In this chapter, we read of the offerings that were known as peace offerings, which were certainly not the least precious or beautiful part of the Levitical ordinances. Some may imagine that these prescriptions are so needlessly detailed and specific that they appear to be unworthy of the God Who instituted them. But we must remember that the Hebrews were surrounded by dense masses of heathenism, just as islands are surrounded by the sea. Therefore, every ordinance that the Lord established for Israel was intended to help prevent the inrush of paganism, and to preserve a people who would be the witnesses of God in spite of heathendom. And the ceremonies that they were to practice were intentionally described in great detail so that there would be no opening for conformity to their idolatrous neighbors. In fact, they were very often the opposite of the practices of the heathen. This would help the Israelites to remain a holy, separate, and distinctive people. Therefore, there is far greater wisdom in these descriptions of the offerings than that which may be seen by a superficial reader.
Another reason why the Lord gave such precise details about these offerings is because the great subject of Christianity is the Atonement! That is the heart and life of the Gospel. So these Levitical offerings and ceremonies were very minutely described so that they might impress upon the minds of the Jews – and upon the minds of humanity itself – the great ideas of substitution, atonement, and vicarious sacrifice. And these ceremonies were repeated until those ideas became so familiar to the hearts of mankind that they would not only be able to appreciate the atonement, but they would also welcome it with gratitude and joy – for these offerings were only the foreshadows of that atoning Sacrifice of the Lamb of God! These ceremonies were like John the Baptizer, pointing to the Savior. Throughout the Old Testament, each of these ceremonies said to the people of God, “We are voices crying in the desert, ‘Behold Jesus, the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world!’”
Peace offerings were sacrificed with the mindset of the Lord as the Giver of all good things. These offerings were divided between the altar, the priest, and the offeror (unlike any of the other four types of offerings that are described in the Book of Leviticus, in which the offeror did not receive a share of the sacrifice). They were called “peace offerings” because, in them, God and His people feasted together (so to speak), in token of friendship.
There were several different circumstances under which a peace offering might be sacrificed. The first of these was upon the recovery of peace with God after making a sacrifice for a sin or trespass (which we will learn about in chapters 4 and 5). The sin offering was first, not the peace offering. The atonement had to be made before the offeror could enjoy the calmness that results from peace with God, through Christ.
A peace offering could also be presented upon the performance or fulfillment of a vow that had been made by any of the people of Israel. Sometimes peace offerings were also offered by way of supplication. If a person was in particular pursuit of any specific mercy, he might add a peace-offering to his prayer to God for it. Christ is our Peace and our Peace Offering; it is through Him alone that we can obtain an answer of peace to our prayers. There were also other times when a peace offering might be offered as a thanksgiving for some mercy that had already been received. We ought to continually offer God the sacrifice of praise, by Christ our Peace; this pleases the Lord better than an ox or a bull upon an altar.
This chapter also contains a law that God’s people were to eat neither the fat nor the blood of an animal. These were prohibited because they were God’s portion of the sacrifices that were offered by His people. He would not permit the blood that made atonement to be used as a common thing (Heb. 10:29). And even though we have the comfort that Christ’s blood has made atonement for our sins, He will not allow us to claim for ourselves any share in the honor of making that atonement. This law taught the Jews to observe a distinction between common and sacred things; it kept them separate from the idolatrous nations all around them. It helped to impress them more deeply with the belief of something important in the shedding of the blood and the burning of the fat of their solemn sacrifices.
Christ, as the Prince of Peace, has “made peace with the blood of his cross.” Through Him, every believer is reconciled to God; and once we have the peace of God in our heart, we will naturally be inclined to live at peace with all people. May the Lord multiply grace, mercy, and peace to all who desire to bear the Christian character!
O Lord, by the obedience and sacrifice of Your dear Son, every poor sinner may take comfort in the assurance that You can be both just and the justifier of everyone who believes in Jesus. How sweet it is to behold, in every sacrifice, a picture of our one perfect Sacrifice! You are our Peace Offering, for You have made our peace by the blood of Your cross. May our souls be so thoroughly satisfied with this complete redemption that we seek for no other, for there is no other name under heaven whereby we must be saved! Amen.
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