The Peace Offering
There is a temptation to look at some of the OT examples or “types” (1 Cor. 10: 6) as not being particularly relevant in the modern world (or, at best, viewed as too difficult to be worthy of study). This sorry attitude is symptomatic of the infantile ‘Christianity’ that has arisen in recent decades, in which solid Bible teaching has largely disappeared, even in places where it was once a key feature. This is very regrettable, as many of the answers to current problems can be found in the pictures of truth given to us in the OT. Indeed, in proportion as this side of the truth has been neglected, so there has been a corresponding decline of sound Biblical principles among God’s people. The peace offering (see Lev. 3: 1-17; 7: 11-36), as illustrating the worship and communion characterising the fellowship of God’s Son (see 1 Cor. 1: 9), is a prime example of this.
The Meaning of the Peace Offering
It is a misconception that the purpose of the peace offering is to set out how peace is made with God. However, if we examine the law of the peace offering (see Lev. 7: 11-36), it will be found that the peace offering is preceded by the laws of both the sin and trespass offerings (see Lev. 6: 24 -7: 10). This teaches that the offerer of the peace offering approaches God with the matter of sin already settled (and, for that matter, with any difficulties with his brethren resolved). Indeed, although the basis of dealing with sin is clearly implied in the blood, the word sin is not mentioned in Lev. 3. Nor do we read anything like ““the priest shall make atonement for them; and it shall be forgiven them” (Lev. 4: 20; see Lev. 1: 4). No, for rather than seeking peace with God, in the peace offering the offerer approaches Jehovah as One with whom he is already at peace. Thus: “And thou shalt sacrifice peace-offerings, and shalt eat there, and rejoice before Jehovah thy God” (Deut. 27: 7). That is why when Israel made Saul king, they “rejoiced exceedingly” and “sacrificed peace-offerings before Jehovah” (1 Sam. 11: 15). Again, when David “brought up the ark of Jehovah with shouting” he then “offered up burnt-offerings and peace-offerings before Jehovah” (2 Sam. 6: 15, 17). Later, when the temple was dedicated, Solomon “sacrificed a sacrifice of peace-offerings, which he sacrificed to Jehovah”, and after much celebration sent his people away “joyful and glad of heart” (1 Kings 8: 63, 66). Clearly the peace offering has a festive character, and you cannot be festive alone. It typifies a people in happy relationship with their God and with each other. It does not picture Christ as bearing our sins but our participation as worshippers in Christ as presented to God, the matter of our sins having been already dealt with. We see something of the character of the peace-offering in the Lord’s Supper where what is before us is not our sins, but the One who bore the punishment for them.
All these things are borne out by the three reasons given for the presentation of the sacrifice of peace offering, which are “for a thanksgiving” (Lev. 7: 12) or for “a vow, or voluntary” (v16). This implies an implicit desire to be in active relationship with Jehovah. What the offerer brings is for God, but subsequent to that, the offerer also partakes of the offering: he sits, as it were, at the same table as God, and feeds on the same food as God. Hence the peace offering really sets out what believers have been brought into, namely the communion of the altar (or, in NT language, “[the] fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord”—1 Cor. 1: 9—the circle where Christ and His work are the centre and theme). Indeed, the apostle draws a direct parallel between the fellowship of the Lord’s table and “Israel according to flesh” for “are not they who eat the sacrifices in communion with the altar?” (1 Cor. 10: 18).
A peculiarity of the sacrifice of peace offering was that it could be “male or female” (Lev. 3: 1, 6). As might be expected, the majority of the sacrifices involved male animals, since Christ is God’s chosen Man. However, there were exceptions. The red heifer (see Num. 19: 2) was only ever female and as such must picture an actual characteristic of Christ—possibly the Lord’s complete submission to the will of God. Sin in the whole assembly or a prince or priest called for a male sin offering, but the common people—those with, it might be said, a weaker spiritual apprehension of what was due to God—required a female sin offering (see Lev. 4: 28, 32). The peace offering, by contrast, could always be male or female, and indeed, there is no indication that the male was preferred. Now God is a communicant (as it were) at the table pictured in the peace-offering. If He were the only One in view, then it would be as in the burnt offering (which was wholly for God), where only male sacrifices were ever allowed. But God is not the only one at His table. We too are there, with our varying degrees of spiritual apprehension, and this is where the female offering comes in. It did not matter “whether a male or female” (Lev. 3: 1) was offered, for all were accepted. Why? Because access to the fellowship of the Lord’s table depends not on the level of spiritual understanding but on the purity of the worshipper for “all that are clean may eat” (Lev. 7: 19).
