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The Peace Offerings
“And if his oblation be a sacrifice of peace offering, if he offer it of the herd; whether it be a male or female, he shall offer it without blemish before the LORD. And he shall lay his hand upon the head of his offering, and kill it at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation: and Aaron’s sons the priests shall sprinkle the blood upon the altar round about…And the two kidneys, and the fat that is upon them, which is by the flanks, and the caul above the liver, with the kidneys, it shall he take away. And the priest shall burn them upon the altar: it is the food of the offering made by fire for a sweet savour: all the fat is the LORD’S. It shall be a perpetual statute for your generations throughout all your dwellings, that ye eat neither fat nor blood.” (Leviticus 3:1-17)
“And this is the law of the sacrifice of peace offerings, which he shall offer unto the LORD. If he offer it for a thanksgiving, then he shall offer with the sacrifice of thanksgiving unleavened cakes mingled with oil, and unleavened wafers anointed with oil, and cakes mingled with oil, of fine flour, fried. Besides the cakes, he shall offer for his offering leavened bread with the sacrifice of thanksgiving of his peace offerings. And of it he shall offer one out of the whole oblation for an heave offering unto the LORD, and it shall be the priest’s that sprinkleth the blood of the peace offerings. And the flesh of the sacrifice of his peace offerings for thanksgiving shall be eaten the same day that it is offered; he shall not leave any of it until the morning…Moreover the soul that shall touch any unclean thing, as the uncleanness of man, or any unclean beast, or any abominable unclean thing, and eat of the flesh of the sacrifice of peace offerings, which pertain unto the LORD, even that soul shall be cut off from his people.” (Leviticus 7:11-21)
“Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, He that offereth the sacrifice of his peace offerings unto the LORD shall bring his oblation unto the LORD of the sacrifice of his peace offerings…He among the sons of Aaron, that offereth the blood of the peace offerings, and the fat, shall have the right shoulder for his part. For the wave breast and the heave shoulder have I taken of the children of Israel from off the sacrifices of their peace offerings, and have given them unto Aaron the priest and unto his sons by a statute forever from among the children of Israel.” (Leviticus 7:29-34)
The book of Leviticus begins with a description of five sacrifices that God ordained for the Israelites. The sacrifices, of course, are pictures of our Lord Jesus Christ and the redemption he accomplished for us at Calvary by the shedding of his blood.
These sacrifices were ordinances of worship ordained and directed by the Lord God himself. The poor, needy sinner came to God with the symbolic sacrifice God required, and in the sacrifice (symbolically representing the Lord Jesus and his sacrifice), he found both acceptance with God, by blood atonement, and mercy, grace, and blessedness heaped upon him by God’s free grace, grace flowing to believing sinners through the precious blood of Christ. Each of the sacrifices represented God’s provision for the deep needs of fallen men. Each one displayed different aspects of our Savior’s accomplishments at Calvary.
Chapter 1 speaks of atonement. We are sinners in need of atonement, acceptance with God. That is what is represented in the burnt offerings described in chapter one. — The burnt offerings pictured the acceptance of guilty sinners by the holy Lord God through the merits of Christ. God’s acceptance of his people is complete. He accepts us as a whole, all of us, all our parts. As the burnt offering was consumed by fire in its entirety, as the Lord Jesus Christ was accepted as our Substitute and consumed in all his holy being by the fire of God’s holy, just wrath against sin, so we are accepted of God for Christ’s sake. The burnt offering declares, to every believing sinner, “accepted in the Beloved!”
Chapter 2 describes the meat offerings, offerings of thanksgiving and consecration. Fallen man, being estranged and alienated from God, has within his soul a desperate need of consecration to God. Man needs to give himself up to God. He strives to find ways of doing so; but there is no rest in his soul until he gives himself up entirely to God by faith in and devotion to Christ. That is what is portrayed in the meat offerings described in chapter two.
Here we see man bringing back to God the very stuff of which we are made, our staple food, bread. This portrays the believer’s response to the mercy, love, and grace of God in Christ, the believer’s response to blood atonement. Just as our Savior gave himself to God entirely as our sin-atoning sacrifice, believers give themselves entirely to God in Christ. The meat offering is the believer coming to God by Christ, full of gratitude, saying, “I am not my own. I have been bought with the price of Christ’s precious blood. Henceforth I am God’s.” The meat offering says, with penitent heart…
“But drops of grief can ne’er repay
The debt of love I owe!
Here, Lord, I give myself away,
‘Tis all that I can do.”
Still there is another universal need in fallen men. We need peace, peace within, peace with one another, and peace with God. The fact is, men can never have peace within or peace with one another (not really) until we have peace with God. That is what is portrayed in Leviticus 3. Here the holy Lord God describes for us the ceremonial, highly symbolical, typical peace offerings, which (of course) portray Christ our Peace.
Without question, God’s elect, though redeemed by the blood of Christ and devoted to the will and glory of God, still live in a world of hurt. We are often caught up in temptations, trials, and troubles. We must, as long as we live in this world, as the Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 8, face and deal with trouble and persecution, famine and nakedness, peril and sword. Yet, in the midst of all these things, our Lord says, “My peace give I unto you.”
