O God, we’ve already prayed several times in this service. We come again, not merely out of form or liturgy, because we think this is how sermons start, but of a great sense of need. I need Your help, that I would speak only what was true, I would speak what is helpful for building up, that I might decrease and Christ would increase. We need Your help that we might listen, that the seed would fall on good soil and bear fruit 30, 60, and 100-fold. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
We come this morning to Leviticus chapter 3. Leviticus is the third book in the Bible, which means it’s also the third book in the Pentateuch. The first five books are sometimes called the Torah, that’s the Hebrew word for law or Pentateuch, five, the first five books of the Bible. You can do the math. As the third, it falls right in the middle. Leviticus is the literal and the thematic center of the Pentateuch.
We may think of Leviticus as the most forgettable, confusing, boring, skippable part of the first five books, but that’s not how Leviticus functions. You have it at either end, Genesis and Deuteronomy, and they have similarities. Genesis, the people of God are established under the promise and in Deuteronomy the people of God are reconstituted under the law. In Egypt, they leave, or Exodus, they leave Egypt, they build the tabernacle. In Numbers they dedicate the tabernacle and they prepare to enter Canaan. Both deal with rebellion and apostasy.
Then in the middle is Leviticus, where that tabernacle, the worship and service of that tabernacle, are described.
As I’ve said and will repeat many times in the weeks ahead, Leviticus is preeminently about one thing – how can unholy people dwell in the midst of a holy God. Or to put it in reverse, how can a holy God dwell in the midst of an unholy people.
This is not only the problem that presents us at the start of Leviticus, it is the problem of the entire Bible. Ever since the fall in the garden, kicking Adam and Eve out, barring the entrance with a flaming sword and cherubim, mankind has been metaphorically, theologically, east of Eden, outside of that garden paradise. The story of the world, and your life, is how do we get back.
It’s no wonder then that Leviticus begins with sacrifice, because we need atonement, at-one-ment. We deed a substitute to make us right with God. Leviticus starts with five different kinds of sacrifices: Chapter 1, the burnt offering, in Hebrew ola; then chapter 2, translated the grain offering, minhah, simply means offering and here it’s a grain offering; then chapter 3, this morning, the peace offering.
The Hebrew word is shelamim. It’s sometimes called the fellowship offering, and for good reason, as we’ll see a little bit later. Some have suggested that it be called the communion offering or the covenant offering or the covenant fellowship communion offering, just to bring them all together, and all of those could work as descriptors. But it’s usually translated as it is here in the ESV as the peace offering.
Shelamim. You know that word. It was just in the song that we sang, shalom. It means peace.
So this peace offering is so-called because it indicates peace with God and peace with one another. There is a vertical and a horizontal, horizontal dimension to this peace.
Follow along as I read chapter 3.
“If his offering is a sacrifice of peace offering, if he offers an animal from the herd, male or female, he shall offer it without blemish before the Lord. And he shall lay his hand on the head of his offering and kill it at the entrance of the tent of meeting, and Aaron’s sons the priests shall throw the blood against the sides of the altar. And from the sacrifice of the peace offering, as a food offering to the Lord, he shall offer the fat covering the entrails and all the fat that is on the entrails, and the two kidneys with the fat that is on them at the loins, and the long lobe of the liver that he shall remove with the kidneys. Then Aaron’s sons shall burn it on the altar on top of the burnt offering, which is on the wood on the fire; it is a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the Lord.”
“If his offering for a sacrifice of peace offering to the Lord is an animal from the flock,” so this is going to be very similar first paragraph of the herd, so we’re talking about bulls or cows because it’s male or female, and now we come to sheep, “male or female, he shall offer it without blemish. If he offers a lamb for his offering, then he shall offer it before the Lord, lay his hand on the head of his offering, and kill it in front of the tent of meeting; and Aaron’s sons shall throw its blood against the sides of the altar. Then from the sacrifice of the peace offering he shall offer as a food offering to the Lord its fat; he shall remove the whole fat tail, cut off close to the backbone, and the fat that covers the entrails and all the fat that is on the entrails and the two kidneys with the fat that is on them at the loins and the long lobe of the liver that he shall remove with the kidneys. And the priest shall burn it on the altar as a food offering to the Lord.”
So we have the herd, we have sheep from the flock, and now we have goats.
