Theme: The grain (or meal) offering pictures Christ in the purity of His life as an offering to God.
We're told that Abel brought an offering to God that was accepted; but that Cain's was not. Abel brought a firstling of his flock as a burnt offering (Genesis 4:1-5; see also Hebrews 11:4); and this is in keeping with the order of offerings described to us in the Book of Leviticus. The burnt offering was the offering of total dedication of self to God, and looks ahead to the sacrifice of Christ on our behalf. But Cain brought a grain offering—the fruit of the ground. He, as it were, brought the offering of his works without the offering of total dedication that first looked to the atonement of Christ. The burnt offering pictures justification; and the grain offering pictures sanctification. But the order of those two things must never be reversed.
The burnt offering pictured the perfect devotion of our Savior of Himself to God as an acceptable sacrifice. The grain offering pictures the perfection of that life that Christ offered to God.
I. THE THINGS THAT CHARACTERIZE THIS OFFERING.
A. Fine flour speaks of the balance of Christ's life. There were no imperfections or inequities in Him. He was even and consistent through and through; and nothing of godliness was lacking in His character.
B. The oil pictures the ministry of the Holy Spirit, who anointed Him and who was evident in every area of His life.
C. Frankincense pictures the pleasing sweetness and fragrance of His life to God. He always did that which was pleasing to His Father.
D. The fire pictures for us how Christ's life was tested and made perfect through suffering.
E. In all, it is a “sweet smelling” offering to the Lord. It reminds us that Christ was God's Son, in whom He was well-pleased.
II. THE DIFFERENT FORMS OF THIS OFFERING.
A. Fine flour (vv. 1-3). This would be the fundamental nature of each offering.
B. Baked in an oven (v. 4). This is an offering that most people would offer. It was made into cakes or wafers.
C. Baked in a pan (vv. 5-6). A poorer man might make this offering—one who did not have an oven. It was to be broken into pieces and poured with oil.
D. Baked in a frying pan (v. 7). A very poor man might offer this—one who had nothing more than a frying pan. There was no one who was kept from offering this dedication offering to God. It was available to all in some degree. Jesus' life is an offering for all —rich or poor.
III. THE PORTIONS OF THIS OFFERING.
A. A memorial portion is offered to the Lord (vv. 8-9). This reminds us that Jesus' life was a life dedicated—first of all—to the Father.
B. A portion is kept for Aaron and his sons (v. 10). This reminds us that Jesus' perfect life was a life lived for us and on our behalf. His righteousness is placed on us (Galatians 2:20).
IV. THE THINGS EXCLUDED FROM THIS OFFERING.
A. No leaven (v. 11). Leaven, in the Bible, is a symbol of sin. Any amount would spread throughout the whole. There was no sin in Jesus' life.
B. No honey (v. 11). Honey is a naturally sweet thing. Christ's life was not a life that was naturally sweet apart from God's grace. His life was a life lived in the power of the Holy Spirit in absolute purity. There were no 'artificial sweeteners' added.
V. THE OFFERING OF THE FIRST FRUITS.
A. Not burnt on the altar (v. 12). Jesus rose as the first fruits of those who sleep. There was no need, then, to burn the first fruits on the altar.
B. Always with salt (v. 13). Salt is a symbol of an everlasting, corrupting, unchanging covenant. He ever lives to make intercession for us. He never needs to be offered again.
C. Green ears of corn (v. 14-16). This is the best of the ears; and this is a picture of Christ in that His life brings forth much fruit (John 12:24).