As you read this third chapter of Leviticus, may God the Holy Ghost, who gave us these instructive pictures of our dear Savior, make his message in this portion of Holy Scripture a source of comfort and joy and peace to help you through your day of adversity in this world.
As with the burnt offerings, the peace offerings could be either a calf, or a lamb, or a goat. The worshipper had to identify himself with the sacrifice. Laying his hands upon the animal’s head he acknowledged his guilt, confessed his sins, and expressed his faith in God’s sacrifice for sin, the Lord Jesus Christ. The innocent victim had to be slain, slain by the worshipper. The blood had to be sprinkled, sprinkled by the priest. In other words, there is only one way to God, the blood of Christ.
“And if his offering be a goat, then he shall offer it before the LORD. And he shall lay his hand upon the head of it, and kill it before the tabernacle of the congregation: and the sons of Aaron shall sprinkle the blood thereof upon the altar round about. And he shall offer thereof his offering, even an offering made by fire unto the LORD; the fat that covereth the inwards, and all the fat that is upon the inwards, And the two kidneys, and the fat that is upon them, which is by the flanks, and the caul above the liver, with the kidneys, it shall he take away. And the priest shall burn them upon the altar: it is the food of the offering made by fire for a sweet savour: all the fat is the LORD’S. It shall be a perpetual statute for your generations throughout all your dwellings, that ye eat neither fat nor blood.” (Leviticus 3:12-17)
Let me show you four things about the peace offerings, four things that distinguish these from the other offerings.
In the last part of verse 16 we see what appears to be an unusual requirement. There we are told, “All the fat is the Lord’s.” What is the significance of that statement? In the burnt offering the entire animal was consumed in the fire. In the peace offering, God provides detailed instructions concerning the parts of the body that are to be burned. Then, in verse 16, we read: “All fat is the Lord’s.” — Why?
In our culture the word “fat” has negative connotations. Our ideal male and female forms are slender and thin. No one wants to be called “fat.” But in most cultures and in most of the world’s history, that has not been the case. Because most people in the history of the world lived in poverty, only the prosperous could become fat. Those who are a bit heavy tend to be those who are somewhat prosperous.
I am told by our friends who have spent some time in Africa and New Guinea that this is the case. In the poor, tribal societies found in those parts of the world, if your wife looks like a fashion model, other men feel sorry for you. To call a child “very fat” is a great compliment to the parents. In poor countries, when a person attains a measure of wealth, his waistline almost always increases.
In the Old Testament, the Jews had a similar attitude about fat. In fact, the word “fat” is commonly used in the Bible in positive ways. Here are two examples.
“And take your father and your households, and come unto me: and I will give you the good of the land of Egypt, and ye shall eat the fat of the land.” (Genesis 45:18)
Here Pharaoh promised Joseph “the good of the land of Egypt and the fat of the land.” The “fat of the land” refers to the best of the land, the best produce of the land. Fat represented abundance and prosperity.
In Numbers 18:12, we read…
“All the best of the oil, and all the best of the wine, and of the wheat, the firstfruits of them which they shall offer unto the LORD, them have I given thee.”
The word translated “best” here is the same Hebrew word elsewhere translated “fat.” Wine has no fat in it. But the “fat of the wine” is the best wine, the finest wine.
This is the reason all fat of the sacrifices in Leviticus 3 belonged to the Lord. The fat represented that which was good, indeed, that which was best. James puts it this way...
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” (James 1:17)
If we would enjoy peace in this world, two things are essential. First, we must recognize that the singular source of all that is good is our God and look to him alone for it. All saving goodness (Ephesians 1:3-6; 1 Corinthians 1:30), all spiritual goodness, all providential goodness (Romans 8:28), and all eternal goodness comes from our God.
Second, realizing that all we have comes from God and belongs to God, we must, with grateful, willing hearts, give all back to him again. If we would have peace in this world, we must recognize that there is nothing good in our lives except that which comes from God. We do not deserve what we have. We have not earned what we have. All that we are and all that we have comes from our heavenly Father and rightfully belongs to him. It is God alone who makes us to differ from others (1 Corinthians 4:7).
This is a basic requirement for peace. If we try to hold onto what we have and protect ourselves from losing what we have, then the more we have the more we will fret and worry about it. If we can hold what we have (everything we have in this world) lightly, with confidence that God is both sovereign and good, we will enjoy peace.
In Leviticus 3:16 we are told that this peace offering was “a food offering.” In Leviticus 7:15-18 we are told that the sacrifice of the peace offering had to be eaten.
