PEACE OFFERING: Conciliation in Christ
Leviticus 3:1-17; 7:11-21
Mankind has done much talking about peace, but experienced little of it throughout the centuries. Someone estimated that in the last 5,600 years there have been 14,531 wars and only 292 years of world peace. Man’s heart longs for peace!
“Shalom” is the greeting most often heard in Israel. It is translated peace in English, but its use is much broader in the Jewish Scriptures. Shalom is translated whole (Dt. 27:6), finished (Dan. 5:26), full (Gen. 15:16), make good (Ex. 21:34), welfare and well (Gen. 43:27), and perfect. David asked the Lord to give Solomon a perfect heart (1 Chr. 29:19). Solomon prayed for the people of Israel, “Let your heart, therefore, be perfect with the Lord our God. . . (1 Ki. 8:61), referring to a wholehearted commitment unto the Lord. The underlying thought of Shalom is “health, welfare, wholesomeness, and harmony with God.
The third offering in the sacrificial system is called the peace offering. The Hebrew word for peace offering (Shelamin) like Shalom has two main ideas expressed in the word. First, it represented a sacrificial gift brought by the Israelite in thanksgiving for the peace, friendship, and fellowship he experienced with God. Second, the peace offering, after it had been presented to the Lord, was a fellowship meal which the Israelite and priest joyfully shared before the Lord (Dt. 12:7, 18; 14:23,26; 15:20), God’s portion being burnt on the altar.
The Israelite could present a bull or cow (v. 1), lamb (v. 7), or goat (v. 12) as his peace offering. It differed from the burnt offering in a number of ways. First, the Israelite could choose the type of animal he would present, since the primary intent of the sacrifice was food given by God in the sacrificial meal. Second, birds were not permitted as a sacrifice in the peace offering, since there was no fat to be burnt on the altar, nor was there sufficient meat to feed the parties involved in the sacrificial meal. Third, there was no sex distinction in the peace offering (v. 6). The reason is not mentioned in Scripture, but possibly the male, which is superior in worth, power, and excellence, was used for the higher and more important sacrifices. Fourth, the animal in the burnt offering was entirely consumed on the altar, but in the peace offering only the fat and kidneys were offered unto the Lord (vv. 3-4,9-10, 14-16).
The offerer performed the same ritual for the peace offering as in the other blood sacrifices. He led the animal to the door of the Tabernacle and laid (pressed) his hands upon its head (w. 2, 8, 13) identifying with the sacrifice as his substitute — the animal was substituting its life for that of the Israelite. He had to bring it himself, not by proxy (7:29-30). Then he killed the animal by
drawing the sharp knife across its throat. After the sacrifice was made, the Israelite took the breast and right shoulder (7:34) to be waved before the Lord (7:30). The priest placed his hands beneath those of the offerer who held the pieces to be waved. The “wave breast” (7:34) was moved in a horizontal manner backward and forward before the Lord. The “heave shoulder” (7:34) was swung in a vertical movement up and down before the Lord.
Although the pieces were not burnt on the altar, they were consecrated unto the Lord in the method just presented. The priest fed upon the wave breast which is a symbol of love and affection and the heave shoulder which symbolized strength (7:31- 32, 34). The maintenance of the Levitical priesthood was carefully provided for under the law by means of offerings and tithes, the laborer being worthy of his hire (Lk. 10:7; 1 Cor. 9:13).
The offerer could relate to the peace of God in a number of ways. First, the name of God, Jehovah-shalom (Jud. 6:24), speaks of the perfect peace He possesses in Himself.
Second, God’s thoughts are always of peace toward man (Jer. 29:11), who can experience His peace (Isa. 26:12) through faith and obedience to His commands. The key to continual blessing and peace for Israel, individually and nationally, was to walk in the statutes and commandments of the Lord (Lev. 26:3, 6). Third, the priestly benediction included a prayer for God to bestow peace on Israel (Num. 6:26). Fourth, the Israelite knew that during the kingdom age, peace would flow from Jerusalem into the whole world (Isa. 66:12).
