"Though ye offer me burnt-offerings and your meat-offerings, I will not accept them; neither will I regard the peace-offerings of your fat beasts." Such was God's announcement to Israel by the prophet Amos. (5:22.) The two former of these offerings we have looked at; we would now consider the peace-offering, as it is called in the A. V., but which would be better understood if translated requitals, or recompences, as the Hebrew word Shelamim signifies; for, as the reader may see in Leviticus 7:12, 16, it was offered on private occasions, either for a vow, or for a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and has nothing to do really with the idea of peace.
As with the burnt-offering and the meat-offering, so with the peace-offering, any one in Israel, if so minded, might bring one to God; but whereas the two former were frequently enjoined on public occasions, this last, except at the feast of weeks, was only commanded on special public occasions, such as the consecration of Aaron and his sons (Ex. 29:28), and for Israel on the grand eighth day at the expiration of the consecration (9), and on the occasion of the setting up of the tabernacle in the wilderness. (Num. 7) Again we read of them when the people took formal possession of their land, in the very place where God had first promised it to Abraham (Joshua 8:31); and when David, by the prophet's guidance, offered sacrifices on the altar at Araunah's threshing-floor, where the plague was stayed. (2 Sam. 24:25.) So also at Gilgal, when they made Saul king (1 Sam. 11:15); and at Jerusalem, on the occasion of Solomon's accession (1 Chron. 29:31), the people in the joy of their heart willingly offered them to God. David, too, sacrificed peace-offerings when the ark entered Jerusalem (2 Sam. 6:17); and the men of Beth-shemesh likewise, when the ark returned from the land of the Philistines (1 Sam. 6:15); at the dedication of the temple under Solomon (1 Kings 8:63, 64); on the day of the cleansing of the altar by Hezekiah (2 Chron. 29:31-36); at the memorable feast of unleavened bread, in that same king's reign (2 Chron. 30:22); when, too, Manasseh repaired the altar (2 Chron. 33:16); and at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem under Nehemiah (Neh. 12:43); these sacrifices were in season. At Bethel, too, before the ark of God, when smitten by the Benjamites; and subsequently, when deliberating about the future of that tribe, Israel offered with their burnt-offerings, peace-offerings before the Lord. (Judges 20:21) At family festive-gatherings, too, whether when assembled at the tabernacle (1 Sam. 1:21; 2:19) or at home (1 Sam. 20:6), these offerings had their place; and even the strange woman ventured to present them, the better, perhaps, to ensnare her victim, whom she would then invite to feast with her on the residue brought home to her house. (Prov. 7:14.)
Thus it will be seen that, though such offerings formed part of the sacrificial ritual, they were not so frequently enjoined on Israel by the law as were burnt-offerings. Few, comparatively speaking, were the occasions on which by the law they had to be brought. See Lev. 8; 9; 23:19; Num. 7, all of which have been already noticed, and Num. 6:17, where it appears that the peace-offering formed part of the sacrifices which the Nazarite was to bring when the days of his separation were fulfilled. Seasons of holy joy were suitable times for peace-offerings to be brought, though any who were of a free heart might offer burnt-offerings on such occasions instead (2 Chron. 29:31); for whereas the former was an expression of thanksgiving, the latter betokened a fuller surrender to God, inasmuch as the whole of it ascended up from the altar to Him. But whichever it was, whether a burnt-offering or a peace-offering, the trumpet was to be blown over these sacrifices on the days of their gladness for a memorial before their God; and with the peace-offering, as with the burnt-offering, after Israel entered their land, a meat-offering and a drink-offering were always to be brought as well. (Num. 10:10; Num. 15:12.) These two offerings, though thus classed together, were yet widely different. In the peace-offering, a portion only was claimed for God, and the offerer could feast on part of it with his family or friends. Communion between God and the offerer in that which was brought to the altar could by it be enjoyed. The burnt-offering was wholly for God. In the meat-offering, the priest, and the males of the priesthood, had part with the Lord Jehovah. In the peace-offering, the offerer, too, could share, enjoying communion with God in the sacrifice of His well-beloved Son. The grace this proclaims is apparent, yet Israel little understood what it also declared; viz., their relative distance from God, compared with that of those who form the holy priesthood. True it is this could not have been taught before the cross, yet God expressed it symbolically in the regulation about these sacrifices, so that from that memorable day of Pentecost, when Christian position and privilege were first enjoyed and displayed, it might be seen that the latest and fullest interposition of God in grace was no after-thought in His mind, for He had traced it out in the revelation about sacrifices, made known to Israel by Moses when still abiding under the shadow of mount Sinai. Gracious it is on His part to allow His people to have communion with Him about His Son, and none of those who are His people, whether they form part of the holy priesthood, of which Peter writes (1 Peter 2:5), or will be known on earth as of Israel after the flesh, in the day which is approaching, are to be shut out from this privilege bestowed on them in His goodness. But only in the peace-offering can Israel, as portrayed in type, have this fellowship with God. They will learn how the Lord's atonement has met the depth of their need. They will understand what that full surrender was of Christ Himself to die, of which the burnt-offering was typical, but they will also rejoice with God in the death of Christ as set forth in these ordinances about the peace-offering.