“If his offering is a goat, then he shall offer it before the Lord and lay his hand on its head and kill it in front of the tent of meeting, and the sons of Aaron shall throw its blood against the sides of the altar. Then he shall offer from it, as his offering for a food offering to the Lord, the fat covering the entrails and all the fat that is on the entrails and the two kidneys with the fat that is on them at the loins and the long lobe of the liver that he shall remove with the kidneys. And the priest shall burn them on the altar as a food offering with a pleasing aroma. All fat is the Lord’s. It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations, in all your dwelling places, that you eat neither fat nor blood.”
You didn’t think you were going to get the word fat so many times in the service or entrails, but here it is. Three sets of instructions. You can see it delineated in these paragraphs, the cattle, the sheep, and the goats.
The whole process is similar to the burnt offering we saw in chapter 1. You lay your hands on it, you kill it, the blood, you burn it up, the priests help. But a few differences. Notice here you have male or female, which would make this sacrifice more available. The burnt offering was just the bulls.
Notice there’s no birds here. Why? Because there’s just not enough fat on the birds to make this worthwhile.
And major difference here, you heard it over and over, the fat is to be burned. Now we hear “fat” and we think bad, but you might be pleased to know, fat is good in the Bible. You think of the “fat of the land” sometimes was a description for the great abundance. Or, in one of the psalms translated “the finest of the wheat” is literally the fat of the wheat. So the fat was considered the best part of the animal.
Now don’t elbow and say, “I told you so.” But notice the fat here with this offering belonged to the Lord. The main goal here in presenting the fat to the Lord, and you see the instruction that you are not to eat fat nor blood, I’m not going to spend a lot of time there, it will come up at different points in Leviticus and we’ll return to it. Some people try to say, “Ah, this is, the Bible was really giving us the best, healthiest diet.” Maybe there’s some residual effect there, but we ought not think that Leviticus is mainly about presenting some divinely inspired diet, rather there’s a theology behind it.
In this case it’s because the fat was considered the best, the most costly part of the animal, so you are sacrificing to the Lord that which is best. You are giving to Him all of the fat.
Now why were these peace offerings made? On what occasions? And as we’ve seen before, we sometimes have to jump to other parts of Leviticus to understand, because you just read this and you think, “Really? What are you going to do for the next 35 minutes about this sacrificing of fat?”
Well, when we go to other parts of Leviticus, because here in the first chapters it’s what the worshiper, what the laity would do, and then later we have what the priests would do with these offerings.
So I want you to turn to chapter 7. We’ll come back to this several weeks from now and look at some of it in more detail, but this will help us understand why, why were the peace offerings made.
Look at Leviticus 7:11 – And this is the law of the sacrifice of peace offerings that one may offer to the Lord.
So here’s one reason you would bring a peace offering.
“If he offers it for a thanksgiving, then he shall offer with the thanksgiving sacrifice unleavened loaves mixed with oil, unleavened wafers smeared with oil, and loaves of fine flour well mixed with oil. With the sacrifice of his peace offerings for thanksgiving he shall bring his offering with loaves of leavened bread.”
Basically you have combined there the grain offering, which we saw was often a thanksgiving offering, and you can put a peace offering together with it. So one of the reasons is that this might be an expression of thanksgiving. Remember, the burnt offerings, Numbers tells us, were to be given every morning and every evening, and the grain offering was to go with that as a daily sacrifice. There is no stipulation for a daily sacrifice of the peace offering, but the peace offering and the grain offering often went together as an opportunity to give thanks.
1 Samuel 11 – The people made Saul king and they sacrificed peace offerings and rejoiced before the Lord.
Or 1 Kings 8 – Dedication of the temple, Solomon offered 22,000 oxen and 120,000 sheep in a massive peace offering celebration. There were so many sacrifices the entire courtyard had to be consecrated for sacrifices because you couldn’t bring that many animals to the one bronze altar so they made an exception there and they consecrated the whole courtyard of the tabernacle so they could for probably days be sacrificing all these animals. It was an expression of thanks for the dedication of the temple.
So that’s one occasion, a gesture of deep, heartfelt thanks to God. God has been so good to me, He’s given us blessing, He’s given us victory, He’s given us children, He’s given us peace. Let’s bring before Him a peace offering.
Look at verse 16. Here’s two other occasions where you may bring a peace offering.
