Leviticus 3 ~ 20160501 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
05/01 Leviticus 3; The Peace Offering; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160501_leviticus-3.mp3
So far in Leviticus, we have looked at the whole burnt offering and the grain offering. The whole burnt offering was a complete animal, skinned and cut up in pieces, that went up in smoke as a pleasing aroma to God. The whole burnt offering was intended to 'be accepted for him to make atonement' (1:4) 'that he may be accepted before the LORD' (1:3). The whole burnt offering pointed not to specific sins (that will be seen in the next two offerings, the sin and guilt offerings); but for the general sinfulness of mankind.
The grain offering was a kind of tribute offering, bringing the best of the labor of our hands, now sanctified by the Spirit, free of the leaven that takes pride in our own accomplishments, recognizing all that we have is first a gift to us from a gracious God, given back to God as a joyful tribute to our great King.
The third offering, in Leviticus 3, is called the peace offering, or sometimes it is referred to as the fellowship offering. These first three offerings are all voluntary offerings, given when the worshiper desires, and they are all said to be offerings 'with a pleasing aroma to the LORD'. All three are called 'offerings' [qorban]; but only this one is called a 'sacrifice' [zebak]. The word 'sacrifice' means 'a slaughter' referring to an animal that is butchered in order to be eaten. This word 'sacrifice' is not used for the other five types of offerings in Leviticus.
Occasions for the Peace Offering
The peace offering would be given on three types of occasions, as we will see later on in Leviticus (7:11-12, 16). It could be a thanksgiving offering, a vow offering, or a freewill offering. The thanksgiving peace offering was made in response to a particular blessing that had been experienced. The vow peace offering was made to keep a promise to God after God had helped in the requested way. The freewill peace offering was a spontaneous act of generosity of the worshiper, prompted by God's goodness, God's unexpected and unasked for generosity.
Leviticus 3 is structured similarly to the other chapters, where the instructions are repeated depending on what type of animal is offered.
1-5 offering from the herd
6-11 offering from the flock
12-16a offering from the goats
16b-17 concluding general instructions
The Peace Offering
The [shelem] peace offering, is a noun from the verb [shalam]; which means to restore, pay back, make good (as a debt, often after a theft), as in David's response to the prophet Nathan's story about a rich man who stole a poor man's pet lamb to feed his guest.
To restore, make restitution, make amends, or pay back. It can also mean to reward, to make peace, to complete, to prosper. It is likely connected to the Hebrew word [shalom] well-being, wholeness, peace. In the book of Romans, the first 2 ½ chapters establish the universal guilt and condemnation of all mankind before God. Then chapters 3 and 4 declare a righteousness that is a gift of God that is opposite what we deserve, that comes to us through faith in the finished work of Jesus on the cross. We are justified, our sins are not counted against us; rather, the perfect righteousness of Christ is counted as ours through faith. Then Romans 5 declares:
Peace with God comes through Jesus. Peace with God is a result of being justified by faith. Romans 5 goes on to say:
We were enemies of God. But through the death of Jesus we were reconciled. We are now at peace. Colossians 1, speaking of the awesomeness of Jesus, the Father was pleased:
Reconciliation to those who were alienated and hostile. Reconciliation in his body of flesh by his death. Jesus made peace by the blood of his cross. He now presents us holy and blameless and above reproach, at peace with God. Ephesians 2 says
Separated, alienated, strangers, without hope and without God, far off. But now we have been brought near by the blood of Christ. He has made peace. He preached peace. He reconciled us to God through the cross. Jesus is our peace.
The Order of the Offerings
Notice, the peace offering does not come first. The offerings in Leviticus are not listed in the strict sequence in which they would be offered; the first three are listed together because they are voluntary offerings that are a pleasing aroma to the LORD. The sin and guilt offerings are grouped together because they are ways of securing forgiveness before God for specific offenses. But we see in Leviticus 3:5 that the peace offering always followed a whole burnt offering.
This is theologically significant. Peace with God and fellowship with God only comes after sacrifice. In chapter 9, we see a sin offering and a burnt offering given for the priests, then a sin offering and a burnt offering given for the people, then a grain offering, then finally the peace offering. Sin must be dealt with first; specific sins and our sin nature, before we can have peace and fellowship with God. The peace offering is offered on top of the burnt offering.
