Read Leviticus, chaps. 3; 7: 11-34; Ps. 85.
The peace offering has a peculiar preciousness because of its unique character as an expression of fellowship with God based upon the work of the Lord Jesus Christ upon the cross. As already intimated, there can be no true communion with God if we ignore that finished work. The Unitarian may talk of enjoying fellowship with God, but he is simply mistaking religious emotions for spiritual communion, for the latter cannot exist apart from faith in the Lord Jesus as the eternal Son of the Father, and the soul’s rest upon the work He accomplished upon the Tree.
The very fact that a peace offering is needed implies that something is wrong in regard to the relations between God and man. Man by nature since the fall is unfit for fellowship with God. He comes into this world a sinner, a sinner by nature; from the beginning his bent is toward that which is unholy rather than to that which is holy. It is very much easier for him to sin than it is to do that which is just and righteous; very much easier for him to go down than to rise up. I know it is fashionable nowadays to deny all this, and to teach that man has been on the up- grade throughout the centuries; but this is not so. Apart from the Word of God even, our actual experience teaches us that it is easier for man to do evil than to do good, and this is because of the corruption of his nature. David exclaimed in Psalm 51: 5, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” By nature man understands not the things of God; he cannot commune with Him; he loves what God hates, and hates what God loves. God is infinitely holy; loving good and doing only good. Between man and God there is really nothing in common. Men are not only sinners by nature, but they have become transgressors by practice, deliberately, wilfully, violating the law, breaking the commandments, and acting in self-will. As the Word tells us, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isa.53:6). For God desires us to be at peace with Him, He longs to bring us into fellowship with Him. But this at once raises the questions, “How it is possible for sinful, polluted man ever to be at peace with God? Can we ourselves make our peace with Him?” We often hear very well-meaning people urge Christless souls to make their peace with God. Now I don’t want to be factious, I don’t want to be hypercritical, I don’t want to make a man an offender for a word, but I am convinced that this expression is thoroughly misleading. What they mean is quite right. They mean that men should repent of their sins, ac- knowledge their lost condition, and own their need of a Saviour. But no man can ever make his own peace with God. It is Christ who has made peace for us.
“Could my tears forever flow,
Could my zeal no languor know,
These for sin could not atone,
Thou must save, and Thou alone.
In my hand no price I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling.”
It is the glory of the gospel that it reveals the heart of God going out after men in their sins, and it tells what He has done in order that man may obtain peace with God. It tells of Christ come from the bosom of the Father, from the glory that He had with the Father before the worlds were made, become in grace a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, and going to the cross, that dreadful cross, where He was made a curse for us in order that God and man might be brought together in perfect harmony, and we might be reconciled to God by His death. “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them.” And yet that wondrous life could not in itself settle the sin question or recover man to God. In order to do this He must die, and having died He has manifested the fact that there is no enmity on God’s part toward man; all the enmity is on our side; and now He is beseeching us to be reconciled to God.
We stand toward Him as debtors, debtors who owe an enormous sum, debtors whose credit is utterly gone, and who are therefore absolutely unable to meet their obligations. But we read of two men who were in just such circumstances, and we are told: “When they had nothing to pay He frankly forgave them both.” And He does this on the basis of the peace offering: Christ has given Himself to meet our obligations. Col. 1:19, 20 states: “For it pleased the Father that in Him should all fulness dwell; and having made peace through the blood of His cross, by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself; by Him, I say, whether they be things in earth or things in heaven.” This is the peace offering. He has made peace by the blood of His cross. In Eph. 2:13, 14 we read: “But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For He is our peace who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us.” This is what is so beautifully illustrated in the peace offering of old. Christ Himself is our peace. As another has put it:
“Peace with God is Christ in glory,
God is Light and God is Love;
Jesus died to tell the story,
Foes to bring to God above.”
