation. And in this also he is our example. No consecration is complete without this holy unction and anointing of the Spirit. It is not the mere surrender of ourselves to the Lord that makes us holy, but the accompanying oil of the Holy Ghost, working in and through us, mellowing and softening everything to the divine will, and making our whole being fragrant with love, gratitude, reverence, and every gracious disposition. "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance, and such like." These are the graces in which the Spirit manifests its presence and operations. These are the myrrh, and cinnamon, and sweet calamus, and cassia, and olive oil, which are to perfume and lubricate the fine flour which we bring to the altar of God. And without these, or the sincere effort to have them accompany our gifts, we fail in our oblation, and are not accepted before the Lord.
III. You will notice here another peculiarity in the meat-offering. There was frankincense to be put on it. The frankincense, or olibanum, was a resinous gum, obtained from a tree of the turpentine bearing kind, which, when put upon the fire, or a hot plate, sent forth very fragrant vapor. In the case of the meat-offering, it was to be wholly burnt on the altar. This circumstance identifies it at once with the burnt-offering, or holocaust. That burnt-offering, as we saw in our last, represented Christ as the sacrifice for our sins. The frankincense therefore plays the part here, of representing the mediation and intercession of the Savior—the grateful fragrance which comes up before God from the altar of burnt sacrifice. Our consecration to God, even with the gracious operations of the Spirit, could not be acceptable, except through Christ, and the sweet intercessorial perfume which arises from his offering in our behalf. It is remarkable how particular the Scriptures are, in making everything connected with our salvation depend upon Christ and his suffering in our stead. The meat-offering is based upon the holocaust; our consecration to God is on the ground of our justification through the blood of atonement. And even then it is nothing, except through the appeals and grateful intercessions which continue to rise and plead for us from the cross of Calvary. With all our forgiveness, and all our consecration, and all our spiritual graces, we should still fail to approve ourselves unto God, but for the incense that rises from the burned lamb. It is all through the mediation and merit of Christ, that our services for his honor and glory, our gifts to his priests or his poor, our works of faith and love, or any of the best deeds of the best saints, "come up as an odor of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God." It is a comforting thought, that our poor services and prayers, if sincere, are acceptable to the Lord—that our tears for the desolations of Zion are all treasured in his bottle—and that our efforts for good are things in which he delights. But it is all owing to the sweet frankincense of the Savior’s righteousness and atoning sacrifice. To him we are indebted for it all. As a sweet flower over which the passing traveller stoops down to regale himself with its fragrance, so does the Father delight in the mediation work of his Son. This is "the mountain of myrrh, and the hill of frankincense," to which he betakes himself "until the day break, and the shadows flee away." And so should all Christians seek to dwell amid the Redeemer’s righteousness, that, like the maidens of Ahasuerus, they may be fragrant with sweet odors for the bridegroom’s coming.
IV. Another peculiar regulation in the case of this meat-offering is, that it was to be kept clear of leaven and honey. The record says, "No meat-offering which ye shall bring unto the Lord shall be made with leaven: for ye shall burn no leaven, nor any honey, in any offering of the Lord made by fire."
Leaven indicates corruption. Its principle is a species of putrefaction. It tends to spoil and decay. We can be at no loss to ascertain the moral meaning of its prohibition in this case.
"Leaven is a well known emblem of pride and hypocrisy. These swell the heart, and puff it up with self-importance and self-deceit. This was especially the leaven of the Pharisees, who made their prayers, and gave their alms, and did all, to be seen of men."
"Leaven is also used as an emblem of malice and wickedness, as we learn from the words of the apostle, ’Let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.’" (Bush in loc.)