In this way, then, they will be allowed to feast with God. Under the law, the offerer provided the animal for the sacrifice. In truth God has provided that sacrifice in which they will learn that they have part with Him. But though the offerer under the law provided the peace-offering, he could only bring of that which Jehovah had expressed His willingness to receive. For a burnt-offering he could bring of the herd, or of the flock, or a bird; for a peace-offering it must be only of the herd, or of the flock. Restricted as to what he might bring, the offerer was not bound down to present only a male. In a peace-offering a female might be brought as much as a male; but of whichever sex it was, the offering had to be perfect, without blemish (Lev. 3:1, 6; Lev. 22:18-23), though as a free-will offering, the regulation was less strict* than when the peace-offering was for a vow. And from a stranger in Israel, too, the Lord would receive a free-will offering or a sacrifice for a vow, and that whether it was presented as a burnt-offering, or as a peace-offering.
*An animal with a limb too large or too small could be brought as a free-will offering (Lev. 22:23), but not for a vow.
The animal selected, the offerer brought it, laid his hand on its head, and killed it at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, or before the tabernacle, as the case might be. If he brought of the herd, he killed it at the door; if of the flock, he slew it before the tabernacle; and the priests, the sons of Aaron, sprinkled its blood on the altar round about. The blood, the life of the flesh, was thus presented to God. After that the offerer brought near to the altar the fat that covered the inwards, and all the fat that was upon the inwards, and the two kidneys, and the fat that was upon them on the flanks, and the caul* above the liver, and the kidneys, and when the peace-offering was a sheep, the tail as well, all of which the priest burnt as an offering made by fire of a sweet savour unto the Lord. This, and this only, of the peace-offering was offered upon the altar.
*Called in the margin "midriff," and by some thought to be a membraneous covering of the liver.
The kidneys, the seat of the feelings (Ps. 73:21; Prov. 23:16; Lam. 3:13), and the fat, the expression of human will in the energy of life (Job 15:27; Ps. 17:10; Ps. 119:70) are here seen offered to God, expressive surely of Him, who came not to do His own will, but the will of Him that sent Him (John 6:38); and who said, when the Father hid things from the wise and prudent, and revealed them unto babes, "Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight." (Matt. 11:26.) And all this was burnt as a sweet savour on the burnt-offering, without which as the basis of every sacrifice there could be no communion between us and God. With the service at the altar began the apportioning of the victim according to the ordinance of the peace-offering. In this the idea of communion is seen fully expressed; for Jehovah, the priest, the males of the priesthood, and the offerer, each had their portion in the one sacrifice. Jehovah's portion was the food,* or bread of the offerings made by fire, all of which were a sweet savour unto Him. This is His own statement, expressive of His satisfaction in Christ, of whom the sacrifice was a type - the holy One - whose innermost feelings were perfect in God's eyes. Gracious was it thus to write of the peace-offering, that the person who brought that, and did not bring a burnt-offering, could know that the part which was God's portion was food in His eyes.