Peace with God is not simply a happy, restful feeling in the soul, though he who enjoys peace with God cannot but be happy, for it is written that “being justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” Peace with God was made on the cross, and we enter into the good of it when we trust that blessed Saviour who died for us. God has found His satisfaction in that work, we find ours there, and so we enjoy Christ together. His delight is Christ and our delight is Christ; He enjoys Christ and we enjoy Christ; He feeds upon Christ and we feed upon Christ, and so we have communion, blessed happy fellowship, on the basis of that sweet savor offering.
In Leviticus 3 there are three different victims mentioned, any one of which might be brought to the altar as a peace offering. First we read, “If his oblation be a sacrifice of peace offering, if he offer it of the herd, whether it be male or female, he shall offer it without blemish before the Lord” (ver. 1). Then in verse 6 we are told, “And if his offering for a sacrifice of peace offering unto the Lord, be of the flock, male or female, he shall offer it without blemish. If he offer a lamb for his offering, then shall he offer it before the Lord.” Then again in verse 12, “If his offering be a goat, then he shall offer it before the Lord.” When looking at the burnt offering, we have already seen something of what these various creatures suggest in a typical way. The sacrifice of the herd speaks of Christ as the devoted Servant of God and man, and whether we think of Him as the rightfully independent One, as suggested by the male, or the subject One, as suggested by the female, we can have communion with God from either standpoint. Then the lamb speaks of Him as the One who was consecrated even unto death; and the goat, of the One who took the sinner’s place.
We may not all have exactly the same apprehension of the value and the preciousness of Christ and His work, but if we really trust in Him, and come to God confessing Him, we are on the ground of peace, and may have fellowship with God to the full extent of our apprehension, and as we go on learning more and more of who Christ really is, and what He is to God, our communion will be deepened and intensified.
The offerer was to lay his hand upon the head of his offering, and kill it himself at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. This again speaks of the identification of the offerer with his offering. It brings out most vividly the truth of substitution, and should impress upon every one of us the fact that we ourselves need a Substitute, a sinless Saviour who could suffer in our stead. Christ is that Substitute, and we are directly responsible for His death.
Unlike the burnt offering, the entire peace offering was not placed upon the altar; only a very small part of it, namely, “the fat that covereth the inwards, and all the fat that is upon the inwards, and the two kidneys, and the fat that is on them, which is by the flanks, and the caul which is above the liver with the kidneys” —these were the parts that were to be burned upon the altar as a sweet savor unto the Lord. And observe, these parts could only be reached by death. This speaks surely of the deepest inward emotions and sensibilities of the Lord leading Him out of love to the Father to devote Himself to death in order that men might be reconciled to God. Who can fathom the meaning of those words, “He poured out His soul unto death?”
When we turn to the law of the offering in chap. 7, beginning with verse 8, we see more clearly why this particular sacrifice is called the peace offering. We find God and His people enjoying it together. When the appointed portions were placed upon the altar for thanksgiving (ver. 12), there were offered with it various meal offerings, all speaking as we have seen of Christ’s Person. Of these a small portion was burned upon the altar, and the rest was eaten by the priests. Then the breast of the offering, speaking of the affections of Christ, was given to Aaron and his sons, the priestly house; all of the priests feed upon that which speaks of the love of Christ, for this is what the breast typifies. The right shoulder speaking of the strength of the Lord, His omnipotent power, was the special portion of the offering priest himself. The rest of the sacrifice was taken away by the offerer, and he and his family and friends ate it together before the Lord, rejoicing in the fact that, typically, mercy and truth had met together, righteousness and peace had kissed each other. This is indeed a vivid and graphic picture of communion; God Himself, His anointed priests, the offerer and his friends, all feasting together upon the same victim, the sacrifice of peace offering.