By forbidding the use of leaven, then, God meant to set forth the truth, that our offering to him must be pure, and accompanied with a charitable heart. Any insincerity, hypocrisy, selfishness, malice, or wickedness cherished in the soul, will corrupt, vitiate, and destroy any man’s piety or consecration to God We must be honest in these sacred things, and in real earnest, and not deal deceitfully with others or with ourselves. If there is anything to be abhorred, it is the man who seeks to promote his own selfish ends by pretending to be devout and good. Not too much did the indignant poet say, when he charged such a man with "stealing the livery of heaven to serve the devil in." If we would be Christians indeed, we must purge out the old leaven of hypocrisy, and let it not so much as touch our sacred offerings. It is a foul and putrefying thing. And so also with "the leaven of malice." It must be put away far from us. It is a dreadful corruption to be bearing enmity and hatred. It unfits for everything good, and sullies the soul in which it dwells. We must be forgiving. What saith the Savior? "If thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee, leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift." "And when ye stand praying, if ye have aught against any, forgive; that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses: but if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses." We must purge out the old leaven of malice. It will taint any offering, however perfect and pure otherwise.
But why keep away honey? Simply because it is a fermenter, a corrupter, and carries in it the principle of putrefaction. And as leaven represents the ugly, offensive, sour elements of depravity, so honey is the emblem of such as are sweet and attractive to the taste—"the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life." Sensual indulgences and worldly pleasures, as well as hypocrisy and malice, will corrupt and destroy our best oblations. God does not mean that we should become cynics and eremites. The good and the blessedness that is in the world, is here for his friends, and not only for his enemies. He has not placed us in connection with the grand physical economy around us, just to torment us with the sorry efforts of trying to cut loose from it. He has not given us these five senses, just that they might be five grand avenues of vexation and torture by depriving them of the very gratifications for which they were made. I cannot so conceive of God, or of his ways. Nay, how does the Christian’s charter run? "All things are yours; whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours." Would God deprive me of what is mine by solemn charter under his own seal? "No, never. What is it, then, that he does demand? It is simply that we "use this world as not abusing it"—that we make it our servant, and not ourselves its servants. Most men love and serve the creature more than the Creator. They know no God hut pleasure. They honor no king but self. They live only to the flesh. They are not only sinners, but take pleasure in their sins. And this is that putrefying honey proscribed and prohibited by the Lord—"the members upon the earth" which we must "mortify." "Fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness," will make any offering an abomination unto the Lord, and must be wholly and forever avoided, if we would have the favor of God upon us or our services. There dare be no honey with the meat-offering—no sensuality or licentiousness along with our consecration to Jehovah.
V. Notice still another particular in this very significant service. Salt was to be used in it. The command was, "Every oblation of thy meat-offering shalt thou season with salt; neither shalt thou suffer the salt of the covenant of thy God to be lacking from thy meat-offering: with all thine offerings thou shalt offer salt." What did this mean?
Salt is just the opposite of leaven. The one corrupts, the other preserves. The one taints and hastens putrefaction; the other purifies and keeps wholesome. It was the custom in ancient times to ratify and confirm nearly every important bargain or contract by the eating together of the parties. This of course required the use of salt as an article invariably present on all such occasions It thus, or in some other way, came to be regarded as a symbol of agreement and pure abiding friendship. God’s covenant is called "a covenant of salt;" because it is a covenant of sincere friendship, which is to endure.
"The salt of the covenant," is the emblem of the honesty and incorruptible character of the covenant.
The salt of the meat-offering, then, tells of agreement; of real, mutual, happy agreement. If we are true in presenting ourselves to God, we come into harmony with God. We become his friends, and he our friend. As we move to him, he moves to us. As we come to terms with him, he comes to terms with us. We agree to be his obedient and loving children, and he agrees to be our protecting and loving Father. We give ourselves up to be his people, and he brings himself down to be our God. There is a complete concord and union—a welding together in a holy compact never to be broken. And without this salt, the offering is faulty and of none effect. We must throw down all our rebellion and selfishness, and cheerfully submit ourselves to God. We must join ourselves to him in friendly and inviolable bonds. We must covenant with him as he covenants with us, in "a covenant of salt;" that is, in an everlasting covenant of love and faithfulness.