*This term food, literally bread, of the offerings made by fire was not restricted to the peace-offering, though we first meet with it when the lawgiver was writing of that offering. From Leviticus 21:6 (in the Hebrew), 8, 17, 21, Lev. 22:25, it is plain that all was offered on the altar as an offering made by fire was comprised under this term. And the priests, who eat of the altar as partakers with it, eat of the bread of their God. (Lev. 21:22.) As the burnt-offering was all consumed, this description would not be needed. Where part only was burnt, such a description of God's portion was given.
In this sacrifice, then, Jehovah had but a portion. Had all gone up as a burnt-offering, the offerer would have been assured of his acceptance, but would not have enjoyed communion with God in the sacrifice. Now it was the Lord's desire that he should enjoy this. So He gave these regulations about the peace-offering, and thus connected special festive seasons of any of His people with the acceptance of the sacrifice on the altar. In the wilderness this was clearly seen; for a man could not kill an ox, a sheep, or a goat for his family's food without the appointed portion of the animal being presented to God. Death was the due desert of any one who acted otherwise. (Lev. 17:3-6.) Feasting was to be associated with the worship of God, and not with idolatrous rites. What ground of rejoicing could there be for us sinful creatures, had not the Lord Jesus Christ died on the cross? Seasons, then, of joy were to be closely connected with the sacrifice on the altar. This was to be remembered. But idolatry was rife around the children of Israel, and they were tainted with it. (Acts 7:42, 43.) To keep them from offering sacrifices to devils, the Lord thus closely associated feasting with the sacrifice on His altar.
In the land He equally watched over them; but the altered circumstances necessitated a new revelation. Supposing the tabernacle or temple was too far from them, if minded to kill any of the herd, or of the flock, they were free to do so to eat flesh; but the blood was to be poured out, and not eaten. If, however, they were near enough to the sanctuary to offer peace-offerings on such occasions, they were still to offer them. (Deut. 12:20-25.) Thus they might enjoy the fruits of Jehovah's goodness at any time in the land, and in any place; but no religious rite could be connected with such feasting unless they were near enough to God's altar. And of none of their holy things, or of their vows, could they eat, except at the place where God's altar was located for the time being. (Deut. 12:25-32, Deut. 14:23-26.) Of flesh killed at home, both the unclean and clean could eat. That was in no sense a sacrifice, and on no pretence were they to treat it as such. When it was a peace-offering, the unclean could not eat of it (Lev. 7:20), for one in that state could not have communion with Jehovah.
The peace-offering dealt with aright at the altar, the priest who offered it had his appointed portion assigned to him, which the offerer was commanded to give to him. It was the priest's due; but God would not leave him to claim it: the person who brought the sacrifice was to give him the right shoulder, and to Aaron and his sons, the males of the holy priesthood, he was to give the breast. (Lev. 7:29-35.) The Lord claimed these portions, the right shoulder to be heaved, and the breast to be waved; and then, as His, gave them to the priests. And this ordinance, as regards the officiating priest, was never to be abrogated. In the wilderness it was his, and the land likewise (Deut. 18:3); but when in the land, the two cheeks, and the maw, or stomach, are mentioned as his portion also. The right shoulder, typical of strength, was given to him who typified the Lord Jesus; for who but the One who gave up His life on the cross could really know what the strength was that was needed for that? The heart, the seat of the affections, typical of the love of Christians, assigned to the holy priesthood, now represented by Christians (1 Peter 2:5), who especially share in that love. For God does in the Old Testament foreshadow blessings for a portion of His people above and beyond those allotted really to Israel. In the special place of privileges of the Aaronic priesthood we see this. In the free-will offering at Pentecost we can trace it. In Eve's place with Adam we recognize it. In the fellows of Christ (Ps. 45:7) we learn it. And here in the type we behold it. The love of Christ to His own is a special blessing for all of us who are Christians. He loved His own which were in the world. (John 13:1.) He loved them unto the end, and we prove it in His lowly service to us. He loves them still (Rev. 1:5), and we are to know His love which surpasseth knowledge (Eph. 3:19), which Saul and John knew well.
