A CALL TO HOLINESS
The Peace Offering:Fellowship With God
Jerry A. Collins 9/19/99
If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent us an educator. If our greatest need had been technology, God would have sent us a scientist. if our greatest need had been money, God would have sent us an economist. If our greatest need had been pleasure, God would have sent us an entertainer. But our greatest need was peace with God, so God sent us a Savior!
The need for a Savior implies the necessity of sacrifice. Sacrifice is the essence of worship in the Old Testament. It is a symbolic act which expresses both the inferior feelings of the worshipper and the response of God. By the rites of sacrifice the offering is accepted by God, union is achieved between them and guilt is removed. Yet the external action should express the inward feelings because without faith it is impossible to please God. There were at least three motives for the sacrifices.
1) It is a gift. Sacrifice is an act of surrender of what one is (by substitution) and what one has. It recognizes that God is Lord, and that everything belongs to Him (Ps. 50:9-12; 1 Ch 29:14). It is more than just a tithe, it is a gift. The victims of sacrifice are animals or vegetation, these are needed to sustain life. He loses something in the giving but gains in the process for God binds Himself in some way through the offering. Not only is something given, but something is received too.
2) It is communion. The consequence of our dependence upon God is a quest for union with Him. The sacrificial system elevated mans relationship with God. The peace offering may be considered the most complete sacrifice for made by man it maintained union with God. Eating a portion of the peace offering eating with God as a guest. Most people eat with those whom they like.
3) It is substitutionary. Every sacrifice had some life-giving function. Blood played an important part in all the animal sacrifices (Lev 17:11). In some instances it played a larger role. When a man sinned, he needed to find grace again, and he had to ask God to re-establish the covenant relationship. Blood had to be applied in that situation. A sinner could not share the company of God until the blood was applied for His sin.
All of these motives are seen in the very earliest sacrifices made. In Genesis 3 a sacrifice of an animal is presupposed in the clothing of Adam and Eve. Not content with leaves from a bush, leaves that would not be missed in a few weeks, God deprived an animal of itís life in order to cover his people. In Genesis 4 Cain and Abel bring their offerings. In Genesis 8:21 after the flood, Noah offered sacrifices to the Lord. These clean animals were burnt as a sweet savor to God who delivered him and his family from the judgment. This was the first known peace offering. Abraham built altars (Gen 12:9) which certainly suggests that the ritual of sacrifice was in use. In Genesis 22 he was called on to slay his son. Here too substitution is apparent, for the ram caught in the thickets was killed in place of the boy. The life was spared by substitution. Mosesí appeal to Pharaoh was that Israel go Ďthree daysí into the wilderness to worship. So the general background of sacrifice shows life for life and blood for blood. The soul that sins dies either by virtue of a substitution or by himself. This is Godís emphasis with sacrifice. Basically, sacrifice was either made in communion with God for tithes, gifts or thanksgiving to Him or made for communion like guilt, atonement or forgiveness. The peace offering was made in communion with God as an expression that all was well with God.
WHAT IS IT
The peace offering was a shared meal in which the offerer celebrated with his friends and the congregation the fact that he was at peace with God. It was one of the most joyful occasions because of the sense of communion associated with it. The viscera, fat and blood belonged to God (3:1-5). The right shoulder and thigh to the priests (7:30ff; 10:13ff). The rest was to be consumed by the worshippers (7:15-17). So it was a sacrifice in which God gave back to man of the benefits of the sacrifice.
KINDS OF PEACE OFFERINGS
1) One offering represented here would be the Thank Offering. In a public declaration the worshipper would bring the animal as an act of praise or thanksgiving for what God had done for him (Lev 7:12-13). In effect he was saying that he should not receive some benefit from God and hoard it up for his own self indulgence but rather he should share. Generosity is always a sign of spirituality in the Bible. Many of the poor and needy benefited from this, for they would share in the bounty. Of course, only a dedicated person would give such a thank offering.
2) Another use of the peace offering would come with making of vows (Lev 7:16-17). For instance, Hannah made a vow to the Lord that she would dedicate her son to the Lord if he would give her a boy. When God answered she fulfilled her promise, completing her vow to the Lord. Hannah gave her son back to the Lord offering her peace offering at this time (1 Sam. 1:22-28).
3) The freewill offering also took this form. It was an expression of general thankfulness to God (Lev 7:16). At anytime the believer who realized the benefits he had received from God could bring a peace offering. Spontaneous gestures of thanksgiving to God for something He had done, something he had provided, an answer to prayer He had given. When moved with gratitude, one could express that with the peace offering.SIGNIFICANCE
The basic idea of the peace offering is of being at peace with God. Having received of His benefits and provisions, one must share these with the congregation of believers. To eat that which was offered to God was to eat with God! It is communion with Him, a genuine peace meal.
Romans 5:1-9 teaches us that being justified by His blood through faith we have peace with God. This sacrifice signifies communion with God through Jesus Christ (John 6:51). That includes now as well as in the future kingdom to come (Rev 19:6-10). This whole aspect of eating in communal fashion of that which is sacrificed lies behind the Lordís supper. Designed to represent Christ, the wine is the blood and the bread his body. When we eat of his body and drink his blood we are doing as the Israelite did, eating the communal meal of the sacrifice of God. To eat the Lordís supper is certainly the outward sign that we have peace with God. It is a memorial of the fact that we are justified by his blood and his body sacrificed for us. Jesus Christ has brought peace with God and toward one another (Eph 2:13-18).
Eating is a predominant symbol of the covenant in Scripture. For instance, right after the giving of the Law Israel had a communal meal with God (Ex 23). It was their first peace offering. So too when one receives Christ, its as if a meal was taken. Revelation 3 says that the one who opens to Him will find that he comes in and sups with him. Even in Jesus life on earth this imagery was used. To Zaccheus he said that he must eat with him, which he interpreted to mean that salvation had come to his house (Luke 19:9). When we are with the Lord, the company of the redeemed will start their eternity of unbroken peace and communion with God by the marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev 19:9). So the symbolism can be traced all throughout the Bible.
The person who is redeemed and who has given his life to the Lord will spontaneously engage in acts of praise and fellowship. While the Lordís table can be a sweet experience of celebration attesting to peace with God, he will also turn every benefit he receives from God into an opportunity to fellowship with believers. Gratitude does not horde up the benefits for selfish consumption. The one who recognizes all the blessings of God in his life will give freely to God so that others benefit. In 2 Corinthians 8 it stresses the principle that those whom God has richly favored will share with those still in need. This kind of praise and devotion to God also edifies and serves fellow believers.
What is it that unites such riffraff in the body of Christ? Certainly it is our bond with Christ. The fact that Christians at times become close friends and eat together discussing all kinds of things that they share in common is one thing but it is not the fellowship of the peace offering. It is Christian friendship. It is a peace we can understand. Fellowship must center on the work of the Lord and his benefits to us. It is best seen when believers can share that common bond when otherwise they may have nothing in common. Peace surpassing understanding