“And the flesh of the sacrifice of his peace offerings for thanksgiving shall be eaten the same day that it is offered; he shall not leave any of it until the morning. But if the sacrifice of his offering be a vow, or a voluntary offering, it shall be eaten the same day that he offereth his sacrifice: and on the morrow also the remainder of it shall be eaten: But the remainder of the flesh of the sacrifice on the third day shall be burnt with fire. And if any of the flesh of the sacrifice of his peace offerings be eaten at all on the third day, it shall not be accepted, neither shall it be imputed unto him that offereth it: it shall be an abomination, and the soul that eateth of it shall bear his iniquity.” (Leviticus 7:15-18)
This is the only offering that was to be eaten by the one who brought it. Remember, the fat was given to God and burned on the altar. The breast and the right shoulder were given to the priest. The rest was to be eaten by the worshipper and could be shared with anyone who was ceremonially clean before the Lord. Surely, there is much to be gleaned from this. Here we see the Lord God himself, the Lord Jesus Christ our great High Priest, and the redeemed sinner all feeding together upon and finding satisfaction with the same sacrifice.
What a great, glorious, effectual sacrifice Christ is! It is the sin-atoning blood of Christ, and that alone, which gives satisfaction to the holy Lord God. — “He is the propitiation for our sins!” The Lord Jesus Christ, our great High Priest, finds satisfaction in his own sacrifice (Isaiah 53:9-11; Hebrews 12:2). And believing sinners find satisfaction in him, ever eating his flesh and drinking his blood by faith (Psalm 73:25-26; John 4:13-14; 6:48, 53-55; Psalm 17:15).
All who are clean before God feed upon the same sacrifice: the worshipper, the priest, and the priests’ sons. But God required that the peace offering was to be eaten within two days.
The worshipper was to begin eating it on the day it was offered. This is what that means. — Peace with God commences in the soul as soon as we apprehend the accomplishment of redemption by faith. The efficacy of Christ’s sacrifice does not wait for our faith. Thank God for that! But peace, soul satisfaction, commences when faith apprehends the efficacy of the sacrifice! Peace comes to the soul when Christ, the Peace Offering, is trusted (Romans 5:1).
And all of the sacrifice had to be eaten before the third day. Why? — The third day is resurrection day. If we would have peace in this world, we must live by faith, ever feeding upon Christ, until our days in this world of woe are ended, until our change comes (Romans 8:17-21, 28-39).
Only the Clean
Only those who stood clean before the Lord were allowed to eat the sacrifice.
“But the soul that eateth of the flesh of the sacrifice of peace offerings, that pertain unto the LORD, having his uncleanness upon him, even that soul shall be cut off from his people. Moreover the soul that shall touch any unclean thing, as the uncleanness of man, or any unclean beast, or any abominable unclean thing, and eat of the flesh of the sacrifice of peace offerings, which pertain unto the LORD, even that soul shall be cut off from his people. (Leviticus 7:20-21)
If a person had any uncleanness upon him, he could not feast upon God’s sacrifice. But is not the Lord Jesus Christ a Fountain opened for the unclean? Is he not specifically said to be the Friend of sinners? Did he not come to save sinners? Most certainly he did. But the sinner who comes to God with his burnt offering (the blood of Christ), his meat offering (the righteousness of Christ), and his peace offering (the Lamb of God) is clean before the Lord. He has no uncleanness upon him! Christ makes sinners holy, righteous, fit, worthy to feast in his house!
Leviticus 7:29-34 tell us that the breast and the right shoulder were the priests’ portion.
“Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, He that offereth the sacrifice of his peace offerings unto the LORD shall bring his oblation unto the LORD of the sacrifice of his peace offerings. His own hands shall bring the offerings of the LORD made by fire, the fat with the breast, it shall he bring, that the breast may be waved for a wave offering before the LORD. And the priest shall burn the fat upon the altar: but the breast shall be Aaron’s and his sons’. And the right shoulder shall ye give unto the priest for an heave offering of the sacrifices of your peace offerings. He among the sons of Aaron, that offereth the blood of the peace offerings, and the fat, shall have the right shoulder for his part. For the wave breast and the heave shoulder have I taken of the children of Israel from off the sacrifices of their peace offerings, and have given them unto Aaron the priest and unto his sons by a statute forever from among the children of Israel.” (Leviticus 7:29-34)
The breast being the meat closest to the heart, speaks of affection, the love of God in Christ. The right shoulder represents both strength and majesty. The priests ate them both. — What is the meaning of this?
There is no peace for anyone in this world until he is enabled by the grace of God to believe, to trust, the Lord Jesus Christ, Zion’s glorious King and Priest, in whom alone all the love of God and all the omnipotence of the Almighty is found. He who is God our Savior is both God full of compassion and the God of omnipotent ability, God mighty to save. Peace is found in trusting him (Psalms 62:3-4, 11-12). If we would have peace, we must be convinced that he who is God our Savior is God full of compassion, one who loves us, and God almighty, one who is able to save. Everything we might otherwise fear is under his total control!
Without this confidence in God our Savior, without this confidence in Christ, we are easily overwhelmed by our circumstances. We live in a world that seems out of control. How often men and women are brought into such straits that they think, “I just can’t take any more!” — How sad, how very sad! The Lord Jesus has promised to all who trust him, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you…Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).
It is this peace, the peace of God that passes understanding, that is set forth in the peace offerings. It is this peace that God gives to sinners as we trust his Son and feed upon him. It is this peace, the peace that Christ gives, which the world can neither understand nor take away. May God be pleased to make it yours and mine, for Christ’s sake.