The Peace Offering of the Herd
To be an offerer implies some knowledge of what gives pleasure to God. We cannot enjoy communion with God without bringing that in which He has found His eternal delight. Thus “Jehovah looked upon Abel, and on his offering; and upon Cain, and on his offering, he did not look” (Gen. 4: 4, 5). Now, “if his offering be a sacrifice of peace-offering,—if he present [it] of the herd, whether a male or female, he shall present it without blemish before Jehovah” (Lev. 3: 1). Those two words “without blemish” make clear to the reader that it is Christ that must be presented (see 1 Pet. 1: 19), the One who was perfect, holy and without sin. Sadly, many Christians have forgotten this, and have fallen into idolatry. This assertion might surprise some readers, but the Bible’s definition of idolatry is wider than the graven images to which it is often limited: “neither be ye idolaters, as some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play” (1 Cor. 10: 7). Here the apostle is here referring to the famous incident of the golden calf (see Exod. 32), but the calf itself does not get a mention. Instead, what Paul focuses on is the gratification of self (comp. Col. 3: 5). Now is it not a fact that gratifying man rather than gratifying God is the mark of much of what is professedly Christian? Believers look for a ‘church’ that pleases them, and ‘churches’ strive to provide what pleases their congregations. This, essentially, is idolatry, and is far removed from the teaching of the peace offering in which God’s thoughts about Christ are front and central.
Two forms of the peace offering were allowed: the offering of the herd (see Lev. 3: 1-5) or oxen (see Exod. 24: 5), and the offering of the small cattle or flock (see Lev. 3: 6-17). The offering of the herd was physically larger and more valuable, and represents the ability to present a fuller entering into God’s thoughts as to Christ. Now having brought his offering, the offerer was to “lay his hand on the head of his offering” (v2). This means he identified himself with what was offered, or, in the language of the NT, “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not [the] communion of the blood of the Christ? The bread which we break, is it not [the] communion of the body of the Christ?” (1 Cor. 10: 16, my emphasis). These actions on our part demonstrate our committal. Of course, another individual may be actually blessing and administering the emblems, but he acts on behalf of the whole “because we, [being] many, are one loaf, one body; for we all partake of that one loaf” (v17, my emphasis). Next, the offering was to be slaughtered “at the entrance of the tent of meeting” (Lev. 3: 2), the place where “every one who sought Jehovah went” (Ex. 33: 7) and where, therefore, communion with God could be had. The sacrifice was thus presented to God. Christ and His death is therefore both the basis and the subject of communion. What answers to the “tent of meeting” (or ‘tabernacle of the congregation’—AV) today? Surely, the Assembly, for it is there that we “partake of [the] Lord’s table” (1 Cor. 10: 21).
The blood was then sprinkled “on the altar round about” (Lev. 3: 2) by Aaron and his sons, the priests. This preparatory work was necessary before there could be any thought of eating at God’s table. The sprinkled blood was not just for God but also for the offerer, maintaining his peace of mind that all was settled. After the slaughter, the offerer was to present of the sacrifice, “an offering by fire to Jehovah” (v3). What then was he to burn before Jehovah? In the burnt offering (which was purely for God) the priest was to “burn all” (Lev. 1: 9), but the peace offering supposes other participants. Hence, only the fat that was reserved for God: “And he shall present of the sacrifice of peace-offering an offering by fire to Jehovah; the fat that covereth the inwards, and all the fat that is on the inwards, and the two kidneys, and the fat that is on them, which is by the flanks, and the net above the liver which he shall take away as far as the kidneys … an offering by fire to Jehovah of a sweet odour” (Lev. 3: 3-5)—sweet because it was delightful to God. This emphasis on the fat explains why birds were never offered since they avoid storing fat wherever possible in order to maximise their flying ability. The peace offering also marks the first use of the word cheleb for fat in Leviticus. Cheleb means the best part, and (being the body’s energy store), speaks of Christ’s exhaustive devotion to the will of God even unto death. It is that which Aaron’s sons, the priests—typifying believers engaged in worship—burn “on the altar upon the burnt offering” (v5). The fact that the fat is burned upon the burnt offering reminds us that God’s satisfaction and delight in Christ underlies our communion with His table. Before we can approach in worship, God must have found His own delight in Christ, and we then come as having found, in measure, our own delight in the Lord. It is our happy service, if true worshippers, to be occupied with presenting the excellencies of Christ to God.