But now, if I am really going to enjoy fellowship with God, I must be in a right state of soul. There can be no communion with unforgiven sin upon the conscience. In verse 20 we read: “But the soul that eateth of the flesh of the sacrifice of peace offerings, that pertain unto the Lord, having his uncleairness upon him, even that soul shall be cut off from his people.” Before God no true believer has uncleanness upon him—“The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses us from all sin.” When on that cross our iniquities were laid on Christ, He had no sin in Him, but He took our sins upon Him. We now have no sins upon us, but we do have sin within, but this sin should ever be judged in the light of the cross of Christ. This is illustrated for us in ver. 13: “Besides the cakes, he shall offer for his offering leavened bread with the sacrifice of thanksgiving of his peace offerings.” Here is a direct instance where leavened bread was used with the sacrifice of thanksgiving of the peace offering. We have already seen that no leaven was permitted in the meal offering, but this particular sacrifice evidently typifies not Christ Himself but the worshiper who came to God bringing his peace offering. It was as though the man was confessing: “In myself I am a poor sinner, sin is in my very nature; because of that I dare not approach God without an offering.” And on the basis of that offering he was accepted and could enter into fellowship with God.
Thus we see that we have here set forth an all-important New Testament truth. Every believer has sin in him, but no believer has sin on him. Attention has often been directed to the three crosses on Calvary. On the centre cross hung that divine Man who had no sin in Him, but He did have sin on Him, for in that hour of His soul’s anguish Jehovah laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He had no sins of His own, but He made Himself responsible for ours. They were all charged against His account, as Paul directed Philemon to charge the account of Onesimus against him. Paul became surety for Onesimus, and agreed to settle for him. This is but a faint picture of what Jesus did for sinners when “He bare our sins in His own body on the tree.” The impenitent thief had sin in him and sin on him; he was both sinful by nature and by practice, and he spurned the only Saviour who could have delivered him from his load of guilt. So he went into the presence of God with all his sins upon his soul to answer for them in the day of judgment when God will judge every man according to his works. But how different was the case of the penitent thief! He, too, had been as vile and guilty as the other one, but when he turned in repentance to the Lord Jesus and put his trust in Him, while he still had sin in him, God no longer imputed sin to him. It was not upon him because God saw it all as transferred to Jesus.
I know that many Christians imagine they reach a state of grace where their sins are not only forgiven, but where inbred sin is by direct operation of the Holy Spirit removed from them, so that they claim to be sanctified wholly and are free from all inward tendency to sin. But this is a serious mistake and leads to serious consequences. Never in the Word of God are we so taught. As believers we carry about with us to the end of life our sinful nature, that carnal mind which is “not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be;” but then God says sin need not have dominion over us, yea, shall not, if we but apprehend the blessedness of the truth, “Ye are not under the law but under grace.”1
There is a great deal more in Leviticus 7 that we might profitably consider, but time forbids going into much of it in detail. One thing, however, I desire to press most earnestly ere I close, and that is the divine insistence that the eating of the sacrifice must not be separated from the offering on the altar. It was to be eaten the same day, under ordinary circumstances, or if a voluntary offering it might be eaten the day after, but later than that it was sternly commanded that whatever was left must be burned with fire. The meaning of this is plain; God will not permit us to separate communion with Him from the work of the Cross. Our fellowship with Him is based upon the one supreme sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ who there made peace for us. Communion, as we have already seen, does not consist simply in pious feeling; this may be the greatest delusion, and may be simply satisfaction with a fancied good self instead of heart-occupation with Christ. It is just as dangerous to be occupied with my good self as with my bad self. In the latter case I am likely to be completely discouraged and cast down, but in the former I become lifted up with pride and in grave danger of fancying my spiritual egotism to be communion with God.
It is right here that the Lord’s Supper so speaks to the hearts of God’s people. For at His table we are occupied with Christ Himself and with what He did for us when He stooped in grace to take our place in judgment and to make peace by the blood of His cross. As we meditate upon these sublime mysteries, our souls are led into the sanctuary, into the immediate presence of God, in hallowed fellowship and sweetest communion. We realize that the veil no longer hides God from us, nor hinders our access to Him. When Jesus cried, “It is finished,” the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom. It was God’s hand that rent that veil, and now we are bidden to press boldly in to His immediate presence where we fall as worshipers before His face to bless and adore Him who gave Himself for us.
“The veil is rent, our souls draw near
Unto a throne of grace;
The merits of the Lord appear,
They fill the holy place.