The peace offering typified a greater fulfillment in Christ and His ministry. It was prophesied of Jesus before His birth that He would come to guide His people in the way of peace (Lk. 1:78-79). At His birth, the angelic host of Heaven proclaimed peace on earth (Lk. 2:14). He bestowed peace upon those He healed (Mk. 5:34) and forgave (Lk. 7:50) during His ministry. Near the end of His ministry Christ stood looking over Jerusalem as tears streamed down His cheeks and said, “. . . If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! But now they are hidden from thine eyes” (Lk. 19:42). They had missed their day of peace through Him.
It was Christ who made peace between God and man through His ministry of reconciliation:
“And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself — by him. . .” (Col. 1:20). The word reconciliation means to change, having reference to man’s relationship with God. It is not God who is recondied to man, but man who is reconciled back to God by means of Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross (2 Cor. 5:18-20). The individual will never experience peace in life until he has been reconciled to God through Jesus Christ.
The believer’s peace through reconciliation is expressed in three ways. First, he has made peace with God (Rom. 5:1; Eph. 2:-14-17). Second, he receives peace from God (Rom. 1:7) – true peace only coming from God. Third) there is the peace of God (Phil. 4:7; Jn. 14:27; 16:33) which is the portion of every believer who walks uprightly before God. In the future there will be peace on earth to be experienced by all believers when Christ, “The Prince of Peace” (Isa. 9:6), comes to establish it. Isaiah says, “Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end. . .” (Isa. 9:7).
When Peter took the gospel to the Gentiles, he went “preaching peace by Jesus Christ” (Acts 10:36). He told them that God’s peace was only experienced through grace by faith in Christ’s finished work on the cross.
On many occasions Paul spoke of “peace from God” in the salutation (Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:3; 2 Cor. 1:2; Gal. 1:3) and conclusion (Rom. 15:33; 2 Car. 13:11) of his letters.
The Officiating Priest
As with the burnt offering, the priest caught the blood which gushed forth from the animal. Then he sprinkled the blood upon and around the altar (3:2). The priest flayed the animal, meticulously dividing it into proper pieces, then examined the pieces for blemishes or disease.
The ritual burning of the peace offering differed from that of the burnt offering. The whole animal was consumed in the burnt offering, but only the fat and certain parts of the peace offering were burned on the altar (vv. 3-5, 9-10, 14-17; 7:3, 23). The fat from the abdominal cavity, kidneys, liver, and rump (tail) was burned on the altar.
Why was burning fat on the altar of such importance? In biblical times fat was a sign of the animal’s health and vigor, being the richest part of the animal, thus it was offered to God upon the altar. The fat was to be placed on top of the burnt offering previously laid upon the fire. The burnt offering served as the foundation of the peace offering. When put on the altar it was extremely flammable and quickly consumed by the fire. The tail of some sheep was very fat, weighing as much as eight to ten pounds, and was consumed the moment it was put on the altar. The fat of an animal which had died naturally or had been killed by another animal could not be burned upon the altar but was used for other purposes (7:24).
Unlike the burnt offering which was entirely consumed upon the altar, three parties partook of the peace offering. First, the fat which was consumed on the altar is called “food [bread] of the offering . . . unto the Lord” (v. 11), In what way was it food for God? Naturally, it is not to be taken literally since God needs no food! The fat presented to God is His share in the feast with the priest and the people as a sweet savor” unto the Lord (v. 5). It is called “sweet savor,” being acceptable and well pleasing to God, since it was not offered in respect to the sin and trespass offering. Paul speaks of Christ’s sacrificial work as a “sweet smelling savor” (Eph. 5:2), referring to His voluntary obedience to the will of the Father and His death on the cross, ascending as a sweet aroma before God.