The Peace Offering of the Flock
A second, lesser category of peace offering was permitted: “And if his offering for a sacrifice of peace-offering to Jehovah be of small cattle, male or female, he shall present it without blemish” (v6). The offering still had to be perfect but its smaller size suggests feebler spiritual resources. Here, there was a choice of animal which could be offered, namely a sheep (see v7), or a goat (see v12). Both were acceptable, although the fact that the sheep is placed first, and also that it uniquely had a “fat tail” (v9), seem to suggest that the sheep was the preferred form. Much of the procedural detail is a repeat of what was given in relation to the offering of the herd but a new expression is introduced: “[it is] the food of the offering by fire to Jehovah” (v11; see v16). The burning of the fat is therefore presented as the food or bread (lechem) that God consumes. Elsewhere we read how Jehovah complained to Israel that they profaned His house “when ye offered my bread” (lechem) “the fat and the blood” (Ezek. 44: 7; see also Lev. 22: 25). Along with the blood, the fat was reserved for God: “All the fat [shall be] Jehovah’s. [It is] an everlasting statute for your generations throughout all your dwellings: no fat and no blood shall ye eat” (Lev. 3: 16, 17). This was understood very early on, for Abel “brought of the firstlings of his flock, and of their fat” (Gen. 4: 4). The fact that the offerer was to bring the fat with “his own hands” (Lev. 7: 30), suggests that when we come before God in worship, we cannot just depend on others, but must have some personal appreciation to bring.
Lev. 7: 22-27 reinforces the idea that the fat was for Jehovah. Even in the exceptions of a “dead carcase” or “that which is torn”, where the fat could be put to practical use, “ye shall in no wise eat it” (v24). If fat was to be food, it was to be food for God alone. However, Jehovah did not eat by Himself. Thus, when the offerer brought “Jehovah’s offerings by fire, the fat with the breast shall he bring: the breast, that it may be waved as a wave-offering before Jehovah. And the priest shall burn the fat on the altar; and the breast shall be Aaron and his sons’. And the right shoulder of the sacrifices of your peace-offerings shall ye give as a heave-offering unto the priest” (vs. 30-32). Aaron and his sons, representing those occupied (as all Christians should be) in the service of praise, are given a portion of the offering—the breast, speaking of the heart and thus the love that lay behind Christ offering Himself. Note, however, that it is waved before God before being eaten, meaning that it was eaten in the knowledge of how delightful it was to God. However, “he of the sons of Aaron that presenteth the blood” had his own distinct portion, for he “shall have the right shoulder for [his] part” (v33). Who can this priest typify but Christ Himself, for He alone presents the blood? Does the Lord not have His own portion (for example) when His own gather in worship at the Lord’s Supper? But if Christ, why then the right shoulder? It is true that “shoulder” could be translated leg, but ‘the right leg’ is meaningless in a four-legged animal, and so “shoulder is clearly the correct rendering. The shoulder was the choicest cut of meat (see 1 Sam. 9: 24), and the right side is the place of honour and authority (see Matt. 20: 21; 26: 64; Acts 2: 33 etc.). However, being a heave offering it is first lifted up in presentation to God. A heave offering differs from a wave offering in that it implies a residue from which it is lifted up (see Lev. 7: 14). Surely God takes a peculiar delight in the right shoulder as Christ’s own distinct portion?
Although it is not explicitly stated, the rest of the flesh of the sacrifice (that is, excluding the fat, the breast and the right shoulder) was eaten by the offerer, for he was not to “let any of it remain until the morning” (Lev. 7: 15) and “it shall be eaten the same day that he presented his sacrifice; on the morrow also the remainder of it shall be eaten” (v16). The whole scene therefore is one of happy fellowship, in which many are engaged in eating, thus expressing their great interest and delight in all of which the offering speaks.