His precious blood has spoken there,
Before and on the throne,
And His own wounds in Heaven declare
The atoning work is done.
“‘Tis finished!’—here our souls find rest,
His work can never fail,
By Him, our sacrifice and priest.
We pass within the veil.”
And there, with all the blood-bought throng, we feast upon the sacrifice of peace offering as we dwell upon the infinite love and grace of Him who has so fully expressed the heart of God toward guilty man by giving up His holy life in death for us. To attempt to worship apart from this is but a mockery. All religious exercises and frames of feeling that are not linked with the work of the cross are simply delusive and deceive the soul, for there can be no true communion with God excepting in connection with the cross-work of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I add a few additional remarks as to Psalm 85, which may well be called the Psalm of the peace offering. Notice verses 1 and 2, “Lord, Thou hast been favorable unto Thy land: Thou hast brought back the captivity of Jacob. Thou hast forgiven the iniquity of Thy people, Thou hast covered all their sin.” Then observe verses 7 to 11, “Show us Thy mercy, O Lord, and grant us Thy salvation. I will hear what God the Lord will speak: for He will speak peace unto His people, and to His saints: but let them not turn again to folly. Surely His salvation is nigh them that fear Him; that glory may dwell in our land. Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other; truth shall spring out of the earth, and righteousness shall look down from heaven.” It is God Himself who speaks peace to His people, for He alone could devise a plan whereby mercy and truth could meet together and righteousness and peace kiss each other. Truth and righteousness demanded the payment of our fearful debt ere mercy could be shown to the sinner. That man could not settle the differences between himself and God is evident; atone for his own sins he could not. It is written in Zechariah 6: 12, 13, “And speak unto him, saying, Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, Behold the Man whose name is The BRANCH; and He shall grow up out of His place, and He shall build the temple of the Lord: even He shall build the temple of the Lord; and He shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon His throne; and He shall be a priest upon His throne: and the counsel of peace shall be between Them both.” The counsel of peace is between the Lord of hosts and the Man whose name is The Branch, or, to put it in New Testament language, it is between the Father and the Son. Peace was made when our Lord Jesus took our place upon the cross and met every claim of the outraged majesty of the throne of God. Now righteousness and peace are linked eternally together, and being justified by faith we have peace with God. This is not merely a sense of righteousness in our hearts; it is far more than that; it is a question settled between God and the sinner in perfect righteousness, so that grace can now go out to guilty man. When we believe this we enter into peace. We enjoy what Christ has effected.
There is an incident that has often been related, but well illustrates what I am trying to say. At the close of the war between the States, a party of Federal cavalrymen were riding along a road toward Richmond one day, when a poor scarecrow of a fellow, weak and emaciated, and clad only in the ragged remnants of a Confederate uniform, came out of the bushes on one side and attracted their attention by begging hoarsely for bread. He declared that he had been starving in the woods for a number of weeks, and subsisting only upon the few berries and roots he could find. They suggested that he go into Richmond with them and get what he needed. He demurred, saying that he was a deserter from the Confederate army, and he did not dare to show himself lest he be arrested and confined in prison, or possibly shot for desertion in time of war. They looked at him in amazement and asked, “Have you not heard the news?” “What news?” he anxiously enquired. “Why, the Confederacy no longer exists. General Lee surrendered to General Grant over a week ago, and peace is made.” “Oh!” he exclaimed, “peace is made, and I have been starving in the woods because I did not know it.” Believing the message, he went with them into the city to find comfort and food. Oh, unsaved one, let me press upon you the blessed truth that peace was made when our adorable Saviour died for our sins upon the cross of shame. Believe the message, then you enter into the good of it; and, remember, peace rests not on your frames or feelings but on His finished work.
“That which can shake the Cross,
Can shake the peace it gave,
Which tells me Christ has never died,
Nor ever left the grave.”
As long as these blessed facts remain — the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ —our peace stands secure.
1 I have tried to go into this with considerable fulness in my book entitled, “Holiness: the False and the True,” and I venture to commend this to any who have trouble in regard to