The Grace of the Cross from the Valley of Vision
O My Lord and Savior,
Thou hast also appointed a cross for me to take up and carry, a cross before thou givest me a crown. Thou hast appointed it to be my portion, but self-love hates it, carnal reason is unreconciled to it; without the grace of patience I cannot bear it, walk with it, profit by it.
O blessed cross, what mercies dost thou bring with thee! Thou art only esteemed hateful by my rebel will, heavy because I shirk thy load.
Teach me, gracious Lord and Savior, that with my cross thou sendest promised grace so that I may bear it patiently, that my cross is thy yoke which is easy, and thy burden which is light. Amen.
Leviticus 2:1-2 The Providential Offering
2 “When anyone brings a grain offering as an offering to the Lord, his offering shall be of fine flour. He shall pour oil on it and put frankincense on it 2 and bring it to Aaron’s sons the priests. And he shall take from it a handful of the fine flour and oil, with all of its frankincense, and the priest shall burn this as its memorial portion on the altar, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the Lord. 3 But the rest of the grain offering shall be for Aaron and his sons; it is a most holy part of the Lord’s food offerings.
13 You shall season all your grain offerings with salt. You shall not let the salt of the covenant with your God be missing from your grain offering; with all your offerings you shall offer salt.
In the ESV the subtitle for this passage is “The Grain Offering”, which is appropriate since it is an offering of “fine flour”. Before we go on, let’s notice that there are three parts of the sacrificial system. When you read them, you’re going to think, well that’s obvious, why bother? First, there’s the worshiper. Second, there’s the sacrifice. And third, there’s the priest. The reason we bother is because every part of the Old Testament (OT) points to Christ and since this sacrifice doesn’t involve blood, it makes it a little more difficult to make it Christ centered.
As we come to think about this sacrifice let’s consider the element: fine flour. John Currid notes here, “The worshipper makes the preliminary preparations for the grain offering. First, he is to gather some ‘fine flour’. This term in Hebrew refers to luxurious food (Ezek. 16:13, 19) of the kind that is used in a king’s palace (1 Kings 4:22) or for honored guests (Gen. 18:6).”1 It’s not just some old flour that’s gone rancid (easy for it to do before the days of bleaching), nor is it the run of the mill course ground corn meal sized flour. This flour, like the animal of the whole burnt offering, is of some value. The preciousness of the sacrifice is probably what separated Abel’s righteous offering from Cain’s wicked offering (Abel brought the best of the flock, Cain just brought something he grew, the text says nothing about first-fruits nor best).
Second, it’s flour made from wheat. Bread was a staple food for the Israelite. Even though the processing of it into fine flour made it somewhat precious, at the end of the day, it’s still just wheat. This offering is of much less value than any of the other offerings, so it must be ground fine and frankincense is added.
Now, let’s consider the worshiper’s part. The flour isn’t acceptable apart from it being ground into fine flour. The heart of the worshiper is reflected in his allegiance to God’s guidelines. We see here a reflection of the regulative principle of worship2 that if we are to worship in Spirit and Truth, we must adhere to God’s design of worship. Couldn’t Cain have argued he was worshipping sincerely even though his sacrifice wasn’t up to par?
And, finally the priest. He is the one through whom the sacrifice is made to God. The priest is the one who brings the flour (or cooked cake) to the altar and burns it. The act of burning the offering was essential to the worship of God, not just because God commanded it. Like the fineness of the flour reflects the perfection of God, the smoke from the altar pictures the “ascension” of Israel’s gifts to heaven where they can please God. The priest functions to transport the earthly into the heavenly—not just for this sacrifice, but for all of them—through burning.
Christ taught us to pray, “give us this day our daily bread” which is at once acknowledging that all of life’s gifts are from heaven and a plea that they continue. It is a prayer for both physical and spiritual sustenance. When the Israelite came offering the fine flour of the grain offering, this most ubiquitous of food staples, he was acknowledging God’s ubiquitous provision, physically and spiritually. When we pray “give us this day our daily bread” we are doing the same thing.
Herman Witsius (a theologian in the Dutch Reformed church during the 1600’s) wrote about the petition, “give us this day our daily bread”:
My view of the matter is this. It is the will of God that man should consist of a soul and a body united. For both parts he has laid down his laws, that in both the image of his holiness might be seen. To both he has promised rewards, that in both his truth and goodness might shine. On both he bestows the acts of his bounty, that both might form a mirror of his providence. Nay, Christ himself obeyed and suffered, both in soul and in body, that he might not only bless our soul, but might make our body “like unto his own glorious body.” Since, therefore, both parts of us are so much the objects of the Divine care, we are bound by the Divine example to take care of both.3
The priest as the mediator of the sacrifice points to Christ in that apart from Jesus’ work, our work means nothing. Our sacrifice is nothing—Jesus’ sacrifice is everything and ours are just a small gift of thanksgiving and service. Small in size and small in purity when compared to all Jesus did, and all the Holy One of Israel became for us. He who knew no sin became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21).
And the grain offering was always given with salt. It’s called the salt of the covenant. This was a typical practice in the ANE, it was a sign that this agreement was binding and it signified both parties were in agreement to keep the covenant. But the difference between this covenant and secular covenants, the worshiper—you and I—can never truly keep this covenant. So the salt of the covenant reminds us that our duty and devotion are required, but it ultimately points back to that first sacrifice in the garden, the covenant with Abram in Gen. 15 (“Fear not Abram, I am your shield”), and ultimately in Christ who perfectly did all that we are required to do.
All that we are, all that we have, is given to us by God through Jesus’ perfection. Our imperfect obedience to the covenant is made perfect because Jesus took on our covenant obligations for us. The gifts we give to God are pleasing as we offer them through Jesus.
May the great shepherd of the sheep, Our Lord Jesus Christ, encourage you in body and soul today.
1Currid, J. D. (2004). A Study Commentary on Leviticus (p. 38). Darlington, England; Webster, New York: Evangelical Press.
2 Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter 21, part 1, “the acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshipped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible re presentation, or any other way not prescribed in the holy scripture.”
3 Witsius, H., & Pringle, W. (1839). Sacred dissertations on the Lord’s Prayer (pp. 268–269). Edinburgh: Thomas Clark.