Leviticus 3:1-5, 16-17; Leviticus 7:11-18, 31-34.
The term "peace offering" conveys a wrong thought concerning the sacrifice spoken of in the scriptures which we have just read. Many persons take it for granted that this offering typifies Christ making our peace with God. But that is not a correct thought. The peace offering is rather an offering of thanksgiving or praise. "Sacrifice of prosperity," as it is translated in French, better expresses the thought. The peace offering typifies our communion, as saints of God, on the ground of the value of the work and precious blood of Christ before God — our communion with God Himself, our communion with the Lord Jesus, and our communion with one another as priests of God. That is what is set forth in the peace offering. It is really a communion sacrifice, and thanksgiving and praise naturally flow from communion. Consequently, we have that expression, "If he offer it for a thanksgiving" (Lev. 7:12). Praise and worship necessarily flow from communion. The ground of it all is the value of the work of Christ in the sight of God. That, no doubt, is why we find in chapter 3 that the peace offering is founded, as it were, upon the burnt offering.
"And Aaron's sons shall burn it on the altar upon the burnt sacrifice, which is upon the wood that is on the fire" (v. 5).
How beautiful that is! The burnt offering, you are aware, typifies Christ offering Himself to God in death for a sweet savor, and in the very place where He was made sin for us bringing fullest glory to God. There surely we find the foundation for everything — for all our joys, all our communion, all our worship and all our praise. The foundation of all is the burnt sacrifice.
We might, in passing, look at an illustration. See 2 Chronicles 7:1-3 —
"Now when Solomon had made an end of praying, the fire came down from heaven, and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices."
There was the burnt offering offered up, and God signified His acceptance of it by sending fire down from heaven. That was a picture of Christ offering Himself as the true burnt offering, and God has shown His acceptance of it and delight in it by putting Christ at His own right hand in glory.
"When all the children of Israel saw how the fire came down, and the glory of the Lord upon the house, they bowed themselves with their faces to the ground upon the pavement, and worshipped."
So, when we see that wondrous offering of the Lord Jesus and know the place in which God has put Him in glory, we worship as those who are accepted in all the infinite value of that one offering. Thus, the ground upon which we are worshippers is the offering of Christ to God for a sweet savor.
There is another thought connected with the peace offering which we ought to notice, and that is, although this offering typifies communion and thanksgiving and worship, these things are not individual, but collective. It is very blessed to see that they are connected with the Lord's table and with our place there as worshippers. These things are brought out very clearly and distinctly in the peace offering.
It typifies communion, because all the persons concerned partook of the same sacrifice. God had His portion, the priest had his, Aaron and his sons had theirs, and the rest of the animal was eaten by the one that brought it and by those with him. We will refer to the verses which speak of this, that it may be impressed upon the mind: "It is the food of the offering made by fire for a sweet savor: all the fat is the Lord's" (ch. 3:16). "The fat that covereth the inwards" especially (v. 3), but all the fat was offered to God upon the altar. It was God's part of the sacrifice, or, as it is beautifully expressed, "It is the food of the offering made by fire for a sweet savor." Whose food? God's food. That upon which He could feed, that was God's portion.
Chapter 7:31 gives the connection. We saw in chapter 3 that all the fat was the Lord's. Here we find that "the priest shall burn the fat upon the altar: but the breast shall be Aaron's and his sons'." Aaron and his sons always typify believers — all believers in Christ — not looked at as one body, but looked at as individual priests to God. Aaron, when alone, is a type of Christ. Read verses 32-33: "And the right shoulder shall ye give unto the priest for a heave offering of the sacrifices of your peace offerings. He among the sons of Aaron, that offereth the blood of the peace offerings, and the fat, shall have the right shoulder for his part."
