Feasting in Fellowship
Leviticus 3:1-17; 7:11-21, 29-34
In our Introduction to the Offerings it has been observed that the Peace Offering occupies a central place, being the third offering of the five. The first two offerings are primarily for the heart of God; the last two meet the needs of sinful men. In the Peace Offering a satisfied God and forgiven men meet together in a holy communion. This is, in fact, the meaning of the word “peace” in these chapters. It is not the usual lovely Hebrew shalom but is however, a cognate word shelem. This word indicates fellowship, friendship, harmony.
It is important to note that men did not bring the Peace Offering to make or obtain peace. This had already been made and the offerer now approached with his gift in the enjoyment of peace. One might ask, “Why did a man bring a Peace Offering in preference to a Burnt Offering?” The answer is actually in the word “fellowship.” The Burnt Offering was wholly for God. Men did not eat of it at all. But portions of the Peace Offering were for the altar, the priests, the offerer, and his family and friends. What a privilege it is to bring to God something for His heart in which others might have joy, too! Such was the Peace Offering and such is our joy as we, in fellowship with God and with one another, contemplate Christ. In this we can truly say that “we have fellowship one with another” (1 John 1:7), and that “our fellowship is with the Father” (1 John 1:3). In priestly dignity we may bring our appreciation of the Son to the Father. This is worship.
Note that the word “Peace” here is a plural word, shelemim, which is untranslatable into English. The Hebrew plurality often denotes magnitude, plenitude, or intensity, but if some prefer to understand a plurality in the English sense of the word then, of course, it may be said that every believer has peace with God and may enjoy the peace of God, and rejoice in having a personal knowledge of the God of peace. This is indeed plurality, being different aspects of peace, but it is most likely that we are expected to see plurality in the Hebrew sense, meaning greatness, vastness, magnificence.
Another interesting feature to be observed is that although the Peace Offering is, initially, the central offering of the five, yet in the laws of the offerings in chapters 6 and 7 the Peace Offering comes last of all. Two things are intimated by this. First, we need to be in the good of the other offerings, appreciating Calvary in all its fullness, before we can truly enjoy the fellowship signified in the Peace Offering. Second, when we have arrived at the enjoyment of the fellowship here described, there is nothing more to follow. The ultimate experience of every believer is to enjoy communion with divine Persons and with other like-minded saints. Then we have indeed arrived!
Yet another important and beautiful point to notice is that here in the Peace Offering, for the first time, a female is introduced into the offerings. In all the forms of the Burnt Offering it had to be “a male without blemish.” We have seen the characteristics of the male exemplified in the Lord Jesus, but it is touching to see also the gentle characteristics of the female in His lovely life too. The male signifies responsibility, activity, and headship, but these characteristics are, in Christ, perfectly blended with the passiveness and patience, the subjection and submission, the devotion and obedience, as seen in the female. The One in Whom we fellowship displays every pleasing feature, and all in perfect balance.
There were three circumstances in which a man might have brought his Peace Offering. Sometimes it was for thanksgiving (7:15). God may graciously have granted the man some request, or significantly blessed him in some particular. He wanted to express his thanksgiving and so he brought a Peace Offering. Of course he could have brought a Burnt Offering but as we have seen earlier, he wanted others to share with him in his thankfulness and so a Peace Offering was his choice.
Another man brought his Peace Offering in association with a vow (7:16). Perhaps he was about to embark upon some service for God or was intent upon ordering something in his life and family. He would make his tryst with God at the altar. Where better for the believer to make some similar promise to God than in the very shades of the cross. In the solemnity of Calvary such a tryst would be hallowed indeed and the offerer could scarcely forget his promise.
Yet another man would bring his Peace Offering for still another reason. It was, for him, a voluntary offering, a willing expression of worship (7:15). There may, in this case, be no reason in particular except a desire to give something to God out of a full heart. Again, it may be asked, “Why not a Burnt Offering, to be burnt wholly on the altar and ascend heavenward in a sweet savour?” As has already been noted, the offering of a Peace Offering would allow others to share in the worship. God, priests, offerer, family, and friends may all join with this offerer in his worship. All will have their part and all will enjoy their respective portions. These portions will be observed in another article.
Once again let it be noted that whether the Peace Offering was offered for thanksgiving, or in the making of a vow, or as a voluntary offering, in none of these circumstances was the offerer bringing his offering to obtain peace. He was coming to the altar already in the enjoyment of peace, and in fellowship with God he was offering accordingly. So do we, in the possession of divine peace, bring our thanksgivings, make our vows, and render our worship. Calvary has made it all possible.
At rest through Jesus blood,
At rest from self and sin,
Saved and at peace with Thee, O God,
We boldly enter in.
At rest and unafraid,
Yet in befitting fear,
Calm in the perfect peace He made,
We rev’rently draw near.
I. Y. Ewan