Scripture: Acts 10
At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly. One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, “Cornelius!” Cornelius stared at him in fear. “What is it, Lord?” he asked. The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God.
I love the story or Cornelius the Centurion found in Acts 10. We learn about the private life of an Italian centurion and how God views his life of worship even before he fully understands the work of salvation that is found in Jesus. Cornelius was stationed in the Roman city of Caesarea Maritima on the coast of Israel. It is a beautiful location, one that I had the chance to visit just three years ago. The aqueducts and the remnants of the hippodrome where chariots once raced are still visible today even after nearly 2000 years.
Another reason I love this story is that Cornelius was a man who had left the poly-theistic world of Rome to pursue his own relationship with God. These verses say that he and his family were God-fearing. Their generosity to the poor and their sincere prayer life was noticed by God. The angel even called the acts of giving and prayer a “memorial offering” to God.
Since this is Memorial Day weekend, I would like to look at what was meant by a memorial offering. In the Old Testament, a memorial offering usually consisted of 3-ingredients: finely ground flour, olive oil and frankincense.
The finely ground flour represented the hard work of lives. For Cornelius, this was how he conducted himself as a solider as well as his giving to the poor. The olive oil was so the fire could consume the offering. It represents the work of the Holy Spirit in an individual, in this case it was his prayer life. The fire of the Holy Spirit comes to a life that is actively submitted to His leading on a daily basis. Lastly, the frankincense was a perfume, used for its wonderful aroma that would be immediately recognized by everyone present.
Let me highlight this memorial offering. Cornelius’ pattern of prayer each afternoon, which was reminiscent of Daniel’s pattern of prayer, mixed together with his concern for the poor, ignited and empowered by the Holy Spirit was the memorial offering that was pleasing to the Lord. As Samuel said “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice and to heed is better than the fat of rams. Even though Cornelius would not have sacrifice like many of those seeking God in his day, his life of submission and obedience mixed with concern for others became his offering to the Lord.
May our submission to the Holy Spirit, constant prayer and generosity to those in need likewise be a memorial offering in God’s sight.
For His Kingdom!