Connecting these verses together, we find out very clearly, first, that the fat was God's and was burned upon the altar for a sweet savor; second, that the breast belonged to Aaron and his sons; and third, that the right shoulder belonged to the offering priest — a type of the Lord Jesus. As I said before, the rest of the animal was eaten by the one who brought it and by his friends. Thus God, the offering priest, Aaron and his sons, and the person who brought the animal in sacrifice all fed upon the same thing — the same animal. It becomes, therefore, a very simple type of communion with God, and with the Lord Jesus Christ — the offering Priest — and with one another as believers. We might add, with the whole church, for when we think of our joys, our blessings, our communion, our praise, our worship — if they be really in the power of the Holy Spirit — all saints necessarily are included, for they have a common salvation, a common portion and common joys.
We will turn now to a passage in 1 Corinthians, in order to get a clearer understanding of the subject (1 Cor. 10:15-20): "I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say. The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of [or, in communion with] that one bread. Behold Israel after the flesh: are not they which eat of the sacrifices partakers of [or, in communion with] the altar? What say I then? that the idol is anything, or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is anything? But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils."
In verse 18 we read, "Behold Israel after the flesh: are not they which eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar?" I think many of the Lord's people read this verse without thinking of what it refers to. It no doubt has reference to the peace offering; so then unless that offering is understood, we cannot understand 1 Corinthians 10:18. Neither can we understand what the Apostle is speaking about in the other verses. Therefore I read them in connection with this offering in Leviticus. We read, "And Aaron's sons shall burn it on the altar upon the burnt sacrifice" (Lev. 3:5).
We have seen that the burnt offering speaks of that wondrous work in which Christ offered Himself to God without spot. In the very place where He was made sin for us, He put away all our sins, so that they are all gone forever from before God, and we, as believers, may add, "And we ourselves, as children of Adam, are gone too." What remains? Nothing but the sweet savor of what that sacrifice was to God, and in that we find ourselves accepted; in other words, it is not a question of our thoughts, of our appreciation of the work of Christ, of how we value it, but the blessed truth is that if you are the weakest, feeblest believer in the Lord Jesus Christ — one who has just looked once away from self to Christ as Saviour — it is true of you at this moment that you are accepted before God according to His estimate of all the infinite value of the work of the Lord Jesus on the cross. You and I may little enter into or understand it, yet such is the blessed truth. Does Christ's acceptability ever alter? Does the sweet savor ever change? Never. Neither does your acceptance ever change, dear believer in Christ. The sweet savor is as fresh before God now as it was when Christ offered Himself, and in that sweet savor you and I are found before God. This is the ground of our peace.
I need not say that unless a person has peace with God, unless every question about sin is settled, there can be no communion, no worship in spirit and in truth. The ground of it all is the value of the work of the Lord Jesus — all its efficacy in the sight of God. Perhaps the reason why so many Christians do not seem to have much heart or inclination to look into the Word of God and search out the precious things contained therein — do not seem very interested in what concerns the Lord's interests and what the Lord is in His own Person — is, in nine cases out of ten, because they have not really peace with God; the great question of their sins has never been settled. Therefore, when they come into the presence of God or think about the things of eternity, the question is always rising up in their minds, "Am I, after all, really accepted? Am I really and truly a child of God? Or have I been deceiving myself all this time?" Such a soul is not free to be occupied with God's thoughts about Christ, is not at liberty to be occupied with the blessed Lord Himself. Such a soul has necessarily to think about himself, his acceptance, and therefore the first great question with him is, "Am I fit to stand in the unclouded light of God's presence, in that glory where not a single trace of sin can be found? Can I stand there? Can I be at home there?" If we, any of us, look at ourselves, we must all confess that we cannot stand there for a moment, but if we look away from ourselves and see Christ offering Himself up to God, we hear the blessed words, "It shall be accepted for him." We learn that all our sins were dealt with and effaced at the cross, and that now nothing is left but the sweet savor of the sacrifice, and that we are before God according to the infinite value that He sets upon the work of Christ. What peace that gives!
"And the priest shall burn them upon the altar: it is the food of the offering made by fire for a sweet savor: all the fat is the Lord's" (v. 16).
