As the burnt-offering gives especially the divine side of the work of Christ, so the peace- offering dwells rather upon its effects with regard to men. This must not be taken in too absolute a way as respects either. The burnt-offering is for man, of course, and in atonement; and the skin removed undoubtedly carries us back to the coats of skins which clothed our first parents, as we have already seen. On the other hand, in the peace-offering, who could forget the Father's joy in that which brings the prodigal to the Father's table? And this is what the peace-offering presents to us. Still this "peace" is what the offering effects for man with God. It is rather an effect of the work which is contemplated than a new aspect of the work itself.
For this reason we have necessarily, in connection with our present subject, less to do with it. The main peculiarities connect with the necessary distinction of destination of the offering, of which only the fat is burnt upon the altar, while the rest of the animal belongs either to the priest or to the offerer himself, — the only sacrifice in which the offerer does partake. In the lower grades of the sin-offering the priest has his part; the offerer no where but in this. Here, then, the peace-offering fulfills its name, and finds most evidently its distinctive character.
The peace-offering may be of the herd or flock, male or female, bullock or sheep or goat. Birds are omitted, with a manifest propriety, which confirms fully the meaning ascribed to them. "The bread from heaven," as the Lord says in the gospel, is what "the Son of Man shall give you." If we speak of communion, which we have seen to be the point here, it must be the Son of Man, sealed of the Father, that must be the basis of it. True, if He were not God over all blessed forever, all the preciousness would be lost for us. Nevertheless it is in His manhood that we apprehend Him doing that work which alone brings us to God. Even in the burnt-offering we see that the bird, though a higher thought, comes in necessarily as a lower grade. Here it disappears. It is in the joy brought out of sorrow that I find what establishes my soul in peace with God. It is the value of His manhood's work in which I draw near, although none but such as He was could have had power to lay down His life and again to take it.
In the peace-offering and sin-offering alone is the female permitted, — in the latter indeed enjoined, although only in the lower grades. It seems clear that it gives thus the character of comparative feebleness or passiveness to the offering, but it is not clear that that is all we are to gather from it. We have seen that the lower grades of sacrifice represent in general thoughts true in their place, but here misplaced. Yet in Numbers xix, the female is commanded where there is no other grade at all. Here, it is surely impossible that mere feebleness can be intended. Passiveness may indeed have its suited place with reference to the sin-offering, but here, and in the peace-offering also, the type of the sheep seems by itself to represent this; and in the sin-offering, the sheep is expressly to be a female too. Taking all these together, I have little doubt that those are right who believe the female to be the type of fruitfulness, which in connection with the thought of passiveness or quiet subjection to suffering seems here not out of place, but eminently in place. Is it not true, as there are in man and woman characters which complete each other, and give, as thus seen together, perfection to the divine idea of man, so in our Lord, as the perfection of all human excellency, the male and female characters find both their place?
Jehovah's Servant, in the accomplishment of those counsels of love and wisdom which were laid upon Him, giving up His life in meek surrender, even to that cross in which the full due of sin was His to meet and put away for us forever: — these things seem fitly to unite here to give the complete character to the peace-offering. They may seem to connect with other offerings, as the goat especially with the sin-offering, but they seem all rightly to meet and give character to this central sacrifice, where in a common joy Blesser and blessed, Saviour and saved, God and man, stand. Thus we find here no grades really, as in the burnt-offering we have found, and in the sin-offering shall much more find them. Here, the details of the sacrifice, whether for cattle, or sheep, or goat, seem almost absolutely the same.
The details are such as we have already sought to trace the significance of. The animal is presented to Jehovah, designated as the substitute of him who offers it, killed, and the blood sprinkled on the altar round about. Then all the fat is put upon the altar, upon the burnt-offering, which is on the wood that is on the fire; and it is emphatically pronounced a sweet-savor offering.
That which I have emphasized is very precious. Our communion is founded upon nothing less than the full acceptance of the beloved Son of God, — acceptance in all the perfection which we have already seen the burnt-offering expresses. This gives the measure of communion as God intends it the measure of our apprehension is quite another thing.