Following the rest of the animal to the offerer's home, we learn for how long he might eat of it, with what he was to eat it, and who could not partake of it among his household or friends. All this is detailed in the law of the peace-offering. (Lev. 7:11-21.) If offered for thanksgiving, it would only be partaken of on the day it was offered. If brought to the altar for a vow, it could be partaken of on the second day as well, but never on the third. If a man was moved to make a vow, it would arise from a more deep-seated, or from a fuller sense of Jehovah's goodness than that which prompted a thanksgiving-offering; hence whilst really in spirit rejoicing before God, he could have communion with Him. But where that had died down God would not accept the outward appearance apart from the heart's communion. Any attempt at such a thing would be abomination in His eyes (Lev. 7:18, Lev. 19:5-8), and death would be the only punishment one guilty of it could expect. To be on the ground of law before God was no light thing. But though we are on the ground of grace, God's nature does not alter, nor can He accept as communion what is not such in spirit and in truth. Whensoever a man was minded to bring his meat-offering, if he was not defiled, God was willing to receive it. At all times He would allow His people with a due regard for His nature to have communion with Him. But sustainment of real communion in the heart of the creature was not permanent, and He would remind the Israelite and us also of that.
With the sacrifice, or literally, on it, an offering of unleavened cakes mingled with oil, and unleavened wafers anointed with oil, and cakes mingled with oil of fine flour, was prescribed; and with (literally on) the cakes he was to offer for his offering leavened bread with (or on) the sacrifice of his peace offering; and one out of the whole oblation, a heave-offering to the Lord, the offerer gave as directed to the officiating priest. Communion with God on the ground of the death of the sacrifice, the peace-offering distinctly teaches us; but not merely on the ground of that death; for as the offerer owned the death by killing the animal, so now those only can really have fellowship with God who own that Christ's death as a sacrifice for them has really taken place. No communion, then, can be known between any of us and God, apart from and without a real recognition of the death of Christ for us; for the offerer laid his hand on the victim's head before he killed it. But if the Lord has died, He first lived; so His life in the unleavened cakes was typified of as well as His death; yet the order is suggestive. His death is first here portrayed, then His life; for the unleavened cakes were offered with (literally on) the sacrifice of thanksgiving. No communion between God and His people could have been enjoyed had not His Son died. How continually are we reminded of the moral distance from God that we were all in through the fall! But how gracious of our God to teach it us by the provision He has made to remove it, showing at once the reality and the measure of it, since nothing but the death of Christ could annul it. But who are those privileged to have fellowship with God? Creatures born in sin, in whom sin is. This the leavened bread typified. In the unleavened cakes we have figured the perfect man; in the leavened bread fallen man. The difference between the man Christ Jesus and all of us, we are never allowed to forget; nor need we, nor would we wish it, since on the ground of that which He is, and that which He has suffered, we stand before God, and have fellowship with Him; just as the leavened bread was offered with the unleavened cakes, and with the sacrifice of thanksgiving of the peace-offering. Apart from the Lord Jesus we could not stand before God.
This leads on to the consideration of the condition in which this communion, could be enjoyed. Beyond the heart's occupation with Him from whom all blessing comes, the Lord, as we have seen, would not acknowledge it as real; and what was not real was offensive, an abomination in His eyes. (Lev. 7:18; Lev. 19:7, 8.) Further, if the flesh of the sacrifice had touched any unclean thing it would not be eaten, and those only who were clean could eat of the sacrifice. The holiness of Jehovah was to be remembered and acknowledged at the Israelite festive board. So any one unclean from the working of his own flesh, or defiled from contact with some unclean thing, as the uncleanness of man, an unclean beast, or any abominable unclean thing, was precluded from sharing in the feast on pain of death for disobedience. Was this principle confined to Israel? Does not 1 Cor. 11:27-32 read us a solemn lesson in connection with it? Governmental dealing had removed some of the Corinthians for a sin, in principle, akin to that against which Lev. 7:21 warned the children of Israel.
Privilege to have fellowship with God, feasting with Him on the fat of the inwards of any animal offered in sacrifice, was peremptorily denied them as food. That which the fat symbolized was for God. How perfectly in Christ was that the case, the example to His people of what should characterize them. On the other hand, the blood of no living creature could they eat; for life belongs to God. The recognition that life belonged to God is binding on all men. The acknowledgment that the will should be in subjection to God ought to characterize His saints. God has forbidden blood to all. He forbad the fat of the sacrifice only to His people. The Lord give all His saints to enter more into this!
C. E. Stuart.