The fat, especially that which covered the inwards, was, as it says in verse 3, the Lord's. Fat signifies the energy of the inward will. When the will is in opposition to God, set up against Him, Scripture calls that sin. The very fact of our having an independent will of our own is sin. That is what it means in 1 John 3:4, which is not correctly translated in our version. I am glad, however, to see it is rightly translated in the Revised Version:
"Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law."
The proper reading is, "Sin is lawlessness." It is lawlessness to set up our own will in opposition to God. That is why I said if any one of us had a will independent of God's will, that in itself is sin. So God claims all the fat for Himself, for if the will does not belong to God, it is sin; it is not God's will. The Lord Jesus could say, "I came down from heaven, not to do Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me." "Lo, I come," He said, "to do Thy will, Ο God"! He came to accomplish the will of God at all cost to Himself, although it led Him on to death, and that the death of the cross. He did not shrink back even in the garden of Gethsemane, where He prayed, "Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me: nevertheless, not as I will, but as Thou wilt."
All the fat, then, was Jehovah's; all went up to God for a sweet savor. The energy of that will of the Lord Jesus was perfectly in accordance with God's will. That is a lovely expression in verse 16: "It is the food of the offering made by fire for a sweet savor." How much is involved in these few words — God's food. Where was the offering made? At the cross. How was it made by fire? The testing judgment of God was there, and the more Christ was tested, the more was brought out the perfection of that blessed One who came to do nothing but the will of God. God found His food in Jesus: He could feed upon Him; He could delight in Him. And we can say, "Never was He personally more the object of His Father's delight than when He went into death for our sins, even when forsaken of God on the cross," for Scripture never says, as some persons say, The Father forsook Christ. He said, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" I suppose that the only time He used that expression before His resurrection was when He was on the cross, when He took the sinner's place before a holy God, but personally never was He more a sweet savor than at that moment.
The sacrifice of Christ has set us in the glory of God without a fault, and that glory can search us through and through and not find a single spot or stain. Why? Because we are there in all the value of the work of Christ, and if God were to find a spot upon one who was before Him on the ground of the value of the work of Christ, He would have to say that that work was not perfect. He would have to say, "The value of the sacrifice is not sufficient; it has cleansed some sin, but not all." Could God ever say that? Never. The more we are in the light of the glory, the more does it make manifest how clean we are, because washed in the precious blood of Christ. "It is the food of the offering made by fire for a sweet savor: all the fat is the Lord's." All belonged to Him. Is it not a very blessed thought for us, that that in which God finds His chief delight — that wondrous sacrifice — is the very work that has set us without spot in the presence of His glory?
Refer now to chapter 7: "And the priest shall burn the fat upon the altar" (Lev. 7:31).
As we have seen, this was the food of the offering made by fire for a sweet savor. We will connect this with the Lord's table. There it is that our worship ought to flow out. Our communion ought to be at its height when we are gathered there around the blessed Lord Himself, with the memorials of His death before us — His body given and His poured-out blood showing that redemption is accomplished. Surely if we can worship anywhere, it ought to be there. We read in 1 Corinthians 10, "The bread that we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?" Now, I think a great many of the Lord's people read that verse without really thinking what it means. I have heard a brother ask the Lord in prayer that the bread which we break might be the communion of the body of Christ to our souls. The Apostle does not say, "May the bread which we break be the communion of the body of Christ"; it is, he says. "The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?" "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ?" And then he refers to the offerings under the law (Lev. 7). He says, "Behold Israel after the flesh: are not they which eat of the sacrifices partakers of [or, in communion with] the altar?" (v. 18). The words "communion of" and "partakers of" are two different translations of one expression in the original. The word is also used in connection with the heathen sacrifices; that is what the Apostle is speaking of there — "I would not that ye should have fellowship [communion] with devils" (v. 20).
