The Food of the Altar
Many thoughtful readers have, at times, sought to link the principal offerings with the four Gospels and it seems almost obvious that the Peace Offering should be seen in Luke’s Gospel where there are some nineteen occurrences of the word “peace” in the twenty-four chapters. There is also, in Luke’s Gospel, a recurring mention of male and female, male and female, male and female. Examples of these are Zacharias and Elizabeth, Joseph and Mary, Simeon and Anna, Namaan and the widow of Sarepta. All these are in the opening chapters and a careful perusal of the whole Gospel will reveal many more of such couples with their male and female characteristics as in the Peace Offering (Lev 3:1).
As with the other offerings there were certain regulations to be observed in the bringing of a Peace Offering, which could be either from the herd or from the flocks. The characteristics and features of these different varieties have been noted in the Introduction. Once again the offerer must lean his hand upon the head of his offering as if to say, “This is mine.” He was, without a spoken word, being identified with his offering by his action. This personal identification with the offering was a necessary requirement. “His own hands shall bring the offerings of the Lord made by fire” (Lev 7:30).
After the slaying of the animal, which, had to be done by the offerer himself, there is detailed the relevant portions for the altar, the priest, and the offerer. The blood, the fat, and the inwards were God’s portion and these are mentioned first. The blood was sprinkled upon the altar round about. “Sprinkle” is perhaps too mild a word, for the blood was actually scattered on the sides of the altar. Then the fat that covered the inwards of the offering, with the kidneys and the caul above the liver, were all burnt upon the altar for a sweet savor. How beautifully these all portray what Christ meant to God!
The blood is the life of the flesh. The pouring out of the blood upon the altar is suggestive of that lovely life of the Savior being offered unreservedly to God in perfect obedience even unto death.
The fat is the very energy of the offering, symbol of its richness and health. So it was with our Lord Jesus. With what tireless energy He devoted Himself to the will of His Father! Day and night He was constantly engaged in holy service for God’s pleasure.
The inwards were the unseen features. The hidden feelings, motives, affections, and thoughts of Christ were known only to God. The desires of the Son were ever for the glory of the Father. He could say, as no other man could say, “I do always those things that please Him” (John 8:29).
The caul above the liver was probably the midriff or diaphragm, associated with the control of respiration or breathing. The Savior’s daily life, every breath, was for the delight and pleasure of God.
These were all burnt upon the altar and upon the Burnt Offering so that all would ascend together in a sweet savor to God. All that Jesus was, all that He did, all, in entirety, must have delighted the heart of God.
But the priests had their share of that which had already satisfied the altar. It was a great privilege to eat of that which was the food of the altar. The sons of Aaron would feast upon the breast and the shoulder of the offering and yet, even this priestly portion must first be presented to the eye of God so that the breast became known as “the wave breast” and the shoulder became known as “the heave shoulder.” The breast would be ceremonially waved horizontally before the Lord so that His eye would see that upon which His priests were to feed. Similarly, the shoulder of the animal would be lifted upward; again a ceremonial presentation to the eye of God. These are familiar types or symbols. The breast, so expressive of the love of Christ, has been enjoyed by the Father and is now, in wondrous grace, enjoyed by His people. Jesus could say, “The Father loveth the Son” and “I love the Father” (John 5:20; 14:31), and we have been brought to share in Their love.
The shoulder speaks of strength. It is the power and the steadfastness of Him Who lived for God and now sustains His people. There is no weakness or vacillation in Christ. After all, one day the government will be upon His shoulder (Isaiah 9:6) and upon those same strong shoulders He carries every lost lamb which He recovers (Luke 15:5). How often do we read of Him that “He is able” (Phil 3:21; 2 Tim 1:12; Heb 2:18; Heb 7:25). The Father saw, with complacent pleasure, the enduring steadfastness of His Servant-Son during those days of His ministry and now would have us enjoy the same.
The remainder of the offering was carried home by the offerer. With his family and friends they would feast upon that which had already fed the altar and the priests. However, there were stipulations. If the offering had been offered as a thanksgiving then it must be eaten the same day. Thanksgiving is a very basic exercise requiring little spirituality. It must be attended to at once or it may be forgotten. If however, the offering is brought with a vow, or if it be a voluntary offering, in such cases it may be assumed that there is some deeper exercise on the part of the offerer and another day is permitted. But even then, the offerer must not be too far from the altar. His meal could become but a common meal and be an abomination. Well do we sing, “Jesus keep me near the cross.” We must never stray far from the altar if our exercises are to be acceptable to God.
The Peace Offering is the last of the sweet savor offerings, after which follow details of the guilt offerings.