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Leviticus 3 introduces the Peace Offering which was established by God to proclaim His intention of renewing fellowship with sinful humanity. But this fellowship with God does not merely re-establish fellowship vertically with Him, it is the only basis for re-establishing horizontal fellowship and peace on earth.
“Now if his offering is a sacrifice of peace offerings, if he is going to offer out of the herd, whether male or female, he shall offer it without defect before the Lord…” (Lev. 3)
SUMMARY OF THE TEXT
A Peace Offering may be a male or female animal without blemish, but the portion that goes on the altar is the fat of the entrails, the two kidneys, and the fat around the liver (3:1-4). Like the Ascension Offering, the worshiper draws near to the door of the tabernacle, lays his hand on the head of the animal, and slaughters the animal himself (3:2). The priest sprinkles the blood around the altar (3:2), and the priest puts the fatty parts on the altar for a soothing aroma to the Lord (3:5). The same is true for a male or female lamb (3:7-11). And the same is true for a goat (3:12-16). The instructions conclude with prohibitions against eating blood and fat (3:17).
THE PEACE OFFERING
One question that might occur to you is: What happens to the rest of the animal in the Peace Offering? We aren’t told here in our text, but it comes out later that the rest of the animal is to be eaten. A couple of portions go to the priests (Lev. 7:11-18, 31-36), and the rest the worshiper was to eat there at the tabernacle: “There also you and your households shall eat before the Lord your God, and rejoice in all your undertakings in which the Lord your God has blessed you… And you shall rejoice before the Lord your God, you and your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, and the Levite who is within your gates, since he has no portion or inheritance with you” (Dt. 12:7, 12). In our text, the clue to this is the fact that this offering is specifically called “bread” or “food” on the altar of the Lord (Lev. 3:11, 16). So the Peace Offering is a fellowship meal, in which God eats a portion, and His people eat with Him in His presence. In this way, it is right to think of the bronze altar as God’s table.
In some respects the Passover was a special Peace Offering. A lamb was killed, the blood was put on the houses of Israel, and they at the Passover lamb (Ex. 12). When God made covenant with Israel at Sinai, we also see peace offerings be offered (Ex. 24:5), and the 70 elders go up the mountain to the God of Israel: “they beheld God, and ate and drank” (Ex. 24:11).
FELLOWSHIP WITH GOD & MAN
Christian fellowship is always triangulated. There is no human relationship that God is absent from. In fact, the Bible teaches that peace with those on earth is directly connected to peace with God in heaven. When the angels announced the birth of Christ, that God had drawn near, their song was “peace on earth” (Mt. 2:14). The only way to deeper fellowship in any human relationship must include deeper fellowship with God. As we have seen, the sacrifices themselves teach that the way to draw near to God is through being cut and burned. This is fundamentally done by God’s Word (Heb. 4:12). What keeps us away from God is sin, and sin is what prevents human peace and fellowship. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded” (Js. 4:8). How do you draw near to God? Cleanse your hands, purify your hearts, confess your sins.
John connects the same things: He wrote his letter so that we might have fellowship with him and the other apostles, but that fellowship is with the Father and His Son Jesus Christ (1 Jn. 1:3). God is light and there is no darkness in Him at all; so if we have say we have fellowship with Him but walk in darkness, we are liars and do not practice the truth (1 Jn. 1:5-6). If we are tripping over our various human relationships, we are lying about how things are going with God. If you keep finding yourself saying things like, “I just don’t understand why he/she…” then you are walking in the dark. If all your bumps and bruises are mysterious, you’re probably walking in the dark. But if we walk in the Light as He is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin (1 Jn. 1:7). We have fellowship with one another through the blood of Jesus. God’s light is always shining, but sin blacks-out our windshield and everything goes dark. When we confess our sins, God forgives us and washes our windshield from all unrighteousness (1 Jn. 1:9). Forgiveness is the other side of this transaction on the human level. We forgive for the sake of the blood of Christ. Forgiveness does not pretend the sin away. Confession asks to be released from the debt because Christ paid it, and forgiveness promises to do so. Forgiveness is a promise, not a feeling.
CONCLUSION: FELLOWSHIP & FEASTING
It is no accident that we celebrate a symbolic meal together every Lord’s Day. The Lord’s Supper is our Peace Offering, where we celebrate peace with God and one another. Of course, on the one hand, do not bring grievances, bitterness, or divisions to this Table. This is what Paul means by “discerning the body” and eating and drinking “in an unworthy manner” (1 Cor. 11:27-29). The Corinthians had divisions among them, some were eating and drinking while others were not, and some were getting drunk. Discerning the body and eating in a worthy manner means making sure grievances are confessed and forgiven, waiting for one another, and making sure everyone is served. We want to make sure that our celebration of peace is honest and sincere.
But this is a pattern for all of life. Every meal we celebrate together is either true fellowship or not. We are either celebrating Christian peace or hypocrisy. If it’s real peace and fellowship, Christ is in it, and you want more of it. You love your times around the table together. You can’t wait for dinner, for the next meal when you can tell everyone what happened. But if Christ is not in it, there’s nothing holding it together. It’s purely utilitarian.
We are not under the ceremonial law of the Old Covenant, but one of the broader lessons of the ceremonial law is that details matter. Manners are love in the little things. When you wait for one another to eat, when you pass the food graciously, when you speak cheerfully and politely, when you practice good manners, you are practicing peace and fellowship and harmony. Be kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another just God in Christ has forgiven you (Eph. 4:32). Christ is our peace.