Next was the priest’s portion consisting of the breast and right shoulder (7:34), These portions were to be given to the priest and were eaten for sustenance, not as a ceremonial act.
What was left over after God and the priest received their portion went to the offerer and his family. There were specific restrictions in the sacrificial eating on the part of the Israelites which marked them off from other nations (Dt. 12:17-18).
The peace offering meal was a communion supper between God and the Israelite. Likewise Christians, as believer-priests, gather around the communion table in fellowship one with another remembering Christ’s sacrificial work on the cross (1 Cor. 11:23-26). It is a time of thanksgiving and joy as the believer reflects on and rejoices in the reconciling ministry of Jesus Christ who made peace possible between God and man.
The Offerings Presented
There were three types of peace offerings which could be presented unto the Lord (7:11-21). The first peace offering was the thanksgiving offering (7:11-15). Three kinds of bread were to be offered with it: “unleavened cakes mixed with oil, and unleavened wafers anointed with oil, and cakes mixed with oil, of fine flour, fried.” Besides the cakes, leavened bread was to be offered too. The unleavened cakes is a picture of the sinless Christ who provides peace for the believer, reconciling him back to God (Eph. 2:13-18). The leavened bread was a thanksgiving offering for the peace God provides to him. Leavened bread typifies that the believer has made peace with God by means of the proper sacrifice, but evil still exists in him. A part of the oblation was taken to be used as a heave offering. The word oblation (masseath) means that which is carried or borne. It describes the sacrifice carried to the temple by the Israelite to be offered as a peace offering of thanksgiving. It also expresses the purpose of the sacrifice which was to bear sin (Ex. 28:38; Lev. 10:17; 16:21). The word heave comes from a Hebrew word (terumah) which means to lift up toward Heaven by the priest. It was done by the Israelite in faith showing his thanksgiving and gratitude to God as the Source from whence all blessings come. It was to be eaten by the priest in the same day.
The second type of peace offering was the vow offering (7:16). It was made with a vow when the person was in danger or distress in order to gain divine guidance so as to be delivered from trouble. From the moment the vow was made the Israelite was bound by obligation to perform his promised vow, thus it was not presented voluntarily.
The third type of peace offering was the voluntary offering (free-will) [7:16]. No specific time or occasion was set for this offering. The Israelite could bring his offering any time in appreciation to God.
The vow and voluntary offerings might have been inferior to the thanksgiving offering. In the thanksgiving offering the animal was to be eaten the same day (7:15), but with the vow and voluntary offerings the animal might be eaten on the following day (7:16) — none could be eaten on the third day (7:17-18). Most likely this was because corruption and decay would set in and the meat became impure for consumption. If any of the meat remained after the third day or touched any unclean thing, it was to be burned immediately (7:18-19).
If the Israelite or priest were ceremonially unclean (see Lev. 11-16) and ate of the sacrifice, he was “cut off from his people” (7:21). The same is true of the Christian. He cannot expect to have daily communion with God if known sin remains in his life (1 Jn. 1:6-7). Before the believer partakes in communion at the Lord’s table, he must examine himself and judge known sin by repenting of it, so he can eat in fellowship with God (1 Cor. 11:27-32). Paul mentions that those who partake with sin in their life could suffer weakness, sickness, or even death (1 Cor. 11:30).
The Christian needs to examine his heart daily, confessing known sin (1 Jn. 1:9), if he expects to walk with God in fellowship and peace. The believer who walks with a cleansed life will experience the overwhelming peace of God which passes all understanding (Phil. 4:7).
In 1874, Frances Havergal captured the concept of God’s perfect peace when she wrote:
Like a river glorious
Is God’s perfect peace,
Over all victorious
In its bright increase;
Perfect, yet it floweth
Fuller ev’ry day,
Perfect, yet it groweth
Deeper all the way.
Stayed upon Jehovah,
Hearts are fully blest —
Finding, as He promised,
Perfect peace and rest.