But how blessed to know — do you ever have the thought when you break the bread at the Lord's supper? — that it is the communion of the body of Christ. What does that mean? It means, I believe, this: that by that act of yours you profess before all angels and principalities, intelligences and powers, that you are identified before God with all the value of the work of the Lord Jesus when He offered Himself to God for a sweet savor; that you are identified with the value of the sacrifice upon the altar; that you are in communion with the God to whom it was offered and with the Lord Jesus who offered Himself. The same thing applies to the cup. Whoever drinks of the cup says, by that act, "I am identified for all eternity with the value in the sight of God of the precious blood of Christ, which was shed for me." Therefore, although the bread remains bread and the wine remains wine, it is not like eating a piece of bread or drinking wine at home. If it be not as I say, what is it? Only an empty form, a mere profession, a non-reality, and if you read Leviticus 7:15 you will see that any worship apart from the sacrifice of Christ is only an abomination to God.
"And the flesh of the sacrifice of his peace offerings for thanksgiving shall be eaten the same day that it is offered; he shall not leave any of it until the morning."
If he did so leave it, what happened? Read verse 18: "If any of the flesh of the sacrifice of his peace offerings be eaten at all on the third day, it shall not be accepted, neither shall it be imputed unto him that offereth it: it shall be an abomination, and the soul that eateth of it shall bear his iniquity."
If any worship or praise to God is not connected with the value of the work of His Son, it is simply an abomination in His sight. In other words, people who have never been washed in the precious blood of Christ are not accepted as worshippers before God. There is nothing God is so jealous about as the way He is worshipped, and that generally is the last thing that Christians think about. "As long as we are saved, and get to heaven," they say, "it is of very little importance how we worship God; it is a secondary thing altogether." But when Nadab and Abihu offered strange fire before the Lord, they were struck dead because they did not approach in the way God had commanded. And what did Moses say? "This is it that the Lord spake, saying, I will be sanctified in them that come nigh Me" (Lev. 10:3).
For an unconverted person to pretend to worship God is, like Cain, to ignore sin and the fact that he is a fallen creature. When we are gathered around the Lord's table, the bread which we break is the communion of the body of Christ. We are there gathered to the Lord's name, identified as true believers in all the value of that one offering, the sweet savor of which is before God in all its freshness, accepted before Him in the light of His presence without a spot. We know that we are fit to be there, and we give "thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light" (Col. 1:12). God finds delight in that wondrous sacrifice; we, in our poor, feeble measure, find our delight in it too. And we see the love that gave the Son, and we see the wondrous efficacy of that sacrifice and what a sweet savor it was to God, and then we find that the very thing that God finds delight in has set us, without a spot, in His own holy presence. This, surely, will bring praise and worship out of the heart — not prayer to ask the Lord that there may be worship — that is to confess there is none. When we are occupied with Christ and His beauty, thanksgiving and praise must flow out; we cannot help it.
Do you not think — I submit it to those who have had longer experience than I — that it is a mistake to suppose that we go to the Lord's table to worship, because we get occupied with the worship instead of the Lord? What do we go for? The disciples came together to break bread. They did not come to have a worship meeting or to have a service; they came to break bread, to remember the Lord in death. "This do," says the Lord, "in remembrance of Me." If we remember Him, we think of that work; we think of God's food of the offering, of His delight in it; we think of all its infinite results and the glory that is coming, and we cannot help rejoicing, in consequence of our blessing. So thanksgiving and praise must flow out. That is God's part; our part is mentioned in verse 31: "The priest shall burn the fat upon the altar: but the breast shall be Aaron's and his sons'."