But this same salt tells also of a pure, healthful, pervading savor of virtue and grace. It was the principle of savory purification to the sacrifice; and so the Savior requires of us to "have salt in ourselves." As every Christian is to be a living sacrifice—an accepted oblation unto God, he must comply with the law of sacrifice, and "be salted with salt;" that is, made savory and incorruptible by being per vaded with unfaltering principles of righteousness. His speech must be "always with grace, seasoned with salt;" that is, he must be a man of pure lips, not allowing corrupt communications to proceed out of his mouth. And no one can ever be a steadfast and accepted Christian without having in him the savory salt of good principles—honest intentions, and decided virtues. "With all thine offerings thou shalt offer salt."
How clearly and beautifully does all this set forth our sanctification in Christ Jesus! Many have debated, and wondered, and argued as to what sanctification is. Here is the answer. It is the willing and cheerful presentation of ourselves and our best to the Lord. It is the oil of the Holy Spirit pouring over us, and mixing through and through us, softening and consecrating every part and particle of us, and working in us the sweet fruits of grace. It is our poor but best endeavors perfumed and made acceptable by the rich frankincense of the Savior’s immolation. It is the purging of ourselves of the corrupting leaven of hypocrisy, malice, wickedness, and all the deceitful honey of sensual sweetness. It is the binding of ourselves to God in "a covenant of salt"—a covenant of perfect friendship and everlasting compact—a covenant ever to be actuated by pure motives and good principles. This is religion—piety—holiness. This is what God means that we should do and be, and for which he has made every necessary arrangement in the construction of the Gospel system. With this we are his friends, his chosen ones, his children, and heirs of all his glory.
"Happy are the people that are in such a case; yea, happy the people whose God is the Lord!" "They shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty."
VI. There is yet one particular respecting this meatoffering, to which I will call attention. I refer to its eucharistic nature. It was not so much a sacrifice as an oblation of praise. It was something of a thanksgiving service—a grateful return for forgiving mercies—a devout acknowledgment of deep and lasting indebtedness to God for his unspeakable goodness. When the pious Jew came with his sheaf or lubricated flour, his heart glowed with the sentiment of the Psalmist, "What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits towards me!"
Many are the obligations by which we are bound to present ourselves as living sacrifices unto God. Viewed in whatever light, it is our "reasonable service." But of all the great arguments which bind and move us to this surrender to our Maker, none stand out with a prominence so full and commanding as that drawn from "the mercies of God,’ When the apostle Paul looked around for considerations to persuade men to make the necessary offering of themselves to the Lord, he at once seized upon "the mercies of God," and began to beseech "by the mercies of God." The mercies of God—the mercies of God—this was argument enough. By these are we shut up and bound in to a life of holy consecration by walls and incentives which no man ought ever to wish to break, and which no good man will ever ignore or disregard. "The mercies of God!" who shall tell their excellence, their multitude, and the deep and mighty obligations with which they bind us to grateful and cheerful obedience to our Maker! Many a fond affection has glowed in the human heart, beautifying the circle of friendship, blessing the quiet home, dropping flowers along the pathway of life, and awakening reverence and attachments as strong as death; but none so unfaltering or so munificent in good as "the mercies of God." We were wrapped up with them in our Creator’s thought before our life began. They were present, breathing their blessings with our very substance, when we were fashioned into men. Before our appearance in the world, they had been at work preparing many fond affections for our reception, and arranging many a soft cushion to come between this hard earth and our youthful tenderness. They have tempered the seasons for our good, and filled the horn of plenty to make us blessed. Every day is a handful of sunbeams, kindled and cast down by the mercies of God, to gladden the place of our abode, and to light "us to the paths of peace. Every night is a pavilion of the same making, set around us to give us rest, whilst God touches his fingers to our eyelids, saying, "Sleep, my children, sleep." These living natures, by which we are distinguished from inanimate clods—these thinking, reasoning, moral powers, by which alone we rise above the brutes of the field—this beautiful creation by which we are surrounded—this earth, so admirably fitted up for our residence, carpeted with green and flowers, waving with pleasant harvests and shady trees, gushing with springs, gladdened with laughing brooks, lined with winding rivers broad and silvery, varied with hill and valley, girt round with the majesty of ocean, and arched over with a starry canopy which is the pavement of heaven—these varying seasons, youthful spring with life bursting out under all its dewy steps, autumn with its mellow glory and harvest songs, winter with its snowy vestments and joyous firesides—and living nature in ten thousand forms, singing, and dancing, and rejoicing before us forever; whence is all this? To what mysterious authorship is all this good and blessing to he ascribed?