Verse 16: “But if the sacrifice of his offering is a vow offering or a freewill offering.”
Those are two other occasions. So let’s start, a vow. You might sacrifice a peace offering either when making a vow, “All right, God, I make this promise before You and others, and to commemorate this occasion I offer this animal.” Or you may say, “I kept my vow and therefore I bring this peace offering.”
For example, Hannah made a vow that if she was given a son she would give him to the priest once he was weaned. You remember that? Hannah then had a child that was then brought to live with the priest Samuel. We read in 1 Samuel 1, “When she had weaned him, she took him up with her along with a 3-year-old bull, an ephah of fine flour, a skin of wine, and she brought him to the house of the Lord at Shiloh.”
What is she doing there? She is bringing a grain offering and a peace offering, and the fact that she was able to bring a 3-year-old bull, fine flour, skin of wine, shows this is generous and they’re probably a fairly well-to-do family that they had all of this to offer as a peace offering.
The Nazarite vow, remember Samson, his parents took a Nazarite vow. Part of that was not putting a razor to your head. That vow also involved a peace offering.
We read in Psalm 56 – I must perform my vows to you, O God, I will render thank offerings to You.
That was likely this peace offering.
So as part of making a vow, either upon making it or completing it, the worshiper would bring a peace offering. It was a way of solemnizing and celebrating a promise with food and thanksgiving.
Now we don’t do this explicitly, but we do it instinctively. When you have a get-together, maybe these families who had children baptized this morning, perhaps they’re getting together with friends or family afterward to celebrate the baptism, and they’ll have a big meal together. Or after someone is ordained or installed as a pastor, there’s a reception out there. Or maybe the family then gathers to celebrate the occasion. Certainly, most obviously, at a wedding, a wedding is a service where vows are exchanged and made. And the wedding, and we’ve had some wonderful weddings the last two weeks here, wonderful to see Bruce’s senior community get some weddings, and you have a meal. Instinctively.
Now they’re not thinking “we’re doing a peace offering,” but it’s instinctive. We just had this momentous occasion of exchanging vows and we commemorate it with the bringing of thanksgiving and the sharing of a meal.
Then, go back to verse 16. So you bring it for thanksgiving, you bring it with a vow, or a freewill offering. You think what? We believe in free will, we’re Reformed. Okay, this is just free will, it’s not a deep philosophical word right here, it just means that you’re bringing it above and beyond what is required of you. So a freewill offering is a spontaneous desire to give back to God.
For example, when the exiles returned to Judah, they were able to give freewill offerings, Ezra chapter 1. Or Psalm 54:6, with a freewill offering I will sacrifice to You. I will give thanks to Your name, O Lord, for it is good.
It’s the sort of gift where someone says, “Why are you doing that? It’s not Christmas, it’s not a birthday, it’s not an anniversary. No one told you you had to do it.” You say, “I know. But I’m just happy and God is good and I want to do something and I want to celebrate.”
Freewill offerings could be animals, as we see here. It could be that you bring forth your precious metals, which serve sort of like money. Or supplies, with the building of the tabernacle people brought so many freewill offerings that they had to say, okay, that’s enough. Or rebuilding the temple in Ezra chapter 2, relied on the people bringing their freewill offerings. Yes, when churches have capital campaigns to build things, those are actually biblical.
Paul picks up on this language of freewill offerings, this same idea, in 2 Corinthians 9 – each one must give as he decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 8:3 – Paul says they gave according to their means.
These are what we would call freewill offerings.
You notice every Sunday, it’s every Sunday so you probably don’t notice, but there’s the giving of tithes and offerings. It’s easy to think that we’re just, why are you saying the same thing twice? Well, we’re not. A tithe is a tenth, and that’s an Old Testament principle, and it gets a little messier in the New Testament perhaps, but how do we do it with various sources of income and is it net or is it gross, and all of those questions, but there’s the basic principle that the building block of generosity is a tenth, a tenth of what you’ve received, that’s called a tithe. So that’s sort of what is expected, that you would give a tenth of what you have to the Lord’s work and to the Church.
