LEVITICUS 3 : 1 – 17
The PEACE or FELLOWSHIP (NIV) offering was a voluntary act of worship expressed by the offerer, which symbolized the concept of thankfulness, fellowship, friendship and peace with God, secured by the shedding of the atoning blood. As in the case of the Burnt and meal offerings, the peace offering was also used by the people as far back as Jacob and Laban. As Jacob prepared to leave his father-in-law, Laban, “He offered a sacrifice there in the hill country and invited his relatives to a meal. After they had eaten, they spent the night there”. . Scripture also depicts the heathen form of the sacrifice in the sinful act of the Israelites at Mount Sinai . Again we will see that God is able to use an existing custom, correcting parts of the procedure as necessary in order to teach the truth as it applies to Himself.
THE OFFERING can be selected from the herd, or from the flock, and can be either a sheep or a goat. It is “a sweet savour”, “an offering made by fire”; a female animal was allowed and it must have no defect. It should be noted that in this sacrifice a bird is not mentioned as a victim. In consideration of the intent of the sacrificial meal which is to follow, a bird would not provide sufficient meat for such a meal.
PRESENTATION In this sacrifice the offerer is required to present to the Lord the best (or most valuable in food content) parts of the animal to be burnt upon the altar. Fat, in scripture, is used to symbolize that which is richest and best . Thus, as in the meal-offering, again we are taught that God is always to receive the best that we have to offer . The instructions for LAYING ON OF HANDS; KILLING THE VICTIM and the SPRINKLING OF THE BLOOD is given in Lev. 3:2; and the BURNING THE SACRIFICE is covered in Lev. 3:3-5.
THE SACRIFICIAL MEAL: instructions for the Priest are given in Lev. 7:14, 31-34 and the priest’s portion as seen here carry the same meaning as that of the meal-offering. By law, they were given of God, to His servants the priests. The instructions for the offerer in this part of the ceremony, in symbol, carry a different meaning to that of which the priests performed. Here, the offerer receives back from God, as it were, the remainder of the flesh of the victim so that it may be eaten in the presence of God .The meal is to be eaten in God’s appointed place; all members of the family should be present, including any of the priesthood that may be staying in the home, and it is to be an occasion of holy joy, or rejoicing, in God’s presence. In symbolism, here we see an expression of friendship and fellowship from God to the offerer. God invites the offerer to His house, to sit at His table, and to partake of a meal. Such an invitation can only be extended to one who is in good standing; it indicates that alienation has been replaced by union, enmity with peace; a healing of wounds has been accomplished. In other words, all who are in true fellowship with God . Thus we see that God ordained the peace-offering to be the symbolic expression of peace and fellowship with Him. Here we find that it is God who feasts man, not man feasting God. Yes, the offerer brought the victim and presented it to God; the priest burnt the best of the offering on the altar, the priest took his share, but of the remainder, God now feasts His guest the offerer. Man’s idea is that he will become religious by doing or giving something to God, thus making God his friend. But God teaches that if man is to become truly religious, he must first of all accept with thankfulness and joy what God has provided: this being “the Lamb of God” . Yes, this is the message of the gospel, the peace offering translated into words. Can any of us refuse to accept the invitation?
REGULATIONS . If the offering is an expression of thankfulness, then along with the offering they were to offer cakes of bread made without yeast mixed with oil, wafers made without yeast spread with oil, and cakes of fine flour well kneaded, mixed with oil; these were usually burnt on the altar. Along with the fellowship offering of thanksgiving cakes of bread made with yeast were to be presented which was part of the sacrificial meal. The symbolism of this offering is not so much Christ our representative substitute, but Christ as food for the soul, in which our feasting on Him results in fellowship with God. It should be further noted that (1) the blood and fat of the victim is not to be eaten; typifying that the victim represents Christ in His atoning work, in that He offered His best to God, and His shed blood gives us life. (2) The Flesh of the sacrifice is to be eaten: (a) In the case of a thanksgiving offering – on the same day, (b) In the case of a vow – on the same day or the day following and (c) No part of the offering is to be eaten after the second day . In the closing act of the ritual we see the significance reaching far beyond the sacrifice itself. It teaches us that if we have indeed presented the Lamb of God as our peace offering, not only has our High Priest sprinkled the blood of the atonement in pardon for our sins, God now invites the believer to sit at His own table in joyful fellowship with Himself in token of a friendship now restored. The Father now feasts His prodigals with the best that He has. The Lord Jesus Christ who offered Himself on Calvary, is now given back by God as food for the believer, and the believer now lives as sustained by the “Bread of Life” . It should be further observed that in the regulations of the offering , it was ordered that none of the flesh of the peace-offering was to be allowed to remain after the third day. This ensured that of the flesh of the victim that God fed the offerer there would be no corruption. This of course reminds us that the Lord Jesus Christ was raised incorruptible on the third day . Let us therefore remember two important facts concerning the blood and the fat: (1) always recognise the important place that the blood of Christ has in the gospel of salvation; (2) do not be the “easy-going” Christian whose principle is ever to give the “lean” to God, and keep the best of life and activities for ourselves. Thus the warning in regards to the fat and blood is still in effect . And so we find two fundamental things in this symbolism: (1) full recognition of the sanctity of the blood as that which atones for the soul, (2) full consecration of the redeemed and pardoned soul to the Lord.
The Israelites of old were warned not to eat of the fat and blood; however, believers today are invited by our Lord to partake of His body and blood symbolically in fellowship with God . There was one condition, however, under which the Israelite could not have fellowship with God; he must not be “unclean”. There should be nothing in him which would interrupt fellowship with a holy God . Thus all Israel were reminded that he who would fellowship at the Lord’s Table must keep himself pure. In similar manner we are reminded that he who uses Christ as his peace-offering must keep himself untarnished by the world.