The procedure for the peace offering is very similar to that of the whole burnt offering. An animal without blemish is selected by the worshiper. The worshiper identifies with the animal, laying his hand on, or leaning into the head of the animal. Then the worshiper slaughters the animal at the entrance to God's tent. The blood is caught in a container and applied by the priests to the sides of the altar. Even the peace offering is a bloody offering, reminding the worshiper that access to a holy God comes at a great cost.
But here is where the peace offering differs. In the whole burnt offering, everything but the skin goes up in smoke on the altar. In the peace offering, only specific parts of the animal are burnt on the altar.
Although it is not the focus of Leviticus chapter 3, this sacrifice was to be eaten as a shared meal. It is called a 'food offering to the Lord' (v.3, 11, 16); not in the pagan sense that God needs to be given sustenance from his people.
It is a food offering in the sense that it is a shared meal between God, the priest (ch.7:31-36); and the worshiper (7:15-18). This is why it is often called a fellowship offering, because it was an offering that enjoyed fellowship with God. Specific parts of the animal are burned on the altar to God, specific parts (outlined in chapter 7) are given to the priests to eat, and the remainder of the animal is returned to the worshiper to eat. This is truly a fellowship offering, a communal meal, where God, the priests and the worshiper all enjoy a feast together.
Fat and Entrails, Kidneys and Liver
The focus of this chapter is on what parts of the peace offering are burned on the altar to the Lord. We are told
Why these parts? The guts or innards; the bowels or intestines, the kidneys, the liver, and all the associated fatty tissue was to be offered on the altar to the Lord. Why? The bowels, the inward parts, were understood to be the center of thought and emotion. Psalm 94 says:
'Inward parts' is translated 'heart' because we use the word 'heart' the way the ancients used 'inward parts'. When we are told that Jesus 'had compassion', it could literally be translated 'he was moved in his bowels'.
The liver kidneys are a vital organs that were believed to be the centers of emotional life.
Psalm 26:2 literally reads 'test my heart and my kidneys'
Proverbs 23:16 literally reads 'my kidneys will rejoice'
These parts are the core of emotional life, and they are to be given completely to the Lord. The fat, kidneys and liver were also considered a delicacy.
In Deuteronomy 32, we are told how God cared for his people with the very best of the best, suckled with honey and oil,
The Hebrew text reads 'fat of lambs … with the kidney fat of the wheat', referring to the very finest of the best. The best of the best is to be given to the Lord.
In addition to this, if the peace offering is from the sheep:
The broad fat tail is a special feature of the species of sheep bred in Palestine, often weighing 15 pounds or more [Hartley WBC p.40], and also considered a delicacy. The richest best portion belongs to the Lord.
At the end of this passage, we find a general statement:
All the fat is the Lord's. The richest and best portions are to belong to God. This is put in the strongest terms. There are to be no exceptions. This is carved in stone. There are to be no exceptions because of the circumstances of a specific time or location. The best belongs to the Lord. Later in Leviticus we will learn that the life of the flesh is in the blood, which God has given to make atonement on the altar.
Such is the peace offering of the Old Testament.
What does this mean for us today? Do you have peace with God? Are you experiencing peace with God? Is peace your present experience?
Peace is an objective reality.
The common greeting in the New Testament letters is 'grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ' There is a consistent order. Grace, God's free undeserved gift always comes first. Peace comes as a response to the experience of God's grace to us in Jesus Christ.
If you have trusted Jesus, depended on the blood of his cross to remove your sin, you have peace with God. Regardless of how you feel, you have peace with God as an objective reality. But peace can also be an inward experience for you.
Peace, perfect peace, belongs to those who trust in Jesus. Is your mind stayed on Jesus? Are you trusting in Jesus, clinging to Jesus? Jesus told his disciples:
Jesus gives us peace, his peace.
Paul tells us in Philippians 4 to be anxious for nothing but to pray about everything, with thanksgiving,
Stop being anxious. Instead, take it all to God in prayer, with thanksgiving. And God's peace will guard your inward being. The peace of God will guard you because the God of peace will be with you. You can experience true peace because the God of peace is with you.
Is peace with God your present experience? Are you enjoying intimate fellowship with the living God?
Are you experiencing communion with God? He desires to have fellowship with you.
Are you giving your best to God? Have you surrendered your emotional life to God? Have you offered him your deepest longings and affections and desires? Christ Jesus laid his own inner desires on the altar to God.
He withheld nothing. When we surrender our inner selves, or affections, our emotions to God, it it a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. It is a pleasing aroma to the LORD.
Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org