Offering is really a freewill offering. So when we say tithes and offerings, we’re saying here is the opportunity to give both what is required as a tenth, that’s the minimum, and even if you say, “Well, I’m not entirely convinced that the tithe carries over as an absolute New Testament command,” then let me at least put it this way – how could we not, as people who have more grace, who have seen God’s mercy more clearly, who know of the Lord Jesus Christ by name, and live in the richest country at the richest time in history, how could we not want to give at least as much as the poorest Israelite was require to give in the Old Testament? A tithe.
So there’s a tithe, that’s what’s required, and then an offering, more than that. That’s what God’s people have done throughout the Bible.
So you might give a peace offering for thanksgiving, for a vow, or as a general freewill offering.
That helps us understand when and why this shelamim would be offered, but we haven’t quite gotten to the heart of the matter. The key to understanding this offering is to realize that it entailed a shared meal. These offerings, this is the third one, they build on each other. So the burnt offering, if you were here two weeks ago, remember the whole animal is burnt up. The burnt offering, all of it for God.
Number two, the grain offering. Sacrifice to God and then some of it is given as a meal, a delicious gluten-filled bread meal for the priests.
Then third, here with the peace offering.
So first, just for God. Then for God and the priests. Now the grain offering, you burn the fat to God, the priests get their portion, and then now the gathered family or congregation gets to share.
Look, if you’re open still to Leviticus chapter 7. Just look at this, verse 15, for example – “And the flesh of the sacrifice of his peace offerings for thanksgiving shall be eaten on the day of his offering. He shall not leave any of it until the morning.”
So it’s assumed that you’re eating this.
Look at verse 22. Here we have instructions for the people eating the offering.
“The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people… You shall eat no fat, of ox or sheep or goat. The fat of an animal that dies of itself, ” verse 25, “every person who eats of the fat of an animal… made to the Lord shall be cut off from His people… Whoever eats any blood…”
So that paragraph is giving further instructions about you don’t eat the blood and you don’t eat the fat, but certainly you can see the people are eating this offering.
Then in the next paragraph, so 22 to 27 instructions for the people, verses 28 through 36 instructions for the priests’ portion. We won’t read it but you can see there that the priest is, verse 31, to burn the fat on the altar so the fat goes to the Lord but there breasts shall be for Aaron and his sons and the right thigh you shall give to the priests.
So there’s certain parts of the animal. First the fat goes to the Lord, then the priests get some of it, and then the rest is shared together as a meal between God’s people.
So one other passage I want you to look at because we see an example of this, and I already alluded to it in 1 Samuel. So turn several books later to 1 Samuel chapter 1. You may know this story, but you may not have realized that we’re dealing here with peace offerings.
So 1 Samuel chapter 1, the birth of Samuel. I want you to look at verse 3 and 4.
“Now this man used to go up year by year from his city to worship and to sacrifice to the Lord of hosts at Shiloh, where the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were priests of the Lord. On the day when Elkanah sacrificed, he would give portions to Peninnah his wife and to all her sons and daughters. But to Hannah he gave a double portion, because he loved her, though the Lord had closed her womb.”
What we’re seeing here is a worshiper come and present a peace offering, fat to the Lord, some to the priests, and then he’s sharing the rest with his family.
Hophni and Phinehas were sinful sons of Eli and one of their chief sins was related to the peace offering. Turn the page over to chapter 2. Look at verse 12.
“Now the sons of Eli were worthless men. They did not know the Lord. The custom of the priests with the people was that when any man offered sacrifice, the priest’s servant would come, while the meat was boiling, with a three-pronged fork in his hand, and he would thrust it into the pan or kettle or cauldron or pot. All that the fork brought up the priest would take for himself. This is what they did at Shiloh to all the Israelites who came there. Moreover, before the fat was burned, the priest’s servant would come and say to the man who was sacrificing, “Give meat for the priest to roast, for we will not accept boiled meat from you but only raw.” And if the man said to him, “Let them burn the fat first, and then take as much as you wish,” he would say, “No, you must give it now, and if not, I will take it by force.” Thus the sin of the young men was very great in the sight of the Lord, for the men treated the offering of the Lord with contempt.”
If you’ve ever wondered what’s going on there, they are treating with contempt the peace offering. Did you notice what they did? Two grave sins. First of all, when the worshiper comes to present his peace offering, remember Leviticus 7 says you get a certain portion, you get maybe the breast or you get the thigh, you get certain portion. Well, the priests here, Hophni and Phinehas, are getting their servants to say, “No, we’ll just stick in our big fork and we’re just going to get whatever comes out.” So they were taking more than their fair share. They were very deliberate instructions, here’s what you get, but they’re greedy and their gluttonous, so they’re taking more than the priests’ fair share. So that’s one sin.