Ask from the angels who looked on when the world was made—ask of the morning stars which sang together when it rolled forth into its place in the circuits of the sky—ask of the sons of God who shouted for joy as it went wheeling over its everlasting course—ask of the floods that clap their hands, and of the mountains and the hills that never cease their singing—ask of the winds that drive the chariot of Deity, and of the years that mark the revolutions of its wheels; one answer comes from all: "The mercies of God!" And yet the half has not been told. Why is it that any sinner is out of hell at this moment? Why was he not cut down in his first fit of passion, and sent to the judgment long ago for his sins. Why has not the earth yawned under him and swallowed him up as an ingrate rebel against the majesty of heaven? Why have not the thunders of eternity leaped forth and consumed him forever? Why does the voice of salvation come to him again and again, inviting to an everlasting home far in the peaceful sky? Why do the holy agencies of immortality throng around him to woo and win him from the ways of death? Why do redemption’s hopes still visit him as loving angels, and plead so earnestly for admission into his guilty soul? Consider, O man, the goodness of thy Maker. Turn over the leaves of the great volume of his mercies, and read. Survey those mighty depths of love. Sum up the records of his compassion. Thrust out a little into the ocean of his loving kindness, and say whether there is not something to move thee to lay thyself at once upon his altar, and to cry with thankful penitential joy—
Here, Lord, I give myself away,
’Tis all that I can do!
There was once a calm Lord’s-day evening, when the little band of Christ’s first disciples had quietly locked themselves into a private room for meditation and prayer. The night had hushed the busy world to rest, and solemn soberness was on the silent waiting worshippers. The door was securely shut, and all was still as the chamber of death. Suddenly there stood among them a mysterious stranger, and said, "Peace be unto you." He showed them his hands, with great gashes cut through them by strong nails. He unwound his mantle, and pointed them to a great opening torn up into his side. And he breathed on them, and said again, "Peace be unto you." It was one that had been dead. It was one who had been crucified. It was the risen Jesus, showing to his friends the marks of what he had borne for them, and proposing to them the rich purchase of his sufferings and death. It was an impressive scene, which made even the skeptical Thomas cry out, "My Lord! and my God!" But that same mysterious personage is here, in this solemn assembly, at this very moment, as really as in the place where he met the waiting disciples of old. Jesus is here; for he says "Wherever two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I." We see him not, but he is here. Here he stretches forth his pierced hands, and uncovers his torn side, and says, "See, what I have endured for you! Thus was my body broken, and my blood shed, for you! Thus have I suffered for you, and bled for you, and given myself up to death for you, and gone through the very woes of hell for you! But I have now made peace by my cross, and taken away the sentence of wrath, and purchased eternal life, and aim come to offer to you a home in the mansions of my Father! You have given me many a cold neglect, and harsh word, and cruel thrust, by despising my Gospel, and turning away from my love; but I forgive it all for ever, and offer you my peace! Take it, and you will soon weep no more, and sorrow no more. Take it, and my angels shall be your companions and friends. Take it, and my Father will be your Father too. Take it, and my own hands shall minister for ever to your joy. Only "take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, and ye shall find rest for your souls!" O, the mercies of God! The mercies of God! Who is not moved by the mercies of God! Who can refuse to say,
Here’s my heart, Lord, take and seal it—
Seal it from thy courts above!
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Seiss, Joseph A. "Commentary on Leviticus 2". Seiss' Lectures on Leviticus and Revelation. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany