The Levitical Offerings
This is another of Archie Naismith’s articles on the Levitical Offerings. Our brother served the Lord for many years in India. His ministry was a blessing there; it has also been a blessing in Britain, United States of America and Canada.
The Hebrew word for “peace-offering,” shelem, closely resembles in form and pronunciation the word for “peace,” shalom. When Jehovah said to Gideon, “Peace be to you,” He used the word “shalom,” and Gideon called the altar that he built there “Jehovah-shalom, the LORD is peace” (Judg. 6:23-24). The city to which the people of Israel repaired to keep tryst with God on festive occasions was Jerusalem, the city of peace. In eastern lands to this day, and particularly in the Middle East, “salaam” is a common word of salutation, expressing the wish that peace may be enjoyed by the one thus greeted. Seven times in the New Testament God is called the God of peace (“Lord of peace” in one of the seven). It is significant that this title occurs very near the end of epistles in which conflict has been contemplated, viz. — that between the new nature and the old in Romans, toward the end of which letter the title is used twice (15:33; 16:20); and between Judaistic error and the simplicity of the gospel in 2 Corinthians (See Chap. 13:11).
Lack of harmony and of Christian unity were the problems in Philippi, and in the last chapter of Paul’s letter to the Philippians the peace of God and the God of peace are both mentioned (4:7-9). The divine title was just what was needed to counteract the unsettled mental and spiritual outlook of the Thessalonians at the time of Paul’s first letter to them (5:23), and “the Lord of peace” alone could impart serenity of mind to them as they contemplated the conflict between Christ and Antichrist (3:25). The letter to the Hebrews, asserting the supremacy of Christ and warning against the danger of apostasy, fittingly concludes with the benediction, “May the God of peace that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus … equip you with everything good that you may do His will” (Heb. 13:20 R.S.V.).
When Paul wrote in his letter to the “Romans, “The way of peace have they not known,” he had in view all mankind, the idolatrous, immoral heathen, the cultured and censorious Gentile, and the privileged and boastful Jew. In his letter to the Ephesians he makes known the way of peace between man and God and also between Jew and Gentile. Christ made peace and preached peace, and all who are brought nigh to God by His blood find satisfaction in claiming Him as their peace. “He is our peace,” and — whatever else this may signify it certainly warrants His people recognizing Him as their peace offering. By it He has brought the believing Gentile into the same privileges as the believing Jew, demolishing the dividing wall of hostility and abolishing the ordinances required under the law. Through Him we have peace with God, enjoy the peace of God in a world filled with disturbances, and find in His companionship the presence of the God of peace. When the sinner has found peace with God, he finds his delight in Him who is his peace. Reconciled to God by the death of His Son, who made peace by the blood of His cross, he can exclaim with assurance:
“A mind at perfect peace with
God, oh what a word is this!
A sinner reconciled through blood
—this, this indeed is peace.”
Like all the offerings that typify our Lord Jesus Christ, the peace offering too must be “without blemish before the Lord.” The unsullied holines of Jesus Christ in life and in death makes His offering completely acceptable to God and effectual for us. It was “an offering of a sweet savour,” fragrant to God; and when the fat burnt on the altar, as “the food of the offering” (Lev. 3:11-16) it brought satisfaction to the LORD. God’s portion was all the fat, that which was esteemed most excellent in the slain victim.
The offerer of the peace offering enjoyed a threefold blessing. His sins were forgiven on the ground of the blood of the offering shed and sprinkled; there was food for his sustenance in the flesh of the victim offered in sacrifice; and in partaking of it he enjoyed fellowship with God to whom the fat burnt on the altar was “the food of the offering;” with the priests to whom a special portion was assigned, and with his own family and friends who feasted with him.
The divine proclamation in Psalm 50:5, “Gather to Me My faithful ones who made a covenant with Me by sacrifice,” doubtless refers to the covenant relationship between God and His people established on the ground of reconciliation. In Leviticus and Numbers the phrase “the sacrifice of the peace offering,” is of frequent occurrence, and it is found also in other parts of the Old Testament. It may therefore be inferred that, unless otherwise specified, the “sacrifice” refers to the peace offering. In the same Asaphic Psalm (Psa. 50) there are other undoubted references to the peace offering. “Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving and pay your vows to the Most High” (verse 14), and “He who brings thanksgiving as his sacrifice honours Me” (verse 23). The R.S.V. renderings are examples of this. The law of the peace offering provided for its being offered “for a thanksgiving” and as a vow (Lev. 7:13, 16). Thus, grateful for the position of nearness into which Christ who is our peace has brought us, we express our gratitude by our vows of loyalty, and pledge of lifelong service and devotion to Him who has reconciled us to God by His blood.
“We who forgiving love have known may fitly bring thank-offerings in.”
The letter to the Ephesians might justly be termed the epistle of the peace offering. In it the Apostle records the substance of two of his prayers for the saints there; first, that they might know “the immeasurable greatness of His power in us who believe;” second, that they might know “the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge.” In the sacrifice of peace offerings, the heave shoulder, the place of strength, and the wave breast, the place of affection, were for priests, Aaron and his sons. The right shoulder (or thigh, as it is rendered in some versions) was for the priest who offered the blood of the offering. So, in the experience of Christ’s immeasurable power and of His surpassing love, God’s holy priesthood may be sustained by, and find their satisfaction in, Him who is their peace offering.
The offerer of the peace offering was to bring with his thank-offering a meal offering of unleavened cakes and wafers, and leavened bread as well. These might signify that in bringing to God our thanksgiving we must always acknowledge the absolute perfection of our Lord Jesus Christ and our own unworthiness as having still a sinful nature and that we approach God resting upon His merit and disclaiming any merit of our own.
At the Lord’s table, in partaking of the Lord’s supper there is, or ought to be, that blessed fellowship foreshadowed in the peace offering. God has His portion as His people magnify the Father’s Son, Christ who is their peace. God’s priests find satisfaction in the contemplation of the love and power of their Redeemer, and all believers who participate in the “sweet feast of love divine” are refreshed as they offer the sacrifice of praise and extol the matchless worth of the Saviour.
The Lord’s servant, the late J. B. Watson, described this feast of fellowship thus: “These are minutes when the soul realizes the presence of the Lord beyond all other hours. Then it is that the love of Christ melts our hearts and causes our eyes to overflow. Then it is that we look at the Man of Calvary, and then it is that we kiss the Conqueror’s Feet. Then it is that we see afresh the wounded hands and side and say with Thomas, ‘My Lord and my God’.”