Then the second, they are not burning the fat. You can see what a serious sin it is. Even the worshiper says, “Uh-hmm.” It’s like you saying, “Pastor, Pastor, I think you should preach from the Bible.” “Nah, we don’t preach from the Bible here.” “I think you should. Pastor, I don’t think the offering is meant to, I don’t think you’re supposed to take it home.” “No, no, no, that’s for me.”
He’s not listening even when the Israelite says, “You’re supposed to burn the fat to the Lord.” Hophni and Phinehas say, “No, no, no, we want the fat. The fat is the best stuff. We’re not taking, we don’t want your boiled meat, we don’t want it first, we want it raw. We want all of it.” This was a grave sin. It showed disregard for God’s law, disregard for God’s people. They didn’t care to treat the holy things of God with sanctity. They didn’t burn the fat first. And they didn’t allow for the peace offering to be a joyous occasion where God’s people would come and have a meal together.
The peace offering was supposed to be festive. Deuteronomy 12:18, which is speaking of a vow offering or a freewill offering, remember two types of the peace offering, says, “But you shall eat them before the Lord your God in the place that the Lord your God will choose, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, and the Levite who is within your towns. And you shall rejoice before the Lord your God in all that you undertake.”
That’s talking about the peace offering. It’s looking forward to when the temple will be in Jerusalem, you’ll go and with your children and with your servants and with the Levite in your town, you will rejoice to partake of this meal together.
Remember, meat, very common for us and any of us can go through a drive-thru and get meat, if it is indeed meat, we can go the grocery store and get meat. It’s not hard to get meat.
Meat was a luxury. Proverbs 15:17 – “Better a meal with vegetables where there is love than a fattened calf with hatred.” Which means that all things being equal, meat is better than vegetables, but if you’ve got to have love or hatred, well, vegetables outweigh if they have love. So it’s a really important verse.
You know, because meat is rare. It’s the rich people who have bulls to offer and meat. So when you come to the peace offering and you can smell this, the wafting aroma, a juicy steak for people coming off of vegan, South Beach diet. It was a time of feasting.
The Bible is filled with these rhythms of fasting and feasting. We would do well to try to have some of these in our own life. Some of us, we never have rhythms of fasting, either literal fasting or just fasting in doing with less or removing ourselves or slowing down to taking a Sabbath. It’s feasting all the time.
On the other hand, some of us don’t ever allow ourselves, or understand that God gives to us, times of feasting. And when it’s feasting, let there be joy. No apologies. Smile, laugh, eat up.
Remember, they got upset with Jesus, “well, now should be the time that, I don’t like you, your disciples are rejoicing and they’re eating,” and Jesus said, “Well, yeah, there’s a time for that but now when the bridegroom’s here, not at a wedding celebration.”
Who throws a wedding and says, “We want to celebrate together with you by having a great day of fasting.” No, you come together to feast and to celebrate. That’s the whole point.
Go back to Leviticus chapter 7. Did you hear this little instruction that I read, verse 15, chapter 7? “The flesh of the sacrifice of his peace offerings for thanksgiving shall be eaten on the day of his offering. He shall not leave any of it until the morning.”
This is to prevent someone from bringing a peace offering, slaughtering the animal, then saying, “You know what? Now’s the time to be very careful, very fastidious. Bring out the Tupperware. Bring out the Ziploc bags. We’re going to freeze this. We’re going to save this. Is it going to last us?” No, now is the time to eat it all.
The food is hot. You don’t want it to spoil, but more than that, this was a provision meant to encourage generosity. Bring the family, invite your friends, if there’s strangers nearby, the poor, let them have a bite.
Like when you order too much pizza. Eat it up, I don’t want it.
Or when you’re traveling. I’m not going to take the food back with me in the car. I’m not going to take it on the plane. We’re not, this is a no leftover meal. And all the children said amen.
The peace offering was a meal where you said, “I’m not packing it up, I’m not freezing it, I’m not taking it home, so you better come out and come over and eat this up.”
The peace offering was a time of fellowship, hospitality, and generosity. Though the peace offering itself, as the sacrifices are fulfilled in Christ, does not carry over in the same way, certainly the spirit of the peace offering does.
