The priest shall take a handful of the flour and oil, together with all the incense, and burn this as a memorial portion on the altar, a food offering, an aroma pleasing to the LORD. Leviticus 2:2
(From Constable’s Commentary) “By offering this sacrifice, the offerer was saying that he viewed all the work that he did as ‘an offering to the Lord.’ The meal offering appears to have been acceptable only when offered along with the burnt offering. This requirement taught that one’s works were acceptable to God only when they accompanied the offerer’s consecration of himself to God.”
From the beginning, God sought to teach his people that our works aren’t an acceptable way of atoning for our sins. It’s remarkable that people never really believe this and generation after generation they continue to look for ways of relieving their guilt by performing either penance or works of service.
Coming to God without any effort on our part doesn’t seem just. Forgiveness is precious, yet God offers it freely. We prefer to find ways to feel better without admitting our inadequacies, without losing our self-sufficiency and without humbling ourselves. Deep down we think we’re able to pay off our sense of indebtedness since our sins aren’t that bad and we aren’t too far short of God’s standard.
God’s word paints a different picture. God’s holiness is much more intense than we realize and our good works are nothing more than “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). We’re like the unmerciful servant (Matthew 18:21-35) who has no idea how much he has been forgiven so he thinks he’s able to pay it back.
Forgiveness is available if we’re prepared to come to God on his terms. Before offering our work, we offer ourselves.