The Offering of Thanksgiving
The law of the peace offering also divides the offering another way apart from its size or value. In this division, it is the purpose of the offering that is in view, namely thanksgiving, or a vow, or voluntary. Of course, in the language of the type, all Christians ought to be able to “present to Jehovah … for a thanksgiving” (Lev. 7: 11, 12), for we have much to give thanks to God for. Thus, this aspect of the peace offering is the most basic and should characterise every believer, even those whose appreciation of the blessings into which they have been brought is less than it should be. The apostle Paul’s life was almost proverbial in its hardship and yet he could exhort the young Christians in Thessalonica to “rejoice always; pray unceasingly; in every give thanks” (1 Thess. 5: 17). The Lord’s Supper itself is characteristically a service of thanksgiving, for the loaf and the cup are always to be taken accompanied by the giving of thanks (see Luke 22: 19). It is abnormal for a Christian to absent himself from such an occasion or, if there, to not partake of the emblems.
When we approach God in thanksgiving, He does not expect us to come empty-handed. In addition to the animal sacrifice itself, the offerer was expected to “present with the sacrifice of thanksgiving unleavened cakes mingled with oil, and unleavened wafers anointed with oil, and fine flour saturated with oil, cakes mingled with oil” (Lev. 7: 12). This is no momentary audience with Jehovah, but a veritable feast. The details in the verse recall the oblation (see Lev. 2) and speak of Christ as Man walking here below to the delight of His Father and God—his sinlessness being typified by what has no leaven in it, and the evenness and perfection of his character being pictured in the fine flour. All is anointed, mingled and saturated with the oil—referring to the Holy Spirit (elsewhere we read of “the holy anointing oil”—Ex. 30: 25; comp. Acts 10: 38). Thus, when we give thanks, we must advance beyond what Christ has done for us and enter in measure into the delight that God has found in the Man Christ Jesus. This necessitates some prior occupation with the Scriptures (particularly those that deal with the Lord’s Manhood), so that I might have something to bring into the presence of God.
Yet there is something else that the offerer brings: “Besides the cakes, he shall present his offering of leavened bread with the sacrifice of his peace-offering of thanksgiving” (Lev. 7: 13). Leaven speaks of the corruption of sin, and therefore what is presented here speaks of fallen man rather than Christ. This is unique to the peace offering, but totally in keeping with its character as being an expression of the communion that exists between the saints and their God. We are called to the Lord’s table—wonderful grace—called into the fellowship of God’s Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. One is reminded of how a “dead dog” could be so elevated as to “eat continually at the king’s table” (2 Sam. 9: 8, 13). We come with the knowledge of what we are as fallen creatures but that does not alter the fact that we are most perfectly accepted. However, the communion of the worshipper could only be sustained if it was not detached from the sacrifice: “the flesh of the sacrifice of his peace-offering of thanksgiving shall be eaten the same day that it is presented; he shall not let any of it remain until the morning” (Lev. 7: 15). This is immensely practical for we often commence some expression of worship with our hearts in immediate occupation with Christ and before long we are taken up with what we are doing or with the persons who are listening to us. There is no way back into communion except by freshly presenting Christ, and communion is only sustained with fresh presentations of Christ.
The Offering of a Vow
Besides the offering of thanksgiving, there were also two other sort of peace offerings: “and if the sacrifice of his offering be a vow, or voluntary” (Lev. 7: 16). A “vow” was a binding obligation imposed upon oneself to provide a sacrifice, whereas a “voluntary” was a weaker form of dedication which could, in certain circumstances, cease to apply. Now thanksgiving should characterise the Christian—he is the recipient of grace, and continues to receive blessings from God that ought to elicit a ready response. However, a “vow, or voluntary” offering implies giving that is prompted simply by love and reverence without any direct occasion of gratitude to draw it out. It is a level of committal and devotion above the offering of thanksgiving.