Aaron and his sons typify all believers. The breast was their portion. What does the breast speak to us of? The place of affection, and the unutterable love of the Lord Jesus to us is our portion forever. We must ever remember that the blessed Lord Jesus loves all His people. Individually we say, He "loved me, and gave Himself for me," but collectively we say, He "loved the church, and gave Himself for it." It was love that brought Him down from heaven, from that glory which He had with His Father before the world was. Even then His delights were with the sons of men. Love brought Him to the manger and led Him through this world till He came to the cross, and there to give Himself for us. And it is well to notice that the Lord's words at the last supper, as to the bread and the wine, were more expressive of what His work was for us than the burnt offering aspect of it, what it was to God. "This is My body," He said, "which is given for you: this do in remembrance of Me." At the Lord's supper it is surely not so much doctrine that engages us; it is the exercise of the heart and affections as we remember Him who gave Himself for us. We think of all the love of the Lord Jesus in thus giving Himself, and we shall ever remember it. We shall know it in all its fullness when we see Him as He is, when we behold Him in all His glory and beauty, when we behold Him there, the fullness of the Godhead dwelling in Him bodily and the glory of God shining out of His face. We shall bow down before Him in worship, and individually we shall be able to say, He "loved me, and gave Himself for me." "The breast shall be Aaron's and his sons'." Ah! we shall never forget it; on the contrary, the remembrance of it will be intensified when we are in glory — that blessed, blessed reality! — He loved us; He gave Himself for us. Even now we say, "Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and His Father; to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever." We say it now; how much more when in the glory and like Him! Thus we have seen that God has His part and that we have our part in the sacrifice of Christ. But there is Another who will have His part too, and that is the One who brought about all this blessing — the Lord Jesus Himself. We find the type of this in verse 33: "He among the sons of Aaron, that offereth the blood of the peace offerings, and the fat, shall have the right shoulder for his part."
The offering priest is a type of the Lord Jesus, who offered Himself without spot to God. He must have His part, surely, in all this blessed communion and joy and worship, because it is through Him it has all come about, as we were singing:
"Our every joy on earth, in heaven,
We owe it to Thy blood."
The Lord Jesus — wonderful and blessed to think of it — finds His joy and delight, even now, in seeing of the travail of His soul. How little we think, when we are gathered, for instance, around the Lord's table, of the Lord's joy in having us gathered around Himself. And when we are in eternity, when we shall all be like Himself, and when He will fully see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied, what joy He will have then! If we have done some piece of work that has cost us a great deal of pains and trouble, we have satisfaction in seeing the results of our labor. Do you not think that the Lord Jesus has joy in seeing the results of His work? Are not we the results of His work? What joy He must have in seeing us gathered around Himself to remember Him! And when we are thus gathered, and, indeed, at all times, we ought to see ourselves and our fellow-believers as He sees us — that is, in all the value of His work and acceptance in Himself before God.
I cannot leave this subject without referring to an illustrative passage in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 26:29. It is connected with the Lord's supper too. The Lord said, "I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father's kingdom."
We read of the Father's kingdom in chapter 13 also: "Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father" (v. 43). It is the heavenly side of the kingdom. There will be the earthly side of it, but the heavenly side of it will be the excellent glory, as Peter calls it. Wine is a type of joy. What does the Lord mean when He says He will drink it new in His Father's kingdom? He means that it is not the joy of earth; it is the new joy belonging to that place of blessing into which He has brought us. There are two little words in this verse that I think very blessed — "with you." "I drink it new with you in My Father's kingdom." He will share the joy with us in that day of glory. And the Father will have His joy as He sees us blessed as His beloved children, holy and without blame before Him in love, according to His own heart and according to His own counsel before ever sin came in. The Lord will then be able to say, in the language of the Song of Solomon, "I have drunk my wine with my milk: eat, Ο friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, Ο beloved" (Cant. 5:1). In that day we shall not need to have our loins girded; we shall not need to be on the watch; there will be no danger of being defiled, but we shall share in those eternal joys which the Lord will minister to us with His own hands. He will make us sit down to meat and will come forth and serve us.
But, beloved brethren, we are not obliged to wait till we get to heaven in order to enjoy these things. We can begin here, and the Lord's table, surely, is intimately connected with all this. When we are gathered around Himself, we think of the body of Christ given for us, the love that it speaks to us of, the shed blood of which the cup reminds us. "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?"
May the Lord give us, when we gather around Himself, to enter into it all in the full, unhindered power of the Holy Spirit. We need not think of worship. We are sure to worship if our hearts are filled with Christ and with the remembrance of what He has done through that one offering, when He offered Himself without spot for a sweet savor to God.