Hebrews 13:16 – “Do not neglect to do good and share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.”
You hear the language of Hebrews? He’s saying, “Share. When you share with others, that’s like bringing your peace offering.”
Or think about Acts 2. Remember the early Church had all things in common. They received food with glad and generous hearts.
It’s amazing when you understand what’s going on Leviticus, one, how smart God is, how wonderful His Word is, and how intentional. You see, so much of Christian theology and Christian life is about getting things in the right order. You have to get things in the right order. When you try to build Ikea furniture, with a single Allen wrench, and no written instructions, it’s very careful to do things in order. Invariably, when I try to build something, I get done and I realize I got something backwards and I don’t understand Swedish and I didn’t…
Or if you build Legos, it’s step by step, everything in order. If someone wants to have you repair the car, and you want to put the alternator, that’s a thing, right? In a car? If that’s above the engine, below the engine, you want to make sure you get that in the right order. When you tell your toddler how to get dressed in the morning, you don’t tell them, “All right, first put on your boots and then put on your trousers,” because that is difficult to do. You give them step-by-step instructions: “First make sure you use the bathroom, then I want you to put on your undergarments, I want you to put on your pants, then you put on your socks, then you put on your shoes. Do things in the right order.”
Have you noticed the order: Burnt offering, grain offering, peace offering. We have grace, gratitude, togetherness. Or if you want another “g” word, gathering. Or if you want to put theological language, atonement, devotion, fellowship.
And it’s instructive for us to make sure we get the order right. You notice you don’t lay burnt offerings on top of peace offerings. You lay peace offerings on top of burnt offerings, you put peace offerings with grain. The order matters because first and most foundational is that you’re right with God. An atonement has been made for your sin, that there’s a substitute to sacrifice for your sin.
So you don’t thank God enough and then He likes you. You don’t bring enough of your peace offering and then God says, “Okay, we’ve had atonement.”
That’s false theology. That’s heresy.
No, you start with atonement but then as an expression certainly you give gratitude, you commit your life, you’re devoted to Christ, and then out of that grows this togetherness. We see here the wonderful simplicity of gathering.
Now, yes, in a big church like this we want to do what we can to help provided community and fellowship. I know as we moved a few years ago to this new elder shepherding model and Sunday school model, there’s a lot of strengths to that and there’s trade-offs, too. One of the things perhaps some people are missing is that instinctual, I go to Sunday school, it’s people my same age, my same life stage, it’s easy to move from here to fellowship and to community. Some of you feel that.
We want to do what we can as a church and as leaders to provide other avenues with meals after a service and helping people get in small groups to make that community and fellowship possible. But each of us individually and as families can do that, too. It doesn’t have to be fancy, it doesn’t have to be complicated. It’s as simple as saying, “I have some extra food. You want to come over and eat it? Yeah, it might be on paper plates. You don’t have to stay long. We didn’t get things really cleaned up. It’s not the meal to put in the food magazine, but we have some extra, would you want to come over and we could eat it together.”
That’s what the peace offering was. It was a time for the community and families to come together and share a meal.
A couple of people have asked me, these last two weeks, well, which of these five offerings is meant to prefigure Christ? Which one of these five offerings did Jesus fulfill? The answer is, in different ways, all of them. Every promise is yes and amen in Christ, so there are ways in which He fulfills all five sacrifices, ways in which all five point to person and work of Jesus.
But if the burnt offering is most clearly seen in the cross, death, sacrifice, substitution, atonement, then the peace offering is seen most clearly in the Lord’s Supper.
Now I have to tell you, I wanted, even though it’s not the first Sunday of the month, it’d be crazy, I know, I wanted, Nathan and I were talking about it, it’d be so perfect to celebrate the Lord’s Supper at the close of this sermon, and we’re not, we literally could not get enough communion elements, back-ordered, supply chain, whatever, who thought that would be a thing, but it is. So I’m sorry, it would be wonderful to move from this sermon right to the Lord’s Supper. So you have to keep this all in mind when we do it a few weeks from now because it is the picture of the peace offering.
Think of the similarities between communion, you can hear it even there in the word, the Lord’s Supper, and the peace offering. Both have a vertical and a horizontal dimension. Peace with God, Romans 5:1. When you have a meal, it represents togetherness, table fellowship.