There is also another difference: whereas the offering of thanksgiving had to be eaten the same day, with the offering of the vow or voluntary, some could be eaten on the second day. Thus: “it shall be eaten the same day that he presented his sacrifice; on the morrow also the remainder of it shall be eaten; and the remainder of the flesh of the sacrifice on the third day shall be burned with fire. And if [any] of the flesh of the sacrifice of his peace-offering be eaten at all on the third day, it shall not be accepted, it shall not be reckoned to him that hath presented it; it shall be an unclean thing, and the soul that eateth of it shall bear his iniquity” (Lev. 7: 16-18). Now if I have been blessed with some favour from the Lord, my heart immediately breaks out in thanksgiving. In this case, the worship is awakened by and connected with that favour and there it often ends. However, where the heart is led by the Holy Spirit in some voluntary or deliberate expression of worship, it will be of a more enduring character, and, in the type, it is sustained until next day. It must not go beyond that though, for there is a harshness of dealing with the one who broke this rule that is not given with the offering of thanksgiving. Why? Because the more advanced our response in praise and worship, then the greater the responsibility to be maintained in freshness. Thus, on the third day, the offerer ought not to eat, for God would not accept it, but not only that, his offering was now an unclean thing, and the offerer guilty of iniquity. This is most serious! Old impressions will not sustain communion, and if persisted in, are looked on by God as the exact opposite of what the offerer presumed. It is not devotion, but dishonour. What was acceptable to God on the first day, by the third day was to be regarded in the same light as an anything inherently unclean. Take something as simple as hymn-singing. Is my singing livingly connected with Christ’s acceptableness to God or am I just enjoying the singing? All this must be watched against by those who desire to remember that “God [is] a spirit, and they who worship him must worship [him] in spirit and truth” (John 4: 24).
Next, “the flesh that toucheth anything unclean shall not be eaten; it shall be burned with fire” (Lev. 7: 19). What does this mean? Simply that Christ cannot be appropriated if mixed what is defiling. Sadly, many believers delude themselves that there is food in what attempts to combine Christ and the world. Adding the prefix ‘Christian’ to something worldly does not make it clean!
Again, some seem to think that if sin was a hindrance in the sinner, it is no hindrance in the saint, but this is false doctrine. The Bible says that “the soul that eateth the flesh of the sacrifice of peace-offering which is for Jehovah, having his uncleanness upon him, that soul shall be cut off from his peoples” (Lev. 7: 20). To eat of the flesh of the sacrifice is to take a position of being in “communion with the altar” (1 Cor. 10: 18), and to partake of the same things that God partakes of. To attempt to do so, however, when personally unclean (that is, with defilement unremoved) is insult the holiness of God. Communion is not possible with unconfessed sin. Leaven is permitted, but not uncleanness—there should be no sin on the believer’s conscience. The offering of “leavened bread with the sacrifice” (Lev. 7: 13) is simply recognition of what we are by nature, for “if we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1: 8). However, if we do sin, then we must “confess our sins” and the Lord “is faithful and righteous to forgive us” (v 9). To come to the Lord’s Supper (for example) with unconfessed sin is not only wrong but offensive, and the one who persists in such a course is to be “cut off from his peoples” (Lev. 7: 20)—put out of fellowship.
What is called “his uncleanness” (Lev. 7: 20) clearly refers to defilement that arises from within a man such as “evil thoughts” (Matt. 15: 19), but the next section refers to contamination from association: “And if any one touch anything unclean, the uncleanness of man, or unclean beast, or any unclean abomination, and eat of the flesh of the sacrifice of peace-offering, which is for Jehovah, that soul shall be cut off from his peoples” (Lev. 7: 21). The result is the same however, and the wicked man is no longer to be part of the worshipping company. Why? Because he has eaten unworthily, quite forgetting that if the sacrifice is “for Jehovah” (v21) then he must take care to examine himself before he takes his place, as it were, at the table with God. True Christian fellowship is very simple for “all that are clean may eat [the] flesh” (v19). Thus, the simple believer has just as much right at the Lord’s table as the spiritually wealthy. This is often forgotten, but access is a question of cleanliness not intelligence.
This rapid sketch of the teaching of the peace-offering cannot hope to do justice to its subject. If there is one lesson to be drawn it is the importance of our relationship with God. Fellowship is often looked at solely in terms of our relationships with one another. Indeed, we are often found agonizing over why those relationships are so fraught when what we really need to think about is our relationship with the Lord. If we are right in terms of communion with God then we will be right in terms of communion with our brethren. We must always remember that it is the “Lord’s table” (1 Cor. 10: 21, my emphasis).