So this coming on top of the burnt offering is symbolic that the worshiper is right with God. So there’s a vertical dimension, yes, I’m at peace with God, just like the Lord’s table is symbolic of that peace with God. Jesus said in John 6, “Whoever feeds on My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life and I will raise him up on the last day. Whoever feeds on My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me and I in him.” So there’s a vertical dimension.
There’s a horizontal dimension. When they would come to the peace offering, you’re having a meal with your friends, with your family, representing that you’re not just at peace with God but you’re at peace with them.
We know that this is part of the Lord’s Supper as well. Paul’s concern in 1 Corinthians 11, if you remember that passage, they were divided, some of them into haves and have-nots, and people were elbowing their way and getting up to the front and not being concerned about the poor and some people were humiliated because they didn’t have a big feast, they didn’t have lots to eat at these feasts like the rich people did, which is why Paul said you must discern the body.
That language, “discern the body,” has two layers of meaning, both discern the body of Christ, you have enough awareness to understand what this is about, Jesus and His death and sacrifice, but also discern the body meaning the Church. Would you look around you? This is the last place on earth where we should be elbowing and shoving and fighting and at enmity with one another.
No, the Lord’s table is a place where people who sometimes have very little in common in an earthly sense come around the same table and share a meal together, vertical, horizontal. Both meals, the peace offering and communion, require self-examination.
Chapter 7 of Leviticus says that if you are unclean in yourself, you can’t come. Or if you eat what is unclean for you from the animal, and the punishment, verse 21, is that you’ll be cut off from your people. So you can’t be unclean and you can’t eat what is unclean or you’ll be cut off from your people. In other words, you must have some self-examination when you come to the peace offering.
It’s the same with the Lord’s table. Paul warns you eat and drink judgment upon yourself. You must examine your heart. You must discern the body. He says that’s why some of you are sick. Some of you have even died.
The “put outside the camp,” that punishment is taken up a whole ‘nother notch when it comes to the peace offering that is the Lord’s Supper.
Then finally, I hope you can see that both are a feast where God Himself is the host. When you bring the peace offering, first you’re making an offering to God. You burn, the priests burn the fat and that goes to God, and then there’s a portion for the priest. But then there’s the portion for the people. God has already received His portion and then to reserve some for the people is God’s way of saying, “I’m eager to share this meal with you.”
The burnt offering is an atonement of sins, but the peace offering is God’s way of saying, “I want to sit down and have fellowship with you. I want us to have a family meal together. So you’ve given me the animal and now I want to provide for you, through my priests, a portion of this that you may eat.”
Isaiah 25 – On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.
Jesus compares the kingdom of God in many places to a wedding feast. It’s a time for great festivity and celebration and God Himself is the host of this banquet. He spreads the feast. The Lord Jesus does not need any other sacrifice because He sheds His own blood. He gives His own life. He offers from His body and blood His own food and drink and then amazingly, not only that He would make atonement for our sins but that He would then say, “I’ve prepared a feast for you and I would love for you to come and dine with Me.”
What a privilege. We are about to sing “How Sweet and Awesome is the Place,” one of my favorite songs. And it’s true when it speaks of our great privilege that we should be counted a guest. I want you to think about that. Why should we, you may think there’s a lot of people in here this morning, there’s millions of people not in here this morning, even in a city like Charlotte. I’m sure there are way more people not in a church this morning than in a church. That could be an occasion to say, “Well, wish those people would get into church,” and with wish they would.
But much more importantly it’s to say, “O Lord, why was I made a guest? Why was I made to hear Your voice? Why should I be given a place at Your table? Why should You spread a feast for me that I can be a part of Your family?”
So if you feel something of that privilege, three things – Reach out, let’s invite other people to the feast; repent, because so often we take for granted all that the Lord has done for us, we get tired of it, it becomes rote, it becomes meaningless, maybe even we grew up with it and we’ve heard these things before but it’s long since had any savor for us and we need to repent; and then finally let us rejoice, for why was I made a guest? Why was I given a seat at Your family table that I should eat and have peace with God and peace with each other?
Let’s pray. Father in heaven, we rejoice in all that You have done for us. How sweet and awesome is the place with Christ within the doors, while everlasting love displays the choicest of her stores. In Jesus we pray. Amen.